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The Elephant Express

Go back in time in a railcar and experience a safari with a difference in Hwange, Zimbabwe - The Elephant Express

The Elephant Express in Hwange

Rail safari in Hwange, Zimbabwe (Image from Imvelo Safari Lodges)


After months of assembly and testing, Imvelo Safari Lodges finally launched a unique safari experience for visitors to Hwange – The Elephant Express. Launched in late 2014, this rail transfer option takes guests on an exciting journey into the wilderness between the Ngamo and Impofu sidings, providing an alternative scenic, and more relaxed transfer along the north-east boundary of Hwange National Park.

The refurbished railcar can accommodate 22 passengers on individual coach seats, with teak tables in between. An engine and gearbox on either side of the railcar mean that it is able to move in both directions of the track. It has plenty of room for luggage and a wide isle allowing guests to view game freely. It also includes a chemical toilet for convenience.

Inside the Elephant Express

Inside the Ele Express (Image from Imvelo Safari Lodges)

Rail Transfer or Sightseeing Activity

Guests to Imvelo’s Bomani and Camelthorn lodges can take a normal road transfer (either by transfer vehicle, game vehicle or bus) up to Impofu Siding near the entrance to Hwange National Park, and then enjoy a 70km scenic rail transfer aboard the railcar. Game such as elephant, kudu, and wildebeest (to name a few), and various bird species can be spotted along the 2 hour journey either to or from Ngamo siding. Once at Ngamo, a 10 to 15 minute drive in a game vehicle will take you to either Bomani Tented Lodge or Camelthorn Lodge, on the south-east corner of the national park.

The Elephant Express goes daily from Impofu Siding in the morning to Ngamo Siding and then back to Impofu in the afternoon. Drinks and snacks will be served at either of the sidings. Shorter trips can be arranged to Ingwe siding for folks who just want to have fun in the bush.

We will endeavour to ensure that all our guests have the option to experience the Elephant Express during their stay through either the transfer activity, a day trip or a short game viewing activity. This of course cannot be guaranteed for guests on short stays.” - Imvelo Safari Lodges

The Elephant Express in Hwange - wildebeest along the way

Passing some wildebeest (Image from Imvelo Safari Lodges)


Because of the need to coordinate traffic on the Hwange rail lines, the directive for departure times is given by the National Railways of Zimbabwe. Therefore, there are no exact departure times for the trips. But not to worry, the folks at Imvelo have a point person who coordinates between lodges and transfer companies.

The drivers of the safari railcar are experienced engineers with plenty of years under their belts on that very railway line. “They are in constant communication with any trains in the vicinity as well as the traffic controllers” to make sure that everything runs without incident. There are also guides on the railcar as this essentially is a game experience. Every 10kms, the train stops to allow traffic to cross the junctions along the way.

What We Think

We most certainly recommend the Elephant Express for a transfer into and out of Hwange, rather than the usual road transfer all the way. It is a great way to start (or end) your safari holiday in Hwange. Even if you are not staying at Bomani or Camelthorn, be sure to arrange at least one of the trips on the railcar while you stay at your chosen lodge.

Check out this video taken at Camelthorn Lodge and Hwange National Park.

Video by Duncan Watson - 2016


In the future, Imvelo Safari Lodges hope to run rail transfers between Hwange and Victoria Falls as an alternative to the air and road transfers. We will keep you posted when and if this dream becomes a reality.

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