Africa on Track

Described grandly as “arguably the most luxurious train in the world”, you’ll never hear me argue the point! I can’t think of a more indulgently romantic way to traverse the epic landscapes of Africa than aboard Rovos Rail. Imagine wood-panelled coaches with leather lounge suites, fine china and cut crystal in the Victorian-era dining car, and crisp white linen in your cosy cabin – what’s not to love?

My three-day South African rail journey from Pretoria to Durban saw us traversing KwaZulu-Natal in style and comfort. It was the perfect blend of relaxation and adventure, from the champagne welcome reception to an exciting safari and the exquisite scenery of the Valley of a Thousand Hills.

Our African safari experience was in the renowned Nambiti Game Reserve – a private bush retreat with vast savannahs, grasslands, thornveld and towering acacia trees. A stunning bush ravine is also home to an array of rare bird species, and the beautiful Sunday Rivers that flow through the reserve give rise to magnificent waterfalls. A stark contrast to South Africa’s big cities, the isolation and pure wilderness took my breath away. The Big Five (elephant, rhino, leopard, lion and buffalo) all wander the expansive reserve and predators silently follow herds of antelope as they roam in search of fresh grasses. With the help of our expert guide we also sighted cheetah, giraffe, hippo, hyena, springbok, impala and zebra, an incredible array of species.

Switching from wildlife to history, another memorable excursion en route was a battlefields tour with a world-class historian near Ladysmith. The sites we viewed marked the spots where Boer and Zulu forces shook the foundations of the British Empire, and in doing so shaped the future of South Africa. It’s hard to imagine that the serene countryside we passed through was once the scene of some of South Africa’s bloodiest military history. We also had the option to explore the surrounding Drakensberg Mountains, unwinding in the evening at the colonial farmhouse of Spionkop Lodge overlooking the Tugela River.

From travelling through vast savannahs, our journey came to an end with the salt sea air of coastal Durban. A sprawling city with long white-sandy beaches, Durban is a melting pot of cultures – a reflection of migration from colonial India back in the 19th and 20th centuries. A fascinating visit can be made to the house where Mahatma Gandhi lived during his time in South Africa.

Sightseeing aside, life on-board the train was memorable itself. Without the distraction of modern technology, watching the world go by out the window with ever-changing vistas and delicious cuisine served with the finest South African wines was all the entertainment I needed. The beautifully restored cabins harked back to a time that was grand and dignified, with original fittings restored to mint condition.

With itineraries from three to fifteen days, take any journey through Africa with Rovos Rail and you too will be making grand claims.

Discover the scenic wonders and incredible wildlife of Africa on our favourite Rovos Rail itineraries: