Shongololo Express?


Feb 1st, 2006, 11:17 AM
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Shongololo Express?

Hi All,

Have never been to Africa before, but am now contemplating an organized tour. One possibility is Elder Treks. Another is the Shongololo Express. Does anyone know anything about it?

I am considering their Southern Cross Adventure from Victoria Falls to Johannesburg in late July.

It is very expensive. A once in a lifetime trip for sure. The trip includes daily off-train activities, a private, en-suite
cabin and 1/2 pension (no lunches).

The itinerary is: Victoria Falls, Chobe National Park, Livingstone, Maputo, Mlibizi / Zambezi River, Hwange Game Reserve, Bulawayo, Great Zimbabwe, Soutpansberg & Venda,
Panorama Route, Kruger National Park, Mpumalanga, Maputo (x2), Swaziland, Johannesburg.

Would very much appreciate any comments at all from the more experienced Africa travellers - good, bad or indifferent

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Feb 1st, 2006, 12:35 PM
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Posts: 1,097

In a nutshell the Shongololo Express is not what the writeups crank it up to be. I have seen and walked on the train while it was stationed in Muizenberg Cape Town and certainly did not like what I saw or experienced. Firstly the train is NOT airconditioned and believe me when you cross the Karroo and other parts of SA in a non airconditioned train you will be cursing all the way. The train is in a shabby state. The carriages are old and the cabins are small. I have been old that the food ranges from average to below average. I have also been told that the staff are not that friendly and I can tell you from inside info that the tourbuses at each stop are operated by a very frustrated and desperate part of the local tourguide community who work for slave wages. This results in the fact that the accompanying tours that you pay for, whether you like it or not, are not that hot. If you want me to I will send you names of visitors who travelled on the Shongololo whom I originally advised not to travel on the train who now wished that they listened to me in the first place. One of them actually labeled the train as the "ride from hell"

The majority of visitors who use the train are from the German and Dutch community. There seemingly is a love for this train within these groupings and why this is the case I dont know. I suspect that German and Dutch tour operators have struck a phenomenal deal with the Shongololo operators meaning that they offer rates that are close to nothing. What I do know is that two groups of visitors who have travelled with me who were English speaking told me that they felt rather out of things while on board the train.

Sorry to be so negative but you are hearing is exactly as I have seen or heard it from past visitors of mine.

Just my twopence worth.

Very proudly part of the wonderful nation of South Africa

Selwyn_Davidowitz is offline  
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Feb 1st, 2006, 12:59 PM
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Selwyn, thanks for those frank comments. I went to the website based on the original post, and based solely on the website, it looks like a very interesting way to see a wide swath of southern Africa. But it does sound to good to be true, especially since it hasn't been raised, to the best of my recollection, on any thread.

thit_cho is offline  
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Feb 1st, 2006, 01:08 PM
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I went to website also, and it did look interesting if you are into train travel. However, Selwyn is a very trusted source of information on this board, so based on his comments, it does not sound like a good idea at all. There are so many great things to see in Southern Africa, I'm sure you can come up with an alternative plan that would be much better.
brandywine is offline  
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Feb 1st, 2006, 02:24 PM
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If you're looking for group travel and have considered Elder Trek, you may want to check Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT). They are US based, believe in the Boston area.

They have itineraries to Southern Africa with stops in South Africa, Botswana and, I believe, Victoria Falls. The prices include international air and land (hotels, meals, tours and optional tours) and are very competitive. These are small group tours, maximum 16 people, though I believe their African trips have less participants. Age group is between 45 and up, mostly though between 55 to 75.

Check the following site:

If it doesn't work, a Google search will find it for you, or a search on this board should bring it up.

Let us know what you decide.
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Feb 2nd, 2006, 09:06 AM
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Selwyn - Thank you so much. Just the lack of AC is enough to put me off. I really do appreciate all that you have said. That option is out for sure.

Can you - or anyone - suggest a good local agency? Have been in touch with a few from the internet, but not yet found anything that looks really good.

To all the others - Thanks. Yes, the website looks so good it is a bit of a disapointment, but better to know now and not later!

Thanks Sandi for the OAT site. I will check it out, but I am not coming from the USA. I really would prefer a local agency with a good rep. Anything to suggest?

Much appreciated all.
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