The Elephant Express
A Unique and Exquisite Safari Experience in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe - The Elephant Express
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 its guests to Hwange National Park – The Elephant Express. Launched in late 2014, this rail transfer option takes guests on an exciting journey into the wilderness between the Dete and Ngamo sidings, providing a scenic and relaxed transfer to the camps of Bomani and Camelthorn rather than the lengthy and arduous road transfer.
The refurbished railcar can accommodate 22 passengers on individual coach seats, with teak tables in between. An engine and gearbox on the front and back 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 Ele Express (Image from Imvelo Safari Lodges)
Rail Transfer or Sightseeing Activity
Guests to Imvelo’s Bomani and Camelthorn lodges take a road transfer to Dete Siding near the entrance to Hwange National Park, where they board the Elephant Express 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 departs from Ngamo Siding at around 11am arriving at Dete Siding at approximately 1pm. It then leaves at around 2pm from Dete arriving back at Ngamo at approximately 4pm in time for afternoon game drive and sundowners. Drinks and snacks will be served during the journeys.
A cold beer or a gin and tonic in the afternoon as you journey through the African bush is quite memorable!
“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
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
This is an outstanding experience and a stand alone safari all on its own. If possible it should without doubt be done for at least one leg of your transfers. The afternoon transfer into camp is the most preferable. It is a great way to start your safari holiday in Hwange.
Check out this video of the Elephant Express in Hwange National Park.
Video by Imvelo
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.
Last update: 2 November 2022