A 100-year-old train, suspended over a river, has been transformed into a luxury hotel in South Africa. Tourists can now stay in a repurposed vehicle to enjoy the Kruger National Park.

Imagine being able to watch a baby hippo wander around his natural habitat from your bedroom. This is one of the many reasons wildlife-lovers have flocked to South Africa’s newly opened Kruger Shalati hotel: The Train on the Bridge.

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During lockdown, the hotel was an unexpected success. It is literally a century-old train sitting on the Selati suspension bridge, which looks over the crocodile-and-hippo-inhabited Sabie River.

It has been lovingly restored and offers 24 carriage rooms, a wildlife viewing deck, and even a swimming area that juts out beyond the tracks.

The train’s restoration is a tribute to the past. The last train that ran along the Selati railway line was in 1973. Before then, guests could stay on the bridge for a safari or overnight experience to see the animals.

“I thought that we were taking a huge risk. Justice Muchinya, cabin manager, says that she never imagined the hotel would be able to host guests and operate during this time. The hotel was a huge success.

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Muchinya says, “Ever since our opening, we had many guests who would extend or return to us and that’s not something that normally happens with lodges.”

Kruger Shalati is also a lifeline to locals who are in dire need of work amid record-breaking unemployment rates of almost 35%. The hotel employs almost 200 people since its inception.

Since the Omicron variant was introduced late last year, the business has seen a 20% drop in revenue. Many international tourists have cancelled. Visitors are now returning to the site, despite travel restrictions being lifted.