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South Africa Safari

Rovos Rail

Pretoria, South Africa

Rovos Rail's Pride of Africa en route to Mpumalanga
Return to Train Travel Safaris          © Rovos Rail

View images of Rovos Rail: Rovos Rail Images
Rovos Rail Routes: Rovos Rail Routes

Step aboard the Pride of Africa, the world's most luxurious train, and begin a journey to Southern Africa's most spectacular destinations.
Rovos Rail, Pretoria, South AfricaSince its establishment more than 10 years ago, Rovos Rail has earned an international reputation for its truly world-class travel experiences. Step aboard the wood-panelled coaches - classics remodelled and refurbished to mint condition - and enjoy fine cuisine in five-star luxury as some of the most varied scenery imaginable unfolds beyond the windows. Recapture the romance and atmosphere of a by-gone era, when privileged travellers experienced the magic and mystery of Africa in a relaxed and elegant fashion.

In a series of journeys lasting from 24 hours to a fortnight, the Pride of Africa links some of Africa's greatest destinations from Cape Town at the tip of Africa to Dar-Es-Salaam in Tanzania, from scenic splendours as diverse as the game reserves of Mpumalanga to the Victoria Falls, from the desert landscapes of Namibia and the stark beauty of the Karoo to the lush canefields of KwaZulu-Natal and the magnificent Garden Route along the Cape South Coast.

The new headquarters and the heart of this superb private railway company is the historic and newly built Capital park Station and Locomotive yard which is situated on the outskirts of Pretoria.

For Complete Rovos Rail Route Details, click Rovos Rail ROUTES

A superb collection of rebuilt& refurbished coaches that offer World-class comfort & style
Rovos Rail CoachRovos Rail operates two classic trains of 20 superbly restored coaches, half of which date back to the 1920s. Each train can accommodate up to 72 passengers in unrivalled spaciousness. A third 13-coach, 42-berth Edwardian train is available year round for charter. The coaches - which have been collected from the far corners of the country - have been painstakingly rebuilt and refurbished to offer discerning travellers the last word in comfort and style.

The use of traditional furnishings and period decor, with top-class craftsmanship evident in fine wood panelling, has ensured an atmosphere of elegance and grandeur. Each one of these carriages, from kitchen cars to sleeper coaches and guards vans, has its own story. A few dating back to 1911 were constructed in Europe and shipped to South Africa in the first half of this century. Some have carried royalty, others have ended up serving as restaurants or lying derelict and forgotten in sidings for decades. All are now cherished members of the Rovos Rail fleet of 60 carriages.

At Capital Park, the new headquarters of Rovos Rail, a team of craftsmen and engineers ensure that the coaches are up to standard and that their gleaming green paintwork is immaculate. Exquisite pillared dining cars are a signature feature of the Rovos Rail trains. Each one has a proud history and has been meticulously restored from a derelict state. For example, No 195 Shangani, which was built in 1924, was found parked in a siding in Alberton and acquired by Rovos Rail in 1986. Three of the magnificent teak pillars had been removed and her severely dilapidated condition required 18 months of painstaking restoration.

The pillars were faithfully recreated, restoring the Victorian atmosphere. Shangani ran on the inaugural trip in April 1989. Each of the trains has two 42-seater dining cars to accommodate the maximum complement of 72 passengers in total comfort at one sitting. One of the dining cars is a refurbished Edwardian pillared dining car dating from the 1920s, while the other is a classic luxury dining car of 1936 vintage. The latter is a favourite venue for lunch and offers a superb view from the larger picture windows. Service is friendly and discreet. Each train has one or two lounge cars. Permission was sought and granted by South African Railways to run the Observation Cars at the back of the Trains, enabling enlargement of the windows and the construction of unique open-air balconies. These classic coaches are the perfect place to enjoy a leisurely drink or a cup of tea, get to know the friendly hostesses and fellow travellers and read up more about the route and the many fascinating attractions. The lounge car and onboard gift shop is in the centre of the train.

Five superbly reconditioned locomotives are the soul of Rovos Rail and a sight to gladden the heart of any rail enthusiast
Locomotive 2701 - Brenda
There's a story behind all of the Rovos Rail locomotives, their acquisition and restoration. Each one has a distinctive character and charm and all are named after members of owner Rohan Vos' family. The first engine acquired was No 2702 Bianca, a Class 19D locomotive built by Borsig in 1938. It was purchased in 1986 from Loewenthal's Scrap Metal. Dunn's Locomotive in Witbank was commissioned to return the 50-year old workhorse to running condition. The Rovos Rail staff then carried out cosmetic improvements, including a superb paint job, making Rovos Rail's first loco a beautiful sight. No 2701 'Brenda', a Class 19D locomotive with coincidentally a number just one digit away from Bianca, was bought from Chick's Scrap Metal while staged at Volksrust in Natal and restored at the workshops in Witbank.

Rohan Vos had had his eye on No 3360 Shaun since he first saw it standing on the scrap line at Witbank, way back in 1986. It was purchased a decade later and restored by Rovos personnel. The oldest engine in the stable is also the smallest. No 439 Tiffany a Class 6 locomotive, is one of 40 locomotives, the first of which was delivered in 1983, and was built by Dubbs & Co. The Vos family first saw the dainty locomotive on the platform at Winburg Station in the Eastern Free State, For Rohan and Anthea Vos; it was love at first sight. The engine was purchased in 1987 and returned to the rails by Dunn's of Witbank. The locomotive is named for their youngest daughter.

The latest addition to Rovos Rail is a Class 25 NC locomotive that has been converted from a coal burner to an oil-fired engine. It completed an 18-month overhaul and refurbishment, which brought a gleam to every bit of brass and a glow to the faces of the team of people who had painstakingly restored her to her prime. A highlight of the official opening of the new Capital Park Station on the 7th of May 1999 was the christening ceremony performed by Rohan's mother, Mrs Marjorie Vos, as she cracked a bottle of champagne across the bows of Class 25NC No 3484. Use of steam has become increasingly difficult over the past years, as more and more water and coaling facilities have been scrapped. Wherever practical the trains may be drawn by any one of the five vintage steam locomotives. Where facilities no longer exist, diesel or electric locomotives will be used. Rovos Rail will, however, endeavour to ensure that arrivals and departures in Pretoria are steam hauled.

ACCOMMODATION            For images of Rovos Rail, click Rovos Rail Images
A perfect blend of period ambience & modern features
The rebuilt sleeper coaches contain the most spacious train suites in the wrold, offering every modern convenience and comfort. The epitome of luxury, with handsome wood panelling and period Edwardian features, the air-conditioned Deluxe Suites accommodate two people, offering the option of twin or spacious double beds.

  Click the cutaways below to enlarge
Rovos Rail Deluxe Twin Suite
Rovos Rail Deluxe Double Suite
Rovos Rail Royal Suite

Like all Rovos Rail carriages, the rebuilt sleeper coaches contain the most spacious train suites in the world and are the epitome of luxury. With exquisite wood panelling and period Edwardian features as well as every modern convenience and comfort, the air-conditioned suites accommodate two people and offer the option of twin or spacious double beds.

The Royal Suites, each of which takes up half a carriage, are named after colourful characters of the Victorian era in South Africa, including Cecil John Rhodes, Barney Barnato and Alfred Beit. Spacious and elegant, the Royal Suites measure 16 sq metres in size (172 sq ft). Each one has its own private lounge area and features a full en-suite bathroom with shower and Victorian bath.

The Deluxe Suites measure 11 sq metres (118sq ft) and each have a lounge area and private bath with shower. The suites offer guests the space to relax in privacy and the opportunity to travel in comfort and luxury, with fittings and facilities that are of the highest standard. All are equipped with a writing desk and, for valuables, a personal safe. There's also a bar fridge filled with the drinks of the passengers' choice and room service is available 24 hours a day. In the en-suite bathrooms, original fittings are combined with the modern technology of hot showers, hair dryers, heaters and shaver plugs. The train has an onboard water and sewerage system, so showers and toilets may be used at any time.

The Observation Car seats 32 passengers and is positioned at the rear of the train. At the center of the train there is, when numbers dictate, a non-smoking Lounge Car which seats 26 passengers in comfort. In maintaining the spirit of travel of a bygone era, there are no radios or television sets on board.

The superb cuisine served aboard the Pride of Africa is simple and elegant
Rovos Rail Dining CarWhen you are catering for a full complement of 72 guests within the limited space of a Rovos Rail kitchen car, achieving a standard that rivals that of a top-class restaurant is a serious challenge. An enthusiastic team of chefs is responsible for overseeing the very important task of ensuring that guests indulge and that all their favourite drinks are on board. Considerable thought and meticulous planning goes into making up the menus. Unlike many of the great trains of the world, travellers are on board the trains for several days at a time, requiring a much wider selection of meals.

There is an accent on fresh local ingredients, and traditional dishes such as game are a specialty. A full breakfast is served in the morning with dishes cooked to order. A selection of cold meats, croissants, pastries, fresh fruits, yogurts, cereals and preserves make up a tempting breakfast buffet. For lunch and dinner, there is a starter and a choice of fish, meat or vegetarian dish followed by a tempting dessert. A selection of fine wines from some of South Africa's most renowned cellars and estates complement the menus.

All meals are served in one sitting only in the charming Victorian atmosphere of the Dining Cars; however, meals can be adapted to suit special requirements by prior arrangement. Many of the passengers aboard the Pride of Africa enjoy the formality of fine china, crisp linen and silver service and dress accordingly. During the day, we like our guests to feel at home and dress is casual. Cool, comfortable clothes and hats are recommended for excursions, especially in the game reserves where it can be very hot.

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