Saturday, January 21, 2017

Everything you need to know about the Elephant Express Rail Car!

Since 2015 Imvelo Safari Lodges has been using the Elephant Express for guest transfers to Bomani and Camelthorn on the south eastern boundary of Hwange National Park. This is a reminder as to how best to incorporate the rail car into itineraries, along with some important information on timing and schedules.

The Elephant Express makes daily return trips as necessary between Ngamo Siding near Bomani and Camelthorn and Dete Railway Station near Hwange Main Camp. Guests traveling to Nehimba or back to Victoria Falls from Bomani and Camelthorn will depart from Ngamo Siding at approximately 11h00 and enjoy a slow ride (approximately 2.5 hours) up the railway line before arriving at Dete. The return leg back to Ngamo departs Dete at 14h00, arriving at Ngamo between 16h00 and 16h30. Imvelo has one scheduled slot on the national railway line per day, so it is important to note the timing when planning transfers on the Elephant Express. Imvelo recommends that your guests experience the romance of African railway travel in a decidedly more comfortable manner than passengers of yesteryear!

The Elephant Express seats 22 passengers and the finishes are comfortable and elegant. They include individual coach seating, a chemical toilet, teak tables, plenty of space for luggage, and a large aisle that allows guests to walk around comfortably and provides unrestricted game viewing. Imvelo also provides drinks and delicious snacks en route.

A unique transfer experience and great fun for kids
The rail car has every safety feature. The Elephant Express has been deliberately designed to travel either forward or backward, with an independent engine and gearbox at either end of the vehicle. There are sidings every 10 km to allow traffic to pass, and Imvelo's drivers are experienced railway engineers, each with careers spanning over 30 years on the line. They are in constant communication with other trains and traffic control and have 25 km of visibility in both directions on the perfectly straight line. Imvelo guides are also on board at all times to ensure guest comfort and to help them enjoy the wildlife, scenery and vegetation en route.

Great game viewing opportunities along the way
The rail car transfer option between Dete and Ngamo is $60 per person one way (minimum 2 pax) in 2017. Drop off and collection from Dete Railway Station will be either by transfer vehicles or game viewing vehicles, depending on guests' next or previous stop. At Ngamo Siding, game viewing vehicles will take guests on the 10 to 15 minute hop to either Bomani or Camelthorn Lodge.

Please note that the Elephant Express runs according to daily scheduling specified by the National Railways of Zimbabwe and as such may be subject to delays and cancellations, which are beyond Imvelo's control. Times are set daily and communicated to the incoming and outgoing road transfers. Hayley Diedricks is our central controller between the lodges and transfer companies to ensure smooth operations.  Please exercise great caution when using the Elephant Express to link with regional and international air travel; these guests unfortunately would need to arrive or depart by road transfer, with drop off or pick up at Halfway House.

Using the rail car has proven to be a much improved transfer experience for guests compared to the road transfer – therefore Imvelo recommends wherever possible that guests have a planned night in Victoria Falls on arrival off a flight or prior to a departure flight. This will allow for the Elephant Express to be used and ensure the best overall guest experience, avoiding long road transfers followed by international flights all in one day. Understandably this is not always possible, but Imvelo wanted to share what they have learned from guest feedback during 2016. Imvelo is looking forward to sharing many enjoyable rail car journeys with their valued guests this year.

Don't forget about Imvelo's Green Season Specials at Gorges and Bomani - the Elephant Express is a fun way to link these 2 lodges. This great value 'stay for 3, pay for 2' special is valid until February 28, 2017. Contact the Imvelo reservations team to make your booking!

This map illustrates the route the Elephant Express takes from
Dete Siding to Ngamo Siding return.

Watch Tad's webinar on the Elephant Express and how best to incorporate into your Zimbabwe itineraries!

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