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Rovos Rail’s “Pride of Africa”: 30+ Years of Luxury Adventure

By Owen C. Hardy

Rovos Rail
The Pride of Africa’s wood-paneled bar car boasts comfortable seating, a convivial atmosphere and – best of all – a large, rear outdoor deck, perfect for viewing the wild African landscape. Photo by Nels Freeman

Rovos Rail’s 15-day Cape Town – Dar es Salaam “luxury adventure” ranks among the top 5 rail trips for many IRT travelers.

“That’s probably still our favorite trip,” T. Hoberg of Cincinnati, who has booked 19 trips with IRT, told us today.

But for Alicia Taljaard, Rovos’ Sales and Marketing executive, her favorite is the shorter African Collage.  (And it will be the IRT Society’s Owner’s Choice itinerary in 2019, departing Pretoria Oct. 30 — click here for more info.)

“It’s our most scenic trip,” says the 13-year Rovos Rail veteran, who’s a regular visitor to the IRT office.

“It’s perfect for the safari enthusiast, and the scenery on that trip is unbeatable.

South Africa's Garden Route is unbeatable for its scenery, which ranges from towering mountains to dramatic seashores. IRT Photo by John Fiorilla
South Africa’s Garden Route is unbeatable for its scenery, which ranges from towering mountains to dramatic seashores. IRT Photo by John Fiorilla

“You have the mountain passes and the Garden Route, a very lush, beautiful area along the coastline of the eastern to western Cape.

“Then there’s the vineyards and the ocean…”

And how best to experience these natural wonders?

The “Pride of the Pride of Africa:” the train’s last car, is the lounge, whose outdoor section offers incredible views. IRT’s Eleanor Hardy and our group rarely left it. IRT Photo by Owen Hardy

By direct contact with the outside world: all the train’s windows open. “We love the fresh air,” she says, adding that one of the prime viewing locations is “our beautiful, outdoor balcony” at the end of the train.

“It’s the best place to enjoy a “Sundowner” or get that perfect photo shot.”

IRT Society President Eleanor Hardy and Rovos Rail’s Alicia Taljaard pose with the company’s lavish “Journeys” magazine. IRT Photo by Owen Hardy

That incomparable quality has made Rovos’ train, The Pride of Africa, one of the Society of IRT’s “World’s Top 25 Trains” since we began our list decades ago.

That famous Rovos Rail quality – along with its popularity and extremely limited availability – results in departures selling out in the blink of an eye.

At the time of this writing, we still have availability for next year. But some departures further out are narrowing. Our advice: book sooner rather than later!

Fish River Canyon
Fish River Canyon in Namibia. Rovos Rail photo by Alicia Taljaard

Ms. Taljaard also gives high marks to Rovos Rail’s Wild Namibia journey. The trip begins in Pretoria, stopping in Kimberley and Upington before crossing the border.

Namibia is a wild, sparsely populated place with wide-open spaces and eerie, desolate landscapes.

Quiver Tree
Namibia’s famous quiver trees.

One stop on the itinerary is in Keetmanshoop, home to the giant “Quiver Trees.” The spongy trees store water in their trunks, can reach an age of 300 years and are so named because they were used as quivers by the bushmen who formerly inhabited the area.

Another Namibia highlight is the visit to Sossusvlei, located in the the African continent’s largest conservation area. Its gigantic, red dunes are world-famous.

The humongous “Big Daddy” sand dune at Sossusvlei. Rovos Rail photo.

“Guests have the opportunity to actually climb up the dunes — if they think they can make it,” Ms. Taljaard says. “Big Daddy — that is not for everybody. But it is a beautiful view from up there.”

Meanwhile, The Pride of Africa’s 2-week, 5-country sojourn from Cape Town to Dar es Salaam is unbeatable for experiencing remote areas seldom visited by western travelers, Ms. Taljaard says.

In search of the Big Five: Rovos Rail’s 15-day, Cape Town – Dar es Salaam is the grandest itinerary of them all, with stops in five countries. We saw The Big Five and then some. IRT Photo.

“It’s 15 days crossing five countries. That in itself is already spectacular,” she says.

“Traveling from Cape Town through South Africa, you visit Matjiesfontein, Kimberley, Pretoria, then two nights at a game lodge,” where guests have the chance to see the “Big Five” while on safari.

“Then you travel through Botswana and Zimbabwe, stopping at the Victoria Falls, where you have ample opportunity to explore, and then Zambia and Chisimba Falls, – great scenery again – and the beautiful switchbacks all along through Tanzania, ending in Dar.”

We loved chatting and singing with this lively group of students at a station stop in Zambia. IRT guest Jeff Grinspoon got a major kick out of it. And, we’re proud to say, this photo won an award at Virtuoso Travel Week. IRT Photo by Owen Hardy

Rovos Rail is a family business, started by Rohan Vos over 30 years ago. One of Vos’ daughters works in the marketing department, and many of the other employees are long-time veterans.

We at IRT consider ourselves “extended family,” because of our long-term love and commitment to this train and the Rovos Rail company.

For more information on Rovos Rail, or to book, please contact The Society of International Railway Travelers®: (502) 897-1725 or (800) 478-4881; or email