Highlights
  • Journey from Cape Town to Victoria Falls on Rovos Rail, a luxurious private train recalling the romance of Victorian era railroad travel.
  • Encounter African wildlife during boat excursions on the Zambezi River and safari game drives in national parks and on a private reserve.
  • Explore Robben Island, where political prisoners like Nelson Mandela were held during Apartheid, in the company of a former inmate.

Explore Southern Africa in the romantic style of the past on this safari-and-train adventure. Start your journey by experiencing Cape Town's complex history and dramatic natural beauty. Then board Rovos Rail for an evocative train trek to Victoria Falls, making stops along the way to search for magnificent wildlife. In Zimbabwe, witness elephants and Cape buffalo quenching their thirst from the Zambezi River and follow in the footsteps of Dr. Livingstone to marvel at Victoria Falls.

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Road Scholar Travel Reviews & Ratings
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Value
4.5 Guide
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4.5 Lodging
4.3 Transportation
4.4 Meals
4.3
Southern Africa Safari and Train Adventure: From Cape Town to Victoria Falls

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S

Recommends

Old Cuba is fantastic and should be seen before it's spoiled by capitalism. January 2017

5.0
  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 4.0
  • Lodging 4.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 3.0
This was my wife's and my first trip with Road Scholar. At the time (April, 2012), it was not possible for Americans to directly visit Cuba. You had to do it with a cultural/educational group, often associated with a university. Or, you could fly to Canada, Mexico, or Europe first and then get a flight to Cuba from there (while risking a ~$10,000 fine from the US Government). We opted for the legal route with Road Scholar.

It was a fantastic trip! We had a small-ish group of about 20 people and a wonderful guide, José Luis (who, like most Cubans, had never been off the island).
The trip began in Miami where we had an orientation and spent the night. Then we flew to Havana and stayed in the Hotel Nacional for four nights. It doesn't get more historic -- or fun -- than the Nacional:
https://vimeo.com/41612444

While in Havana, we enjoyed great history/culture lectures from experts, toured various parts of Havana (including Hemmingway's home in the hills nearby), and, on our own, had the opportunity to have dinner at a paladar -- a restaurant inside someone's home.

The Cuban people are friendly but the infrastructure of their country is in shambles. It's been a long time since Russia's deep pockets left the island (1991), and you see poverty everywhere. But not the begging-in-the-street kind. Cuba provides universal health care, education (including room and board all the way through grad/med school!), food staples, and a very modest income (~$30/month) to everyone. Most people add to that income by working on the side.

After Havana, we traveled to Cienfuegos. From there we saw the infamous Bay Of Pigs, but also the wonderful Benny Moré Art School where we learned of the fantastic support for the arts by the Cuban government. Children are identified in grade school as having artistic talent and then funneled into magnet schools like Benny Moré to study art for their entire scholastic career!

Don't go to Cuba for the food. It's edible (and won't make you sick) but rather boring. You mainly get the "three amigos": fish, pork, or chicken, along with rice and/or black beans. But the aged rum is superb and so are the cigars!

Probably my favorite thing on the island, though, was the music -- whether on the street or in a more formal setting:
https://vimeo.com/43273083

Cuba is fantastic. Go enjoy it!
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Operator Road Scholar

D

Recommends

Best trip I ever took! October 2016

5.0
  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0
Loved the variety of different hotels, the expertise of the individual tour guides, the meals and especially the beautiful countryside. All 17 of us on the t rip got to know each other well, thanks to the kindness, the personality and the organizational skill of Mark, our tour director. Keep up the good work!
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Operator Road Scholar

C

Recommends

Sunrise, Sunset, Learning Photography August 2016

5.0
  • Value 4.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 4.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 4.0
Road Scholar offers many tours starting in Utah. The one I took focused of photography of the National Parks in Utah, with a professional photographer traveling with us. The schedule was set up such that we would get "the golden light" at each of the parks. Those not familiar with the term must know that the best light occurs at either sunrise or sunset, when the impact of the sun on objects is diffused by having to travel through the earth's atmosphere on a diagonal rather than vertically.

As such, you can now expect that sleep will be an issue as you will get to bed late and rise early. But the territory is beautiful at all times, and more so illuminated by the golden light.

In order to maximize your sleeping ability, the tour is only offered in the spring and the fall. Doing this in the winter would be pretty cold and require special equipment to traverse the snow. Doing it in the summer would basically mean no sleep as the daylight is so long.

A great learning experience in beautiful territory.
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Operator Road Scholar

J

Recommends

Thank you Road Scholar July 2016

5.0
  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0
Thank you Road Scholar Staff for planning a wonderful introduction to Cuba today. My previous knowledge was from people who felt they had to leave Cuba more than fifty years ago. I learned from qualified professors, tour guides and from talking to Cuban people from different parts of Cuba who work in different kinds of jobs. I could see how the Cuban people have come together to meet the challenges of the past and to prepare for a brighter future.
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Operator Road Scholar

R

Recommends

Thank you Road Scholar! July 2016

5.0
  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0
Road Scholar tours are the best bang for your buck

Operator Road Scholar

N

Recommends

Fabulous! July 2016

5.0
  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0
This is a fabulous program for young and old. The instructors are great with kids and adults. The activities are very well organized and varied. My grandson is already making plans for next year.

Operator Road Scholar

Itinerary

Day 1: Departures        

In Transit Overnight: Depart on an overnight flight to Cape Town, South Africa via Johannesburg.

Day 2: Arrive Cape Town 

Dinner: Due to late evening arrivals in Cape Town, dinner is not included this evening. For anyone arriving earlier in the day, there are a variety of local restaurants within walking distance from the hotel.

Evening: Arrive Johannesburg from your international flight and clear customs/immigration before boarding a plane bound for Cape Town. In Cape Town, you are met at the airport and transferred to your hotel for check-in.

Lodging: The Three Boutique Hotel

Day 3: Robben Island / Cape Winelands          

Breakfast: At the hotel. Orientation session and group introductions.

Morning: You are transferred to the V&A Waterfront to board the Robben Island ferry. Robben Island, just seven miles off the Cape Town coast, was for nearly 400 years a place of banishment, exile, isolation and imprisonment. It was here that rulers sent those they regarded as political troublemakers, social outcasts and the unwanted of society. During apartheid years, Robben Island became internationally known for its institutional brutality. The duty of those who ran the island and its prison was to isolate opponents of apartheid and to crush their morale. This is where Nelson Mandela spent most of his 27 years in prison. From the island, enjoy spectacular views of the Cape. Following the end of the tour, you are transferred out to the Cape Winelands.

Lunch: At Bread & Wine, located on the Moreson wine estate near Franschhoek. Bread & Wine exudes an old world charm, and is a character-filled, rustic restaurant that has won numerous accolades for its honest food. The menu changes seasonally and is inspired by the variety of ingredients available locally.

Afternoon: Spend the afternoon touring the Cape Winelands. The wine-producing region around Stellenbosch and Franschhoek is not only the most important wine growing region in South Africa, but Stellenbosch is one of the oldest, most beautiful and well-preserved towns in South Africa. The vineyards form a patchwork in the fertile valleys and seem to be overshadowed by dramatic mountains. There is an almost European atmosphere with beautiful Cape Dutch architecture seen everywhere. You partake in a wine tasting and hear a lecture on the area’s architecture, history and viniculture.

Dinner: At a local restaurant.

Lodging: The Three Boutique Hotel

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Table Mountain / Cape Peninsula / Boulders Beach           

Note: At the Cape of Good Hope, you have the option of walking up steep steps to get to the lighthouse at the very top; however, great views can be enjoyed without climbing the steps. At Boulders Beach, the coach must park in a parking lot that requires about a 15-20 minute walk to get to the entrance to Boulders; the walk is on flat, paved surfaces.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: After breakfast, head to Table Mountain where you take a cable car ride up the steep granite slopes (weather permitting) to see the splendid views of the city and peninsula; it is perhaps one of the most magnificent views in the southern hemisphere. Afterwards, depart toward Cape Point via the coastal route passing through Camps Bay (South Africa’s world famous beach resort), past the Twelve Apostle Range, through Hout Bay and along Chapman’s Peak Drive, one of the most spectacular coastal roads to be found in Africa. Arrive at the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. Cape Point, where the cold Benguela current and the warm Agulhas current meet, is one of the world’s most beautiful places – a stretch of rocky mountain jutting southward into the sea. Here you find a myriad of pristine beaches, sheltered bays and coves, as well as a rich array of indigenous flora. The fynbos reserve (a unique vegetation type of the Cape Floral Kingdom) is home to a variety of wildlife and bird species. Whales (dependant on season), penguins and seals may be spotted from this point. Lecture: Biodiversity of the Cape.

Lunch: A picnic lunch is taken at a scenic spot.

Afternoon: Stop off at Boulders Beach to view the resident African penguin colony. Nestled in a sheltered cove between Simon's Town and Cape Point, Boulders has become world famous for its thriving colony of African penguins and magnificent wind-sheltered beaches. Boulders is one of the few sites where this vulnerable bird (Spheniscus demersus) can be observed at close range, wandering freely in a protected environment.

Dinner: At a local restaurant specializing in Cape Malay cuisine.

Lodging: The Three Boutique Hotel

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Board the Rovos Rail / Matjiesfontein     

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Transfer to the Cape Town Station where you receive a welcome and safety briefing from the Rovos Rail staff before boarding the train and settling into your suite for an 11:00am departure. Watch the beautiful scenery change from coastlines to majestic mountains and vineyards as the train travels through the Cape Winelands.

Lunch: The lunch sitting on board the train is at 1:00pm each day, and can be taken in either of the two Victorian-era dining cars. The delicious food is complemented by an array of fine South African wines.

Afternoon: As the train travels through the barren moonscape of the Great Karoo, your group leader gives an overview on South Africa and Apartheid. High tea is served at 4:00pm each day on board the train. In the early evening, the train pulls into Matjiesfontein for a stop of approximately one hour. Here you have a chance to explore the small, historic village on your own.

Dinner: The dinner sitting on the train is at 7:30pm each evening, and you again have the choice of dining in either one of the dining cars.

Lodging: Rovos Rail

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Kimberley & Diamond Mine           

Breakfast: Breakfast is served between 7:00-10:00am each morning.

Morning: In preparation for this afternoon's excursion, your group leader gives a lecture on Kimberley and diamond mining. Enjoy the ever-changing scenery of the South African countryside as the train continues its north-easterly route. All of the cars on the train have expansive windows, allowing for great viewing, and there is an observation car at the end of the train that is partially open-air.

Lunch: On the train.

Afternoon: In the mid-afternoon you arrive in Kimberley, where you have a chance to see the Big Hole and Diamond Mine Museum, as well as a short city tour. Kimberley serves as the capital of the Northern Cape Province, and has considerable historic significance due to the siege during the Second Boer War and its diamond mining past. The roots of the De Beers company can be traced to the early days of the mining town. High tea is served after re-boarding the train.

Dinner: On the train.

Lodging: Rovos Rail

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7: Pretoria     

Breakfast: On the train.

Morning: Your group leader gives a lecture on the significant colonial influences in the early development of South Africa.

Lunch: Packed lunch provided.

Afternoon: The train arrives at the Capital Park Station in Pretoria at 12:00pm. Upon disembarking, you are shown around the private train station. Once the bustling hub of steam locomotion in the old Transvaal, the colonial-style railway station now serves as the headquarters for Rovos Rail. The eyes of

rail enthusiasts are drawn to the vast carriage and locomotive sheds, where teams of dedicated personnel keep the rolling stock in perfect order. This roofed workshop of 10,000 square meters (107,640 square feet) straddles 15 railway lines with concrete inspection pits below, and is the ultimate repair and maintenance facility for any train operation. Following the station visit, you have a chance to explore Pretoria. Although Pretoria, South Africa’s administrative capital, lies only 36 miles north of Johannesburg, it provides a complete contrast to the City of Gold. Pretoria was founded in 1855 and named after the Voortrekker leader, Andries Pretorius. It is often referred to as the “Jacaranda City,” a nickname which derives from the thousands of trees lining the streets, their purple blossoms heralding the approach of summer each October. You visit the Voortrekker Monument, a striking memorial built to honor the early pioneers. Then, continue to Church Square in the center of the city, where the statue of Paul Kruger looks down on the passersby. The imposing Union Building, which houses the office of the State President, provides an impressive view over the city. You are able to explore the beautiful gardens here before being transferred to the Court Classique for an overnight stay.

Dinner: On your own account to explore local fare.

Lodging: Court Classique

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 8: Re-board the Rovos Rail / Overview of Botswana           

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Transfer to the Capital Park Station and re-board the Rovos Rail for a 9:30am departure.

Lunch: On the train.

Afternoon: As the train travels through the goldfields of South Africa, heading towards Mafikeng, your group leader gives an overview of Botswana. High tea is served.

Dinner: On the train.

Evening: Train arrives in Mafikeng for Botswana border formalities.

Lodging: Rovos Rail

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9: Travel through Botswana 

Breakfast: On the train.

Morning: The train passes by Botswana's capital city of Gaborone and then meanders through the countryside heading towards the border with Zimbabwe.

Lunch: On the train.

Afternoon: As the train continues its journey through Botswana, your group leader gives an overview on Zimbabwe. High tea is served.

Dinner: On the train.

Evening: The train arrives at Plumtree for Zimbabwe border formalities.

Lodging: Rovos Rail

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 10: Hwange National Park    

Breakfast: On the train.

Morning: Enjoy the scenery as the train travels through the Zimbabwean countryside, passing by Bulawayo before heading north towards Hwange National Park on one of Africa's longest stretches of straight railway line, running for 114 km (71 miles). In preparation for your first safari activity, your group leader gives a lecture on elephant behavior and social structure.

Lunch: On the train.

Afternoon: The train travels along the eastern side of Hwange National Park; wildlife may be spotted from the train. In the mid-afternoon, an off-train field trip takes you into Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe's premier safari destination, for a game drive. Hwange is legendary for its wonderful array of wildlife, particularly the massive herds of elephant and buffalo. There are a number of shallow pans spread throughout the park, around which wildlife congregates, making for excellent and reliable game viewing. Elephant, Cape buffalo, sable, roan, southern giraffe, blue wildebeest, impala and sometimes even gemsbok (oryx) can be seen here. This park is one of the best for predators - lion, leopard, wild dog and cheetah are regularly sighted, along with the smaller African wildcat, serval, honey badger, civet and spotted hyena. Bird life in the area is also prolific, with more than 400 species found; the birdlife is incredibly varied, with species that frequent teak woodlands as well as those more typical of the drier Kalahari being present.

Dinner: On the train.

Lodging: Rovos Rail

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 11: Victoria Falls / David Livingstone's Explorations

Note: In order to see all viewpoints at the Falls, approximate length of walk is two miles. It is possible to walk less and see some, but not all, viewpoints. Paths may be slick from mist, but are mostly flat.

Breakfast: On the train.

Morning: The train arrives in Victoria Falls at 10:00am, at which point you disembark and are transferred to the lodge for check-in.

Lunch: At the lodge in Victoria Falls.

Afternoon: Following lunch, a noted local historian discusses the story of Scottish explorer Dr. David Livingstone, who first visited Victoria Falls over 150 years ago, and whose journeys laid the ground work for the Colonial era that followed. Following the lecture, a short vehicle transfer takes you to the magnificent Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Here you see how through the millennia the forces of nature have created this marvelous spectacle, Africa’s greatest waterfall. You view the Falls today from the Zimbabwean side.

Dinner: At the lodge.

Lodging: A'Zambezi River Lodge

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 12: Local Village Visit / Safari         

Breakfast: At the lodge.

Morning: After breakfast transfer to Intabayengwe Village, a nearby traditional village. Here you have the chance to meet members of the community and see how they live. You help the local women prepare a traditional meal and see what role women play in the village. You also visit a local, illegal “moonshiner’s” distillation facility and learn about this underground industry. Visits to some of the homes and the local pre-school round out the visit. Afterward, transfer approximately one hour to the Imbabala Zambezi Safari Lodge.

Lunch: At the lodge.

Afternoon: You have a chance to settle in and enjoy the riverfront scenery before your group leader gives a lecture on lion social structure and behavior. Afterward, embark on a late afternoon game drive in the private reserve surrounding the lodge. The 5,000 acre national park concession has nearly nine miles of private Zambezi River frontage, and it borders the Chobe Forest Reserve which is renowned for its massive elephant population. Game drives here are taken in open-air safari vehicles in the early morning and late afternoons into evening, moving through the plains searching for predators and other game.

Dinner: At the lodge.

Lodging: Imbabala Zambezi Safari Lodge

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 13: Safari Activities / Birds  

Breakfast: At the lodge.

Morning: Morning game drive in the lodge's private reserve.

Lunch: At the lodge.

Afternoon: Your group leader gives a lecture on the varied birdlife in the area. Following tea, you embark on a game viewing boat cruise on the Zambezi River. Here you may have the chance to spot wildlife coming to drink and bathe in the river, as well as observe the multitude of birds that gather on the river’s banks.

Dinner: At the lodge.

Lodging: Imbabala Zambezi Safari Lodge

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 14: Chobe National Park, Botswana      

Breakfast: At the lodge.

Morning: A short transfer takes you over the border into Botswana and Chobe National Park, where you head out on a game drive within the park. Chobe National Park remains one of Africa’s prime game-viewing areas. Here one finds all of the “Big Five,” except for rhino. This is elephant country, home to the largest population of elephants in the world…many of these great grey giants can be seen at this time of year. (Note that seasonality makes a big difference in how much game you will see. If it’s dry you will see larger herds; if it has recently rained the animals will be more dispersed.) The park forms part of Botswana’s northern-most border and is a contrast of desert aridity and flood plains. The Chobe region is best known for its vast magnificent river and floodplains filled with grazing herds of big game. Buffalo, sable, lion, leopard, hippo, hyena, and many species of antelope find safety in this huge national park. Chobe is one of Africa’s most pristine ecosystems and greatest wildlife refuges.

Lunch: At a local lodge near Chobe National Park.

Afternoon: After lunch, embark on a game-viewing boat cruise on the Chobe River. You explore the Chobe River by motorboat where you may come face to face with the elephant, buffalo and other wildlife that gather on the banks of the river to drink and bathe. Immerse yourself in the unique environment viewing numerous birds including sacred ibis, blue heron, goliath heron, saddle-billed storks, marabou storks and little egrets. After the cruise, you are driven back across the border to Imbabala Lodge.

Dinner: Farewell dinner at the lodge.

Lodging: Imbabala Zambezi Safari Lodge

Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 15: Departure           

Breakfast: At the lodge.

Morning: You have the morning free to pack before the group is transferred to the Victoria Falls airport for the flight to Johannesburg.

Afternoon: Board the early-afternoon commercial flight to Johannesburg. Upon arrival in Johannesburg at approximately 3:30pm, connect to international flights home.

In Transit Overnight: All international flight choices back to North America are overnight flights.

Meals Included: Breakfast

Day 16: Arrivals       

Morning: Early morning arrivals back in the USA and Canada.

Dates & Pricing
Checking price

Price From

$ 7,499

Price Per Day:

$ 469 per day
 
Prices may vary due to local taxes and trip seasonality. Click "Request Info" to inquire directly with the tour operator for the final trip price.
Details
Trip Includes
  • 13 nights of accommodations
  • 36 meals: 13 breakfasts, 12 lunches, 11 dinners
  • 11 Expert-led lectures
  • 12 Field trips
  • 1 Hands-on experiences
  • 1 Flights during the program
  • Visas: 1(out of 1 required)
Meals Included:

36 meals: 13 breakfasts, 12 lunches, 11 dinners

Flights & Transport
Internal airfare and ground transport
Group Size:
Standard Group
Start City
Johannesburg
End City
Botswana

Trip ID#: souafrroa

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