The Blue Train

This item appears on page 17 of the May 2009 issue.
A pet cheetah at a native animal sanctuary near Cape Town. Photos: Hoium

The Blue Train is to Africa as the Oriental Express is to Europe. In February ’08 we boarded the train about 8 a.m. in Cape Town, South Africa, for the 27-hour ride to Johannesburg.

The cost for the 1,000-mile trip is not for the faint of heart. In 2008 it ran about $1,500 per person, depending on the accommodations. We had a suite that actually featured a bathtub, which I would not recommend. A shower is more than adequate on a train. Included in the cost were all meals, cocktails and hors d’oeuvres in the club car.

The train has a capacity of 58 to 74 guests, depending on the conformation of the sleeping cars. On our trip, arranged through Big Five Tours & Expeditions (Stuart, FL; 800/244-3483,, there were 50 passengers and 28 support people.

Nancy and Vern Hoium enjoying dinner in the dining car of the Blue Train.

Our trip actually took five more than the scheduled 27 hours because of some problems with signaling. The accommodations were so wonderful that the extra time was not a hardship. About two hours into the journey we made a stop at a nature preserve that included an animal sanctuary, where we had the opportunity to see cheetahs.

The Blue Train travels about 90 miles per hour. It is unique because it combines the luxury of the world’s leading hotels with the charm of train travel. The entire trip gave us a chance to see the landscape of South Africa. All in all, it was a once-in-a-lifetime journey.


Minneapolis, MN