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Southern Africa Rail Journeys

Southern Africa Rail Journeys 26 nights from £7173 per person including scheduled flights and sharing a double room.

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South Africa

This vast country is undoubtedly one of the most culturally and geographically diverse places on earth. Fondly known by locals as the ‘Rainbow Nation’, South Africa has 11 official languages and its multicultural inhabitants are influenced by a fascinating mix of African, Asian and European cultures. Spend your days: discovering the gourmet restaurants, impressive art and nightlife scenes and fine beaches of Cape Town; enjoying a typical local braai (barbecue) in the Soweto township; browsing the bustling Indian markets in Durban; or sampling some of the world’s finest wines at the myriad wine estates dotted around the picturesque Cape Winelands. Due to its rich and turbulent history there are plenty of historical attractions to explore including the Zululand battlefields of KwaZulu-Natal, the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg and Robben Island, just off the coast of Cape Town. Above all else, South Africa’s attraction lies in its remarkably untamed wilderness with its astonishing range of wildlife roaming freely across massive unfenced game reserves such as the world famous Kruger National Park. With all of this variety on offer, it is little wonder that South Africa has fast become Africa’s most popular tourist destination.

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Day 1: depart London Heathrow for your overnight flight to Johannesburg where, after clearing immigration formalities you will take the domestic flight to Port Elizabeth.

Knysna

Nestled between the imposing Outeniqua Mountains and the Indian Ocean and surrounded by world-renowned forests, Knysna offers a wealth of activities for visitors. The beautiful lagoon and more than eight beaches provide opportunities to swim, surf, canoe, yacht, jet-ski, boat, fish, walk on soft sand and take ferry rides. Various markets offer organic goods, delicious food, indigenous plants and a social atmosphere. Mountains, valleys, lakes, forests and streams are ready to be explored. The region isn’t known as the “Garden of Eden” for nothing! A birding route is available for avid bird watchers. World class golf courses are at your doorstep. And of course the area is famous for the Knysna Heads and delicious oysters.

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Day 2-6:                Bridgewater Manor, Knysna

Bed and breakfast is included.

On arrival into Port Elizabeth Airport collect your rental car and make your way along the Garden Route to Knysna.

The elegant Bridgewater Manor offers warm hospitality and breathtaking views of the Knysna lagoon and the Heads. Six tastefully decorated en suite rooms, each with a balcony, are spacious and well equipped. Five have lovely lagoon views, while the garden room is surrounded by trees and shrubs.

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Relax by the secluded saltwater pool or wander through the lush garden and possibly spot the elusive Knysna Loerie.
Browse through books on the Garden Route in the guest lounge or enjoy sweeping views and sun downers on the main patio. Stroll to town, the Waterfront, ferries and restaurants. The spectacular Pezula and Simola golf courses and two beautiful beaches are within a 15 minute drive of the manor. The forests and Plettenberg Bay are 30 minutes away, Nature’s Valley and Tsitsikamma an hour, and Oudtshoorn with the Cango Caves an hour and a half.

Recommended activities here include:

Knysna: Nestled between the imposing Outeniqua Mountains and the Indian Ocean and surrounded by world-renowned forests, Knysna offers a wealth of activities for visitors. The beautiful lagoon and more than eight beaches provide opportunities to swim, surf, canoe, yacht, jet-ski, boat, fish, walk on soft sand and take ferry rides. Various markets offer organic goods, delicious food, indigenous plants and a social atmosphere. Mountains, valleys, lakes, forests and streams are ready to be explored. The region isn’t known as the “Garden of Eden” for nothing! A birding route is available for avid bird watchers. World class golf courses are at your doorstep. And of course the area is famous for the Knysna Heads and delicious oysters.

Plettenberg Bay: The Portuguese explorers called it the Beautiful Bay, and it’s easy to see why – Plettenberg Bay is a picturesque, charming  town with miles of pristine beaches, tranquil lagoons, clean rivers, indigenous forests and a dramatic rocky peninsula. Playground to the wealthy, beach mansions overlook the Indian Ocean, often dotted with luxury yachts, while leisure time is given over to polo and golf, among other things. However, all kinds of visitors will feel at peace here as simply swimming in the warm water on a safe beach is a great way to experience the beauty of Plettenberg Bay.

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Featherbed Nature Reserve: Featherbed is a privately-owned, registered Nature Reserve and a South African Heritage Site, No.59. It is a pristine piece of paradise situated on the Western Head of Knysna and is accessible by ferry only. In order to protect the splendour of the natural beauty, access to the Reserve is controlled. Numbers are limited and visits are only permitted in the company of the Reserve’s specialist guides.

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This 4-hour excursion departs daily and reservations are essential. It is a wonderful outing for all ages and fitness levels. Good walking shoes are recommended and remember to bring your camera, hats, and sunblock in summer and a warm jacket for the ferry trip in winter.  The nature reserve offers Knysna adventure activities not to be missed. A perfect outdoor family holiday activity to be enjoyed by both young and old.

Tsitsikamma Mountains: Tsitsikamma is a Khoi word for “place of abundant or sparkling water” and this can be seen in the beautiful Tsitsikamma Mountains, where there are numerous, fast-flowing rivers that drain into the Indian Ocean. This creates the environment for plenty of adrenaline activities, with the world’s highest bungee jumping and a tree-top canopy slide topping the options.

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Wilderness: The seaside resort town of Wilderness is renowned for its vast stretches of beach and its tranquil beauty. Wilderness not only overlooks the beautiful Indian Ocean, but also the placid waters of a lagoon system. As you might expect from a town surrounded by nature reserves, rivers and lakes, Wilderness is a popular water sports, hiking and birding destination.

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Monkey Land: The world’s first free-roaming multi-species primate shelter, Monkeyland makes for a great family outing and plays an important role in raising awareness about the plight and rehabilitation of endangered primate species.

Birds of Eden: Under a two-hectare dome, the world’s largest aviary, Birds of Eden, is a safe and natural free-flight environment for African birds and a selection of smaller animals. An indigenous forest and a mysterious ruin with walk-behind waterfall provide these graceful creatures and their visitors with amusement.

Oudtshoorn

Oudtshoorn is famous for its ostriches and the magnificent Cango Caves. Located along the renowned Route 62, which takes motorists past one awe-inspiring sight after another, Oudtshoorn is known as the Ostrich Capital of the World: these huge birds are almost as common as people in this charming town. Other than ostriches and the wonderful feathers and meat they provide, the Oudtshoorn area also boasts the spectacular Cango Caves; the largest show cave system in Africa, permeated with sparkling stalactites and stalagmites and captivating rock formations.

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Day 6:    La Plume Guest House, Oudtshoorn

Bed and breakfast is included.

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This morning, drive inland towards Oudtshoorn.  The La Plume Guest House is a 1902 Victorian homestead on a working ostrich, alfalfa and cattle farm. Set in the tranquil Olifants River Valley, this charming guest house offers spectacular views of the Swartberg Mountains. This unexpected oasis is a place of rejuvenation and opulent indulgence. Like the vast open Karoo landscape, stretching from the veranda across the Olifant’s River valley to the foot of the Swartberg Mountains in the far distance, the suites and the luxury rooms at La Plume are spacious and a cool rampart against the hot Karoo sun.

Activities here include:

Cango Caves: The spectacular Cango Caves are a subterranean wonderland of magnificent stalactite and stalagmite rock formations that attracts thousands of visitors annually. They extend more than two kilometres into the Swartberg Mountains and visitors can take guided tours that wind through narrow passageways and steep stairways linking the massive caverns.

Franschhoek

Idyllically situated in the Cape Winelands, this peaceful country retreat is one of the oldest towns in South Africa. The once sleepy little village was named Franschhoek, meaning “French Corner” as it was founded by French Huguenots who fled Europe and were seeking a secluded hide-out. They found it in the fertile valley of Franschhoek and this heritage is showcased at the fascinating Huguenot Memorial Museum. The Cape Dutch architecture in much of the village remains remarkably well preserved as restrictions have been placed on the extent of renovations and new construction in order to preserve the spirit of the original settlers. The town’s proximity to Cape Town allows for pleasant day trips during which visitors can explore the area’s many world-class wine estates and impressive range of excellent restaurants or simply browse the quaint, upmarket boutiques strewn along the town’s lovely tree-lined avenues.

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Day 7-10:             Maison Chablis Guest House, Franschhoek

Bed and breakfast is included.

7 exquisitely furnished double rooms with TGCSA Superior 4 star grading. Garden suites feature private patios, individual access. Upstairs rooms have magnificent views.

Enjoy the sparkling swimming pool in the tranquil and secluded gardens. Secure parking available.

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Recommended activities here include:

The Franschhoek Wine Tram: The Franschhoek Wine Tram hop-on hop-off tour is one of the best ways to discover the true essence of the Franschhoek Valley – picturesque vineyards, breath-taking scenery, warm hospitality, world-class cuisine, fine wines and a 300 year history.

Passengers aboard the hop-on hop-off tour will experience a unique and leisurely way to see the Franschhoek Valley as they journey through rolling vineyards in an open-side tram and open-air tram-bus stopping in at some of South Africa’s oldest and most distinguished wine estates.

A combination of tram and tram-bus transports passengers around a loop of stops allowing them to hop-off at each stop and experience the activities on offer, be it wine tasting, a cellar tour, lunch or simply a stroll through the vineyards and when they are ready, hop-on to continue the tour.

The tour takes passengers right into the heart of the Franschhoek Valley, with a narration focusing on the history of Franschhoek and wine cultivation in the valley, complimentary wine tastings and unparalleled views of the valley and vineyards.

Stellenbosch: A blend of historical architecture, student life, epicurean delights and oak-lined avenues, Stellenbosch is a picturesque university town surrounded by mountains and vineyards. A walking tour of the town centre allows visitors to take in its beautifully preserved Cape Dutch and Victorian architecture, as well as the many enticing art galleries, craft shops, clothing boutiques and gift stores, while foodies may prefer indulging in mouth-watering cuisine and fine wines  at one of the chic restaurants or buzzing bistros. Stellenbosch is also the ideal base from which to explore the renowned local wine route, boasting a high proportion of the country’s leading wine estates.

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Cape Town

Resting at the confluence of the Indian and Atlantic Ocean, sandwiched between the slopes of the iconic Table Mountain and the glistening sapphire waters of Table Bay, the exceptionally scenic city of Cape Town is in a class of its own. Some cities boast rich culture, vibrant nightlife, a cosmopolitan atmosphere and extraordinary architecture, while others boast breathtaking landscapes and extraordinary natural wonders. Cape Town, is lucky enough to be blessed with all of these attractions and so much more. With its bustling harbour, world-class beaches, top-notch vineyards, and its mountainous surroundings brimming with diverse flora and fauna, Cape Town consistently captivates the hearts of all who visit.

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Day 10-13:           The PortsWood Hotel, Cape Town

Bed and breakfast is included.

The PortsWood is part of Cape Town’s colonial history. The restaurant and lobby are built over the original well and holding cells for prisoners en-route to Robben Island some 300 years ago. Today the PortsWood is famous for its uniquely personal approach to service – catering to the international travellers every need and anticipating their every desire. Rich in South Africa’s unique culture, the PortsWood is a must for any traveller.

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Recommended activities here include:

Table Mountain: Without a doubt it is Table Mountain that makes Cape Town the unique city it is. Rising up over 1000m above sea level, it is the icon that makes Cape Town instantly recognizable. It is a symbol, a playground, a spiritual retreat and a big draw card for tourists. So intertwined with the identity of Cape Town is Table Mountain that a visit to the city isn’t complete without having walked or taken the cable car to the top.

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Robben Island: An icon of struggle, freedom and hope made famous by Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment here.

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V&A Waterfront: Situated between Robben Island and Table Mountain in the heart of Cape Town’s working harbour, the V&A Waterfront has become South Africa’s most visited destination. Set against a backdrop of magnificent sea and mountain views, exciting shopping and entertainment venues are intermingled with imaginative office locations, world-class hotels and luxury apartments. The Waterfront is the heart of the tourist industry in Cape Town.

Camps Bay: Camps Bay is a wealthy coastal suburb located just ten minutes from the city bowl. Set on the slopes of Table Mountain, it overlooks a series of beautiful sandy bays and the Atlantic Ocean beyond.  Camps Bay is home to Cape Town’s most glamorous beach.

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Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens: On the lower slopes of Table Mountain, the beautiful Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens showcases some of the Cape’s rich flora. Taking centre stage here is the unique ‘fynbos’ vegetation. Those who work up an appetite while exploring this garden paradise can visit the restaurant or tea room, which are fully stocked with delicious meals, yummy treats and refreshing beverages. In summer, Sunday music concerts provide sunset entertainment. Kirstenbosch is rated as the seventh best of its kind in the world.

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Boulders Penguin Colony: The Boulders Visitor Centre is home to the famous colony of Jackass Penguins, so called for their hilarious braying call. This is a truly special experience and Table Mountain National Park staff are knowledgeable and offer guided tours. After you have fallen in love with the penguins head to the secluded Boulders Beach and take a swim in the comparatively warm waters of the False Bay.

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The Blue Train

The Blue Train has an aura of mystique about it. Kings and presidents have travelled on this magnificent moving five-star hotel.

Its very name has become synonymous with the ultimate in luxury travel and personal service. As the ever-changing scenery flashes past the windows, guests can savour exquisite meals freshly prepared on board by Executive Chefs and complemented by the best wines South Africa, if not the world, has to offer.

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The suites on The Blue Train live up to its reputation for magnificence and splendour; featuring the finest bed linen, marble tiles and gold fittings in the bathrooms – sheer opulence that will ensure that guests will have a memorable experience

The Blue Train offers far more than just a journey. It is an all-inclusive experience offering a combination of unsurpassed luxury travel, five star-accommodation, fine cuisine, personalised butler service and routes that offer breathtaking views of the countryside.

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So take a journey into a timeless world of grace, elegance and romance, where spectacular scenery stirs your imagination and luxurious comfort soothes your body and soul.

Day 14:                 The Blue Train

Your early morning transfer will have you to the station in plenty of time for check-in.

07:30
Register and check-in at The Blue Train Lounge, Cape Town Station. Guests enjoy pre-departure snacks and drinks.

08:30
Boarding starts.  Butlers usher guests to their suites. Suite orientation done by butlers.  The Blue Train departs from Cape Town Station

10:30 – 12:30
First sitting for Brunch

12:30 – 14:30
Second sitting for Brunch

14:35 – 15:15
The Blue Train arrives at Matjiesfontein for a 45 minute off-the-train excursion.  On arrival at Matjiesfontein guests are invited for a glass of sherry at the bar.  The sherry glass engraved with The Blue Train logo is a memento for guests to keep. The Victoria buildings and original nineteenth century London lampposts impart to the traveller, the uncanny sense of entering a colonial time warp – an oasis suspended in a different age.

15:20
The Blue Train departs for its northbound journey to Pretoria.

15:30
High tea is served in the Lounge Car.

17:00
After an exciting interlude guests are free to refresh themselves and enjoy pre-dinner drinks at any one of our lounges.

18:30
First sitting dinner.

20:30
Second sitting dinner

On day 11, breakfast is served in the train restaurant car on a first come first served basis, or alternatively in your suite on request.

Arrival into Pretoria station is approximately 1500 when stewards will usher guests to their transfers.

Pretoria

South Africa’s capital is home beautiful Jacaranda Trees, the Union Buildings, museums, embassies and the country’s most successful rugby franchise, The Blue Bulls.

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Day 15:                 Castello di Monte, Pretoria

Bed and breakfast is included.

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If luxury is in the detail, then a stay at Castello di Monte is filled with pure indulgence whether you are walking the dramatic stairways made of the finest granite or feasting on the elegant art that adorns our walls you will be pressed to find a more extravagant surroundings. Be it for a corporate meeting or a romantic getaway on our Juliet balcony, Castello di Monte offers the perfect setting. When it is time to retire, you will be spoiled for choice. Will it be our presidential suite complete with a grand fire place and a four post bed or our honeymoon suite decorated with hand painted murals or our freshly made classic rooms fit for royalty, a sumptuous night is ensured. Castello di Monte’s sixteenth century splendour is complimented by every modern amenity. From jacuzzis and jet showers right down to underfloor heating, air-conditioning and the creature comforts of tea, coffee and local papers, at Castello di Monte your every whim is catered for.

The Waterberg

The Waterberg District, located in the majestic Waterberg Mountains, is a tourism gem with several great nature reserves and a wealth of wildlife roaming its bushveld savannah. Its major attractions include hot springs, South Africa’s first-ever savannah biosphere reserve, the bird-rich Nyslvley Wetland and the archaeological site of Makapans Valley.

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Day 16-18:           Nedile Lodge, The Waterberg

Full board and activities are included.

On day 16, take a road transfer from Pretoria to Nedile Lodge where you will arrive in time for your afternoon game drive.

The Malaria-free Welgevonden Game Reserve, situated in the breathtaking Waterberg Biosphere is home to Nedile Lodge, where guests are met by luxury, warm hospitality and terrific activities to enjoy.

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Nedile Lodge offers guests a truly African holiday experience, far from the stress and turmoil of daily life. This true bushveld environment is home to some of Africa’s most sought after game species, including one of the largest collections of white rhino on private land. Other species housed within this reserve include elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo, giraffe, zebra, eland and many other varieties of antelope. There may even be the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the aardvark, brown hyena or rarely seen honey badger.

Day 19:                 Sheraton Hotel, Pretoria

Bed and breakfast is included.

After breakfast take your road transfer back to Pretoria.

Sheraton Pretoria Hotel offers 175 luxurious rooms and suites, all designed to guarantee maximum comfort and hospitality from the moment you arrive. The hotel includes a cutting edge business centre, a Health Club, with a gym as well as sauna’s, heated swimming pool and massage rooms. The Magnolia Restaurant is open for all day dining for sumptuous buffets at breakfast, lunch and dinner. As a light meal alternative the ever-lively Tiffins Bar & Lounge caters for all tastes.

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Rovos Rail

Rovos Rail has earned an international reputation for its truly world class travel experiences.

Exceptional train safaris combine some of Africa’s most magnificent scenery with travel aboard an authentically refurbished Edwardian-style train, accommodating up to 72 guests in the most spacious train suites in the world, each with their own en-suite bathroom and subtle modern conveniences.

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The nine scheduled journeys begin or end at Rovos Rail Station, the headquarters and private station of this independent railway company, which is situated in Pretoria.

Day 20-22:                           Rovos Rail

Fully inclusive.

The train departs Rovos Rail Station in Pretoria at 0930. Lunch is served in the dining car/s as the train travels the goldfields of Johannesburg. Enjoy afternoon tea and dinner en route to Mafikeng for border formalities with Botswana and overnight.
(Breakfast 07h00-10h00 • Lunch 13h00 • Tea 16h30 • Dinner 19h30)

On day 21, enjoy a day at leisure. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served as the train travels northwards through Botswana’s capital city, Gaborone, and on to Plumtree for Zimbabwean border formalities. Overnight stop on board at Mpopoma.

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On day 22, breakfast is served as the train departs Mpopoma. Enjoy lunch while travelling along the eastern edge of Hwange Park along one of Africa’s longest stretches of straight railway line – 114 kilometres. Arrive at Kennedy Siding for a 15h00 game drive at The Hide. Dinner is served in the dining car/s en route to Thompsons Junction for the overnight stop.

On day 23, breakfast is served whilst travelling towards the Zambezi River.  The train arrives into Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe at 1000.

Zimbabwe

A nation of spectacular natural beauty, friendly people and rich culture, Zimbabwe’s status as one of Africa’s leading safari destinations was dampened for years by its political instability. But now that the country is transcending its strife and returning to a state of equilibrium, it is once again emerging as a vacation highlight of the continent. Victoria Falls – known to locals as ‘The Smoke That Thunders’ – is one of the seven natural wonders of the world and the sheer power of this massive body of water plunging into the Zambezi Gorge is awe-inspiring and unforgettable. Lake Kariba, with its game-rich shores and islands, is an idyllic safari spot featuring mind-blowing sunsets; Hwange National Park is known for its huge herds of elephants; and a kayak trip down the Zambezi through the Mana Pools National Park will appeal to the intrepid traveller, providing close encounters with crocodiles, hippos and a host of other wildlife.

Victoria Falls sunset, View from Zambia

 

Victoria Falls

Resting on the southern banks of the Zambezi river at the western end of the eponymous falls, this popular tourist town is compact enough to walk around and makes an ideal base for travellers exploring the seventh wonder of the world, the unfathomably vast Victoria Falls. About two thirds of the falls can be viewed from the Zimbabwean side and, while the falls are undoubtedly the star attraction, the area provides both adventure seekers and sightseers with plenty of opportunities to warrant a longer stay. Popular activities include scenic flights over the falls in helicopters or micro lights, bungee jumping off the Victoria Falls Bridge, white-water rafting (seasonal), and day trips to Chobe National Park. The town itself offers some excellent accommodation and restaurant options as well as an eclectic variety of African curios and authentic art sold by friendly Zimbabwean locals who are wonderfully welcoming and eager to help you enjoy your stay.

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Day 23-25:                           Ilala Lodge, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Bed and breakfast is included

The warmest of welcomes awaits you at Ilala Lodge Hotel. A gracefully distinguished ambiance. Attentive yet discrete service that always comes with a smile. The sublime surroundings of our boutique hotel will reawaken your senses while the power of the majestic Victoria Falls renews your spirit.

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Relax in luxurious style. Listen to the meditative rhythm of the great Zambezi as you drift off to sleep. As morning comes, gently awake and lift your head to see the spray of the majestic Victoria Falls across the unspoiled horizon – and let your soul sigh.

Recommended activities here include:

Victoria Falls National Park: The Victoria Falls National Park is located on the Zimbabwean side of the border and boasts beautiful hiking trails, a wealth of wildlife and spectacular views of ‘The Smoke That Thunders’, as local people call the falls. Permeated by the fine mist that rises from the falls as they plummet 100 metres into the gorge below, the reserve encompasses 23 square kilometres of verdant rainforest, where delicate ferns, tangled monkey vines, tropical palms and mahogany trees thrive in the moist environment. Resident game species include white rhinos, elephants, buffalos and antelope, as well as hippos and crocodiles that lurk in the rivers and pools.

Microlight over Vic Falls: The microlight flights offer unique, uninhabited and breathtaking views of the Falls and the spectacular gorge that the Zambezi has carved into the surrounding landscape over many thousands of years. The 12 to 15 minute short microlight flight takes off over the Zambezi River and on towards The Victoria Falls circle over the Falls and the islands then returns to Maramba Aerodrome.

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The 25 to 30 minute long microlight flight takes off over the Zambezi River and on towards The Victoria Falls, circles over the Falls and the islands. It flies upstream along the Zambezi River to Kalai Island, low level over the Mosi-oa-Tunya Zoological Park for unique game viewing and then returns to Maramba Aerodrome.

Sunset Cruise: The sunset cruise on the Zambezi River is a definite must on any trip to Victoria Falls. Relax with a sundowner and snacks as you gaze out onto the banks of the river. Have your camera ready to capture one of the most amazing sunsets in Africa.

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You’ll be sure to spot wildlife animals as they come down to the river for a drink after a hot day in the Zambezi National Park (Zimbabwe) and the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park (Zambia). Sightings of elephant, giraffe and other resident game are common. There’s always an abundance of hippos and crocodiles. Birdlife is superb and the Fisheagles will usually fill the scene with their calls.

Day 26: Departure

You will be transferred to Victoria Falls airport for the afternoon flight to Johannesburg where you will connect on to your overnight flight back to London Heathrow.

Day 27: Arrive back into London Heathrow

Contact our expert staff for more information about Southern Africa Rail Journeys, Blue Train South Africa, Rovos Rail holidays, Victoria Falls holidays or holidays to South Africa on 01444 225640 or e-mail us at info@visionsofafrica.co.uk