The Kalahari is a magical place, as you'll see on your luxury train safari.

South Africa to Namibia Train Safari | Canyons, Dunes, Salt Pans & Sea | 8 Nights Pretoria & Walvis Bay

Rovos Rail’s nine-day luxury train safari from South Africa to Namibia passes through much of Southern Africa’s most incredible scenery. But it’s not just an exercise in passive viewing – excursions to Sossusvlei and Etosha offer a branch line to yet more wonders, and the opportunity to explore the world beyond the train windows.

  • Travel a giant parenthesis across Southern Africa, encompassing a vast sweep of diverse scenery en route from the lofty Highveld to the windswept Atlantic Ocean, and ticking off many incredible vistas along the way.
  • The chance to explore both recent colonial and ancient geological history, with excursions enriching the experience by adding opportunities to view game, and explore otherworldly desert dunescapes.
  • The generously proportioned Rovos Rail deluxe suite includes a double bed (or twin, if preferred), lounge area, en-suite bathroom with shower, all housed in a meticulously refurbished sleeper coach. As well as the pullman and royal guest sleepers, the Pride of Africa train has a non-smoking lounge car, a smoking lounge, two non-smoking dining cars, a kitchen car and an observation car.

The train safari

We left the stately buildings of Pretoria behind as we headed south, and as the shadows lengthened across the landscape I made the most of the golden light to take my first luxury train safari photographs. It seemed entirely fitting that we were seeing the goldfields bathed in rich, almost metallic light, as we relaxed in our deluxe suite and slowly began to prepare for dinner.Gliding across a serene South Africa as we breakfasted the next morning it was hard to imagine its turbulent, and adventurous, past. This was soon brought to life though as we stopped in Kimberley to visit to the Big Hole, where for a moment I thought I could hear the ghostly metallic chimes of picks and shovels coming from its flooded depths. Later, crossing the stark yet hauntingly beautiful Karoo, we gazed out of our windows until the dinner gong sounded across the lonely landscapes.I was so relaxed in our deluxe suite the next morning that while my partner disembarked to explore Upington I rather lazily chose to get some me time, enjoying the paper with a pot of tea. My better half brought back some local dried fruit, which we enjoyed as the train approached the border, where we had our passports stamped twice in quick succession as we left South Africa and entered Namibia.With its steeply angled slopes, flat-topped columns of rock, and the serpentine river far below, the Fish River Canyon was (to our minds at least) every bit as impressive as its Arizonan cousin. Later, as we traversed the ancient Kalahari over a memorable lunch, it struck me that Namibia was a country running on geological time – where an aeon was a mere blink of the eye – so it was no wonder such a small river had been able to carve out such a large canyon.After a tour of Windhoek the following day, we boarded a light aircraft for Sossusvlei. As we descended over the rolling dune sea of the Namib Desert, any doubts as to where we were were immediately dispelled: this could only be Namibia.An early start from our luxury lodge the next morning let us see the Sossusvlei dunes in the best possible light, each with the voluptuous curves of a reclining figure. The return flight to Windhoek saw us reunited with our now beloved train, and we whiled away the afternoon playing Canasta while travelling north towards Etosha National Park.At Tsumeb the next morning, we once again bade a temporary farewell to our faithful train, and checked into a safari lodge inside the reserve. Our guide introduced us to the uniquely Namibian sport of waterhole hopping – driving slowly between springs to see which creatures had come to drink.After our night away I wanted to make the most of our remaining train time, and we lingered over lunch before settling into the observation car for some quiet contemplation. Dinner was a more upbeat affair, as we toasted our unforgettable journey with several bottles of Champagne, shared with some fellow passengers.It seemed only natural that after so much sand, we would arrive at the ocean. And we did, in the port town of Walvis Bay, tinged pink as it was in parts with flocks of flamingos. Our trip back in time was over, but we’d always have the memories.

We left the stately buildings of Pretoria behind as we headed south, and as the shadows lengthened across the landscape I made the most of the golden light to take my first luxury train safari photographs. It seemed entirely fitting that we were seeing the goldfields bathed in rich, almost metallic light, as we relaxed in our deluxe suite and slowly began to prepare for dinner.

Gliding across a serene South Africa as we breakfasted the next morning it was hard to imagine its turbulent, and adventurous, past. This was soon brought to life though as we stopped in Kimberley to visit to the Big Hole, where for a moment I thought I could hear the ghostly metallic chimes of picks and shovels coming from its flooded depths. Later, crossing the stark yet hauntingly beautiful Karoo, we gazed out of our windows until the dinner gong sounded across the lonely landscapes.

I was so relaxed in our deluxe suite the next morning that while my partner disembarked to explore Upington I rather lazily chose to get some me time, enjoying the paper with a pot of tea. My better half brought back some local dried fruit, which we enjoyed as the train approached the border, where we had our passports stamped twice in quick succession as we left South Africa and entered Namibia.

With its steeply angled slopes, flat-topped columns of rock, and the serpentine river far below, the Fish River Canyon was (to our minds at least) every bit as impressive as its Arizonan cousin. Later, as we traversed the ancient Kalahari over a memorable lunch, it struck me that Namibia was a country running on geological time – where an aeon was a mere blink of the eye – so it was no wonder such a small river had been able to carve out such a large canyon.

After a tour of Windhoek the following day, we boarded a light aircraft for Sossusvlei. As we descended over the rolling dune sea of the Namib Desert, any doubts as to where we were were immediately dispelled: this could only be Namibia.

An early start from our luxury lodge the next morning let us see the Sossusvlei dunes in the best possible light, each with the voluptuous curves of a reclining figure. The return flight to Windhoek saw us reunited with our now beloved train, and we whiled away the afternoon playing Canasta while travelling north towards Etosha National Park.

At Tsumeb the next morning, we once again bade a temporary farewell to our faithful train, and checked into a safari lodge inside the reserve. Our guide introduced us to the uniquely Namibian sport of waterhole hopping – driving slowly between springs to see which creatures had come to drink.

After our night away I wanted to make the most of our remaining train time, and we lingered over lunch before settling into the observation car for some quiet contemplation. Dinner was a more upbeat affair, as we toasted our unforgettable journey with several bottles of Champagne, shared with some fellow passengers.

It seemed only natural that after so much sand, we would arrive at the ocean. And we did, in the port town of Walvis Bay, tinged pink as it was in parts with flocks of flamingos. Our trip back in time was over, but we’d always have the memories.

What sets it apart

Our nine-day luxury train safari onboard Rovos Rail provided ample scope to not merely witness much of the best of South Africa and Namibia in passing, but also to learn more about the forces (both human and natural) that had shaped the geological and political landscapes we were passing through.This was Africa on a scale we’d not previously had the opportunity to appreciate, and a journey of some 3,400km seemed an appropriately epic way to do this. It was a trip that we’d wanted to take our time over, and it seemed that our train shared this yearning for meandering. The route on the map at first glance seemed idiosyncratic, but proved to tell many tales of Africa’s past.We learned how accidents of geology had caused economic and social earthquakes, as we began our train safari above the world’s richest gold deposits, and passed over some of the most prolific diamond fields on the continent.Having the chance to spend so many hours admiring the timeless desert landscapes of Namibia let us understand that it’s not always necessary to dig to reveal a country’s riches: sometimes the land itself (in its shifting shapes and colours) is as much of a treasure as what lies beneath.We had the chance to appreciate many priceless moments, including watching the golden rays of the rising sun chase shadows down the flanks of ruby-red sand dunes, and indulging in a slice of decadently rich Sachertorte in a quaint Germanic seaside town.

Our nine-day luxury train safari onboard Rovos Rail provided ample scope to not merely witness much of the best of South Africa and Namibia in passing, but also to learn more about the forces (both human and natural) that had shaped the geological and political landscapes we were passing through.

This was Africa on a scale we’d not previously had the opportunity to appreciate, and a journey of some 3,400km seemed an appropriately epic way to do this. It was a trip that we’d wanted to take our time over, and it seemed that our train shared this yearning for meandering. The route on the map at first glance seemed idiosyncratic, but proved to tell many tales of Africa’s past.

We learned how accidents of geology had caused economic and social earthquakes, as we began our train safari above the world’s richest gold deposits, and passed over some of the most prolific diamond fields on the continent.

Having the chance to spend so many hours admiring the timeless desert landscapes of Namibia let us understand that it’s not always necessary to dig to reveal a country’s riches: sometimes the land itself (in its shifting shapes and colours) is as much of a treasure as what lies beneath.

We had the chance to appreciate many priceless moments, including watching the golden rays of the rising sun chase shadows down the flanks of ruby-red sand dunes, and indulging in a slice of decadently rich Sachertorte in a quaint Germanic seaside town.

DAY 1

The staff will take good care of you on your luxury train safari. © Rovos Rail

3pm: Depart Rovos Rail Station in Pretoria, South Africa, and travel south towards the goldfields of the Witwatersrand.

DAY 2

You'll get to see Kimberley's Big Hole on this trip. © Rovos Rail

9.45am: Stop in Kimberley to visit the Big Hole and Kimberley Mine Museum.
12.30pm: Depart for Upington and travel the Karoo semi-desert.

DAY 3

You'll find yourself waving to any people you pass in the stark Karoo. © Rovos Rail

8am: Stop in Upington for an optional two-hour walking tour.
11pm: Arrive at Holoog, Namibia, after border formalities at Nakop.

DAY 4

You'll love Namibia's iconic quiver trees.

8am: Take a one-hour transfer to visit the Fish River Canyon.
11am: Depart for Keetmanshoop, traversing the Kalahari.
3pm: Visit Garas Park to see the Quiver Tree Forest and Giant’s Playground.

DAY 5

Windhoek has plenty of German influences.

9am: Stop in Windhoek for a city tour.
11am: Take a one-hour light-aircraft flight to Sossusvlei Lodge for lunch, a desert drive and bush dinner. Overnight at the lodge.

DAY 6

Deadvlei is otherworldly.

6am: Take a game drive around Sossusvlei, stopping for a bush breakfast.
12pm: Take a one-hour light-aircraft flight to Windhoek, and board the train again.
2pm: Depart Windhoek, travelling north towards the game-rich Etosha National Park.

DAY 7

The Etosha waterholes attract plenty of wildlife.

9.30am: Take a transfer to a lodge in Etosha National Park for lunch and a game drive. Overnight at the lodge.

DAY 8

Both South Africa and Namibia have lion.

6am: Take an early morning game drive in Etosha National Park before reboarding the train.
1pm: Travel towards the Atlantic Ocean.

DAY 9

The Karoo invites quiet contemplation. © Rovos Rail

7am: Traverse the Namib Desert.
12.30pm: Arrive at Walvis Bay in Namibia.

  • Our safaris are tailor-made to match your personal safari dream, taking into account when you’d like to travel, how long you’d like to be away for, who you’d be travelling with, what safari lodge style you’d prefer, and more.
  • This luxury safari trip idea is simply to show you what’s possible. To see what this type of safari costs, and what’s generally included, click here.
  • You can also click through to our blog on African safari prices for a general overview of our safari price categories:

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