Awaken your spirit with our new addition, Vusa Vodka
Rovos Rail added a distinctly African vodka to our already extensive range of spirits. Vusa Vodka is a multi-award winning premium vodka from Africa. They are changing the narrative on what a vodka can be. Vusa puts the best of African quality, style and flavour into each bottle. In addition, their belief is to make the best tasting vodka. To achieve this, you need the best ingredients together with an optimal environment to grow them in. Vusa makes use of homegrown sugar-cane from the heart of the sub-tropical climate of KwaZulu-Natal. This makes Vusa Vodka a little bit sweet and authentically Africa.
How it is produced
Part of the distinctly African process is to distill the vodka in small batches using copper pot stills named “kaisgo”. This gives the spirit a silky smooth finish. To ensure exceptional quality, Vusa uses the purest water of the Lions River in the hills of the KwaZulu-Natal national park to blend the vodka. The next step is to filter the vodka through the shells of local baobab fruit. This step guarantees a super crisp and clean finish. The patterns and unique typeface on the bottle is inspired by Zulu art. Furthermore, it is specifically chosen to express a renewed natural energy and distinctiveness when on a South African tour.
The Vusa Foundation
Vusa is on a mission to change lives and the world of spirits. They achieve this through the liquid, the ingredients, and their commitment to the local community from which the spirit hails. They have established the Vusa Foundation, through which they commit to donate a proportion of their profits to support the Khulisani Foundation. The Khulisani Foudation is a South African organisation that supports urban farming and drives positive change in South African communities.
Lastly, this is only the start of the Vusa Vodka journey. In addition, they are also planning on travelling through Africa with a mobile distillery while producing amazing spirits from the countries they visit.
You can find Vusa Vodka all Rovos Rail journeys where guests can enjoy a flavourful vodka while sharing different stories.
Please note that items on our wine list and bar menus are subject to availability and not always in stock and available on board.
Epitomizing a bygone era in train travel, Rovos Rail, The world’s most luxurious train provides a stylish experience on the 870-mile journey from Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, to Pretoria in South Africa. Departing from Victoria Falls Railway Station – established in 1904 – insouciant baboons stroll on the platform, as rumpeter hornbills call from the canopies of Natal Mahogany trees. An à capella african choir serenades us enthusiastically, as we proceed along the red carpet to board the train. Like travelers of the Belle Époque, we are led by our hostess to our vintage sleeper coach, with its walls of burnished Mahogany. Our luggage is waiting, our double bed made up in crispy white linen and in our ensuite bathroom is immaculate. A canvas toiletry bag holds useful amenities. Low beams from the setting sun filter through three windows. The trainblows her high-pitched whistle, then with a chug, we are on the way.
Ladies and gentlemen are required to dress formally for dinner, so passengers arrive at the dining car looking elegant. Tables are made up of two-seaters and four-seaters, so guests may dine together or individually. White damask tablecloths, silver cutlery and cut glass crystalware complement fine china. Our sommelier, wearing a dapper waistcoat, pours the first wine with a flourish. We taste the iced Pecan Stream Chenin Blanc to be paired with the starter, declaring it to be delectable. Chosen carefully to be enjoyed any time during the journey, the wines are South African with 4-5 star ratings, including the renowned Meerlust Rubicon. The table d’hôte menu, with vegetarian options, has 3 courses, followed by a cheese plate, then dessert. Exceptionally tasty and presented with flair, the cuisine – with its accent on fresh local ingredients and traditional dishes – is a consistent highlight each day of the four-night journey on the world’s most luxurious train.
After the formal dinner, guests repair to their cabins, or stroll down carpeted corridors to the Lounge Car or Observation Car – that includes an open air balcony – for post-prandial conversation and a nightcap. Perfectly designed to mingle with fellow travelers, or to find a quiet corner, these cars have picture windows, comfortable sofas, wing backed chairs and booths. To re-create the feeling of timeless travel, in grandeur and quietude, the use of mobile phones is discouraged. This adds time for a game of cards, backgammon, scrabble, to peruse the leather-bound books, or to watch the scenery go by. The Club Car is a glass-enclosed space for smokers to take pleasure in their cigarettes, or cigars, while being able to watch the countryside on both sides of the train.
Returning to our sleeper carriage, we find the shutters closed, soft lighting over a turned down bed, plus a gift of Wedgwood nougat. Clothing that we had chosen for the excursion in the morning has already been pressed by our hostess. Though adrenalized by excitement and anticipation, the motion of the train and repetitive sound on the tracks eventually rocks us to sleep.
As the sun’s rays ease over the horizon at Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, we enjoy a continental breakfast, including pastries still warm from the oven. Quality Twinings tea or cappuccinos are available. Disembarking for a game drive through this far-flung wilderness, an image of the savannah, in soft pastel light, is reflected on the side of the train. Sweeping plains of grass yield a rich reward of elephant sightings, including a breeding herd with tiny calves. We are driven through a forested area where the road is narrow and not often traversed, adding to our sense of being deep in remote Africa. We are surprised by a giraffe that peers down at us, seemingly curious, then he continues to strip leaves from a Camel-thorn tree.
Keeping up the tradition of excellence, for the morning coffee stop, a long serving table with a banquet of snacks has been prepared for us. Beneath spreading Leadwood trees is a semi-circle of canvas chairs. This is hosted by the owners of The Hide, a prize winning safari lodge.
Back at the train, we are greeted by staff, with champagne or pressed fruit juices. While we are savouring lunch in the dining car, the train is still traveling through Hwange National Park. With a mighty screech of breaks, the train stops! Someone has spotted lions on a kill, so we rush to the windows to watch the action of these big cats. Friendships are forged as we chatter about this sighting and how we are reveling in our Hwange venture. The adventurers of the Victorian era on the world’s most luxurious train could not have had it better than this.
When Rovos Rail halts at Gwanda, a village in Zimbabwe, we hop off the train for a leisurely walk to explore and to meet the local people. A donkey cart moves alongside pedestrians, while entrepreneurs hawk their array of goods, including vegetables, dried Mopane worms (protein rich), cigarettes, mobile phone time or second-hand clothing. Established premises in brick buildings sport names like Conquering Family General dealer, Liquid Sports Restaurant, and Mbalabala Cocktail Bar.
After a joyous time of street photography, I welcome the soothing air conditioning in the Lounge Car, as I quaff a chilled litchi virgin cocktail. Crossing the border from Zimbabwe – over the Limpopo River – into South Africa is a seamless process, organised by Rovos Rail staff. Panoramic views unfold as the train crosses the Tropic of Capricorn, heading southwards towards Pretoria and the olde world Rovos Rail Station.
For a change of tempo from the pace of city life, the demands of media and from one’s usual pre-occupations, this is a perfect way to slow down, to unwind, to allow thoughts to flow freely. Cuisine is superb, the wines and spirits par excellence and the service unobtrusive. It’s an enriching journey, a way to reconnect with yourself and with your partner, if you travel these tracks together on the world’s most luxurious train.
My wife Cammy and I have just returned from Dar – having thankfully not availed ourselves of the rest of the Noble Caledonia tour, by boat. (I particularly dislike the sea; my overriding interest was in your train!)
I wanted to write to say how absolutely enthralled we both were in what you provide! I am not a “train buff” in that I could not tell you the gauges of the railway in Canada, Cambodia or Cameroon (as some of our fellow passengers could – and did), but I have always been fascinated by Edwardian travel details – from early limousines to showman’s caravans and of course the wonderfully extravagant rail cars of American 19th century industry barons.
What you have done in creating the Pride of Africa train surpasses all and nothing short of amazing! There was no reason for me to look for fault, but if I had I could not have found it – the cabins were brilliant, the beds were exceptionally comfortable and including a shower room is quite extraordinary.
It was a total joy to sit watching Africa roll by – or perhaps more truthfully, given the state of some of the tracks, rumble by. How marvellous, in this age of safety and correctness, to be able to open the windows; how fantastic to sit on the observation deck – surely unique? My wife had never been to Africa and there can be few better ways to see it and none in such comfort. We loved every minute.
As for the service and friendliness – and efficiency – of your staff, it surpassed everything. From being greeted with champagne by the line of beautifully dressed hostesses and helpers (I persisted in calling it champagne on the basis that your South African wines are a match for any. And it is easier to say…) to the unexpected and clever touches of cold water when setting out and damp towels on dusty returns and we were looked after at breakfast, lunch and dinner. There were so many brilliant details.
We so appreciated being met in Cape Town by you, something commented on by several people, both on this trip and previous ones.
Eric Annandale, your train manager, was a star. He worked ceaselessly to overcome any operational obstacles. Craig Geater was wonderful – a great help in all matters – not only in the incredible luxury of having a hair stylist on board, but with information and organisation on trips as well.
The food was amazing, always unusual, always delicious and just the right amount. The South African wines were outstanding. The dining room and bar staff were brilliant and always ready to change menu in individual cases, willingly and efficiently. The dining car itself is superb.
Thank you too for the various splendid gifts that came with the tour – including a very fine tie and the magnificent Rovos tog bags!
All in all a most magnificent experience and one we are sure to share with our family and friends for many years.
Thank you and congratulations on your achievements.
We’re in the fortunate position where our guests send us letters; some nice and not-so-nice! Below is an excerpt from a lovely letter we received from a passenger who travelled one of our nine-day Namibia Safari trips with us this year. She writes so beautifully we want to hire her!
Dear Mr Vos
It is literally one week ago that I was enjoying the final leg of the Rovos Rail journey through Namibia. I am again travelling by train, this time through the Scottish Borders and Northern England and having a very different experience. We are all tightly packed, mainly well behaved, drinking from plastic containers and I have not, as yet, braved the loos! But heigh-ho, horses for courses as the saying goes.
But really I want to compliment and congratulate you on your vision in creating a truly superb rail experience. I am still held in the fabulous fantasy bubble of the journey and continue to delight in ‘mulling over’ the sights, sounds and experiences which we shared.
We were blessed by having a really affable and fun group which, in general, gelled very well but this was in no small part due to the welcoming, friendly, tirelessly engaging and train, headed impeccably by Daphne. Nicholas, the font of all African wisdom and knowledge, added immeasurably to our insight of the political geography of your fascinating continent. We certainly left the train physically more challenged, from all the walks and the delicious food and beverages, and hopefully more educated with with heightened awareness and empathy towards the millions who do not have the numerous privileges that most of the ‘Pride of Africa’ guests enjoy.
On reaching Pretoria and seeing the workshops, loco sheds, the nurturing bird and animal sanctuaries etc. and knowing that a percentage of your profits are ear-marked for charitable causes I really wanted to sign on the dotted line and join up! As I have never worked for anyone else, apart from one and a half years of teaching, that is a compliment to your business and it’s implied ethics.
Excursions on the Namibia Safari were wonderful – in particular the sundowner which turned into a full-blown barbeque – it was fabulously romantic, imaginative and unforgettable. In fact, I think Sossusvlei was a real highlight for most of us. The dune walk was absolutely exhausting, exhilarating, fun-packed and mind-blowing.
I thank you and praise you again for your realised vision and would, God willing, that I may be permitted to travel Africa by Rovos Rail again.
Ebola; one of the most frightening words circling our world at the moment. We think about the fear and panic in West Africa and the grief of the families who have lost their loved ones and it stops us in our tracks – the loss is truly devastating and we, like everyone else around the globe, express our sincerest sympathies to those who have suffered.
However, we sadly don’t live in a world where everything stops when there is an international tragedy. We continued with our lives when the 2004 Tsunami devastated Indonesia and we all kept going when the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster struck Japan in 2011. So when, on an online platform, we were asked how can we continue to promote our product in a “country ravaged by Ebola?” our immediate thought was that there are many things South Africa is ravaged by, at the top of the slope is corruption, but nowhere on that list is Ebola. Another post on Facebook: “I will never travel to South Africa because I’ll probably catch Ebola and die”. Now hang on a second, we understand if travellers are hesitant to travel, we would be too, but we feel that opinions should be expressed and decisions made on information that is actually accurate.
And before we get into the facts, it’s worth mentioning that Europe is closer to West Africa than both Kenya and Cape Town and that the confirmed Ebola cases in Dallas, USA, have not stopped Americans from travelling through the States for business or pleasure.
1. Ebola is a virus transmitted primarily via bodily fluids. It is not airborne. As such, it is still safe to make use of our airlines.
2. The incidents of infection and death are reported and prevalent in West African countries, most notably Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and the DRC. South Africa does not share borders with any of the countries in that region, nor do our neighbouring countries.
3. The geo-location of the countries affected makes it very difficult for a person with the virus to enter the country via the land borders. Owing to the quick infection to fatality rate of this virus, people with the disease often succumb to the virus within a few days of infection.
4. The South African National Department of Health have stated unequivocally that there are no cases of Ebola in South Africa. Having said that, we remain on high alert for any potential threat or infection.
5. To safeguard against the deadly virus, a decision has been made by the South African National Department of Health that should a foreign national test positive, they will be denied entry into South Africa.
It should also be noted that as of Tuesday, 21 October 2014, the WHO officially declared Nigeria free of Ebola after six weeks with no new cases. The same declaration was made for Senegal on Friday, 17 October. Click here to read the BBC article.
Africa, although not the size of America or Asia, is a large continent with distances of thousands of miles between the effected countries and major South African cities such as Johannesburg and Cape Town. To give you an idea, the distance from Monrovia (Liberia’s capital) to Johannesburg is 10 081kms which equates to 6 265 miles.
Although we recognise that consumer confidence in travelling to Southern and East Africa has been shaken as a result of the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, we feel it’s imperative to reiterate that South Africa has not had one reported case. We are not telling you to immediately pack your bags and book a flight here but we are asking that you decide on your travel plans based on factual, un-sensationalised information.
We trust that this has been helpful and hope to welcome you to our beautiful country.