An alternative way of travelling through the stunning country of Zimbabwe
22 Mar 2019
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Most visitors to Africa access its beautiful safari areas either by driving in themselves and enjoying a more leisurely road transfer, or by flying in - a spectacular and adventurous way to start a holiday.
These tried and tested methods account for almost all safari arrivals, so when the chance of a different way of arriving is offered, we are always keen to suggest this to our travellers. Step in Imvelo Safaris, one of Zimbabwe’s leading lodge operators, with properties in both Victoria Falls and the Hwange National Park. Visitors are now able to enjoy train transfers between the two areas – a wonderfully new and innovative way to travel in this part of the world.
The simpler of the two trips is their Elephant Express, a charming open-sided train carriage that operates the route between the historic railway town of Dete near the entrance to Hwange (reached by a road transfer), and Camelthorn and Bomani Camps. With a journey time of roughly two hours, this is a wonderful way to arrive and also allows for some game viewing along the way as the line runs right through the park, with the train occasionally forced to slow down for “traffic”.
The Elephant Express runs every day and you will need to be staying at either Bomani or Camelthorn to start off your time in Hwange, but it is a wonderful way to arrive and breaks up what is otherwise a long day travelling in the car.
For real train enthusiasts there is also Imvelo’s newest innovation, the Stimela Star, which is an overnight sleeper train, with an atmosphere harking back to the golden age of rail travel. Imvelo have purchased and refurbished traditional sleeper carriages and these are (on set dates) hooked on to the overnight Victoria Falls to Bulawayo passenger service. Departing Victoria Falls at around 7pm, guests enjoy dinner on board before settling in for the night as the train makes its way around Hwange National Park and on to the siding at Dete, where the Stimela Star is unhooked and the train continues to Bulawayo. Breakfast will be served onboard at around 7am after which guests are transported on to their chosen camp in Hwange.
The carriages have all been beautifully refurbished but the sleeping compartments are somewhat “snug” so if you have enjoyed one of South Africa’s iconic train journey such as Rovos Rail or The Blue Train you may need to adjust your thinking in terms of size. That said, they are perfectly comfortable and you are on board for roughly 12 hours so space isn’t at such a premium.
The Stimela Star can be booked by guests staying at all camps in Hwange so is a great option to consider if you have a little more time on your trip, are looking to arrive in style or are simply a true train enthusiast.
We can incorporate both the Elephant Express and Stimela Star into our Victoria Falls and Hwange Explorer itinerary so if you feel this is something that would make a trip extra special, please let us know and we would be delighted to amend the itinerary accordingly.