With the aim of restoring this area of the Eastern Cape to its former glory, Shamwari Private Game Reserve was born of a need to conserve the land and its abundant wildlife, birdlife and ecological diversity.
Shamwari Private Game Reserve is the embodiment of how a bold, ambitious conservation project has turned back the clock, restoring a piece of Africa’s natural heritage to what it once was.
The malaria-free Eastern Cape was once one of the richest wildlife areas in southern Africa, but by the turn of the century little remained.
Today the 250km2 reserve is lauded as a conservation success story and is a declared Protected Environment but when the project began the outcome was far from assured. Reversing nearly 300 years of human impact, took a great deal of patience, expertise, ingenuity, and investment.
Each step required careful planning to ensure there was sufficient space, food, and water for the animals to thrive as well as manage the balance between predator and prey species.
Shamwari Back Then
In 1992 elephant, white rhino and hippo were re-introduced. As the large herbivores began moving through what had been cultivated fields these ‘engineers of the bush’ began resorting the soil, fertilising it with their manure and dispersing seeds.
Black rhino and buffalo followed in 1993/4, with cheetah, lion and brown hyena being brought back in 2000 and serval and leopard the next year. That’s when Shamwari became the first big-five game reserve in the Eastern Cape, something that eight years earlier many had thought impossible.
The conservation project had an added benefit, establishing the Eastern Cape as an international safari destination. The resulting the visitor revenue ensuring the entire Shamwari venture was sustainable.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing. Nothing of this scale had ever been attempted in the region and lessons were learnt and knowledge gathered as the project progressed.
When oxpeckers from the Kruger National Park were introduced, the little birds landed on Shamwari’s rhinos. Unused to the sensation of birds pecking for ticks, the rhinos stampeded, and the birds flew off. It looked like the experiment had failed, until a while later junior oxpeckers were spotted. The rhinos had adapted, the birds had stayed and were breeding.
It is this sort of trial and error, perseverance, the willingness to learn and exchange knowledge and share experience that has contributed to Shamwari’s success as well as that of the safari sector in the Eastern Cape and beyond.
Today Shamwari is still looking for ways to grow the conservation programme and enhance the ecological importance of the reserve.
It recently acquired an additional 1 338 hectares of land to the north and south of the current reserve. This will benefit existing species and also allow it to reintroduce other once-indigenous species including spotted hyena and later, African wild dog.
“Hospitality, the guest experience and the conservation of indigenous fauna and flora are interdependent. Without our guests the conservation work could not happen.” Joe Cloete, Shamwari CEO.
Shamwari offers guests a choice of seven luxury lodges each with its own distinct character and appeal, from intimate seclusion to family friendly. For more adventurous guests there is also a tented Explorer Camp, set around a koppie, deep in the bush.
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The Eastern Cape boasts mild year-round weather and rich plant and wildlife
The gem of safari holidays in Africa, the Eastern Cape, is malaria-free, and offers unspoilt beauty in favourable weather conditions.READ MORE