Durban Safari with Stacie Flinner

Rovos Rail Durban Safari Stacie FlinnerTravel adventures are just some of the beautiful experiences Stacie Flinner shares on her exceptional blog. Stacie and her husband joined us on our gorgeous little Durban Safari, travelling from Durban to Pretoria, and her words and images are so lovely that we feel we need to spread the joy!

It’s often tricky hosting media on board because like the box of chocolates you just never know what you’re going to get or whether she or he will actually enjoy their Rovos Rail experience. We’ve had a few misses but thankfully most have been hits.

KwaZulu Natal, with Durban at its helm, is in our opinion one of the most under-rated and under-valued provinces in South Africa. It is incredible to us that just one short flight away one lands in a lush, tropical and humid paradise full of cultural diversity and history, a sea in which one can actually swim (your limbs just about fall off in Cape Town as the water is freezing), some of the best game viewing and lodges the country has to offer and a near-perfect year-round climate! Winter in some parts of Natal is a treat as you can still walk around in shorts and flip flops unlike most other parts of the country.

And let’s not forget the Midlands. The Midlands Meander is a region in beautiful KwaZulu Natal that stretches from just beyond Mooi River in the north, Hilton in the south, Karkloof in the east and the foothills of the Drakensberg in the west. Suffice to say that the scenery is breathtaking and with the train meandering its way slowly through the heart of it, also travelling across The Valley of a Thousand Hills, the Durban Safari has to be one of the most beautiful journeys we offer.

We digress. Back to Stacie and her lovely review on her trip with us. Click on the link to read all about her sojourn with us and to see her gorgeous images.

(Top image by Stacie Flinner)

RVR-DurbanHillsMeadow-LRes

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All aboard for Golfing the Garden Route!

Golfing the Garden Route has never been so spectacular!

There are many attributes to South Africa. It’s a country full to the brim with energy, beauty, culture, differences, chaos and opportunity. For visitors, it offers a kaleidoscope of colour and experiences that have left many with poignant and special memories. One of the most pristine areas of Southern Africa is the Garden Route and one of the most fun activities to do in this part of the Southern Cape is play golf. Or not. We offer separate itineraries for those playing and for those not. Golfing the Garden Route has become a favourite pastime for travellers coming to South Africa to play this temperamental game and the Shongololo Express offers an adventure for those mad enough to play this game called golf and for leisure guests wanting to take it easy.

The 15-day Good Hope Golf journey on board the newly acquired and renovated Shongololo Express is the ultimate holiday as it incorporates some of the best scenery, cultural and historical activities, safari experiences and golf that South Africa has to offer. In addition to this, guests are in the safe and experienced hands of Rovos Rail, a company who has 29 years in the hospitality industry and one who has crafted each itinerary to near perfection. There is after all always room for improvement!

The itinerary:

Day 1    Tour of Soweto and Pretoria train departure

Day 2    Panorama route / play Leopard Creek, Nelspruit or White River

Day 3    Kruger Park game drive / play at Leopard Creek, Nelspruit or White River

Day 4    Swaziland tour / play at Nkonyeni Golf Estate

Day 5    Hluhluwe game drives

Day 6    St Lucia Wetland Park visit

Day 7    Durban tour / play at Durban golf course

Day 8    Battlefields tour / play at Champagne Sports Resort

Day 9    Bloemfontein tour

Day 10  Kimberley tour / play at Kimberley Golf Club

Day 11  Graaf Reinet walking tour

Day 12  Cango Caves and ostrich farm visit / play at Fancourt Golf Estate

Day 13  Knysna visit and Fancourt dinner / play at Ernie Els Oubaai

Day 14  Drive to Hermanus over scenic mountain passes

Day 15  Train arrival and Cape Town tour

As you can see, there is something for everyone and more than enough golf at beautiful courses to frustrate and excite those opting to play! This 15-day sojourn rivals that of any train adventure across the world and we hope you join us for a trip of a lifetime.

If you would like to receive any further information then please do get in touch by e-mailing querida@rovos.co.za or call her on +27 (0) 12 315 8039. Watch the Shongololo Express video by clicking here

We hope to welcome you on board soon!

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A Dad and his Daughter go on a Train Date

Rovos Rail Dad and daughter date

We recently received a lovely letter from a Dad who decided to treat his 11-year old daughter to a train trip. What fun and what a special Dad and and daughter date!

Mr Pflaum travelled our two-night Cape Town journey with his daughter, Léonie, and other than a glowing report they also sent us images and a video from their time on the train and in South Africa!

Dear Brenda,

I don’t have words to describe our journey a few days ago. It was just a blast! It was a dream of mine for several years to do that – but I had to wait, until my oldest daughter was old enough to realize all of it and enjoy it. Léonie (my daughter) is 11 years old and she never felt bored on the whole journey – she would like to extend for another 1 or 2 nights! I pick out one of my girls for some of my travels and this time Léonie was the one who could enjoy South Africa with me. I attached a few photos of us ;-D

We’ve expected a lot – but all our expectations were surpassed! From the Pretoria station, the train, the stops, the great crew on board (with Heinrich – our favorite in the restaurant ;-D) and the great welcome speech of your father. The most impressive part – beside of all the overwhelming rest – was, that your father even made it to Cape Town to say Good Bye with a handshake and some nice words. I was stunned and the journey was worth every Rand we spent – even much more! I can’t describe it with words…!

Thanks to the whole team – in the front and in the back to make something like that possible! Not only to invest with an “all-in” strategy in something new, to have a vision of something great and to realize the vision in an even better way – but to keep it up so many years and still be in the front, searching the contacts with the costumers directly and share the vision as a “once in a lifetime experience”!

I really hope that I can come back very very soon to show this to the rest of my family – my other two daughters and my wife. Thank you all so much and keep everything as it is! My English is limited, so I don’t have other superlatives for everything. But please hug your father from our side – as well from my daughter! Next time, if we see him, we will do it personally! THANK YOU!!!

Here you find a little trip report video from us, which I just created with my iPhone (together with a little soundtrack, which I created together with a good friend back in Kingston, Jamaica). If you have some time, feel free to watch it: https://youtu.be/krB0iYX6YE8

Ah yes: Did I say THANK YOU already? If not: THANK YOU for everything! I had and I will spread this great experience with many others!

And Dad of the month goes to you Mr Pflaum! Thank you for your kind words, they certainly brightened up our Monday and made us feel very content with the work we do here at Rovos Rail.

To all Dad’s out there – bring your daughters on a date with us! As you can see it’s a spoil that does wonders for what is a very special relationship.

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Convair 440 lands in Australia!

“The Historical Aircraft Restoration Society operates Australia’s largest fleet of multiengine radial engine aircraft. On 21 August, the latest addition, a Convair 440 (ZS-ARV), landed at Albion Park after its ferry flight from South Africa. With large quantities of Avgas difficult to come by in some locations, this could be one of the last ocean-spanning ferries for an aircraft entering preservation. ” – Flightpath.

In our last newsletter we wrote about the sale and donation of our three aircraft. One of the Convair planes, ZS-ARV, went to the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society in Australia and after 18 months of restoration, licensing and getting the aircraft airworthy, Captain Ross Kelly, Captain Doug Haywood and First Officer Geoff Sheppard took off from Wonderboom airport in Pretoria on the 9th of August 2016.

The flight path was challenging as cities with Avgas supplies had to be located for the fuel-heavy Convair. Travelling via Kruger, Mozambique, the Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Bali and into Australia via Darwin, Mt. Isa, Dubbo and finally into Albion Park, the crew arrived excited and safely on August 21st.

The historic flight was even featured on Win News and the clip can be watched on YouTube by clicking here.

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Rovos Rail’s Taunina Teddies

Rovos Rail Taunina Teddies

The tale of our Rovos Rail teddies began 19 years ago with our journey finding us in the capable and talented hands of Taunina.

On an early Dar es Salaam trip we had two delightful Australian ladies, Dawn and Annike, who travelled everywhere accompanied by teddies they collected the world over. At their suggestion, the Rovos collection of limited-edition teddies slowly evolved when, in 1998, Anthea met Bev Duncan who had a small barrow in the V&A Waterfront Shopping Centre full of her handmade teddies.

This chance encounter spanned a 17-year friendship with Bev painstakingly producing 20 collections (50 to a set) of customised, handmade Rovos teddies and 600 kiddies bears. Bev took great delight at the thought of her teddies living worldwide.

Very sadly, Bev developed a brain tumour in December 2013 and after a long, hard-fought battle we lost her in April 2015.

Anthea, deeply saddened by the loss of her friend, pressed pause on the creation and production of our teddies and it’s only recently that Taunina have taken up the helm.

The Taunina story is one of great courage and compassion for the commerce lies intertwined with community upliftment. The company focuses on improving lives of disadvantaged people who operate in communities where opportunities may be limited but where creativity and passion are abundant.

“We provide our artists with the support and market access they need to make a living by using skills many of them learned at an early age. And we actively involve them, sharing in the success of the business. Artists receive a steady income (vs. piece rate pay) in the form of wages that are significantly higher than market-related salaries. In addition, they will receive 30% of the before-tax profits of the company: 20% through the Bear Essentials Fund (which contributes towards the housing, healthcare and education of their families) and 10% in the form of productivity-related cash bonus payments.”

To date, Taunina have created 10 bespoke teddies for us each in the Rovos green, old gold and maroon in keeping with our corporate colours and each with a paw pad and ear in leopard print. The other paw pad carries with it a little Rovos Rail charm. Our first three bears went out on the Dar es Salaam train in August last year with Thebolo, Munaki and Nyenyedzi finding homes in Germany!

All the teddies carry the initials of the women who make them, symbolic of their sense of dignity and pride. Each bear travels in a handcrafted hatbox with his or her very own bespoke passport. A Taunina creation is a work of art, an heirloom to be passed from one generation to the next. It’s a gift that changes lives.

“The name Taunina is an anagram of the African word ‘TAU’, meaning ‘lion’, and ‘NINA’, an acronym for ‘No Income, No Assets’. Taunina gives women who were once without income and assets the power to become lions of their own destinies.”

We’re proud of our association with this fantastic company and are encouraged and inspired by their story. For many, living in South Africa simply means surviving so for women to stare such adversity in the face and create gorgeous teddies that live across the world is just remarkable.

Click here to watch the Taunina video.

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Rovos Rail

A Tulip is Born

Picture credit: Bianca Vos-Lynch

In January of this year we wrote a post entitled An Australian, his Bride and a Cow which told the story of one of Rohan’s daughter’s, Bianca, and how her fiancé, Brandon, purchased a gorgeous female Nguni cow as Lobola for his future bride. Brandon named her Mia Bella, meaning my beautiful one, and told us that she was a heifer – pregnant with her first calf – and due in February. Well, February became March, which became April and finally the vet told us to expect the little one in September! We’re not sure how the Nguni cow farmer miscalculated that one but a little girl eventually arrived on September 24th, Heritage Day in South Africa, and a Tulip was born!

You’ll see from the original story that we decided that Mia Bella would need a friend so we purchased another pregnant female who we called Camilla. Her calf, Alfie, was born in June and he is growing into a handsome and quite randy little fella! So all our fingers were crossed that Mia would have a little girl. Eventually, on September 24th (Heritage Day in South Africa), a calf arrived looking very gangly but very sweet – a girl who we called Tulip. In a moment of territorial aggression, Camilla kicked her around so she spent her first few days with a mild concussion, wobbling about, but is now latching and flourishing alongside her relieved mother.

Her name might sound a bit odd to some but there is personal meaning behind it for the Vos family as it honours Anthea’s father who recently passed – he was nicknamed Jimmy the Tulip by his grandchildren after a movie character and, serendipitously, that is how our little Tulip got her name. And she also decided to come into the world on Jimmy’s birthday which made her birth all the more lovely.

Welcome to the world and to Rovos Rail, Tulip Vos-Lynch! We’ll adore you and take care of you forever.

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Long Live the Shongololo Express!

It’s been a busy, sometimes overwhelming but very exciting week here at Rovos Rail headquarters. As some of you may know we purchased the three-star Shongololo Express train in January of this year and for the past few months the train has undergone quite a substantial renovation. On Tuesday, 16th August, we walked Gauteng-based tour operators and travel agents through our brand new spruced up train and celebrated with a few bottles of bubbly afterwards!

In true Rovos fashion, the timeline for the renovation was tight but our incredible team pulled off miracles. The brief was to gut all existing bathrooms so that new shower and bathroom floors could be laid down, wooden shower door frames were built with better shower heads, new loos have been installed as well as bathroom cabinets, hair-dryers and some cabins received new sinks! Our plumbing team also worked hard at improving the water pressure in each cabin.

The layout of the Gold cabins was overhauled to allow for more space and there are now twin, double and fixed double options. The more spacious Emerald cabins have also been tweaked to allow for more space and all rooms have been fitted with new wood-panelling, linen, day covers, curtains, paintings, carpets, towels and the Shongololo Express now comes with full amenities kits too.

To be able to walk some of our biggest supporters through our lovely new train was a privilege and our team felt a wonderful sense of accomplishment.

The ‘new’ Shongo departed for a 15-day Good Hope Golf trip yesterday and we feel confident that all guests on board will feel comfortable in their new digs!

Long live the Shongololo Express!

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Rhino Rescuers

By Brenda Vos

Our wildlife is under siege in Africa and has been for many years. Too many. One of the largest contributors to the massacre of rhinos it seems is a few powerful influencers in Asia who decided that rhino horn carries curative properties that can treat an array of illnesses, some of them being as minor as nosebleeds and fevers. Please, get a tissue or take an Asprin like the rest of us.

We are sure that there are claims that the keratin in the horns can cure cancer and other terminal illnesses but there is no medical proof whatsoever to support these theories. African, and in fact wildlife the world over, is being obliterated due to obscene medical propaganda, high-end fashion, political unrest and loss of habitat. It’s a story most of you will have heard and we hope some of you will join us in the fight.

Over our 27 years we have enjoyed a good relationship with &Beyond, a tour operator with a powerful and proactive approach to community outreach and wildlife conservation. In partnership with Great Plains Foundation, they formed Rhinos Without Borders, an initiative so bold and brave that it almost seems impossible. They have undertaken to relocate rhinos on a scale never done before – to move no less than 100 rhino from South Africa to safe havens in Botswana.

In mid-2015 a large team safely darted and transported these rhino, this being their first successful mission. The incredible footage captured by Dereck and Beverly Joubert can be viewed by clicking here. You really do want to watch this video as it highlights the enormity of this initiative.

Dereck Joubert is the Chairman of Great Plains Foundation and together with his wife, Beverly, has been on a mission for years to protect African wildlife. Their documentaries and beautiful imagery have been seen the world over and they recently appeared on the Ellen Degeneres show to talk about their latest film “Soul of an Elephant”, another animal close to their hearts.

With a rhino being killed every seven and a half hours, the heroic efforts of Rhinos Without Borders are essential to the survival of this endangered species.

Great Plains coined a new phrase, Conservation Tourism, as it is first and foremost a conservation organisation that uses eco-tourism as a tool to sustain conservation programmes. The relocation of the 100 rhino could not have happened without the support of the government of Botswana but also the local communities as they are an intrinsic part of this initiative. Without their involvement, the rhino would be as vulnerable in Botswana as they are in South Africa.

Growing up in this beautiful country some of us have been afforded the opportunity to go on safari and see wildlife up close. Elephants, rhinos, lions and the rest of the Big Five have given us heart-warming and special memories. Being able to witness the raw, brutal and beautiful lives of these animals is humbling and humility is a quality greatly lacking in the general human population. Spending time in the bush proves that there are forces much larger than us at work. It’s a spiritual experience and for many a religion.

Why should greed take this away from us?

Donations, publicity, raising awareness and big hearts are all welcomed by Rhinos Without Borders so please visit their website and spread the word. None of us should live in a world without wildlife.

Images above by Beverley Joubert and the Rhinos Without Borders team.

Rovos Rail Rhinos Without Borders

 

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Old-world charm of St James Manor

St James in Cape Town certainly has old-world charm as does our guest house, St James Manor. We have three beautiful guest houses down in St James and it’s always a treat receiving positive feedback!

Dearest Dené, Lee-Anne, Goodnews and stunning chef!

WOW! Paul and I were blown away with your warm, hearty welcome and incredible attention to detail (from a welcoming hand-written note to Goodnews’s continuous “checking in” on our well-being despite there being another function in the group to attend to!

Needless to say the ambience and old world charm ensures a magic stay. Our Vancouver suite, at St James Manor, with its large king size (hand carved wood) bed, private lounge and huge dressing area, stunning views of the ocean and Simon’s Town and surrounds crowned it all!  The  the service was excellent, yummy breakfast in purrrfect  Capeyonian style. Access to a shared the balcony and patio with stunning views of False Bay was most appreciated. 

Since day one our emails and requests were dealt with promptly and efficiently. As a rental and touring company we thank you in advance for taking great and special care of ALL our international BMW clients en-route – WELL DONE! 

Visiting SOON again!

Thank you for taking the time to write to us Petreaux & Paul, we really appreciate your feedback!

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Rovos Rail Cape Town journey

The Luxury of the Slow Lane

We recently hosted journalist, Eugene Yiga, on board one of our Cape Town journeys and we’re still talking about what a lovely gentleman he is! Thank you for travelling with us Eugene and thank you too for the articles you’ve written, the most recent being for Business Day Live.

Rovos Rail bring back luxury of slow lane

The dinner gong sounds. Is it 7.30pm already? I can’t believe I’m going to be late because I can’t choose a tie. Why did I pack so many? And why can’t I remember how to make a knot?

I put on my jacket and head down the passage, unsure for a moment whether I’m going the right way. Then I arrive at the table, take a seat and sigh in relief. My rushing thoughts are forced to quiet when I find myself captivated by the scene.

This is the dining carriage of Rovos Rail, recently voted by Wired.com as one of the seven most luxurious train in the world. My first impulse is to reach for my phone — not to distract myself with a podcast or an e-book, but to take photographs of the crystal wine glasses, the silverware and the rest of the luxurious scene.

The same impulse strikes when the first course arrives. Given my work as a writer, the standard procedure would be to “compose” the plate, angle the camera, take the picture, crop, filter, tag, tweet and post. Then there’d be endless refreshing in the hopes of “likes” and retweets, all the while hoping the food would still be warm when I took my first bite.

But it’s different here. With no phones allowed at meals, all I can do is sit back and savour the highlights that never fail to impress. Balsamic and lemon-marinated slices of ostrich fillet served on a potato, beetroot, walnut, and watercress salad. Grilled Cape rock lobster tails with a haricot-flavoured bisque cream, Mediterranean vegetables, and lemon rice. Garlic and lemon grilled prawn skewer on a green salad, with a julienne of peppers, mange tout, and cucumber, drizzled with coriander and ginger dressing.

Alone with my thoughts, I wonder about our tendency to document every moment with our smartphones, instead of just experiencing them for what they are. Are we trying to make our Facebook friends jealous of what we remember or are we afraid of what we might forget? And are we, as Om Malik wrote in The New Yorker, a society that photographs everything, but looks at nothing?

At the end of the meal, as many jetlagged passengers retire to their suites with weary smiles and polite nods, I sip on mint tea, grateful that a single dinner seating on all Rovos Rail train trips means no rushing guests out to prepare for the next group. My thoughts turn to the nature of our journeys through life, which has been on my mind since my 30th birthday two days before.

I look out the window and see an airplane overhead, its lights flashing like a pulse against the night sky. I wonder about the passengers travelling the same distance in two hours that I’ll do in two days. And I reflect on the stress of my most recent flight: repacking bags at the counter, breathing artificial air that almost made one sick and experiencing turbulence so severe that all I could do was laugh.

Of course, road journeys are no better when you consider that a bus is like a smaller, slower plane and a car is like a smaller, faster bus. You might not be next to the understandably frazzled mother and her screaming twins or the overweight man and his overpowering cologne, hogging the armrest and disturbing your nap every time he opens another bag of chips.

You might even remember to pack your own food, lest you waste money on stale petrol station pies. But with traffic jams causing delays and the physical stress of driving, you end up just as tense.

But life is different on the train. With an average speed of just 45km/hour, there’s no rush to get from Point A to Point B. It doesn’t even matter that there are often delays outside the operator’s control — they share tracks, after all — because it’s easy to make up the time later. Besides, it’s not like anyone notices. All that matters to me and the 35 other passengers is using the journey as an opportunity to press pause.

And so, after leaving Pretoria on Friday afternoon, touring Kimberley on Saturday, and visiting Matjiesfontein on Sunday, we approach Cape Town. As we enjoy our final afternoon tea in the observation car, the international guests gasp and point, their cameras out to capture what they’ve been waiting for. It’s Table Mountain and their excited expressions are much like the one I had when I saw the Pyramids of Giza for the first time. But I can’t share in their joy because the moment I’ve been dreading is upon me. Cellular signal is back.

My phone spasms, tempting me to attend to it the way it always does. I take one look at the screen’s cluttered notifications and set the device to flight mode to enjoy a few more moments of peace. Even when we arrive at Cape Town station, and I’m taking a short Uber trip home, the city I’ve lived in for 12 years feels brand-new.

Journey over, I continue to wonder why we’re always rushing from one moment to the next; moving and chasing and striving instead of just slowing and stopping and being.

Why are we so afraid to be still, alone with nothing to distract us but our thoughts?

And why did this weekend journey, out of all the experiences I’ve been fortunate to have, leave me feeling so blissed out? Perhaps it’s because, as the modern world continues to yank us into the future at an ever faster pace, taking time out to slow down and relax is the greatest luxury of all.

To contact Eugene, visit his website or e-mail him on hello@eugeneyiga.com

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