Tag Archives: Rovos Rail

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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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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The Magic of Train Journeys!

We recently had the pleasure of welcoming Canadian author and travel writer, Margaret Deefholts, on board the Shongololo Express on the Good Hope-Golf tour. Margaret is the co-founder of Travel Writers Tales and shared her experience on the company’s website.

On and off the Rails in South Africa

By Margaret Deefholts

There is an enormous shudder, a loud clanking jolt…and wheee, we’re off! I peer out of my window as the sign “Cape Town” on the railway platform slides away into my past. We are moving…new horizons beckon.

Oh the magic of train journeys!

Sholongololo, the train I’m riding on, is aptly named after the Zulu or Xhosa word for millipede. It curves sinuously along the rails, through the African landscape –the sky bending like a blue bowl over the grassy veldt stretching to the distant horizon.

                              Shongololo Express Southern Cross  8aSholongololo-observation-deck

The last couple of days have been memorable ones. Although Cape Town is now folded into the past, it is nonetheless as sharply etched in my mind as its iconic Table Mountain that stands high and proud against the sky, the city’s buildings sprawling in its shadow, and the dark blue ocean prowling its beaches.

Along with a group of friends, I’ve sat entranced on the upper deck of a hop-on-hop-off Cape Town bus, watching the road curve and dip past beaches thronged with surfers, and sun-worshippers, the sands bleached blonde in the blaze of the afternoon sun and where the breaking surf shudders and roars. Palatial homes line the seafront, vivid bougainvillea creepers showering down their whitewashed walls but I notice that many are topped with snarls of barbed wire.

The dining car tables glitter with fine china and silver cutlery set out on crisp linen tablecloths. This first dinner, like the rest of the meals throughout our 13-day journey on the Sholongololo is five-star quality. Our breakfast buffets boast a variety of pastries, juices, cereals and fruit platters, riotous with color as a Cezanne still-life painting; our dinners consist of dainty appetizers, sumptuous veal, chicken or fish main courses, and rich desserts. All served by our gracious, smiling African waitresses. At the end of our journey the chief chef and his kitchen staff get a well-deserved standing ovation from appreciative guests.

Shongololo Express Southern Cross

The Sholongololo experience is more than just a train ride. I am lulled to sleep each night by the roll and rhythm of the wheels, but after breakfast we spill out onto station platforms and board coaches to be whisked off into day-long excursions accompanied by our fun-loving and knowledgeable driver-guides.

And there is so much to see. South Africa’s natural beauty is on display as we stroll its lush tropical gardens, drive through rolling countryside, and over craggy mountain ranges, past vertiginous canyons and rushing streams. There are magnificent sunsets that set the sky is on fire, and fierce afternoons when the sun is at white heat.

At the Cape of Good Hope, the wind is a hysterical banshee, and we watch gigantic rollers as high as twenty to thirty feet rushing madly to the rocky shore, and breaking into enormous clouds of spray that blot out the skyline. The unending roar and hiss of the primordial ocean—its fathomless depths and its furious and intense energy is like staring at eternity. These waters are the haunt of the legendary phantom ship, The Flying Dutchman, the sight of which is regarded by sailors as a harbinger of doom.

Shongololo Express Southern Cross

Leaving the heaving sea behind we visit Boulders, where a colony of hundreds of Cape Penguins waddle around on a beach some tending to their babies, others patiently sitting on eggs, or engaging in amorous couplings.

 5Penguin-Sanctuary

A couple of days later, a wetlands river cruise reveals a pod of impassive hippos, their droopy-lidded eyes and flaring nostrils floating just above the water; upstream, a crocodile suns itself among shoreline reeds.

Shongololo Express Southern Cross

At Kruger National Park, we drive dusty trails past thorn bushes and trees with branches that twist into macabre silhouettes again the sky. Herds of antelopes, loping giraffes, Cape buffaloes, a lone leopard, and a group of rhinos wallowing gloriously in a mud hole are all subjects for our cameras. A baby Jumbo, ears flapping, breaks away from his group and makes a mock charge at us. But it’s only for show and fun over, he takes off after his Mum as she crashes through the trees.

Shongololo Express Southern Cross

A visit to a Zulu settlement is a popular tourist attraction and we sit bemused at the closing item – an energetic and vastly entertaining Zulu warrior dance.

Shongololo Express Southern Cross

And then, there are moments of sober reflection as we explore the now extant Kimberley’s DeBeer diamond mine, a place of sudden death and tragedy in 1914 after which the mine closed down.

Shongololo Express Southern Cross

In Durban the beaches bordering the placid Indian Ocean are thronged with holiday crowds, as are the shopping arcades where we gleefully buy curry spices from Indian merchants who have lived in the city for generations.

Indian-spices-by-Sara-Marlowe

(Image via Eat Out)

Africa’s dark days of apartheid are on show as well. In Johannesburg, we tour Number 4 jail at Johannesburg’s Constitution Hill and are sickened, by the egregious prison brutality once meted out to blacks inmates. Later we walk the streets of Soweto, past Desmond Tutu’s home and linger to read emotional tributes carved on stones that are placed on the sidewalk in front of Nelson Mandela’s house.

Shongololo Express Southern Cross

 

All good things must come to an end, and we bid a reluctant farewell to the hard working, efficient and hospitable staff on board the Sholongololo and our driver-guides who have made this holiday such a never-to-be-forgotten experience.

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IF YOU GO:

Note: Having recently been acquired by Rovos Rail, the Sholongololo train carriages are to undergo a complete overhaul as many of the compartments are old and cramped and several fittings are in need of repair. The train will be back in service in August and details of dates and prices are available on their website.

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St James Guest Houses

Kalk Bay Favourites

(Image: the gorgeous garden view at Casa Labia)

Written by @thebleugoose

We’re fortunate to have built up a loyal and enthusiastic membership for our Rovos Club over the years. One of our lovely guests, @thebleugoose, has travelled on the train and stayed at St James Manor a few times. She’s a lover of luxury, she has a discerning palette and when it comes to wines, she knows her stuff…sometimes more than we do!

A bagel, some art and a drink to end – a few of my favourite things to do in Kalk Bay ….

My husband I live in Cape Town but we try as often as we can to escape to the tranquility of Kalk Bay, an idyllic but eccentric sea side fishing village not too far from the beautiful wine estates of Constantia and the must-see Cape Point. We always stay at the St James Manor and as soon as we get out of the car and smell the crisp sea air and hear the ocean breaking on the rocks we know we have a relaxing few days ahead.

Now I am not a morning person, even with a toddler, so my husband regularly does the the breakfast run, but we always wake up early in St James and look forward to our first coffee of the day at Bob’s Bagels. A short walk from the Manor and up a narrow cobbled street is where you’ll find Bob’s, a hole-in-the -wall coffee roastery run by the man himself. Our search for a little French patisserie came to an abrupt end as soon as the delicious baked goods and fresh coffee smells had us walking into this delightful little café in a trance. The coffee is freshly roasted and served in pottery bowls and the bagels are mouth-watering. And if it gets too busy inside you can always perch on one of the benches outside and admire the sea view. To complement the cosy atmosphere, there is a little pottery studio and gallery next door which house beautiful pieces that are all locally made.

Another of my favourites is Casa Labia, a café and gallery set in a beautiful old home built in 1929 for the Count and Countess Natale Labia. It is a national monument and heritage site and my husband and I just love going there for lunch. The rooms are beautiful and look out over the Muizenberg coastline. Lunch is always a lovely affair as they often have a pianist or quartet playing in the background. The food is light and delicious and the wine list simple but perfectly suited. We often stay well into the afternoon enjoying the sounds of Bach and watching out for dolphins.

By now our tummies are full and after a much needed nap we venture out again where we always pop into the Octopus Garden. A quirky bar and restaurant in the St James Old Post Office Building. It is right on the railway track and although you cannot see the sea too well one can smell and hear the crashing of the waves on the rocks below.  It is filled with a menagerie of odd bits and pieces with beautiful and somewhat strange quotes written over all the walls. I always order my Campari and soda and my husband a beer and we chatter late into the night – we just love this place!

There is so much more to do in St James and Kalk Bay that it’s actually too much for one article! Trips to the world-famous Cape Winelands are easy and the staff at the guest houses are happy to arrange tours up Table Mountain or to the V&A Waterfront, golf and tennis games or send you on one of the breath-taking hikes in the area with your own personalised picnic!

Until next time, Lucie.

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The Pride of Africa: Trade Haste for Scenery and History

With the modern stresses of life, it’s not surprising that travellers seek an escape from their daily routine and working lives. If you are among those who yearn for a change that encompasses new scenery, smells, and tastes, then let the Pride of Africa whisk you away gently on what may be your best adventure yet.

If you’ve never travelled through southern Africa, yet you’ve read or heard about its remarkable landscapes and wildlife, then touring by luxury train along snaking mountain passes past beautiful indigenous fauna and flora will present the perfect first encounter with the Mother continent.

Rovos Rail Station, Capital Park, Pretoria

Your journey will commence at Rovos Rail Station in Capital Park, Pretoria. Although Pretoria is not usually considered a “not to be missed” tourist city, it is still photo-worthy. During summer, Pretoria is awash with periwinkle and lavender as jacaranda trees reveal delicate blossoms – it can almost be compared to cherry-blossom season in Japan.

Walking onto the property, beautifully restored locomotives stand glistening in the sun, ready to transport guests on world-class adventures, while a resident peacock parades proudly in the background, showing off his striking plumage. As you glance at the station building, you’ll notice that Victorian and Edwardian architectural style is alive and well, and inside, the atmosphere is no different: elegance and romantic 1920s nostalgia is a key theme at Rovos.

Once guests have settled in at Rovos’ station lounge, they can look forward to hearing from Rovos Rail owner Mr Rohan Vos on what to expect during their chosen journey aboard the Pride of Africa. Drinks and snacks are served, while guests get acquainted with one another before boarding the train.

The Pride of Africa

The Pride of Africa’s carriages date back as far as the early 1900s. The décor inside is truly exquisite and guests can look forward to enjoying the luxuries of a modern lifestyle juxtaposed against dark wood panels, polished teak furniture, and soft emerald and gold carpets. Those who wish to read up on Africa during the journey are welcome to explore the small library. Smokers needn’t worry about when their next smoke break will be as there is a smoking room on board, as well as a gift shop for purchasing African souvenirs to take home for family and friends. The most exciting part has to be the observation deck from which passengers can admire the scenery as it rolls past, breathe in some fresh country air and snap wildlife. It doesn’t matter where on the train you sit as huge glass windows enable guests to peek out every so often and take in the dramatic landscapes. Depending on which journey you undertake, the landscapes change from rivers to vineyards, mountains, meadows and small towns.

Train cabins

The Royal Suite

The Pride of Africa has three cabin classes, all of which are en-suite. The Royal Suite, the size of half a carriage, has two plush armchairs, a soft double bed (or side-by-side twin beds), a writing desk, a fully stocked mini fridge, and a wardrobe with a built-in safe. The en-suite bathroom has a heater and heated towel rails, which is a necessity during cold mornings and evenings. The Royal Suite is the epitome of Victorian opulence with its handsome wood panelling and original light fittings which cast an inviting amber glow throughout the cabin. The spaciousness of the cabin allows for privacy, comfort and luxury.

Rovo Rail Royal Suit Layout

 

The Deluxe Suite

The Deluxe Suites are slightly smaller than the Royal Suites, although they too have a private lounge area and an en-suite bathroom with a shower. The suite also comes with a refurbished sleeper couch and a stocked mini fridge with a choice of beverages.

 

Rovos Rail Deluxe Suite Layout

The Pullman Suite

The Pullman Suites offer comfortable sleeper couches, which can be converted to double or twin beds in the evening. The Pullman’s are also en-suite but only have a shower. The room is equipped with a mini bar fridge too.

Rovos Rail Pullman Suite LayoutNo matter which room you choose, you can always expect to return to a clean room in the evening. While guests enjoy their dinner in the dining cart (dinner time is announced by a gong), beds get turned down and lights are dimmed. You’ll find out first-hand how incredible it feels to lie in a soft bed with fine linen, while the clickety-clack of the train lulls you to sleep.

 

Dining aboard the Pride of Africa

Dinners aboard the Pride of Africa are grand affairs: expect gentlemen in suits and ladies in elegant dresses. Here, only the finest threads with equally dazzling jewellery and cufflinks are on display. Guests are seated around tables with starched tablecloths and napkins, while food is served in fine china and drinks in crystal goblets. Rovos’ five-course cuisine celebrates South Africa’s local delicacies, so expect to see lobster, Cape bobotie, and slow-roasted Karoo lamb shank on your plate. For dessert you’ll enjoy jam-glazed sago pudding, dark chocolate fondant, milktart and koeksisters – a true feast for the palate. Experience aboard truly rivals that of any five-star hotel.

The Pride of Africa undoubtedly lives up to its name as the most luxurious train in the world. If you’d like to be a part of this phenomenal sightseeing journey, have a look at our selection of itineraries – the hardest decision will be choosing the one for you.

 

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Rovos Rail Shongololo Express

Rovos Rail Purchases Shongololo Express

Early in January of 2016 Rovos Rail purchased the Shongololo Express train of 19 coaches and agreed to employ all the personnel.

“Operating a three-star train had always been at the back of my mind. When I learned that the Shongololo Express was on offer the timing seemed serendipitous and so an opportunity not to be missed”, says Rohan Vos, owner and CEO of the Rovos Rail Group, of the purchase.

The train has been repainted in green and cream and an additional dining car plus an observation car have been added. The accommodation of six Emerald suites (± 10sqm) and 30 Gold cabins (± 7sqm) will remain as is.

The three itineraries, Southern Cross – Pretoria to Victoria Falls (12 days), Dune Express – Pretoria to Swakopmund (12 days), Good-Hope – Pretoria to Cape Town (15 days); have been rebuilt with more stationary time at night and less road time spent on the excursions.

Golf has been introduced to the Good-Hope trip, renamed Good-Hope Golf, with courses such as the Arabella Golf Estate, Ernie Els Oubaai, Fancourt, Champagne Sports Resort, Durban Country Club, Zimbali, Royal Swazi and Leopard Creek being available to guests.

All journeys are available in reverse and, as before, guests can purchase optional extras that include visits to cultural, historical or heritage sites and overnight stays at safari lodges. The rates do not include most lunches, beverages and laundry.

“A three-star product offering will be different for us and I’m sure there will be a few initial teething problems but we’ve been doing this for 28 years so I think we will be able to manage this exciting new adventure”, comments Rohan.

For further information please contact shonogololo@rovos.co.za, call + 27 (0) 12 315 8203 or visit www.shongololo.com. Any media enquiries to brenda@rovos.co.za / + 27 (0) 82 961 9433.

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Exploring New Routes

BD26A68B5CBE50CD85256AD100665A32_0 Angola_map

To keep things challenging and a step ahead, we are not only continuously looking for ways to improve our services but are always open-minded to exploring new routes and itineraries. One has to keep things interesting and, as many of you will know, we like to be the most interesting!

With this in mind, Rohan Vos, owner and CEO of Rovos Rail, visited Angola and the Congo to explore:

 In December 2014 I visited Angola with the intention of travelling by train on the newly rebuilt C.F.B. line between the port of Lobito, Benguela and the border town of Dilolo, 1350km to the east. This Chinese rebuilt line is a remarkable milestone in Angola’s return to normality after 20-odd years of civil war. The intention is to open the way for copper and other minerals to be exported from Kolwezi in the Katanga Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and obviously to facilitate imports from the coast to Lubumbashi. The only obstacle to this is the parlous state of the line in DRC from Dilolo to Lubumbashi.

To investigate this line, I hired a motorised trolley from the S.N.C.C. Railways and with driver, technician and translator travelled along the 425km line between Kolwezi and Dilolo. This took four days and was an adventure to say the least. The line is used once a month or so for passengers and due to the lack of undergrowth control it can take the train a week to traverse the 400-odd kilometres. Derailments are also a common occurrence on this stretch.

So, regrettably, the idea of running our train from Zambia through to the Angolan port of Lobito is not practical at present. When the DRC section is rehabilitated it will be feasible. I can only speculate that the undertaking of this task will now become high priority with major pressure being exerted by the Angolans with their shiny new line having nowhere to go! Update next year.

So, no new exciting African adventures for us this year but there is something big we’ll be announcing next week! Stay tuned.

Rohan Vos in Dilolo on the DRC Angolan border           Derailment in Klowezi         benguela

Images, from left to right: Rohan at the Dilolo Station on the DRC Angolan border. During an inspection of the Kolwezi Dilolo (DRC) line, the group derailed after hitting a well-placed tree. The new Benguela Station.

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Rovos Rail Pretoria to Victoria Falls

A World Class Railway

Dear Mr Vos

I am writing this letter as an accolade not only to you but to your dedicated staff who make travel on the train a true five-star experience. I wish to commend you for establishing and running a highly efficient and world class railway. We have travelled on a few trains in different countries and Rovos would have to rank in the top three by our reckoning.

My wife and I travelled on Rovos Rail from Pretoria to the Victoria Falls on 23rd December, 2015. If you cast your mind back, I was the person sitting on the parliamentary chair in front of you when you were addressing the guests prior to our departure.

My wife and I occupied a suite. It was immaculate when we entered and was maintained by staff in that manner throughout our journey. The staff were nothing short of perfect in their efforts to make our trip a memorable one. They were courteous and ever willing to please. The amenities provided in the suite made everything so comfortable – a home away from home.

We had requested special dietary needs for our meals. It was a surprise to us when the chef visited us in our suite to discuss our needs. Allow me to tell you the kitchen staff went beyond the call of duty to cater for us. The meals were immaculately presented in true fine dining style and above all were varied and tasty. To us , it seemed as if the chef enjoyed the challenge of preparing something new each day. I thanked him personally.

The Train Manager on our journey was a true professional. She presented with an admirable work ethic and was a true professional. In conversations with her, I realised what her job entailed. How well she managed it is a tribute to her desire to promote the brand name and reputation. She operated with meticulous precision and it was clear that staff respected her. She was attentive to passenger needs and maintained a cordial relationship with the guests,stopping to converse at each table in the dining car at meal times. Her management of the staff was beyond reproach. This must surely be attributed to a good staff training program!

Finally, the staff on the train were truly magnificent. They were professional and capable, pleasant at all times with no effort spared to see to guests’ needs. It says something when, as guests, we did not want to leave the train at Livingstone because we were already missing the camaraderie we had established with the staff!

I will travel on Rovos Rail again and recommend it to as many people as possible here in Australia.

Thank you and kind regards,

Mr Gona Naidoo

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