Rovos Rail – Heaven on Wheels

Rovos Rail Luxury Rail Travel – Heaven on Wheels

If you’re looking for a truly unique and very memorable luxurious experience, there’s none better than the timeless beauty of the Rovos Rail train. Rovos Rail started in the 1980’s as a fantasy obsession by successful South African entrepreneur and businessman, Rowan Vos. The idea was to purchase a vintage steam train and carriage, renovate and re-furbish them, and create a holiday experience for him and his family. However, with the escalating costs of this noble project came the realization that this indulgence was too high a price to caress the pleasures and entertainment of one man alone and his family. So, with the advice of close friends, Rowan decided to adapt his rather ambitious project into one which was more commercial and present an interesting tourist proposition to affluent local and foreign travelers.

A typical Rovos Rail journey is the Cape Town to Pretoria, or Pretoria to Cape Town (2 nights/ 3 days) which is a glorious trail through the centre of South Africa incorporating stops at the big diamond mine hole of Kimberley (largest man-made hole in the world), and the quaint, and totally off the wall Victorian hamlet of Matjiesfontein – both stops include a historic guided tour. Other routes venture as far as Victoria Falls, Dar-Es-Salaam and even as far as Cairo.

Rovos Rail View b Rovos Rail Suite b

So what does it involve? Well firstly, when you arrive at the station to board this veteran train, the feeling of excited pride is quite over-whelming..  a sense of mystique, tradition, timelessness, and a whiff of a by-gone era quickly captivate the passenger. Needless to say, the service from all the employees of Rovos Rail is absolutely impeccable – delivered with warmth, attentiveness and dedicated professionalism. In fact, it’s safe to say, that their pride in serving you is probably even great than yours for simply being there.

The other wonderful aspect about Rovos Rail is not only the sense of family (Rowan Vos often personally welcomes guests upon boarding or disembarking), but the timeless quality of the speed in which the train travels (a mere 60 km/h), and the fact that you can lower the windows and breathe in the African air – this is something you could never do on a train of the modern age.

Rovos Rail dining Car b

Now, accommodation – what’s it like? There are 3 levels: a Pullman Cabin (7 sq.m) with en-suite shower, basin and toilet (in which the bed becomes a day-time sofa), a Deluxe Suite (11 sq.m) with en-suite shower, basin and toilet – this is slightly larger with a fixed double or twin bed, and small lounge area, and finally, The Royal Suite (16 sq.m) – a larger bedroom and living area again, with full bath and shower units. All these cabins are beautifully restored and wood panelled, donning an edge of grace and elegance from a previous century. And if this all sounds too pokey, have a wander down to the observation car at the rear of the train, or to the lounge to enjoy a coffee, or flick through a magazine whilst glimpsing the passing African landscapes, or pop into the bar for a drink or cocktail before lunch or dinner.. and on that note, it should be noted that dinner is the most sumptuous and glamorous of affairs, set in the 1890’s dining car, where you could be forgiven for thinking you might bump into Rhodes or Hemingway. The meals, accompanied by South African wines, are of the highest quality and won’t disappoint.

By the time this beautiful train chugs along it’s last 100 kms by steam, you’ll be waxing lyrical about this amazing adventure to both friends and acquaintances alike.

Rovos Rail lounge b Rovos Rail Suite 1 b

About the Author
Richard is the Founding MD of Greatest Africa & Richard Hilton Vineyards. He lives in Somerset West with his wife and two daughters. He is passionate about the Cape, travel, global wines, wine education and sharing his experiences of this beautiful country that he calls home.