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Garratts To Victoria Falls

railfan tour

May 8-19, 2016

sure go


White Pass & Yukon Spectular


Last years steam tour to Zimbabwe was a great success. Both the Class 14A and Class 15A Garratt locomotives that we used performed well. The National Railways of Zimbabwe are keen to work with us again in 2016.We have had lengthy discussions that have now culminated in an agreement to run this tour We used the NRZ premier class sleeper coaches in 2015, and relaxed in a more than adequate twin dining car / lounge. Using this train rather than hotels improved the tour for participants, both financially and by putting them in the middle of the action. The 2016 tour will use the same coaches, with a few improvements.


Nothing can be guaranteed, but the prospect of a great tour in 2016 is good. The tour will start with charters in Harare, followed by two days on the Mbalabala branch line and a daytime run from Bulawayo to Dete. All of the traditional Thomson Junction to Victoria Falls charters are included. This must be one of the best mainline steam tours for 2016. Garratts thundering through the African bush, excellent run past locations, on-train accommodation, magnificent scenery (including Victoria Falls) and great wildlife.


This program has been approved by the National Railways of Zimbabwe, but there may be changes as final planning takes place. We will be using locomotives and rolling stock that are maintained within the revenue fleet, not in preservation. This is a great benefit as we look for authenticity, but such equipment can break down.


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Day 1 Sunday, May 8: (D)


Arrive in Harare today. You will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel. It is expected that the National Railways of Zimbabwe will run a steam special out of Harare today to celebrate Mother's Day. Details of this train have not yet been released, but if previous trips are repeated it will go to the Ruwa Country Club on the Mutare line. It may be possible for you to ride on this train, or chase it for photographs. The train should be operated by the Class 16A 2-8-2+2-8-2 Garratt.


Day 2 Monday, May 9: (B-D)


This morning, we will run a steam charter using the Class 16A Garratt, goods wagons and one coach, running from Harare station through the East End yard to Ruwa and back. The Mutare line leaves town towards the east, giving good lighting for run pasts in the morning. The locomotive will run stack first on the outward trip. After a break for lunch, the locomotive will be turned and we will run a second charter to Lochinvar, to the west of the city. Our train will travel as far as the diesel depot before returning to Harare. Afternoon light is good on this line and a number of run pasts will be organized. On arrival back in Harare, board the NRZ premier coaches. During the night we will leave Harare for Gweru.


Day 3 Tuesday May 10: (B-L-D)


There will be time this morning to visit the National Military Museum in Gweru and the Dabuka Marshalling yard before continuing to Heany Junction. The Zimbabwe Military Museum is the only museum of its nature in Zimbabwe. The Museum focuses on the research and endeavours in the military field, liaising with the army, air force and police. The Museum opened its doors in 1974 and major exhibits include a number of British built military and civilian aircraft. The Dabuka marshalling yard is the largest in Zimbabwe, the Nation's only hump yard. This is also home to the fleet of electric locomotives, now out of use. Heany Junction is where the Beitbridge – Bulawayo Railway – previously the West Nicholson Branch Line, meets the main line from Harare to Bulawayo. From there the railway through to the city is double track. We plan to meet up with a train from Bulawayo here that will bring the Class 14A 2-6-2+2-6-2 Garratt that we will use for two days of steam charters between Mbalabala and Heany Junction.


Day 4 Wednesday May 11: (B-L-D)


We plan to spend most of today travelling between Mbalabala and Heany Junction. We will use the Class 14A Garratt and our rake of passenger coaches, the same combination we successfully used in 2015. Travelling with us will be a diesel electric locomotive and support vehicles. The diesel will provide traction between run past locations, but will be moved clear for photographs.


Day 5 Thursday, May 12: (B-L-D)


The Mbalabala to Heany Junction line proved popular in 2015, we believe that it justifies two days in 2016 to increase your photo opportunities. Expect to see the Class 14A Garratt on both days, if possible with different trains – a passenger train and a mixed (goods and passenger). This afternoon, continue to Bulawayo. Spend the night on the train standing in Bulawayo Station. Dinner will be a barbecue in the railway museum, a short walk from the station. All exhibits will be open for viewing and lights will be available for night photography.


Day 6 Friday, May 13: (B-L-D)


Before sunrise, walk to the nearby steam depot to see our Garratt being prepared. Sunrise is a particularly interesting time photographically here, good glint shots are possible. Return to the station for our departure to Dete with a Class 15A 4-6-4+4-6-4 Garratt. These were the greyhounds of the steam fleet that dominated traffic on the North Line to Victoria Falls in steam days. There will be run pasts throughout the day on a line that has not seen such activity for a few years. This afternoon you will see wildlife from the train as we steam though the Hwange Game Reserve, along the Dete Straight to our stabling point for the night.


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Day 7 Saturday, May 14: (B-L-D)


Leave Dete this morning for TJ with the Class 15A Garratt. The line to Thomson Junction features interesting granite hills and a crossing of the Lukosi River. On arrival in Thomson Junction, we will stable the coaches in the main yard and the locomotive will either stand at a column nearby, or be moved to the colliery a few kilometers away where NRZ used the colliery shed facilities for servicing and re-coaling.


Day 8 Sunday, May 15: (B-L-D)


This morning we will include the usual steam charter with the Class 15A Garratt from Thomson Junction, through Zimbabwe's only tunnel to New Hwange then back to TJ via the old main line. This relatively short journey includes some of the best photo locations in the country.


Day 9 Monday, May 16: (B-L-D)


The Hwange Colliery still uses steam traction on their industrial railway. They own three Class 15A Garratts, but recently all have been out of service and steam traction is hired from the National Railways of Zimbabwe. The situation for 2016 is unknown, but our plan this morning is to visit the colliery either to photograph their Garratt in action, or to request that our Class 15A Garratt be used for some re-enactments around the washing plant. This afternoon we will make the journey that had to be cancelled in 2015, from Thomson Junction to Zangja and back. This is timed to be at the Zanguja Horseshoe curves in time for good afternoon light, the journey back to Thomson Junction will be after dark with the Garratt running backwards. If possible, this will be a goods train using whatever wagons are standing in Thomson Junction. Our accommodation coach can be attached to the diesel support section of the train.


Day 10 Tuesday, May 17: (B-L)


Leave Thomson Junction this morning, heading for Victoria Falls. Our Class 15A Garratt will offer up even more classic Garratt images as we stop at many great photo locations featuring hills, rivers and much more. On arrival at Victoria Falls this afternoon, cross the road to your hotel for the next two nights.


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Day 11 Wednesday, May 18: (B)


An unforgettable day to end your Garratt extravaganza, three Garratt charters to the Victoria Falls Bridge. The first train will make run pasts over the Bridge at sunrise, the scene best viewed from the gardens of the five star Victoria Falls Hotel. Return to your hotel for breakfast before travelling by road across the Bridge into Zambia, where you will take up position in the Victoria Falls National Park facing the Bridge (Transport, visa and park entry not included in tour price). Photograph the train as it makes run pasts over the Bridge mid-morning, hopefully with a rainbow arching over the train and bridge. There will be time to view the Victoria Falls from the Zambian side and if you wish, visit the railway museum in Livingstone before returning to Zimbabwe. After lunch, visit the Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwe side (extra cost). The afternoon is the best time to photograph the 'Falls from the Zimbabwe side when rainbows form in the spray. Make your way back to the station, a short walk away, for your afternoon steam charter. Mid-afternoon, board our train at Victoria Falls Station for our third steam charter to the Bridge. This time, ride the train that will stand on the Bridge as the sun sets. Celebrate a successful tour with the Railway team that made it possible. The dining car will produce snacks and there will be a free bar.


Day 12 Thursday, May 19: (B)


Your tour ends this morning with breakfast and an airport transfer.







Geoff Cooke will be your guide and he grew up in Zimbabwe and spent many years there working within the tourism industry. This tour offers you an opportunity totravel across the country with him, exploring well known and many lesser known sights. Meet local people in an authentic environment that has not been affected by mass tourism. Your tour will include three nights on a luxurious houseboat chartered especially for our group on the Chobe River on the Botswana / Namibia border. This unique wildlife environment will show you just how rich and diverse Africa really is. You will travel as a small group of not more than 8 guests, hosted personally by Geoff. This is no ordinary African safari, but a bespoke tour that is diverse, exciting and very different. Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe are safe destinations. The local people are warm and welcoming, particularly in Zimbabwe. Our journeys will be over good tar roads, hotels, camps and lodges will all be run to high standards, although locally owned and full of character. The weather should be warm by day but cool in the evenings. The rains should be over, but there is always the chance of a late shower as we will be in the green season where rivers are high and the grass is green.


Day 1. Tuesday April 26:


Arrive at Victoria Falls airport in Zimbabwe. Transfer to your hotel in Victoria Falls for an afternoon at leisure. Overnight: The Victoria Falls Safari Lodge. Dinner included.


Day 2. Wednesday April 27:


Spend today exploring the Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Geoff will be on hand to guide you around the Rain Forest and the Victoria Falls as well as to the markets and town. It is also possible to across the famous rail / road bridge to Zambia to see the other side of the 'Falls. Various activities that include elephant back rides and helicopter flights can be booked later when personal interests are known. Overnight: Victoria Falls Safari Lodge. Breakfast and dinner.


Day 3. Thursday April 28:


Transfer from Victoria Falls to Kasane, you will clear Namibian immigration and board a power boat for your scenic transfer to the Pangolin Voyager, our chartered houseboat that will be moored on the Chobe River. After lunch, enjoy a boat trip looking for animals and birds before returning to the houseboat for sundowners, dinner and a restful night in your en-suite cabin. The Chobe will be in flood, making it a vibrant and exciting wildlife viewing area. The Pangolin Voyager has five double en-suite cabins, determining the maximum size of our group as 8 guests and Geoff Cooke as the tour manager.Accommodation on the houseboat will be on an all-inclusive basis, including accommodation, meals, drinks and boat activities.


Day 4. Friday April 29:


On the Pangolin Voyager Houseboat. You will have use of small motor boats with guides to take you wildlife viewing or fishing.


Day 5. Saturday April 30:


Another day on the Pangolin Voyager houseboat. During your stay the houseboat will move sedately up the Chobe River and back down again, but most of the time it will be stationary and you will make use of the smaller tender boats. You may wish to take a trip downriver to the point where the Chobe meets its big brother, the mighty Zambezi River. The Zambezi is three times the size of the Chobe, at 2,640 km long, the forth longest river in Africa. Stop in the middle of the river where these two arteries meet and you will be in the spot where four countries come together. Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia share this point, Angola sneaks in a few kilometres further upstream.


Day 6. Sunday May 1:


This morning, transfer by air conditioned private vehicle to a mobile tented camp in a private concession adjacent to the Hwange Game Reserve in Zimbabwe. This exclusive camp, operated by Forever African Safaris, features Hemingway style tents with en-suite facilities, hot showers and comfortable beds. A central area offers lounge and dining facilities. Later this afternoon, enjoy a game drive in a private conservancy that is home to the well-known Presidential Herd of elephant as well as a variety of other animals and birds. All of your Hwange game drives will be in open 4x4 safari vehicles, with refreshments included. Overnight at a tented camp in Hwange. Full board including game activities.


Day 7. Monday May 7:


Enjoy a full day game drive in Hwange. On the way, stop of at the African Painted Dog conservation project to find out about this much misunderstood animal. Hwange is Zimbabwe's largest national park and one of the best in Africa. Overnight at a tented camp in Hwange. Full board including game activities.


Day 8, Tuesday, May 3:


Enjoy another day in Hwange. Overnight at a tented camp in Hwange. Full board including game activities.


Day 9. Wednesday, May 4:


Motor to the city of Bulawayo this morning in our air conditioned mini-bus, with a trailer for luggage. On arrival there will be a city tour, including a walking tour of the town centre, the Natural History Museum and the Railway Museum. Lunch will be an included buffet at the railway museum. Geoff will be your host, he grew up in Bulawayo and will share his intimate knowledge of the area with you. This afternoon, travel to the nearby Matobo National Park, where you will enjoy a luxury tented camp for the next two nights. This permanent camp on the edge of the World Heritage site offers an opportunity to get close to one of Africa's most enigmatic locations. Your tent will once more be to the East African 'Hemingway' style, well-appointed with comfortable beds, en-suite hot showers and running water. Overnight: Matobo Park. Full board with activities in a luxury tented camp.


Day 10. Thursday, May 5:


Today we explore the Matobo Hills. Amazing balancing rock formations, historic San bushman cave paintings, interesting wildlife and much more make this a very special national park. Look for rhino on a walk and visit Malindidzimu Hill, also known as View of the World, where Cecil Rhodes is buried. You will be hosted by a local guide and Geoff. Overnight: Matobo Park. Full board with activities in a luxury tented camp.


Day 11. Friday, May 6:


This morning, drive to the Great Zimbabwe monument. Great Zimbabwe is the largest archaeological site in Africa south of the Sahara, a fascinating place linked to the kingdom of Monomotapa and King Solomon's Mines. After lunch, visit the monument with a local guide who will show you the museum, great enclosure, valley of ruins and the hill ruins where the Zimbabwe bird sculptures were found. Spend tonight at Norma Jeans, an owner run lodge with a lovely atmosphere and simple but well run en-suite accommodation. Overnight at Norma Jeans lodge near Great Zimbabwe. Breakfast and dinner.


Day 12. Saturday, May 7:


This morning, drive to the capital city of Harare. This afternoon, join Geoff for a tour of the city, visiting African Freedom Square, the famous Chipungu stone carvers and some local markets. Overnight at Armadale Lodge in Harare. Breakfast and dinner.


Day 13. Sunday, May 8:


Today is Mother's Day in Zimbabwe. The Railway is planning a special steam train trip for mums to be spoiled, and dads to have fun. You are invited to climb aboard as your Garratt articulated locomotive steams out of the city and, later in the day, returns. He steam train normally visits Harare just once every year, a great opportunity to ride behind one of the world's largest working steam locomotives, to meet the locals and have some fun. More information on this trip will be added as it is received from the Railway. Overnight Armadale Lodge in Harare. Breakfast, dinner.


Day 14. Monday, May 9:


Your journey across Zimbabwe ends this morning after breakfast. Either transfer to the airport for homeward flights, or to the station to join the Garratts to Victoria Falls tour.





Chobe Wildlife Safari Add-On


Day 12 Thursday, May 19: (B)


Transfer this morning from your hotel in Victoria Falls to Kasane in Botswana for a three night stay in a 4 * lodge. The journey is about 100 kilometers on good tar roads. Enjoy two wildlife photographic activities today. Both will be hosted by Pangolin Photographic Safaris, the leading photographic safari operator in the area. One activity will be in a specially equipped Unimog vehicle in the Chobe game reserve. Pangolin chose the Unimog as their photo platform for the simple reason that all their guests are able to photograph from either side of the vehicle at any particular sighting. The other activity will be on a boat on the Chobe River. The photo boat strikes the perfect balance between functionality, usability , space and comfort. Each of the eight seats rotate a full 360 degrees and are arranged down the centre of the boat, limiting any obstruction by the adjacent photographer. Each seat has a camera mounting and Pangolin will loan you a camera and long lens if you wish. The Chobe National Park, in northern Botswana, has one of the largest concentrations of game in Africa. Located along the Chobe River near it's confluence with the Zambezi, it is well known for it's large elephant population. A large number of mammal species inhabit the park including lion, hippopotamus, crocodile, giraffe and a number of different antelope. There are also over 450 species of bird.


Day 13 Friday, May 20: (B-D)


Your second day at Chobe with two photographic activities each lasting at least three hours, either by vehicle or boat.


Day 14 Saturday, May: (B-D)


Your third day at Chobe with two photographic activities, either by vehicle or boat.


Day 15 Sunday, May 22: (B)


After breakfast, transfer back to Victoria Falls Airport in time for the early afternoon flights to Johannesburg.






DOUBLE ROOM & TRAIN COMPARTMENT....................................................................................... $4,590  
SINGLE ROOM SUPPLEMENT............................................................................................................ $925  
AFRICA EXPLORED OPTION DOUBLE ROOM................................................................................. $5320  
CHOBE SAFARI ADD-ON DOUBLE ROOM........................................................................................ $1,295  
SINGLE ROOM SUPPLEMENT............................................................................................................. $495  
BULAWAYO TO VICTORIA FALLS MAY 10-19 PARTIAL TOUR......................................................... $3,845  
CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS DISCOUNT BOOK FULL TOUR BY JAN 15................................................ $400  
AFRICA EXPLORED HOLIDAY DISCOUNT BOOK BY JAN 15.......................................................... $200  








FINAL PAYMENT DUE BY february 8, 2016