Africa and trains have a long and sometimes troublesome history. It is still possible to make journeys through Africa by train in the same way it was done 100 years ago, but also various tracks across the continent will give you the opportunity to discover Africa by rail. Here are a few examples.
In Kenya, we can arrange travel on the Nairobi-Mombasa line. When the track was being built, this line was notorious for lion attacks. Many men lost their lives, but today we can still enjoy the fruits of their hard work.
Travel by steam train in South Africa
South Africa has astounding escarpments and terrains, so take the opportunity to view it from a unique perspective: from a steam train. Encounter a range of scenic splendours such as the stark beauty of the Karoo region, the flourishing cane fields of KwaZulu Natal and the lush South African Garden Route.
There are numerous places in South Africa where you can take a trip by steam train and observe picturesque scenery whilst sipping on refreshing cocktails. Travel through the Drakensberg range, view the shimmering Magaliesberg waterfalls, see the dazzling Johannesburg lights and the lush Cape Winelands.
KwaZulu Natal is home to several special trains where you can re-live the sights, sounds and smells of the old steam-train times. For example, the Umgeni Steam Railway runs trips from Kloof to Inchanga on the first and last Sunday of every month. The stations are set up to offer food to hungry travellers, or you can take your own picnic basket.
In Port Elizabeth, be sure to ride on the Apple Express, which will take you through the attractive city to Van Staadens where you can enjoy a lovely picnic and dazzling scenery. A steam train trip through the Garden Route in South Africa is an awesome experience, with its varying natural beauty, indigenous forests and glistening lakes.
Rovos Rail offers a range of journeys, one of them is the Dar es Salaam-Cape Town route. Please note: use of steam has become increasingly difficult as more and more water and coaling facilities have been scrapped. Diesel or electric locomotives are used, while steam is used in and around the area of Rovos Rail Station only.
This epic 15-day train journey travels through Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa and is one of the most famous in the world. The sojourns begins in Dar es Salaam and traverses the Selous Game Reserve – the largest on the continent and a vision of timeless Africa. Descending into the Rift Valley negotiating the tunnels, switchbacks and viaducts of the spectacular escarpment, the train makes its way to Chisimba Falls in Zambia where guests enjoy a bush walk. Leaving the Tazara line, the train crosses the mighty Zambezi River into Zimbabwe where guests overnight at the Victoria Falls Hotel. Continue south through Botswana to Madikwe Game Reserve for two nights before crossing the border into South Africa. Guests enjoy tours of Pretoria, the diamond town of Kimberley and the historic village of Matjiesfontein before travelling the winelands to journey’s end in Cape Town. Available also in reverse.
For true lavishness, make a journey on the luxurious Blue Train
The Blue Train travels between Pretoria and Cape Town, it is a 27-hour journey of 1 600 kilometres, through some of the most diverse and spectacular scenery offered by the African sub-continent. En route to Cape Town there is a stopover and excursion in Kimberley, where we take a step back in time to the days of the diamond rush.
While The Blue Train lives up to its five-star reputation in every sense, its cuisine surpasses even the highest expectations. It could be said that dinner will be the most unforgettable experience of your adventure. A carriage-by-carriage refurbishment in the 70s and modernisation from steam to electricity and diesel in the 90s, defined this train as an unmatched experience of luxurious modern travel, and yet invoked the romance and history of its glittered past.
The Shongololo train takes different routes. For example, you can travel from Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, through Chobe National Park in Botswana, to Livingstone in Zambia, through the Hwange National Park and on to South Africa’s Kruger National Park, to Maputu in Mozambique and finally to Pretoria. A 16-day trip for the true train and nature lover.
The Tazara Train: 1860 km stretch!
The Tazara train is another option to explore Africa. It's a splendid way to see the real Africa over a stretch of 1860 kilometers.
The railway line starts from Dar es Salaam through Kazimzumbwi forest, one the oldest forest in the world, and the savannah wooded plain, where the major southern national parks of Mikumi, Udzungwa and Selous Game Reserve are located.
From there, TAZARA crosses the Great Ruaha River, towards Kilombero Flood Plains. Then it passes through tunnels under Udzungwa Mountain ranges and, adjoining Kipengere Ranges to Makambako Plateau.
From Makambako the train runs on the foot of Kipengere Ranges and at the edge of Rift Valley to Mbeya. From Mbeya the train passes though smaller train stations of Mbalizi, Songwe, the Uporoto Ranges of Shikula, Mlowo, Vwawa before it arrives at Tunduma.
The Victoria Falls Steam Train Co has several journeys to offer; the Victoria Falls Tram, a No 512 Steam Train and the Zambezi Lager. The Victoria Falls Tram offers a unique journey into the adventure and romance of a bygone age. Both morning and sunset tours begin with a stroll down the red carpet path which links the iconic, 108 years old Victoria Falls Hotel to the platform at Victoria Falls station. The 19th century-style tram begins its twenty meander through the vibrant town of Victoria falls, looping through the African bush often habituated by wildlife and passing the Vic Falls Rainforest. Its final destination is right in the middle of the Victoria falls bridge which straddles the line dividing Zimbabwe and Zambia. This historic bridge is suspended 111 meters above the Zambezi River and affords spectacular views directly onto the face of the falls themselves. Including champagne and snacks!