Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Stimela Star - rail travel in Zimbabwe

Imvelo Safari Lodges is excited to announce their new Victoria Falls to Hwange National Park overnight sleeper train service!

Stimela is the word used in Zimbabwe (and Zululand) for a train - it derives from the rhythm of the sound the old trains made. Imvelo's Stimela Star is a private overnight sleeper train that hooks up to the regular Victoria Falls to Bulawayo passenger train, transporting guests in comfort and lovely old-fashioned style overnight from Vic Falls to Hwange National Park. Riders enjoy refreshments and a 3-course dinner, followed by entertainment provided by Imvelo guides in the lounge car. Later, guests will be rocked to sleep in a way that is unique only to train travel. Signature midnight snacks are available for night owls. Morning brings a hot and cold breakfast and it's off on the next adventure into Hwange!

The Stimela Star will be linked on scheduled departure dates to the overnight passenger train which runs nightly between Victoria Falls and Bulawayo. Powered by a diesel electric locomotive, the train cars date back to the 1950’s during the heyday of national rail in Zimbabwe. The former Premier Class coaches and have been lovingly upgraded for today's travelers.

Two sleeper carriages each host 12 passengers in twin or single compartments with shared toilet and shower facilities at either end of each carriage, for a total of 10 twin and 4 single berths. Compartments are snug but roomy enough for two, with single beds measuring 92 x 188cm. Each compartment has electric lights and 3 round pin power sockets, and plenty of luggage room under the beds and in overhead racks.

Each sleeper coach has a flush loo and basin at each end (2 per coach and one shower). Water is obviously limited so guests who do use the shower are encouraged to be water conscious. A lock up safe box for valuables is available and is under the control of the manager.

Meals are served in the kitchen dining car and a bar lounge car completes the Star. Both of these cars have overhead fans and electric lighting. By special request Imvelo can even hitch up their teak-floored Dancing Coach for a special occasion! (Pricing on request)

The Stimela Star will take a maximum of 24 passengers. Each departure will have a Host Manager as well as a Specialist Trip Guide on board with supporting restaurant / bar service staff and 2 Railway guards.

The Stimela Star Operation

For 2018 Imvelo has 10 scheduled departures for The Stimela Star (see below). Guests should arrive at Victoria Falls station at 6 pm for embarkation. Upon arrival guests will be shown to the lounge car to enjoy welcome drinks during an orientation and safety talk, while luggage is being stowed in their cabins. Guests are then shown to their compartments to freshen up before departure which is scheduled for around 7ish, (it is an African train after all!). Then its pre-dinner drinks and canapes in the bar lounge and sit down dinner from about 8 pm.

After a delicious dinner, and post-meal drinks and entertainment in the lounge, guests retire to their cabins to revel in the luxury of being lulled and rocked to sleep on the Star, as they wind their way through the night to Hwange National Park. The train crosses the hills along the northern edge of Hwange making short stops at all the sidings along the way. The final stop is the historic little railway town of Dete, mid-way to Bulawayo, arriving in the dark early hours of the morning. The Stimela Star is shunted into a siding and the remainder of the train continues on to Bulawayo, while guests sleep on in comfort.

Breakfast is served from 7 am onwards, and at around 8 am guests can disembark for transfers to their respective lodges in Hwange. Imvelo guests booked for Camelthorn or Bomani will board the Elephant Express, Imvelo's signature open-air rail car, and carry on to Ngamo. Imvelo guests for Nehimba will board their open land rovers for their game drive to Nehimba.

Guests leaving for other lodges in Hwange must arrange their transfer vehicles to collect them at Dete station

2018 set departures

21st MAY - Monday
12th JUNE - Tuesday
25th JUNE - Monday
12th AUGUST - Sunday
19th AUGUST - Sunday
3rd SEPTEMBER - Monday
30th SEPTEMBER - Sunday
9th OCTOBER - Tuesday
22nd OCTOBER - Monday
5th NOVEMBER - Monday

Additional departures can be arranged for 12 or more guests on request. All guests are to arrive at the Victoria Falls station by 6pm latest for check in and boarding. Departure is at 7pm and there will be no refunds for non-arrivals. For booking information, rates, policies and more information, view The Stimela Star fact sheet.

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