Africa’s Shongololo: Following the Millipede

It’s said that when native Africans caught the first glimpse of trains in their land, they dubbed the strange contraptions Shongololo, meaning millipede. Years later, that millipede takes passengers through some of the most beautiful country on earth, with routes exploring South Africa, Namibia, Swaziland, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe.

Commodore Cabin, Shongololo Express
Commodore Cabin, Shongololo Express

Recently acquired by Rovos Rail (known for Africa’s most luxurious train), the Shongololo is a special way to explore Southern Africa, with en-suite cabins, and two dining cars that recall the splendour of a bygone era. On the table is a range of both modern and traditional African cuisines, along with a selection of South Africa’s finest wines. Passengers can also relax in the bar car, while an open-air balcony at the back of the train allows them to enjoy the outside, even on the move.

The Shongololo is of course built for experiencing Africa, and to do that, it takes its passengers off train, using its own fleet of air-conditioned vehicles. The Shongololo offers three distinct Africa journeys that prove no two countries are quite alike in this part of the world.

The Dune Express focuses on Namibia, taking in Etosha National Park, Spitzkoppe, Cape Cross Seal Reserve, and Fish River Canyon, with the option of a visit to the Sossusvlei dunes or the Skeleton Coast. Etosha in particular highlights how different Namibia’s wildlife is to the rest of the region. The country also boasts Africa’s largest concentration of cheetahs. The Dune Express also includes some of South Africa’s highlights, including the Augrabies National Park, and the famous Big Hole.

If the Dune Express is about Namibia’s unique treats, the Southern Cross is a mix of Southern Africa’s classic sights. Setting out from Johannesburg, the train weaves its way through independent Swaziland, and stops in Maputo, a fascinating Portuguese-influenced city overlooking the Indian Ocean in Mozambique. Of course, no Africa trip is complete without a safari, and Kruger National Park is one of the continent’s favourites. Passengers enjoy many classic animal sightings including the Big 5, before hitting the Panorama Route. Cross into Zimbabwe, and explore the relics of one of the continent’s great civilizations, Great Zimbabwe, before enjoying another safari in Hwange National Park, noted for its variety of Big Cats. The final stop on the trip is the mighty ‘Smoke That Thunders,’ Victoria Falls.

Dining Car, Shongololo Express
Dining Car, Shongololo Express

For those who’d prefer to focus on South Africa in detail, the Good Hope sets out from Pretoria, bound for Cape Town, also running the reverse route. Passengers might choose to explore Johannesburg, for a sobering, but invaluable glimpse into events that have shaped modern South Africa. The route also takes in Kruger National Park and the Panorama Route, before turning south to St Lucia Wetland Park. Stop in at the popular seaside town of Durban, and tour the battlefields of Spionkop. Then, it’s all about the Garden Route, including Oudtshoorn, ‘the Ostrich capital of the world,’ finally ending in Cape Town, the beautiful Mother City at the foot of Table Mountain.

With stops and day trips covering the best of Southern Africa, the Shongololo offers travellers a luxurious window onto this fascinating part of the world.

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Christian Baines
Christian Baines

Globetrotting Contributing Editor -
Christian’s first globetrotting adventure saw him get lost exploring the streets of Saigon. Following his nose to Asia’s best coffee, two lifelong addictions were born. A freelance writer and novelist, Christian’s travels have since taken him around his native Australia, Asia, Europe, and much of North America. His favourite trips have been through Japan, Spain, and Brazil, though with a love of off-beat, artsy cities, he’ll seize any opportunity to return to Paris, New York, or Berlin.

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