Tag Archives: Rovos Rail

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

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Weddings at Rovos Rail Station

Weddings with Rovos

Oh, how Rovos Rail loves weddings! With a predominantly female reservations and sales team, romantic weddings are on the list of what we love to do and supply us with wistful office chat on Monday mornings.

Weddings with us are different. Very different. The bride arrives not by classic car or horse-drawn carriage – or, for that matter, riding a horse – but on one of our beautiful vintage steam locomotives, the oldest dating back to 1839. The intimate ceremony is held in our charming red-brick station building with speeches given as the locomotive moves off the platform to collect the train that will host the wedding party on a four-hour loop around Pretoria. Guests step aboard our ‘Champagne Train’, for a four-course meal paired with some of South Africa’s best wines. The mood on board is celebratory and sweet with the couple’s most near and dear enjoying their special day.

Once dinner is over and guests have enjoyed apré dinner drinks in the observation car, the train chugs its way back to Rovos Rail Station where perhaps a band is waiting on the platform for some dancing and just a little more bubbly. The couple share their first dance as Mr & Mrs and then, a bit later, coffee and the cutting of the cake. Summer evenings in Pretoria are always warm and with the silhouettes of our big Jacaranda trees casting a dreamy backdrop, the station’s platform makes for an idyllic venue for couples looking for something extraordinary.

We’re so chuffed to recently have been voted one of Pretoria’s top wedding venues by I Do. The couples who have chosen to host their weddings here, at our station, and then on board the train have been lovely and all happy with their choice of venue which tickles us Rovos girls pink!

Depending on the number of guests, our little Events Train can host, with a full bar, a four-course sit-down dinner for up to 120 guests, a three-course sit-down meal for up to 240 guests in two sittings or, for 250 guests, hot snacks, canapés and cocktails served for the duration of the journey.

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South African flag

Our thoughts on Ebola

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.

So here are the facts as presented to us by South African Tourism as per the World Health Organisation:

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.

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The Cancer Warriors at Pink Drive

Being Breast Cancer Awareness Month we decided to write about something that means a great deal to us and we’re sure to many of you. Cancer, in all its forms, seems to be slithering into homes everywhere and is not a disease that happens to “other people”. Many of us here at Rovos Rail have been affected by cancer so our association with Pink Drive is meaningful to many of us.

Carole, from our sales team, has worked with Founder & Director of Pink Drive, Noelene Kotschan for many years and last year both Carole and Brenda attended the Pink Tie dinner where Rovos Rail donated a trip on the train to the auction. The event was a great success and never have we seen so many beautiful women in one place wearing so much pink!

The latest statistics issued by Pink Drive (September, 2014):

Rovos Rail supports Pink Drive

Now that’s impressive! How do they achieve the above? In amongst all their fundraising and awareness initiatives, they operate two “Pink” mobile breast check units as well as three educational cars and in March this year they launched South Africa´s first Mobile Women’s Health Unit in the form of a fourteen ton truck! Described as a Doctor’s Room on Wheels, the unit boasts a state-of-the-art gynaecology area for pap smears and examinations, a reception area for administration and a radiology area. This unit addresses cervical cancer as well as offering mammograms.

It’s hard to believe what Noelene and her team have achieved in just five years! A huge congrats to all of you – the work you is tireless and invaluable. You all save lives so in our books you are all superheroes!

Click here to find out how you might be able to support Pink Drive.

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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.

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