Described as a luxurious fine dining experience, encapsulating the true romance of rail travel from a bygone era, the Bushtracks Steam Safari takes you back to an age where rail journeys were far more than just travelling between two places. This wonderfully restored steam train offers a fabulous 4-course dinner, served by immaculately dressed staff whilst being able to gaze and admire the beautiful African sunset from on top of the world famous Victoria Falls Bridge. It truly is the ultimate African rail journey.
The glowing sunset lighting up Victoria Falls Bridge
In preparedness for a romantic evening together, ‘we’ opted to walk to Victoria Falls station, leaving the tour operator feeling slightly puzzled as the tour included road transportation from any hotel in the area – and when I say ‘we’, I mean the decision was obviously mine (and not Mehri’s) and I can confidently say that we were the only ones that evening that had walked to the station. We were also the most casually dressed couple!
Once the steam train had pushed the carriages into the station, the atmosphere changed and a sudden feeling of nostalgia set in. The drivers were very welcoming and offered everyone a look at the steam train from their perspective, from behind the controls but I just wish that they didn’t have a tip cup placed above the firebox with a US$20 note curled up in it. After may be 10 minutes of viewing the locomotive it was time to board the train, and as we walked along the red carpet (feeling rather special), we were offered a welcome cocktail to celebrate the start of this iconic African steam safari.
Steam Locomotive No. 512
The steam train departed Victoria Falls station and pushed the carriages towards the Zimbabwean border. As the open veranda viewing deck carriage was leading, it was the perfect place to sit and watch the mist rise from Victoria Falls in the distance whilst steaming through Victoria Falls Game Park. At the border the train paused for 10 minutes so that a ‘general declaration’ could be given by the train guard to the immigration authorities as technically Victoria Falls Bridge is in no man’s land, between the border posts of Zimbabwe and Zambia.
The train then proceeded onto the famous Victoria Falls Bridge and here we were able to disembark the train, and freely wander up and down the historical landmark, taking in the magnificent views of Victoria Falls at sunset. I felt very lucky that during this bridge stop, I was given the chance to join the drivers in the cab of the steam locomotive as it slowly traversed across Victoria Falls Bridge – not a bad first time steam train cab ride I must say.
We stayed on the bridge for around an hour, after which dinner was served as the train travelled through the African Bush in darkness towards Jafuta Siding. The 4-course dinner was splendid, and combined with a few too many gin & tonics and glasses of wine, it was heartbreaking that the journey had come to an end so soon and that it was time to get off and be driven back to our hostel*. All in all, the evening was perfect.
* I do sometimes wonder what others think of us… one of the most expensive tours at Victoria Falls while staying at possibly the cheapest accommodation in town.
Timetable and Fares
The steam train operates on Tuesdays and Fridays, departing at 17:30 in the summer and 17:00 in the winter. It lasts for approximately 5 hours and tickets cost around US$ 160; although this seems to vary between US$125 and US$180 depending on the tour operator selling the ticket. The fare includes a welcome cocktail, a choice of local alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and a 4-course dinner.
What was the train like?
The Bushtracks Victoria Falls Express consists of three carriages, beautifully restored by Rohan Vos (of Rovos Rail) and pulled by a 14a Class Steam Locomotive. The Steam Locomotive, No. 512 was built in 1952 by Beyer Peacock in England and was in service from 1952 to 1994. The first carriage behind the locomotive is Carriage No. 14661, housing a small lounge and bar, as well as the kitchen. Next is Carriage No. 197 built in 1923 and it is here that you will enjoy a fabulous 4-course gourmet dinner prepared by the talented chef’s of Victoria Falls hotel. The third carriage, No. 225 is the bar with an open veranda viewing deck – perfect for watching the sunset whilst sipping on a refreshing drink.
There are always more photos to be shared, (but sharing them all on this journal page will just make it look cluttered - so if you want to see more photos for inspiration, check out my Flickr Zimbabwe album.
Devils Pool & Livingstone Island - Wednesday 13th December 2017 (coming soon)...