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Jewel of the Desert: Pretoria to Windhoek

14-Day Journey from Pretoria to Windhoek

Jewel of the Desert: Pretoria to WindhoekA Southern African railroad adventure taking you through some of the world's
most stunning landscapes. The immense canyons, endless deserts and amazing
wildlife of Africa await!

What Makes Your Journey Unique

  • Exploring Pretoria, South Africa’s historic capital with its grand, monumental buildings, and purple-flowered jacaranda trees.
  • Standing on the rim of the Fish River Canyon—the second largest canyon in the world.
  • The otherworldly red dunes of Namib Naukluft National Park.
  • Scaling the world’s highest sand dunes at Sossusvlei in the Namib Desert. Take in bold and bizarre landscapes unlike anywhere else on Earth.
  • Seeing elephants, giraffes and maybe even black rhinos up close while on safari in Etosha National Park.

Dates

    Info & Booking

    Jakob Rastetter
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    Day 1. Welcome to Southern Africa

    You arrive in Johannesburg, where you take the airport shuttle to your lodge near Pretoria. Later, you enjoy a welcome dinner, where you meet your guide and fellow travelers. Welcome to South Africa—one of the most mesmerizing places on Earth!

    Overnight: Misty Hills Lodge (or similar) (D)

    Day 2. Pretoria and the African Explorer

    After breakfast you take a guided city tour through Pretoria, the capital of South Africa. In the glorious gardens of the Union Buildings, you admire the magnificent architecture of South Africa’s parliament. Among the many monuments on the grounds, you admire a huge statue of a smiling Nelson Mandela and feel a real sense of the country’s history. Later, you visit the home of Paul Kruger, another of the nation’s founding figures. In the early afternoon, you board your private train, the African Explorer, which sweeps you across the wide Vaal River and on to the Highveld, South Africa’s highland plateau, where you marvel at gorgeous views of the wide open wilderness. Later, you enjoy dinner on board and a nightcap in the bar car.

    Overnight: On board (BLD)

    Day 3. Diamond City of Kimberley

    After breakfast, you go on a special excursion to the Big Hole, aka the Kimberley Mine, where you gaze down past sheer rock walls into its blue watery depths. Here, 200 years ago, you would have been looking at a hill. But when diamonds were discovered, 50,000 miners set to work, hand carving this chasm from the countryside. Their picks and shovels unearthed approximately 6,000 pounds of diamonds, helping to create the De Beers diamond fortune, and making the Big Hole the largest hand-dug excavation in the world. At the restored wooden buildings of Kimberley’s old town, you feel both the optimism and the anarchy of the diamond rush. Later that evening, you return to your private train, excitedly anticipating the next stop on your Southern African journey.

    Overnight: On board (BLD)

    Day 4. Augrabies Falls National Park

    Today, you visit the town of Upington and the Augrabies Falls National Park. You stand at its world-famous waterfalls, your senses coming alive in the face of their thunderous roar and refreshing spray—a truly invigorating wonder to behold! In the early evening, your board your private train once again, continuing your African adventure.

    Overnight: On board (BLD)

    Day 5. Fish River Canyon

    After breakfast, you head out on an excursion to Fish River Canyon—the largest canyon in Africa and second largest in the world. You gaze across its vast space and feel very small in comparison to its immense beauty. The color and texture of the landscapes here—sweeping grounds of deep, ancient ochre and a huge, aquamarine sky—are almost too powerful to comprehend. Animals roam in the distance, like mirages shimmering in the Sun’s reflection. Later, you return to the cool of your train and enjoy a tasting of biltong, the local traditional beef jerky.

    Overnight: On board (BLD)

    Day 6. Kolmanskop: Ghost Town in Namibia

    Today, you learn more about Southern Africa’s diamond history. Diamonds were discovered in Kolmanskop in 1908, attracting hordes of both money and miners. Nowadays, it’s a ghost town with abandoned buildings filled knee-deep with sand for you to explore. Later, you take a quick bus ride through Namibia’s heavily restricted diamond zone to the historic harbor town of Lüderitz and the famous Diaz Point, both nestled along the dramatic Atlantic coast.

    Overnight: On board (BD)

    Day 7. Namib Naukluft National Park

    In the morning, you arrive in Mariental, from where a bus ride (approx. 4 h) brings you to your lodge. Via the Zarieshoogte pass, untarred roads lead you to the plain of the Namib Naukluft National Park. Your lodge is a lonely oasis in the midst of the wilderness—a perfect place for star-gazing.
    On request: a panoramic flight over this breath-taking landscape.
    Overnight: Namib Desert Lodge (or similar). (BD)

    Day 8. The Tallest Sand Dunes in the World

    Stand atop mighty orange-red giants—the biggest sand dunes in the world. Sculptural, ochre sand waves, waxing and waning, the drama of rippling black shadow, and a vast, perfect sky under a searing-hot sun. Take in the alien beauty of the Namib Desert. It feels like outer space. These are the images you may have seen in photographs, but nothing can prepare you for the sight in real life. Climb a dune and join a tour with open-top vehicles as the sun begins to set. You’ll never forget the natural beauty you witness today.
    Overnight: Namib Desert Lodge (or similar). (BD

    Day 9. Walvis Bay and Swakopmund

    In a cool, air-conditioned bus, you ride along the coast to Walvis Bay. Between bright sands and the wide ocean, you look out for flocks of pelicans and flamingos. After a drive of approximately five hours you’ll be in the breath-taking Namib Naukluft National Park, passing towering red dunes under a dazzling blue sky. Your Namibian train tour stops in the coastal city of Swakopmund, a surreal strip of German architecture between the desert and the sea.
    Overnight on board. (BD)

    Day 10. Spitzkoppe

    Marvel at the craggy, barren dome of the Spitzkoppe—the tawny granite peak known as Namibia’s Matterhorn. Hunter-gatherer artwork on the rocks here betrays the fascination this famous landmark has long held for humankind. Then prepare for beaming smiles and friendly laughter, as you visit a school* for local Damara children.
    Overnight on board. (BLD)
    *During term time only.

    Day 11. Etosha National Park

    The seemingly endless, shimmering white plain you’re standing on is the largest salt flat in Africa. With the mineral crust crunching underfoot and the horizon going on forever, it’s easy to understand why this was named the Great White Place. Watch elephants, giraffes and countless other wild animals congregate near the park’s watering holes. If you’re lucky, you might even see a rare black rhino before sunset.

    Overnight: Mokuti Lodge (or similar) (BD)

    Day 12. On Safari

    Jump into a jeep and go on safari in the golden light of the morning. Seek out creatures of feathered, furry and fanged varieties right where they live. Then continue your Namibian train journey to Windhoek, stopping in the evening to experience braai—a traditional African barbecue—right by your tracks, beneath a fabulous starry sky.
    Overnight on board. (BD)

    Day 13. Windhoek

    Your private train rolls through private game farms, where giraffe, antelope and ostrich are just outside the window. You arrive in Windhoek, the capital city of the desert state of Namibia. At Christ Church, a monument of German gothic design hewn from African sandstone, you feel echoes of a colonial past. With the Namibian parliament, you see a building central to this nation and its future. You visit the township of Katutura, and an authentic, local market, before transferring to your hotel. You’ll enjoy a farewell dinner in an elegant restaurant with your fellow travelers, now firm friends.
    Overnight: AVANI Windhoek Hotel & Casino (or similar). (BLD)

    Day 14. So Long, Africa

    Between mighty sand dunes and the rolling ocean, over plateaus, across deserts, and through endless starry nights, you have crossed a continent by train. As you transfer to the airport, you reflect on the memories of an extraordinary trip.
    (B)

    (B) = Breakfast, (L) = Lunch, (D) = Dinner

    Embark on an unparalleled adventure taking you almost 2,300 miles across South Africa and Namibia. The African Explorer train transports you from South Africa’s capital city Pretoria to the otherworldly natural wonders of the Namib Desert. Travel in comfort and ease in your private train, as elephants and giraffes graze outside your window.

    Highlights of Your Journey

    • 2,240 miles (3,600 kilometers) of railroad in style, aboard the private African Explorer train.
    • Diamond City Kimberley.
    • Lüderitz—the first German colonial settlement located in what was once South West Africa.
    • The Kolmanskop ghost town.
    • Pristine examples of German colonial architecture in Swakopmund.
    • Windhoek’s blend of modern Africa and German heritage.
    • Tasting fine South African wines.

    Rates Include

    • Eight nights aboard the private African Explorer train, as per category booked.
    • One night at a charming lodge in Pretoria.
    • Two nights at a stylish lodge in the Namib Desert.
    • One night at a generously appointed safari lodge near the entrance to Etosha National Park.
    • One night at a Windhoek city hotel.
    • A multilingual tour director guiding you from Pretoria to Windhoek.
    • An English-speaking tour guide for up to 23 guests from Pretoria to Windhoek.
    • An on-board doctor.
    • All meals as per the itinerary (B = breakfast, L = lunch, D = dinner).
    • All excursions and sightseeing including admission fees.
    • Excursions and transfers in air-conditioned buses.
    • Porter service from/to Johannesburg and Windoek airports.
    • A fascinating series of lectures on sights, history, daily life and culture.
    • Extensive information materials about your journey.

    Not Included

    • Flights, visa fees, tips and gratuities.

    Entry Requirements

    • Passport required.
    • You may require a visa depending on your nationality. Please check with your local embassy.
    • Depending on your country of origin, you may require immunizations. A hepatitis vaccination is recommended. The Etosha National Park is the only destination on this trip that presents a malaria risk. Please consult your doctor.

    Elephant

    The Elephant compartments offer private shower and toilet, individually adjustable air-conditioning, 220/230 V sockets, a small safe, towels, a compact wardrobe with coathangers, small bedside cabinets, hair dryer, toiletries and one small bottle of water per person per day on the train. The windows (equipped with blind and sunshades) can be opened as needed.

    Leopard

    In addition to the features of the Elephant category the Leopard compartments offer a small sitting area and are located closer to the restaurant cars.

    Restaurant

    Total price $
    Single use supplement for Leopard category available upon request