Category : Videos

Darling Namibia and a new video!

We’re all taught not to have favourites, especially when it comes to children, but our seven journeys are like our children and the Namibia Safari is our new darling! We don’t know how it happened but this exceptional train journey has stolen our attention and now every one of us wants to step aboard to experience this remarkable trip.

Perhaps it’s the stark vistas of the Northern Cape, the grandeur of the Fish River Canyon – the second in size to the Grand Canyon – or the untamed beauty of the Kalahari desert. Perhaps it’s the fly-in safari into the Sossusvlei clay pan, which is surrounded by some of the highest sand dunes in the world including Dune 45, which has been penned as “the most photographed dune in the world”. We really don’t know but the Namibia Safari has something special and we feel it whenever guests convey their experience through their comment sheets or wonderful letters.

We’re thrilled that we’ve had to add another departure to the schedule and so now offer two trips each year!

It’s been a goal ours for a few years to capture this trip on camera, both photography and video, but shoots like these are an enormous expense so it always got pushed to the bottom of the list. Brenda, our Communications Manager, has been pestering for budget for years and she finally got her way in 2014!

Brenda contracted one of our favourite photographers and videographers, Ross Hillier, to capture this extraordinary nine-day journey and finally found him space on the Swakopmund to Pretoria leg in May last year. Together with Keenan Ferguson, Ross travelled on the train and went on all the excursions, which is a first as he usually has to chase the train by car!

We think the two artists did a remarkable job and we were so thrilled to be able to hand over the beautiful footage to 10th Street Media to edit for us. In Ross’s words: “I’ll film it but someone else needs to make the edits otherwise you’re going to have a 45-minute video on your hands”. We guess each clip or photograph is a labour of love so someone else needs to decide what stays and what goes!

We finally handed over the hard drive to Darren Kerr and his team from 10th Street Media this year and we think they did a superb job. We look forward to future collaborations with this exceptional team.

Watch the video here.

If you would like any further information on this lovely journey then please do not hesitate to contact Querida Nel on querida@rovos.co.za 

Read More

“Let’s Open Guesthouses!”

“Let’s open guesthouses”, he said. “Should be a piece of cake compared to the trains”, he added. We all closed our eyes and watched him jump into another business venture with arms and bank account wide open! The he we’re referring to is of course, Rohan Vos, our formidable owner and CEO.

In 2009, Rohan purchased two properties within walking distance from one another. The first was no. 94 Main Road, a house called ‘The Homestead’, and the second was no. 108 Main Road which we called St James Manor. Both homes are in a beautiful area of Cape Town called St James, which is in between Muizenberg and Kalk Bay on the southern peninsula. St James is historically known as ‘millionaire’s mile’ and this well-to-do little suburb is squeezed between the rocky shore and a steep mountain, and measures about 200m by 2 km. St James beach is well known for its trademark colourful Victorian bathing boxes and large tidal pool. 

In April of 2010, after an extensive renovation, Rovos Rail officially opened the door to its first guesthouse, St James Manor. Built over 100 years ago, the Manor has an aura of grandeur and old-world charm with a magnificent wood-panelled staircase leading up to five large suites and a standard twin, each of which bears the name of historic, local characters of St James.

St James Homestead, the second guesthouse, sat quietly for two years before Rohan began renovating this beautiful home. In fact, the work done almost constitutes a rebuild as the house was originally built in the 1800’s and needed a great deal of careful and meticulous craftsmanship to preserve its historic aesthetics.

The Homestead’s story is one of humour and drama, which is quite fascinating. Upon taking ownership of The Homestead in 1867, Heinrich Pieter Hablutzel made additions to the existing building, one of which — the “Wall of Hate” — was to gain him notoriety. This occurred after the owner of next door Seaforth House, William Farmer, built a home closer to the Main Road (despite agreeing not to) and blocked out the view from The Homestead across the bay to Simon’s Town. In response, Hablutzel built a high wall on the edge of his property closest to Seaforth, which cut out part of its view of False Bay and the Hottentots Holland mountains as well as some early morning sun which Farmer had enjoyed. A court case ensued where Farmer tried to compel Hablutzel to demolish the wall, but he lost the case. Hablutzel then raised the wall by another two metres (six feet). He owned The Homestead for 35 years and his estate sold it to Archbishop William West Jones, first Archbishop of Cape Town, in 1902.

Interestingly, Rohan purchased Seaforth House in December of 2010 and officially opened it as St James Seaforth in 2011.

And, so now, we’re in the business of guest houses. We think we might try ships next!

Rovos Rail Guest Houses  Rovos Rail Guest Houses

Rovos Rail Guest Houses  Rovos Rail Guest Houses
Together with Big House, a production company in Cape Town, we put together a video to showcase our lovely properties.

Read More
Slow Train through Africa with Griff Rhys Jones

Slow Train through Africa

For Rovos Rail to be part of this special programme for the ITV Network and to work with the charming Griff Rhys Jones was an honour. We confess that we had no idea who Griff was but after a quick Google search we discovered that he is a Welsh comedian, writer, actor and television presenter with a career spanning over two decades. 

“Slow Train through Africa” has Mr Jones attempting five remarkable train journeys across Africa travelling from Casablanca to Cape Town, through desert sands, river valleys, vast plains and dense forests. His journey concluded in South Africa with Griff joining us on part of our Cape Town journey where he played barman, butler and took a bath in our Royal suite bathroom!

It’s a great piece and the aerial shots they have of the train winding through the beautiful Western Cape are enviable. In fact, we’ve been in touch with production team to see if they’ll send us some of the footage!

To watch the Rovos episode click on the following link – Slow Train through Africa with Griff Rhys Jones

Read More

Chasing Trains

Written by Brenda Vos

Chasing trains to make movies. What a way to kick off 2013! I had no idea how exhausting, hot or nerve-racking it would be. At one point we were driving through the Karoo, car doors open with our cameraman hanging out to “get the shot”.

But let me start at the beginning.

It was quite soon into my new role at Rovos Rail that I realised our video collateral needed some serious updating. These shoots cost a pretty penny and it’s easy to push them to bottom of the list because operating trains is a costly business. But the way of the world is video and I wanted to create movie magic.

I enlisted the assistance of a production company, Big House, along with our trusted photographer and videographer, Ross Hillier. We’ve known Ross a long time and his work is beautiful. Plus he’s always up for any adventure and chasing trains ranks high on a list of cool things to do!

So off we set on a hot Pretoria afternoon to follow the train to Cape Town. None of us really knew what to expect and, if I’m really honest, I still can’t believe that not one punch was thrown! The temperatures were fierce, the driving fast and tedious, the nights late with only about two hours sleep each evening and meals were sporadic and junky. We waited alongside the train tracks in De Aar, in the Karoo, for over an hour and the recorded temperature was 42°C. But even in these tough conditions the funny banter never stopped and there were times when we all cried from laughter. There is just something special about putting the right group of people together, magic happens, and that’s what we shared on our three-day 1 500km quest.

Now fairly addicted to the adrenalin of a film shoot, I decided we needed to capture our Durban Safari too. KwaZulu-Natal and its Midlands has some of the most spectacular scenery that South Africa has to offer. The vegetation is tropical, lush and so blindingly green that the contrast between the arid Karoo, I knew, would make for beautiful footage.

So off we set again and aside from an initial vehicle breakdown that resulted in a hilarious afternoon spent in a mechanic’s garage in Alberton, this trip was far easier. The travel distance was just much shorter so there was less driving and more sleeping! But wow, did we see South Africa’s raw beauty. The train passes through a tiny station called Balgowan at about 6am, which is right next to Michaelhouse in the Midlands, and the mist that morning was all the colours of the most beautiful sunrise which seemed to blanket the train as it meandered slowly and quietly passed us. It was a sight and a feeling I will never forget. Another special moment was filming a time lapse of the sunrise on Mount Alice. Rovos Rail guests enjoy a fascinating lecture on the Anglo-Boer War on Mount Alice so we snuck up a bit earlier to capture the valley at sunrise and to film the lecture given by raconteur, Ray Herron.

It was a few months later, at the beginning of winter, that I realised I didn’t have enough footage of guests on board so I sent the crew on another Cape Town journey but this time they got to travel on board. On the second evening, the train parks at a siding called Gemsbok, situated somewhere in the Karoo, and the crew braved the wintry temperatures to film a time-lapse of the beautiful night sky. Being city slickers, a sky on fire is not something often seen so it had to be captured and was a magical experience even in the sub-zero temperatures.


My only real job on all of these shoots was to ensure guests were happy, to keep the crew fed and to pay for fuel! But one thing I did do was film our adventures on my iPhone. The footage was used to make a behind-the-scenes video which, I admit, is mostly just for our memory banks and entertainment but if you would like to see the escapades then click here.

Read More