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Shongololo Express: Southern Cross Journey - 2018

Shongololo Express: Southern Cross Journey - 2018 Image


Pretoria, South Africa

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Welcome to the Shongololo Express (now operated by Rovos Rail)

When the indigenous people of the southern continent observed the first trains in Africa, the lines of rolling stock passing on the distant horizons recalled the profile and sinuous movement of a creature they called Shongololo – the millipede.

The Shongololo Express, based at Rovos Rail’s station in Pretoria, began operations in 1995 to provide a very special touring experience for visitors to Southern Africa. The three journeys of between 12 to 15 days offer tours that traverse South Africa, Namibia, Swaziland, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. (Contact us for other journeys).

72 guests are accommodated in two categories of comfortable ensuite cabins with double or twin beds. Two historically appointed dining cars set the scene for meals, which are taken in one sitting. Modern and traditional local cuisine is on offer with a selection of distinguished South African wines available. Guests can also relax in the bar car, small smoking lounge or the observation car with an open-air balcony situated at the back of the train.

The journeys offer a variety of off-train excursions that are undertaken in our air-conditioned vehicles. On occasion we will employ the expertise of local service providers who are better positioned to arrange our transport requirements. Come and join us on one of our captivating tours and allow us to provide the friendly and efficient service for which we are renowned.

We look forward to welcoming you on board.


NOTE: this journey operates both directions; we have detailed the northbound journey.

Starting in Pretoria, this magnificent sojourn spends the first few days taking guests east through the Drakensberg Mountains to the Kruger Park for game viewing and the historical areas of Pilgrim’s Rest, Bourke’s Luck Potholes and God’s Window. On day four guests tour Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, before moving on to explore the Kingdom of Swaziland.

Enjoy a game drive in the famous wildlife reserve of Kapama followed by a relaxing day on the train as it heads for the Great Zimbabwe Ruins for a visit. On days nine and 10, guests tour Antelope Park and Matobo National Park, site of Cecil John Rhodes’ grave, before continuing on to Hwange for game-viewing activities. The final day has the train arriving in Victoria Falls where guests enjoy a walking tour of the village and the falls with an afternoon sunset cruise on the Zambezi River.

Departures 2018
Northbound from Pretoria to Victoria Falls: 4 Jan; 12 Apr; 10 May; 6 Sep
Southbound from Victoria Falls to Pretoria: 18 Jan; 26 Apr; 24 May; 20 Sep

Itinerary Details

Pretoria, South Africa

Below we’ve detailed the itinerary for the NORTHBOUND route of the SOUTHERN CROSS JOURNEY.


08h00 Check-in at Rovos Rail Station, Pretoria.

09h00 Tour of Pretoria and Soweto.

16h00 Transfer to Rovos Rail Station. Train departs for Nelspruit.

Gauteng is the economic power house of the Southern African region and home to some of Africa’s greatest cities. The name of the province is a Sotho word meaning “Place of Gold”, which is very suitable since much of the wealth of Gauteng has derived from this precious metal.

Pretoria is the administrative capital of South Africa. We visit the Union Buildings designed by the famous colonial English architect, Sir Herbert Baker. Completed in 1913, it now houses the offices of the President and Ministers. The buildings overlook the city towards the once fortified hills to the south. A grand bronze statue of “Oom Paul (Kruger)”, the patriarch president of the ZAR or old Transvaal Republic, surrounded by his Boer fighters, dominates Church Square, at the center of the city. Before leaving the capital behind, we visit the Voortrekker Monument, which commemorates the Great Trek of the 1830s.

Comprising one million people, Soweto was made famous by the laws of Apartheid. We pass the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital (the largest hospital in the Southern Hemisphere) and also drive past the only street in Africa that once housed two Nobel Peace Laureates – Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela. We visit the Hector Petersen Memorial, named after the first student to lose his life in the 1976 uprising against the Apartheid government. 


09h00 Full-day panorama tour of Pilgrim’s Rest, Bourke’s Luck Potholes, God’s Window.

17h00 Rejoin train in Nelspruit and depart for Malelane.

In 1873, gold was discovered in the area around the quaint town of Pilgrim’s Rest, now a living museum and national monument. The find attracted 1500 diggers and today, many of the restored miners’ houses serve as shops. Further along the escarpment we find the great Blyde River Canyon, a gorge 26km in length and 800m deep, carved into the face of the escarpment. The Three Rondavels, three huge rock spirals rising out of the far wall of the canyon and resembling African huts, present an unforgettable sight. Bourke’s Luck Potholes are strange deep cylindrical cavities formed by river erosion and floodwater. From the vantage point of God’s Window we gaze across the sweeping landscape of the Lowveld, where subtle fragrances of the lower region rise to merge with the crisp winds of the Highveld. 


08h00 Full-day game viewing in the Kruger Park.

18h00 Return to the train in Malelane and depart for Mozambique.

The world-renowned Kruger National Park offers a wildlife experience second to none. Its 2 million hectares are unrivalled in diversity of life forms and the park is a world leader in advanced environmental management techniques. The park is home to an impressive number of species: about 336 trees, 49 fish, 34 amphibians, 114 reptiles, 507 birds and 147 species of mammals. Game drives are conducted in our air-conditioned vehicles; open-air vehicles optional.


09h00 City tour of Maputo, Mozambique.

15h30 Return to the train for afternoon tea.

18h00 After border formalities the train heads for Mpaka in Swaziland.

Maputo, the capital of Mozambique is a city of contrasts and offers an exciting mix of cultures. The city swings along to a beat like no other in Africa offering true African hospitality. Its architecture is a blend of African, Portuguese and early Colonial traditions with old Catholic churches side-by-side with mosques, fortresses, Victorian mansions and other buildings from a bygone era. Along the colorful beachfront there are many cafés and restaurants that specialize in Indian Ocean cuisine with its emphasis on the freshest seafood dishes prepared in traditional African-Portuguese ways.


08h30 Depart in vehicles from Mpaka. Visit Ngwenya Glass, Mbabane and Manzini.

18h45 After border formalities at Tjaneni, rejoin the train in Kaapmuiden. Depart for Klaserie near Hoedspruit in Limpopo.

The tiny Kingdom of Swaziland covers only 17 000 square kilometers, making it the second smallest country in Africa. Travel to Manzini enjoying amazing views of the Ezulwini Valley and the Komati River enroute. This excursion into Swaziland will introduce you to everyday life in Africa’s smallest kingdom. The Swazi Market is a bustling hive of activity and displays a wide variety of skillfully crafted woodcarvings, colorful textiles and superb basketwork for which Swazis are renowned.


07h00 Morning game drive in Kapama Game Reserve followed by visit to the Wild Dog and Cheetah Project.

13h00 Return to the train for lunch. The train departs for Tzaneen with an overnight stop at Louis Trichardt


Day on board the train travelling to Rutenge in Zimbabwe. Clear customs and immigration at Beitbridge.

Limpopo Province is located in the far northern part of South Africa and shares borders with three neighboring countries: Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. For this reason, the province is also known as the gateway to other African countries and also shares provincial borders with Gauteng, Mpumalanga and North West provinces. Limpopo landscape and vegetation varies from one area to the other ranging from tropical forests, bush and shrubs to semi-desert areas with small trees and bushes and mountains to flat land. Limpopo is divided into five regions, strategically located according to the cultural inhabitants. Capricorn is the central region predominantly occupied by the Bapedi people. Waterberg is the largest region in the province with the majority of people being the Tswana people. The Vhembe region in the far north is dominated by Vhavenda and Vatsonga people. The Mopani region towards the Kruger National Park is dominated by Vatsonga, whereas the Sekhukhuni region is dominated by Bapedi and Ndebele people. Limpopo is the only province in South Africa with more than two cultural groups staying together in their original habitat in harmony. Other ethnic groups include the English and Afrikaner people. 


09h00 Board vehicles and drive to the Great Zimbabwe Ruins.

17h00 Rejoin train in Bannockburn. 

Largest monument in Africa south of the Pyramids Great Zimbabwe, a hugely impressive monument situated on the south-eastern edge of the central plateau is the largest pre-colonial monument south of the Egyptian pyramids and is a celebrated achievement of the African people. Magical fables such as the story of King Solomon’s Mines find their origins here amongst the ruins of an ancient city built by the Rozwi people. Discover how these ancient people lived and mined gold and silver, which were ultimately taken out of Africa by Arabic and Portuguese traders. The tour is followed by lunch at the Great Zimbabwe Hotel (guests’ own account), after which we travel through attractive granite hill country to Rutenga.


09h00 Full day at Antelope Park.

Optional extras include canoeing, game drive, horseback game viewing, elephant-back riding and a bird-watching cruise.

17h30 Return to the train and depart for Bulawayo. 

Known as one of Southern Africa’s most intriguing destinations, Antelope Park is home to the world famous African Lion and Environmental Research Trust (ALERT) lion rehabilitation program, which is a multiphase lion conservation initiative. It is Africa’s first genuine program working to ethically re-introduce the offspring of captive-bred African lions back into the wild. Set in over 3000 acres of open savannah grassland, Antelope Park is a unique game reserve and a haven of tranquility set in the African bush, welcoming guests and volunteer eco-tourists alike to the charming and remarkable campsite. 


09h00 Full-day tour of Matobo National Park. Visit the grave of Cecil John Rhodes as well as Bushmen caves.

18h00 Return to the train and depart for Dete. 

“Matobo” means ‘bald headed ones’ and aptly describes the dramatic hills and granite rocks of this area. Highlights include a visit to the burial place of Cecil John Rhodes, who gave Zimbabwe its previous name of Rhodesia. Afterwards, we will go and visit one of the more accessible bushman caves, of which there are many hidden amongst the hills. Distance travelled: km 


06h30 Full-day game viewing in Hwange Game Reserve.

19h00 Depart for Thompson’s Junction. 

Situated in the northwest corner of Zimbabwe, Hwange National Park is the nation’s largest wildlife area and contains a variety of animals and bird species, but is most well-known for its prolific lion population. Covering 1 462 000 hectares, Hwange is roughly the same size as Belgium. Distance travelled: KM 


10h00 Arrive Victoria Falls Station. Check out of train and walk across to Victoria Falls Hotel (luggage will be stored here).

11h00 Meet for a walking tour of the village and Victoria Falls.

16h00 Meet at the hotel for a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River.

18h30 Transfer back to Victoria Falls Hotel. Tour ends. 

Forming the largest single curtain of falling water on earth (on average the curtain is 92m deep), the Victoria Falls’ 500m plume of spray can be seen from as far as 70km away. The sound of the water can also be heard from kilometers away and up close this muted ‘thunder’ becomes a roar. In full flood, over 550 million liters of water per minute cascade over the brink. The vast width of the Falls, extending 1 708m, allow for many safe vantage points from where you will be able to get different views of the roiling water as it crashes into the gorge and whose constant spray maintains the rain forest. The forest is an attraction on its own with many of the trees marked to help identification. These include fig, mahogany, date palm, milk wood and ebony. The bird life is prolific and species that may be seen include the colorful sunbird and large trumpeter hornbill. Craft and curio shops abound with enough variety for everyone to find something to take home as a souvenir. 


• Accommodation in cabin category of choice
• Breakfast and dinner daily on train
• Excursions accompanied by a qualified tour guide
• Entrance fees as per itinerary
• Government tax

• Lunches off the train
• All beverages
• Laundry
• Gratuities
• Visas
• Travel insurance

NOTE -- price is presented in USD based on exchange R12 = $1. Price will be requoted at time of booking and payments.

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