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Shongololo Express - Southern Cross

An incredible rail journey through South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, the Southern Cross route offers unforgettable safari experiences, hikes and historic and cultural tours through urban and rural Africa

The Shongololo Express carriage Elegant rooms Fabulous on-board-facilities Fabulous on-board-facilities Exciting excursions Exciting excursions Exciting excursions Exciting excursions

Introduction

The privately owned Rovos Rail run 3-star epic train journeys through Southern Africa. The South African company known for the luxurious Rovos Rail train trips took over the Shongololo Express trains in 2016, and offer long trips of between 12 and 15 days through South Africa, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Mozambique and Namibia. And although it is not the 5-star experience, the trips are still luxurious rail safari experiences. As far as African train safaris go, the Shongololo Express offers so much excitement in amazing destinations at a more reasonable rate considering offerings and length of the trips.

A rail safari really is an ideal way to travel, especially through southern Africa. Take a tour with a difference from Pretoria to Victoria Falls and/or the other way. The Southern Cross trip is a 12-day journey, and can be combined with awesome adventure in Victoria Falls at the beginning or end of your holiday. In this trip, you will experience the vast scenic landscape of South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique and Zimbabwe while you retreat back to your cosy cabin and other lodging along the way. Romance, culture, history, adventure, wildlife and true African hospitality are things that you can expect during your trip on the Shongololo Express. Take this tour while on honeymoon, celebrating an anniversary, or as a family wanting to explore the beautiful African landscape.

"This impressive panoramic 12-day journey between Pretoria and Victoria Falls stops at carefully selected locations in South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. 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." - Shongololo Express

The Shongololo Express takes guests on various off-board excursions (the same concept as with cruise ships) often in their air-conditioned vehicles, or 4x4 game vehicles, which also travel with the train. Professional multi-lingual guides take you for the various activities during the day and you return to the train well before dinner (sometimes by lunch time), so the train mostly travels during the night so that passengers wake up each morning at a new destination!

Shongololo Express Souther Cross route Pretoria to Victoria Falls through South Africa, Mozambque, Swaziland and Zimbabwe
Over 2500kms of epic train safari from
Pretoria to Victoria Falls on the Shongololo Express

The route and adventure on the Shongololo Express Southern Cross route between Pretoria and Victoria Falls go as follows (also see the map above):

Pretoria to Victoria Falls Victoria Falls to Pretoria
Day 1
- Check-in at Rovos Rail Station
- Tour of Pretoria and Soweto seeing sites such as colonial-time buildings overlooking the city, the Voortrekker Monument commemorating the Great Trek of 1830's, the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, and the Hector Petersen Memorial
- Transfer to Rovos Rail Station and train departs for Nelspruit for the overnight stop
Day 1
- Check in at Victoria Falls Hotel where luggage will be stored
- Walking tour of the town and the Victoria Falls rainforest will take most of the day
- Rendezvous at the hotel then board the train at the nearby station
- Train departs for Thomson Junction in Hwange for the overnight stop
Day 2
- Take a full-day panorama tour of Pilgrim’s Rest (now a living museum and national monument), Bourke’s Luck Potholes (deep cylindrical cavities formed by river erosion and floodwater in Blyth River Canyon), God’s Window
- In the evening, rejoin the train in Nelspruit and depart for Malelane
Day 2
- Full-day game viewing in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe’s largest wildlife reserve containing a variety of animals and bird species
- After the drive, return to the train which will depart for Bulawayo - Zimbabwe's second-largest city
Day 3
- Full-day game viewing drive in air-conditioned vehicles in the Kruger National Park, unrivalled in diversity of life forms
- Return to the train in Malelane and depart for Mozambique
Day 3
- Matobo Hills National Park, for a visit to the grave of Cecil John Rhodes (the man who gave Zimbabwe it's old name - Rhodesia) as well as bushmen caves which house stone-age paintings
-Return to the train in Bulawayo which will head for Somabhula.
Day 4
- City tour of Maputo which boasts an architectural 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, plus an experience in Indian Ocean cuisine prepared in an Portuguese-African way
- Return to the train for afternoon tea then border formalities - Train heads for Mpaka - Swaziland
Day 4
- Drive to Antelope Park for the day
- Optional extras include canoeing, game drive, horseback game viewing, elephant-back riding and a bird-watching cruise
- Return to the train and depart for Bannockburn.
Day 5
- Depart in vehicles from Mpaka, Swaziland for visit to Ngwenya Glass, Mbabane and Manzini in scenic and cultural tours
- Border formalities at Tjaneni, rejoin the train in Kaapmuiden - The train departs for Klaserie
Day 5
- Board vehicles and drive to the Great Zimbabwe Ruins - learn and see Africa's oldest civilisation south of the Sahara
- Lunch at Great Zimbabwe Hotel (surcharge)
- Rejoin the train in Rutenga and overnight there.
Day 6
- Morning game drive in Kapama Game Reserve, visit to the Wild Dog and Cheetah Project
- Return to the train for lunch
- Train departs for Tzaneen with an overnight stop at Louis Trichardt
Day 6
- A travelling day on the train to cross the border at Beitbridge to Klaserie in South Africa.
Day 7
- Travelling day on the train as it moves into Zimbabwe, crossing the border at Beitbridge, then proceeding to Rutenga.
Day 7
- Morning game drive in Kapama Game Reserve, visit to the Wild Dog and Cheetah Project
- Return to the train for lunch. Depart for Kaapmuiden.
Day 8
- Tour of the ancient Great Zimbabwe Ruins – the largest precolonial monument south of the Egyptian pyramids (about 2 hours away)
- Lunch at the Great Zimbabwe Hotel (guests’ own account)
- Return to train in Rutenga. The train departs for Somabhula for an overnight stop.
Day 8
- Depart in vehicles from Mpaka
- Visit Ngwenya Glass, Mbabane and Manzini enjoying amazing views of the Ezulwini Valley and the Komati River en route. This excursion into Swaziland will introduce you to everyday life in Africa’s smallest kingdom.
- Border formalities at Mpaka, depart for Maputo (Mozambique)
Day 9
- Take a 40-minute ride to Antelope Park for  the day.
- Optional extras include canoeing, game drive, horseback game viewing, elephant-back riding and a bird-watching cruise
- After the day enjoying wildlife, return to the train which departs for Bulawayo.
Day 9
- City tour of Maputo which boasts an architectural 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, plus an experience in Indian Ocean cuisine prepared in an Portuguese-African way
- Return to the train
- After border formalities the train heads for Malelane in South Africa.
Day 10
- Full-day tour of Matobo Hills National Park - an area with dramatic hills and granite rocks, visit the grave of Cecil Rhodes as well as bushmen caves
- Return to the train and depart for Dete near Hwange National Park.
Day 10
- Relish a full-day game viewing in the famous Kruger National Park which offers an unforgettable wildlife experience
- Return to the train in Malelane and depart for Nelspruit
Day 11
Full-day game viewing in Hwange Game Reserve, Zimbabwe, the nation’s largest wildlife reserve and home to a variety of animals and bird species
- Train departs for Thomson Junction.
Day 11
- Full-day panorama tour of Pilgrim’s Rest (now a living museum and national monument), Bourke’s Luck Potholes (deep cylindrical cavities formed by river erosion and floodwater in Blyth River Canyon), God’s Window
- Rejoin the train in Nelspruit and depart for Witbank.
Day 12
- Arrive at Victoria Falls Station and check out of the train. Walk across to Victoria Falls Hotel (luggage will be stored here)
- Meet for a walking tour of the town and the Victoria Falls National Park
- Meet at the hotel for pick-up to the jetty for a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River
- Return to Victoria Falls Hotel where the tour ends
Day 12
- Arrive at Rovos Rail Station in Pretoria and check out of train (Luggage stored at the station)
- Tour Pretoria and Soweto seeing sites such as colonial-time buildings overlooking the city, the Voortrekker Monument commemorating the Great Trek of 1830's, the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, and the Hector Petersen Memorial
- Return to Rovos Rail Station where the tour ends

While on a trip on the Shongololo Express, you will be taken for a tour of the largest waterfall in the world and of the town that has grown since its discovery by outside world. However, there are so many more Victoria Falls activities on offer from blood-pumping white-water rafting and bungee jumping to scenic helicopter rides, wildlife and specialised tours and activities. We also recommend a day trip (or if you prefer an overnight Chobe camping safari) to nearby and impressive Chobe National Park in Botswana, to really make the most out of your stay in Victoria Falls!

More About the Train

The Shongololo Express train consists of two dining cars which are air-conditioned and non-smoking and serve breakfast, lunch and dinner; a bar car, and an observation car with open air balcony at the back of the train - best for sight-seeing. A maximum number of 72 guests can be accommodated in two cabin categories - Gold and Emerald. Both cabin types have double and twin configuration but differ in size - the Emerald being larger than the Gold cabins.

Accommodation Aboard the Shongololo Express

• Luxury cabins with a maximum capacity of 72 passengers
• Emerald cabins are top of the range with private lounge area - both twin and double configuration - 10sqm
• Gold cabins are less spacious and do not have a lounge area - both twin and double configuration - 7sqm

All cabins have:

• Air conditioning
• En-suite bathroom with shower, basin and toilet
• Small closets and storage space
• Safe
• 220V power supply - round 3-pin socket (South African)
• Hair dryers
• All Emerald Cabins have a small lounge area

Other Facilities and Services

• Bar carriage with air conditioning
• Laundry service (surcharge)
• Smoking lounge with library
• 2 Dining cars serving breakfast, lunch and dinner
• Observation car with open-air deck and air conditioning
• Transport and 4x4 game drive vehicles for excursions
• Mail service (except in Zimbabwe and Mozambique)

Dining

• The bar is open from early morning until midnight
• The dining carriages are air-conditioned and non-smoking. The total seating capacity is 72 and dress code for meal times is casual. Lunch is for guest’s own account except when otherwise stated. Meal times on the Shongololo Express depend on the activities planned for the day, but are generally served at the following times: Breakfast 07h00-08h30; Lunch 13h00; Dinner 19h30.

Rate Includes

• Accommodation aboard the Shongololo Express
• Dinner, bed and breakfast
• Excursions accompanied by a qualified tour guide
• Entrance fees to places of interest
• Government tax
• Included in off-train accommodation: Accommodation; Meals at the lodges, hotels, clubs or resorts

Rate Excludes

• Laundry service
• Lunches off the train
• All beverages
• Gratuities
• Visas
• Travel insurance
• Gift/curio purchases

Stuff to bring

• When taking trips off the train, guests are encouraged to wear comfortable walking shoes, sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat for the outside activities. Warm clothing is essential for the games drives as those are conducted early in the morning when it is still quite cold.
• Make sure that you have your valid passport with you with a valid visa (if applicable). Be sure to check your itineraries so that you know which countries you will pass through, and arrange for visas as required. Make sure that you have at least 3 blank visa pages in your passport for border stamps, and that your passport will be valid for at least six months from your return-home date.
• Anti-malaria preventions medication is recommended if you are travelling to Swaziland, Kruger Park, Northern Botswana, and Zimbabwe (especially Victoria Falls and Hwange). Yellow fever certificates may be required if you are coming from Tanzania.
• For your curio shopping, gratuities, lunches, etc, you will need to bring some cash on your trip. Although some places may allow you to use a credit card, small traders and rural sellers will not have point of sale machines. Some areas will not have ATMs or in worst circumstances, they may not be working. You are advised to carry South African Rands, US Dollars (in small denominations) or Euros (bank notes). In South Africa only Rands may be used. In Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique, Swaziland and Botswana it is possible to use US Dollars.
• It is compulsory for all guests to provide proof of comprehensive travel insurance including but not limited to medical cost, emergency evacuation and repatriation, cancellation or curtailment, loss of baggage, personal possessions or money.
• You may want to bring along a travel adapter as the train has South African 3-pin round plug socket.

Note: There is no phone on the Shongololo Express train. Also, don’t expect to get full mobile phone coverage, especially while the train is in motion or stopped in the remote game parks. However, you may be able to connect to the internet at some of the local internet cafes along the way.

Children

• Shongololo Express does not accommodate children under the age of 10 years old
• Children over 10 pay the full rate.

How to Get to the Shongololo Express

• If you are starting this exciting trip in Victoria Falls, you will need to get to Victoria Falls Hotel for check-in on the morning of the departure date.
• Should you be coming from Pretoria (South Africa), you will need to check-in at the Rovos Rail Station on the morning of the departure date.

For a shorter and more luxurious journey to Victoria Falls by train, try the Rovos Rail!

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Client Testimonials

Perfect
by Kate (Zimbabwe)
Many thanks for all your assistance. You have probably been the most responsive and helpful tour organizers I have worked with- anywhere in the world. I'll be sure to recommend you to my colleagues and friends.

All the activities lived up to the hype!
by Alex (Swaziland)
Good Afternoon Boo,
Just wanted to let you know that we are now back in Swaziland and had an incredibly fun time enjoying Victoria Falls! All the activities lived up to the hype and I would like to thank you for all your help in organising a busy but full holiday for us! Everything went smoothly from the moment we arrived to the time we left.
Also wondering where you prefer to have your reviews written?
Thanks again!
All the best

Memory I will not forget
by Sunitha (22.5.13)
Hi Jane
Hope you are keeping well.I must say a very big thank you for all your assistance and advice for my trip. I had the most amazing time at Vic Falls, a memory I will not forget.
Thanks a million once again.
Regards
Sunitha

Fantastic Itinerary
by Graham & Janet (United Kingdom)
Dear Boo
We would like to offer our thanks for sorting a fantastic itinerary for our all too short visit to Vic Falls. The cruise on the Zambesi at sunset was a delight and the helicopter flight breathtaking! The pick ups were punctual and staff members were all very smiley, friendly, helpful and good company. The whole experience of the actual Falls and the town itself was outstanding.
We will return! Your company will be our first port of call. Many thanks for a very efficient service.
Best wishes

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