Hwange National Park’s history is deeply rooted in the railways. The very first game ranger, Ted Davison, arrived by train in 1928 to gaze upon the vast wilderness for the first time, thereby signifying the official birth of this newly declared game reserve, and the start of a lifelong love affair with these untamed spaces.
Now, visitors to the area can relive these glory days of rail, albeit in significant more comfort than Davison’s pioneering journey, thanks to the foresight of Imvelo Safari Lodge’s proprietors.
The existing railway line, built during the 1900s, blazes a trail along the north eastern boundary of Hwange, from Victoria Falls to Pretoria, via the Ngamo and Impofu sidings right on the verge of Imvelo Safari Lodges territory. The close proximity of this fixture, along with the romantic notion of luxurious rail travel, was what stirred the visionary people at Imvelo Safari Lodges into thinking about adding another unique safari option to their range of exciting offerings in Zimbabwe.
Launched at the end of 2014, after months of intensive tests, trials and training, the Elephant Express is the product of careful refurbishment and dedicated attention to detail. The railcar seats 22 passengers in splendid comfort, with thoughtful little touches like a flush toilet, luggage space, a wide aisle, large windows and roomy individual seats, with teak tables in between for drinks and snacks – perfect for game viewing or simply watching the wilderness go by.
Recreated with modern-day safety features in mind, the Elephant Express is capable of travel in both directions by means of independent engines and gearboxes, both fore and aft. With these added innovations the railcar is driven in a similar fashion to a gearshift car, providing a smooth ride for all on board. As the railway line is still in daily operation, sidings every 20km along the route allow the coach to give way for passing traffic.
The car is driven by experienced railway personnel and the on board guides will see to it that guests are entertained and comfortable throughout the two-hour trip.
The primary purpose of the Elephant Express is to provide unique, relaxed and scenic transfers for guests at Imvelo’s Bomani Tented Lodge and Camelthorn Safari Lodges from Hwange Main Camp. Sunset game-viewing trips across the scenic Ngamo plains are also on the cards for those staying at these prestigious lodges, while rail transfers from Hwange and Victoria Falls are in the planning stages.
Instead of travelling the whole route to these lodges by vehicle, guests can choose to transfer either to Hwange Main Gate by road, or by air into the Hwange National Park airport, and on to Impofu siding. The Elephant Express departs from Impofu to Ngamo Siding in the morning and returns in the afternoon, with future plans for the railcar to travel all the way to Hwange main gate, which will facilitate the transfer directly from Victoria Falls. Shorter trips to Ingwe siding can also be arranged for those wanting to embark on a shorter joyride on board the Elephant Express.
From its inaugural trip, bearing Imvelo staff members and local school children, the Elephant Express has proved to be a triumph with all who climb on board, and is certainly an exciting and novel way to enjoy a Hwange National Park safari experience.
To book a trip on the Elephant Express, chat to our Africa experts here or call us on 020 7843 3500.
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