The Shongololo Express, Africa’s ‘adventure train,’ offers an old world safari by rail, using a fleet of on-board expedition vans, off-loaded to explore the African savannah and bush.
I board the train with great excitement in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, unpack and do not pack up again for sixteen days until we reach Johannesburg.
The common meeting place on board is the lovely wood-embellished bar car where our barman serves up cold beers, gin and tonics and good doses of African laughter. Seasoned fellow travelers from Canada, the US, the Netherlands, South Africa, Hungary, Belgium and Germany share many travel tales in the evenings as we rock on the rails.
Rhino tracking in the bush takes us within twenty feet of a female rhino and her youngster. Our guide moves us in very close, one at a time, for photos. My heart pounds and I can feel my ‘fight or flight’ response as the huge mother beast slowly raises her head and focuses on us.
Walking in the savannah, we are accompanied by year old lion cubs from the lion preserve, free to roam amongst our small group. Supervised by three trainers, they are almost the size of a full grown female without the bulk. Singly we approach and gently lay a hand upon their backs before they retire to afternoon shade.
Zebra, giraffe, elephant, rhino, hippo, alligator, impala, lion and a myriad of avian life in Kruger National Park gives us an ‘Out of Africa’ experience, where we were close enough to the wildlife to capture exhilarating photos.
Sojourns into Swaziland, Botswana and Zambia in our expedition vehicles provided days full of local adventure, after which we return to our rolling home to share our tales with our travel mates. Many a travel journal is pulled from a dusty bag with scribbled notes on the day’s sightings and African experiences.
Children at a Zimbabwean school honour us with a performance of song and dance that leaves all moved to tears and a performance by a school drumming group moves all of us to dance and celebrate this special journey.
This epic safari on clickety-clack rails is an amazing and memorable journey of adventure, comfort and great camaraderie.
Peggy Wright, CTC, CITM, CATS is ‘The Travel Agent Next Door.’