South Africa and the Rovos Rail

  • 11 day exploration of South Africa's wildlife and culture
  • Travel aboard one of the world's finest trains, the Rovos Rail

Expedition Details


Experience the many facets of South Africa on a journey aboard the luxury Rovos Rail. Explore Cape Town with a popular local travel writer and delve into the powerful events and colorful lore that have shaped the region. Then journey across spectacular landscapes on our classic train. Cap off the adventure with a safari, spotting the "big five" in MalaMala Game Reserve.

Trip Highlights

    • Travel from Cape Town to Pretoria on a two-night journey aboard the Rovos Rail, passing through the winelands and Great Karoo.
    • Discover the riveting history of South Africa from prehistoric times to the present day on a curator-led tour of the Boonstra Dioramas and an insider’s tour of Cape Town.
    • Explore the stunning Cape Peninsula and enjoy a wine tasting at a Cape Dutch wine estate.
    • Spot the “big five” on morning and evening safaris in MalaMala Game Reserve.

Itinerary - 11 Days

Days 1 & 2 — U.S./Cape Town, South Africa

Depart for Cape Town on an overnight flight and, upon arrival, transfer to our hotel on the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. This afternoon, enjoy time to relax or take an excursion to Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden and stroll amid a bright palette of exotic fynbos (fine bush), including protea species found only in the Western Cape region. Gather for a tasting of regional wines and a festive welcome dinner tonight.
Cape Grace Hotel (L,D)

Day 3 — Cape Peninsula

Start the day with a cable car ride up to the top of Table Mountain (weather permitting) to take in sweeping views of the city and its harbor. Then set out for the Cape Peninsula with a local travel writer who shares his insightful and entertaining perspective on the history of the region. Travel along the breathtaking coast, passing through the charming fishing village of Hout Bay, and stopping to look out over the beautiful Cape Point Nature Reserve from Chapman’s Peak. Take a funicular to the Cape Point lighthouse, and view a colony of African penguins on the beach at Boulders, part of Table Mountain National Park. After lunch, drive along the coast of False Bay to end the day with a wine tasting amid classic Cape Dutch architecture at Groot Constantia wine estate.
Cape Grace Hotel (B,L)

Day 4 — Cape Town

Delve into Cape Town’s turbulent history on a full-day tour with a local South African travel writer. At the District Six Museum, learn about the forcible eviction of some 60,000 residents from a Cape Town suburb during apartheid. See City Hall, where Nelson Mandela made his first speech after being released from prison, and stroll through the 17th-century Company’s Garden, a source of produce for the seafarers of the Dutch East India Company. At the Iziko South African Museum, meet a curator for a private lecture and a tour of the Boonstra Dioramas, which illustrate prehistoric life on the Cape. This afternoon, travel by ferry to Robben Island where Mandela was incarcerated, and learn about his historic “long walk to freedom.”
Cape Grace Hotel (B,L)

Day 5 — Cape Town/Matjiesfontein

Climb aboard the refurbished classic train cars of the Rovos Rail and step back in time to an era of pioneers, exploration, and empires. Settle into your wood-paneled suite and watch the scenery shift as we journey through the lush hills and vineyards of the Western Cape to the arid expanse of the Little Karoo on our way to Matjiesfontein. In this 19th-century Victorian outpost, visit the Transport Museum, featuring antique motorcars and railway carriages, and learn the colorful history of the village and its inhabitants.
Rovos Rail (B,L,D)

Day 6 — Aboard the Rovos Rail

Continue across the Great Karoo, whose stark semi-desert landscapes have long been home to Khoisan Bushmen. Pass towns established by Boer and British settlers when the Karoo’s clean, dry air was found to have curative properties. This afternoon, stop in Kimberley, a center for South Africa’s diamond-mining industry. Take a guided tour of the Big Hole, the world’s largest hand-dug excavation, which has yielded some 6,000 pounds of diamonds. Then visit the adjacent diamond mine museum to learn about the mining industry and the production of these coveted gems. Gather for an elegant dinner on board tonight.
Rovos Rail (B,L,D)

Day 7 — Pretoria/MalaMala Game Reserve

The final leg of our journey brings us through the highveld to a private, colonial-style rail station outside Pretoria. Stop for lunch at the station before transferring to the airport for our private charter flight to MalaMala Game Reserve. Situated along the Sand River and adjacent to Kruger National Park, MalaMala’s forests and grasslands harbor a wealth of wildlife, including the celebrated “big five.” Get settled in our luxurious thatched lodge and set out on an afternoon game drive, on the lookout for lions, leopards, elephants, and much more. Enjoy dinner in a traditional boma tonight.
MalaMala Main Camp (B,L,D)

Days 8 & 9 — MalaMala Game Reserve

Spend two full days exploring this natural haven on morning and evening game drives, catching sight of wildlife during the most active times of the day. Attend talks by our expert, and head out with a ranger on a walking safari to discover some of the lesser-known plants and animals of the lowveld.
MalaMala Main Camp (B,L,D)

Days 10 & 11 — MalaMala/Johannesburg/U.S.

After a final early morning game drive, take a scheduled flight to Johannesburg and check into a day room. Alternatively, head to Soweto township, the epicenter of the historic struggle against apartheid. Gather for lunch in a typical shebeen and take a tour of the neighborhood’s important sites, including the former home of Nelson Mandela. Later, transfer to the airport for your overnight flight home.

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