There’s simply nothing more romantic than train travel, and Rovos Rail takes it to new levels of luxury.
Rovos Rail is synonymous with luxury train travel, and this year marks their 30th anniversary in South Africa. Now a super-luxe experience, the company had a fairly humble start. In fact, according to owner and CEO Rohan Vos, it took a decade for them to even break even. It’s hard to believe now — Rovos offers a number of luxury trips around Southern Africa and will soon be launching a new route, Trail of Two Oceans, from Dar es Salaam to Lobito in Angola, the first passenger train trip to ever venture along the east-to-west copper trail.
The journey begins
Rovos Rail was the brainchild of Rohan and Anthea Vos, who started the company three decades ago. “Little did we know all those years ago that we would expand from offering one overnight journey to eight trips,” says Rohan. “At its core, Rovos Rail is a story about spirited and determined entrepreneurship with us having to fight many battles in our three decades in the Southern African and global hospitality industry.”
Despite many challenges over the years — volcanic ash cloud, airline strikes, the Ebola outbreak, and a crippling global recession — the company is going strong. In fact, they currently employ 440 staff members at the Rovos Rail Station in Pretoria, some of whom have been with the group since the very beginning, and over 100 of whom have been there for over 20 years — a testament to the family-oriented spirit of the team.
The future is bright
A sixth train set is currently in production, with plans to launch it in December this year. Once the new train is running, it will be possible to have five Rovos Rail trains out at once on any of the eight journeys it offers, along with the Shongololo Express running on one of its three trips. The company has also procured their own electric and diesel locomotives in an effort to be as self-reliant as possible in the future.
A choice of trips
Rovos Rail offers eight routes to choose from, with journeys ranging from 48 hours to 15 days. Part of the fleet is the Shongololo Express, which was purchased and renovated in 2016, and the train travels for over 300 days of the year. Vos credits the relaxed itineraries for the train’s longevity. “That train just goes and goes with very few issues – it’s quite amazing,” he says.
The routes include Pretoria to Cape Town via Kimberley, De Aar, Beaufort West and Matjiesfontein; Pretoria to Victoria Falls; Pretoria to Durban via the Drakensberg and Nambiti Private Game Reserve; a nine-day gold safari with stops at some of South Africa’s best courses; Pretoria to Walvis Bay in Namibia; Cape Town to Dar es Salaam; and the new route that stretches from Dar es Salaam to Lobito via Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.