Rovos Rail

While Zanzibar has been delightful, it’s time for another adventure.

So we leave the Spice Islands for mainland Africa.

             

We arrived at Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania’s biggest city (and growing at an alarming rate!)… Grabbing a cab at the airport is a simple process (the taxi drivers WILL find you!!)…. Agreeing a price is a rather more fraught process!!! It should be a straightforward, but with unmetered cabs, it’s a case of ‘how much do you need a cab??’ – do agree the price BEFORE you set off. We settled for $40 which seemed OK. With two kids and two heavy bags, it was patently obvious my choices were limited!!!

The journey to the hotel was only 6 miles, so I was shocked when our driver informed us it would take 2 hours… how is that possible??? In Dar, with traffic issues of nightmare proportions, he only marginally underestimated! It’s safe to say that Dar Es Salaam’s population has grown far more rapidly than it’s infrastructure and travelling at peak times is chaotic (to say the least!).

Arriving at the hotel MUCH later than we’d expected, I happened to mention that I was taking the children to a restaurant just a block and a half away and that we’d just walk to beat the traffic. She replies, without hesitation, that we cannot do that. It is not safe for us to walk alone at night. Dar is certainly living up to it’s reputation. We cancelled our plans and ate (very well!) at the hotel.

And so, we chilled until it was time to take a taxi to the railway station.

Because we’re off on an epic journey!

We’re here to take Rovos Rail’s The Pride of Africa from Dar Es Salaam to Cape Town.

15 days in total. J and G are both well used to trains… what would they make of this one? One that prides itself on being the most luxurious train ever, and where electronic devices are banned from public spaces (and there’s no wifi anyway!) and you have to dress for dinner at a set time each evening?

Our room is perfect (yes, all 3 of us shared the bed! It was super comfy!)

 

There was a comfy sitting area in our room too….

And flowers which G adored!

Our room even had a full bathroom… though one thing I will say is that some of the tracks that the train travels on are quite bumpy… and trying to take a bath on a bumpy train is interesting to say the least!!!)

The room service is impeccable… discreet, yet personable.

                           

Each day, we’d come back to another scene, which the children loved!

The food on-board has a reputation for being wonderful…. but with two fussy eaters in tow, we need something a little different! A task that the kitchen staff

were more than willing to deal with (hats off… J is NOT easy to please!!!) It didn’t matter what it was J wanted to eat… they would provide it… even if that ‘thing’ was 6 Croissants!!) Food wasn’t an issue on this trip at all, which was a huge relief.

There are several communal areas:

There’s a lounge…

And an observation car (complete with bar and outdoor area!)

            

Rovos rail is run as a private company and it’s a remarkable story. Rohan Vos – back in the late 1980s decided he’d rather like to take his family on holiday in their own private train carriage. Having quickly established that the costs were prohibitive, it was decided that they would sell tickets, as well as take the journey themselves… and so, 1989, the first service commenced.. And a man with no experience of train travel or tourism started his journey to run the most luxurious train of all! And he’s still hand on with the running of the company – greeting guests as they either depart or arrive at their destination.

So… what did I like most about Rovos Rail and would I recommend it to families

  1. We LOVED the no tech rule! (Seriously… we are IPAD obsessed… so it was wonderful to see the kids just ignore them!)

    We read, we played games and we explored the train… all without the need for a single electronic device!
  2. We LOVED dressing for dinner. While the staff were accommodating to J’s food issues, we still enjoyed dressing for dinner each evening and sitting and chatting about the day.
                       
  3. We loved seeing Africa in a way it’s hard to conceive would be possible by any other means.

    This was our sunrise on Day 1….

What else would we add about Rovos Rail? The tracks can be bumpy, but I will say we all slept incredibly well. The staff were all amazing, especially with the children. The train manager (Daphne in our case) has a formidable job, which she deserves maximum respect for. The train is sometimes late for various reasons… but the journey is part of the adventure…

There were several ‘off train’ excursions, which we will review in the coming days, but overall, I would absolutely recommend Rovos Rail as a great ‘off the grid’ adventure for children. Put the IPADS down and go see the world!!!

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