From the remote Kalahari Desert to cosmopolitan Cape Town, South Africa is literally a world within one country. If you’re looking best way to enjoy the pristine natural beauty of this continent, here are two recommendations – the Rovos Rail and The Blue Train. Rovos Rail revisits the golden age of luxury train travel offering unique train safaris through some of the most spectacular scenery in Africa. Once on board the train you have stepped back nearly a hundred years. Rich mahogonies, the dark green and cream livery of Rovos, the sinuous lines of the Art Nouveau lamps, the sparkling silver and crystal all contribute to the period style that is always tempered by regard for comfort.
The lounge cars and dining cars are superb and provide a fascinating historical ambience. Breakfast, lunch and a sublimely elegant dinner, for which many guests prefer to dress more formally, are inclusive. After lunch or dinner, many travelers retire to the deeply cushioned armchairs of the observation car for coffee and liqueurs where the glassed end wall affords magnificent views of the surrounding countryside. There is also a small exterior viewing platform on, particularly popular with enthusiasts whilst traveling under steam. Bedrooms combine the opulence of pre-war travel with subtle modern innovations. The two “Pride of Africa” trains take a maximum of 72 passengers in 36 suites each. There is a third train available for private charter. The routes taken by Rovos Rail are varied and take in some of the most glorious sights Africa has to offer. The price for a round trip from Cape Town to Cairo and back again costs from $48,500 to $56,000 depending on accommodation.
Rovos Rail compares very well with the Blue Train. For over half a century South Africa’s Blue Train has enjoyed an international reputation as one of the world’s pre-eminent traveling experiences. The Blue Train was recently voted the world’s leading luxury train by over 250,000 travel agents in 181 countries at the World Travel Awards. The Blue Train offers the discerning traveler a choice of journeys into a timeless world of grace, elegance and romance, where some of the world’s most dramatic scenery stirs the imagination and luxurious comfort soothes the body and soul. While the Blue Train has been synonymous with unsurpassed luxury travel since 1946, a new train took to the tracks in 1997 and was joined by a second, sister train, in 1998. All accommodation aboard the Blue Train is en-suite. Guests may choose between a deluxe or a luxury suite. The ambience of the lounge, bar and dining cars is one of warm elegance, where large windows allow for panoramic views of the passing countryside. Incandescent lighting gains added warmth from individual lamps gently highlighting the beautifully detailed buried wood paneling and original South African artwork. Prices range from $1,255 for a deluxe cabin in the low season to $2,531 for a luxury cabin in the high season.
Rovos Rail is privately owned, unlike the Blue Train, which is owned by Spoornet, a South African Government agency.