Picture this: you are dressed to the nines, a chilled glass of red in one hand and a novel in the other. Once in a while, you glance at the striking views that fill the escarpment. You smile, sip your wine and go back to the pages of your book.
Days on luxury trains are like this. You spend your time at leisure or dabble in some adventure during the many excursions on offer. More South Africans are now considering this form of travel than before – even if it means forking out a few extra thousand rand.
Why luxury train travel is popular for South Africans
The lure of train journeys does not only come from the glorious views, luxury accommodation and top-class food and beverage options, but they also offer pure bliss away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Communications manager for Rovos Rail Brenda Vos-Fitchet shared why train travel was an excellent idea for travellers.
“Train journeys are popular because it really is slow travel and one sees a true cross-section of a country, which showcases the best and the not-so-beautiful parts during the journey. Our aim is for guests to rest, relax, eat good food, drink some of South Africa’s finest wines, converse with one another and take a step back," she said.
Transnet executive manager of tourism, heritage and hospitality Nomasonto Ndlovu said luxury trains, like the Blue Train, were an iconic expression of South African and African tourism.
“Train journeys provide a new way of exploring the South African landscape, and at a different pace, too. Seeing South Africa through the windows of a train is magical.
“The experience allows guests to truly surrender to the luxury of slow travel and take their time to indulge in some of the finest hospitality,” Ndlovu said.
IOL shares information about 3 luxury train offerings and their prices. These include:
The Blue Train
Destinations: Journeys start from Pretoria. The train travels to destinations like Cape Town and Kruger National Park.
On-board experiences: Known as South Africa's “Blue Jewel”, your ticket comes with a butler, room service, on-board laundry and valet service. Enjoy five-course meals paired with a selection of South African wines. The suites offer a choice between twin beds and a shower or double beds with a bath. The suites, converted into an elegant lounge by day and a sanctuary of comfort at night, provide the perfect escape for those seeking solace. If not, head to the Club Car cigar lounge to indulge in coveted, hand-made Cuban cigars with fine spirits such as cognacs and whiskies. Rates start from R16 695.
Covid-19 protocols: Ndlovu said The Blue Train’s hygiene and safety protocols were in line with the measures set out by the Department of Tourism and the World Health Organization.
“We have amped up our Covid-relevant hygiene protocols, introducing in-house Antigen Rapid Testing for all guests and crew at check-in,” said Ndlovu. Guests fill in a health questionnaire before they travel. On their departure day, each guest will be given a safety pack with masks and hand sanitiser before they go through a compulsory temperature screening.
“The train will be cleaned and sanitised throughout the trip. There will also be a medical practitioner on board and an isolation car with two suites made available for quarantine purposes,” Ndlovu said.
Destinations: Rovos Rail operates short journeys, but the luxury train doesn't foresee being fully operational until next year. The destinations include Cape Town, Durban and Victoria Falls. The longer journey destinations include Namibia and Dar-es-Salaam.
On-board activities: Step aboard the vintage, wood-panelled coaches and watch the lush scenery unfold before your eyes. The suites, which accommodate one or two passengers with the option of double or twin beds, are equipped with en-suite bathrooms, tea facilities, air conditioning and linen. Other facilities include a library, lounge car and observation car with an open viewing deck. Rates start from R24 250.
Covid-19 protocols: Rovos Rail is executing many safety measures on its journeys. These include daily thermometers check for guests and staff, dispensers in all public areas, a deep clean and fogging and a doctor on call. Guests and staff wear masks at all times. The necessary safety measures are taken on excursions.
Destinations: Shongololo Express will resume its journeys from October 21 this year. Journeys are between 12 to 15 days with a jam-packed itinerary along the route. Routes include Walvis Bay to Pretoria, Pretoria to Victoria Falls and Pretoria to Cape Town.
On-board experiences: Shongololo Express wood-panelled coaches are the epitome of comfort, boasting all the modern touches to make your stay comfortable. There are no radios or TVs on board, with the use of technology only allowed in your cabins. Choose between Emerald or Gold cabins with double or twin beds options. Suites come standard with en-suite bathrooms, air-conditioning and linen.There's also a small gift shop, smoking lounge, library and an observation car with an open-air balcony on the train. Rates start from R92 500.
Covid-19 protocols: Shongololo Express follows the same protocols as Rovos Rail.