What is a Safari Lodge All About ?
The Safari Lodge experience is a luxurious one where everything is taken care of whilst you spend your days on safari, relaxing poolside and indulging in delectable food and wine. Going on safari is no doubt one of the most amazing holidays you could choose.
At Shamwari Private Game Reserve, located in the malaria free Eastern Cape of South Africa, guests are treated like royalty. With several unique offerings and an Explorer Camp in the summer season, guests are spoilt for choice. A recent guest shared her Safari Lodge experience with us.
Arriving at our Safari Lodge, Shamwari
The trip from Port Elizabeth is somewhat effortless, a mere hour’s drive until we arrive at the prestigious Shamwari Private Game Reserve. Renowned for its efforts in conservation and conserving a vanishing way of life, it’s no surprise that its one of the best game reserves in South Africa.
As I arrive at the welcome lounge I am greeted with genuine warm smiles and friendly hospitality. After the due diligence I’m taken to a game viewing vehicle. We hop on and within a few minutes are making our way through the 25 000ha reserve to Sindile, Shamwari’s newest luxury tented camp. We pass the breathtakingly beautiful Long Lee Manor and the family friendly Riverdene. I’m amazed at the beauty of Shamwari. The astonishing number of animals we see on the drive to Sindile, the ranger friendlily explains each animal but assures me that I’ll see plenty more during my stay at Shamwari and we hurry off.
After Sarili, which is the perfect intimate setting and will become a private Safari Lodge from June this year, we drive for about ten more minutes before Sindile comes into sight. Shamwari’s newly built luxury tented camp… in a magnificent setting, it’s just stunning.
As I take the first steps into Sindile, I’m drawn to the magical view that is unveiled before my eyes. Green plains, abundant with wildlife. It instantly provides me with a feeling of utter tranquillity. A view of uninterrupted plains and a plethora of animals. The interiors are simplistic yet chic, creating a real safari feel.
Sindile, Shamwari’s new luxury tented camp is a secluded, luxury getaway set deep in the African veld. The camp mimics a solitary leopard’s sanctuary, blending with the surrounding bush while providing excellent vantages over the Bushman’s River and surrounding plains.
The nine luxury free-standing tents are elevated above the surrounding bush, allowing uninhibited views, unsullied by any other man-made structures or light pollution. The harmonious, intimate design minimises the environmental footprint.
Safari’s at Shamwari
Once checked in, I was shown to my luxury tent which was magnificent with the most spectacular view. Each tent hasprivate deck with heated plunge pool and lounging area under a pergola. With a spectacularly large king size bed, a lounge area for ultimate relaxation, it’s hard not to spend all day in the luxurious tents. Each en-suite bathroom with a large bathtub, indoor shower as well as an outdoor shower with stunning beautiful view.
After settling in, I enjoyed a delectable lunch on the deck overlooking the plains. A view I could easily get lost in whilst enjoying fine food and wine. If you visit Shamwari for three or four nights,you might even be treated to a picnic on the reserve.
After a delicious lunch, I met Ranger Janco who was my ranger for the duration of my stay. At Shamwari, they allocate a ranger to you who will take you on game drives and activities throughout your stay. The rangers are exceptionally knowledable and provide endless facts and insightful information on the fauna and flora in the area. For my afternoon safari I joined Janco and a family of four who were wonderful.
Going on a safari / game drive
As we headed out on safari, the first sight we came across was a troop of monkeys. They were playing high up in the acacia trees and some were grooming each other. Tiny babies were jumping around in the trees and chasing each other. After spending a fair amount of time watching them get up to their antics, we were on our way again with Ranger Janco traversing through the reserve. There was quite a bit of chatter on the radio and after making our way swiftly through the reserve we came to an area where another game viewer was parked.
And a few metres in front of this game viewer was a pride of lions, fast asleep! As we approached, a few lifted their heads to get a look at us and then lay back down again. Eight lion cubs with full bellies and two adult females sprawled out in one area. An absolutely thrilling sight! After a little while, two of the cubs became a little restless and were edging each other, clearly wanting to play.
The beauty of Shamwari is that they only allow two vehicles per sighting, ensuring that the animals are put first. The animals are completely relaxed around the game viewing vehicles, making you feel completely at ease amongst these iconic African animals.
After a lovely sighting of the lion pride we were on our way again. We saw ample general game, ranging from kudu to zebra. And as we rounded a corner, we saw a massive herd of about 30 elephants. There were so many youngsters that I could barely contain my excitement! Ranger Janco placed the vehicle and switched it off, giving us a moment to take in the sighting. He then started spewing fascinating facts about these large herbivores. We spotted two new-borns who were only weeks old. They were chasing each other and playing amongst the herd. Ranger Janco shared that the elephant calves will always remain protected by the herd, and that they all work together to keep the little ones safe.
After a little patience, the herd started to approach the vehicle. The elephants were completely relaxed, enjoying the lush green vegetation after the recent rains. It was an incredibly memorable sighting as these elephants went about their business and allowed us to marvel at their beauty.
After a fulfilling afternoon, we stopped to enjoy a sundowner. A wonderful touch at Shamwari, the ranger drives to a location and stops for sundowners. I enjoyed a gin and tonic whilst watching the sun set in this beautiful reserve. We watched animals roam in the distance and chatted in awe about the amazing encounters we had experience on game drive. After finishing our drinks, we were on our way again.
Ranger Janco was making his way to an area with thick vegetation and suddenly we came to a stop. There was a safari vehicle just in front of us, with the promise of there being an animal in the bush, close by. The ranger greeted us and was chatting to Ranger Janco. He soon disappeared after leaving the sighting. Janco explained that a leopard had been seen in the thick vegetation and that we ought to keep a lookout as he could sit up at any moment, giving us the opportunity to see where he is.
We waited patiently and another game viewer joined us in search of the elusive leopard. With no luck, Ranger Janco explained that he was going to drive higher up to gain some height, to better see if we could spot the leopard. After looking for quite some time, one of the guests spotted him. He was lying down and stood up which allowed us to spot him, although still amazingly camouflaged! He was stunning! We then approached him to get a closer look and spent some time with him. He lay down again and then looked up and around. Soon, he moved and stretched, allowing us to capture some images of his sheer size and beauty. We were in absolute awe and couldn’t praise Ranger Janco enough for showing us this sought-after big cat in the wild.
As we headed back towards the lodge, I couldn’t fathom the incredible sightings we had witnessed on one afternoon game drive. We had seen three of the big five in just one game drive!
Activities at Shamwari
During your stay at Shamwari, you can opt to go on a bush walk as part of your wilderness experience. This is more for the adventurous guest and requires a basic level of fitness however it is a brilliant way to experience the smaller yet significant aspects of nature. Ranger Janco was joined by Ranger Gerhard who took us on a wonderful bush walk. We saw white rhino as well as baboons, dung beetles, zebra and tracks left by animals in the ground. Bush walks are a must if you want to get up close and personal with nature.
Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre & Born Free Sanctuaries and Education Centres
During your stay at a safari lodge, you’ll have some extra time to relax or partake in a few activities. At Shamwari, they have a Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre as well as two Born Free Big Cat Sanctuaries and Education Centres.
The Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre at Shamwari is a registered facility and as such, animals in need come from all over the Eastern Cape and even further afield. Their primary goal is to ultimately return all the animals that are in their care back to the wild. The centre helps to rehabilitateand care for sick, injured, abandoned or orphaned animals under the care of their professional veterinary team.
The two Born Free Foundation centres at Shamwari create awareness of the horrific way in which wildlife is exploited in captivity around the world. The centres aim to draw attention to the plight of wild big cats, confined in impoverished, captive environments throughout the world.Over the years the Born Free Foundation has been able to rescue several big cats from impoverished situations. Born Free focuses on promoting the conservation of species and the protection of habitat whilst maintaining a humane and compassionate approach to the welfare of animals.
Whilst at Shamwari, enjoy a safari spa experience in the unspoilt surrounds of the African bush. The reserve has several relaxation retreats situated at various lodges. They offer a host of spa treatments available, such as massages, facials as well as hand and foot rituals.
Family Kids on Safari
Shamwari has three family friendly safari lodges that cater to families wanting to share the magic of a safari experience. They also have a wonderful kids on safari programme to keep your children entertained whilst learning about the wonders of nature.
Fine Food and Wine
One thing is for certain at Shamwari, you will not go hungry. The Safari lodge prepares an assortment of food offerings throughout your stay that are simply delicious. In the early mornings, coffee, tea and snacks are offered before you head out on safari. On safari, more coffee, tea and snacks are brought out on a coffee stop. When you return to the lodge, a buffet is awaiting you with a fine selection of pastries, breads, hams and cheeses, salmon treats, as well as yoghurt, muesli and a delectable selection of fruits.
You could opt to just have breakfast from this buffet however, guests are encouraged to order a breakfast too with various options from a full African breakfast to healthy jars to flapjacks. There’s certainly something for everyone.
After a few hours, lunch is served and high tea soon thereafter before you depart on your afternoon game drive. Whist on game drive you stop for sundowners and snacks and when you return from your game drive dinner is served. During your stay at Shamwari you will experience ala carte or a barbeque offering, and sometimes both depending on your length of stay. The food and wine at Shamwari is exquisite.
Upon my departure I felt somewhat fulfilled. After spending a few days in South Africa at a safari lodge, it reminded me of how refreshing it is to be in nature and experience the magic of the African bushveld. Going on safari is one of the most rewarding holiday choices you could possibly make, and I’m delighted to have chosen Shamwari as my safari destination.