Big 5 Safari

Wildlife on the tracks near Dete, imvelosafarilodges.com.

Do you know that there’s a particular railway somewhere in Africa where you wouldn’t mind if the train comes to a sudden stop… due to animals being on the railway tracks? The railway line from Victoria Falls to Bulawayo cross right through the Hwange National Park. This park is the largest natural reserve in Zimbabwe, known for it’s large population of elephants and the presence of the elusive African wild dog. The park is also being described as the least tourist-crowded Safari park in Southern Africa. A perfect place on earth to go on a Big 5 Safari journey; African lions, African elephants, Cape buffalos, African leopards, rhinoceros and many more majestic animals can be observed!

A daily train links Bulawayo with Victoria Falls, a tourist hotspot at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe known for it’s stunning waterfalls. These trains have intermediate stops at Hwange and Dete, both giving you an amazing starting point for starting your African Safari. This classic train is definitely worth the long journey! An one-way 1st class sleeper ticket would cost you around 10 euro’s, which is an absolute bargain. However… this train does have a slight disadvantage. Although it crosses through the Hwange National Park between Hwange, Dete and Gwaai it does that during the night… which makes it almost impossible to spot game. If you’re lucky enough the north-bound train (to Victoria Falls) will have one of it’s common delays, which will allow you to experience the park at sunrise. Luckily there is an alternative way to see the game per train, namely the ‘Elephant Express‘. This tourist-train operates between Dete siding and Ngamo siding (providing easy-access between Bomani and Camelthorn camps). Best of all: Dete station (not siding!) is a stop-over station of the trains between Victoria Falls and Bulawayo. To travel between the two locations simply rent a car, take a taxi, book an inclusive tour with an agency or go on an adventurous hike (~10 kilometres / 2 hours).

Besides the highly recommended ‘Elephant Express’ there are quite a few other options to kick-start your Hwange National Park Safari adventure in Dete. Quite a variety of operators offer packages around/in/near Dete and quite a few luxurious lodges/hotels can be booked as well. Visitors can explore the park by car between 6 AM and 6 PM. A must is to include the Victoria Falls in your itinerary, an absolute world wonder. Dete / Victoria Falls are great starting points where you can continue your travel by train all the way up north to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola and Tanzania. Going south? Botswana, Mozambique and South Africa are also within your reach. With an intermediate stop at Dete ofcourse!

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Kapiri Mposhi (Zambia) dep/arr 23:57 22:01
Kabwe dep 02:55 19:46
Lusaka dep 07:36 15:24
Mazabuka dep 11:55 10:15
Livingstone (Zambia) dep/arr 02:00 20:00
Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe) dep/arr 19:00 08:00
Hwange dep 23:03 03:47
Dete dep 01:10 02:00
Dete siding dep/arr 14:00 13:00
Ngamo siding dep/arr 16:00 11:00
Nyamandlovu dep 06:45 20:50
Bulawayo (Zimbabwe) dep/arr 09:00 17:15 08:05 19:30
Francistown dep/arr 21:00 06:11 14:25 12:30
Gaborone (Botswana) dep/arr 05:40 21:25

– The fare between Bulawayo and Dete in “1st class” (sleeper) is 10 euro.
– The fare between Bulawayo and Dete in “2nd class” (sleeper) is 5 euro.
– The fare between Bulawayo and Dete in “3th class” (seat) is 3 euro.
– The fare between Victoria Falls and Dete in “1st class” (sleeper) is 10 euro.
– The fare between Victoria Falls and Dete in “2nd class” (sleeper) is 5 euro.
– The fare between Victoria Falls and Dete in “3th class” (seat) is 3 euro.
– The fare between Bulawayo and Francistown in “2nd class” (seat) is 20 euro.
– The fare between Gaborone and Francistown in “1st class” (seat) is 10 euro.
– The fare between Gaborone and Francistown in “2nd class” (seat) is 10 euro.
– The fare between Gaborone and Francistown in “3th class” (seat) is 5 euro.
– The fare between Kapiri Mposhi and Livingstone in “1st class” (sleeper) is 30 euro.
– The fare between Kapiri Mposhi and Livingstone in “1st class” (seat) is 30 euro.
– The fare between Kapiri Mposhi and Livingstone in “2nd class” (seat) is 20 euro.
– The fare between Kapiri Mposhi and Livingstone in “3th class” (seat) is 15 euro.
– The fare between Dete siding and Ngamo siding in “2nd class” (seat) is 50 euro.

Entering Zimbabwe requires you to have a visa on forehand or buy one on arrival. A single-entry visa will cost around 30 euro’s. Furthermore you can also go for the KAZA visa, which allows you unlimited entry for 1 month in both Zambia and Zimbabwe for 40 euro’s. Thinking of a side-trip to Botswana? Passport holders from commonwealth countries, including the EU and US, are allowed to enter for free.

It is highly advised to read all details at lonelyplanet.

The African Elephants, travelozimbabwe.com


A gang of Buffalo’s in the Hwange National Park, zimbabwetourism.net


The elusive African wild dogs in Zimbabwe, naturalworldsafaris.com.


The Elephant Express Train near Dete (Zimbabwe), imvelosafarilodges.com.