27 September 2016
The luxurious Shongololo Express began operations in 1995 to provide special touring experiences around Southern Africa. And on this super 12 day journey, which begins in Pretoria, you will stop at Kimberley for a visit to the Big Hole and diamond mine museum before continuing on to Upington for a walking tour and wine tasting. After crossing the border, visit massive Fish River Canyon, followed by tours of historical towns. Later on the tour stay at Sossusvlei Lodge, surrounded by the dramatic dunes of the Namib-Naukluft Park. The train then leaves the vast stillness of the Kalahari Desert for a city tour of Windhoek before arriving at the Etosha National Park for an overnight stay and safaris before ending the journey in the quaint seaside town of Swakopmund.
Your wonderful rail adventure begins in Pretoria. The Shongololo Dune Express leaves from the Rovos Rail Station in the early afternoon so plenty of time to go sightseeing in the morning. Once aboard settle in to either your Emerald or Gold class cabin, relax and watch the scenery go by as you head for your first overnight stop at Kingswood. The train has a bar car and observation car and later you can enjoy your first on-board dinner in one of the two historic dining cars.
Today you visit the Big Hole and Diamond Mine Museum in Kimberley. Capital of the Northern Cape, Kimberley is well known for the discovery of diamonds which led to its establishment in 1893. Highlights of the day include the visit to the Big Hole Diamond Mine Museum, followed by a lunch break at one of the restaurants in the city. After lunch visit the William Humphreys Art Gallery and the McGregor House Museum. Then return to the train in Kimberley and depart for Upington.
After breakfast on the train this morning leave for a morning tour of Upington with wine tasting at Belazel Brandy and Wine Cellar. Your tour around the historical sights of Upington begins with a drive past the Donkey Memorial, which honours the life of the working donkey, and the railway on the Orange River. At the wine and brandy cellar you can taste some of the lovely local wines. Then return to the train which leaves Upington for Nakop for border formalities with Namibia. Overnight Holoog.
This morning you visit Fish River Canyon, the largest in the southern hemisphere. The Fish River rises in the centre of the country, before flowing south into the Orange River, on Namibia's border with South Africa. In between, it has formed this great canyon, which is probably only second to Arizona's Grand Canyon in terms of size. The vast rocky landscape breaks up into a series of spectacular cliffs, formed by the Fish River as it meanders between boulders. Return to the train in the afternoon and depart for Aus for overnight.
A full-day tour of the ghost town Kolmanskop and Lüderitz, which is well known for its colonial architecture and wildlife. Lüderitz lies at the end of the currently decommissioned railway line to Keetmanshoop. En route you might see the legendary horses that are rumoured to roam the Namib desert when you visit the ghost town of Kolmanskop. Lüderitz is known for its museum, colonial architecture and for wildlife including seals, penguins, flamingos and ostriches. The Shongololo Express departs in the early evening for Keetmanshoop.
A morning tour of Keetmanshoop when you will see the Giant's Playground as well as Quiver Tree Forest. At the Giant's Playground you can explore the huge dolerite dykes and Quiver Tree Forest is home to roughly 300 specimens of the Aloe dichotomy. Between three to five metres tall, these prehistoric trees have forked branches that reach skywards and this visit makes for wonderful photographic opportunities. Return to the train in the afternoon and depart for Mariental.
Today you are taken to Sossusvlei Lodge in the Namib-Naukluft Park. Visit the Sesriem Canyon, shaped over millions of years by the Tsauchab River, then stay the night at the lodge. The river has shaped the Sesriem Canyon over millions of years and it is one of the few places in the area that holds water all year round. The early Afrikaans explorers named the canyon after the fact that they had to use six leather straps (riem) tied together to create a rope long enough to lower water buckets into the canyon below.
Enjoy sunrise from Dune 45 followed by brunch at the lodge. Take a scenic drive through the Namib-Naukluft Park. The 'star dunes' of the Namib Desert were created by sand carried by the wind from the coast of Namibia. The sand here is five million years old and is red in colour due to its iron-oxide content. As the light changes with the time of day, so does the appearance of the dunes' characteristic colour, allowing for interesting photographs at any time. Return to the train in the late afternoon to begin the journey to Windhoek.
Today you have a city tour of Windhoek. See the Trans-Namib Transport Museum, the Alte Feste (Old Fortress), the Evangelical Lutheran Church - a striking landmark - and the Namibia Craft Centre in the old Breweries Building. Situated in Namibia's central highlands, Windhoek is an attractive city surrounded by clusters of hills and the impressive Auas and Eros Mountains. After a memorable day's touring return to the train and enjoy another great dinner as you head for Otjiwarongo.
Another highlight of the tour today when you leave the Shongololo Express and are taken to a lodge in Etosha National Park. Lots of safari activities to enjoy here as the park offers excellent game viewing in one of Africa's most accessible venues. Zebra and springbok are scattered across the endless horizon while the many waterholes attract endangered black rhino, lion, elephant and large numbers of antelope. After your game drives spend tonight at the lodge.
There's another game drive early this morning in Etosha National Park when you could see some or all of the Big Five - lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino and elephant - before you check out of the lodge and return to the train in the afternoon which is waiting at Otjiwarongo. Then relax in your comfortable cabin or in the observation car and watch out for more wildlife on the journey to your next destination Kranzberg, where the Shongololo Dune Express stays overnight.
You arrive at Swakopmund Station late this morning where your tour ends. Check out of the train and transfer to your hotel. Swakopmund, Namibia's seaside resort on the west coast, is a place of great charm. It resembles a small Bavarian village nestling between the desert and the sea and enjoys a restful and relaxing atmosphere. The source of Swakopmund's continental vibe is the graceful Art Nouveau buildings dating back to the turn of the previous century.
Gold Cabin fr £3517pp
Emerald Cabin fr £4411pp
Rates based on twinshare
International flights not included unless otherwise stated