Shamwari Game Reserve was once again recognised as “Africa’s leading Conservation Company” at the prestigious World Travel Awards Ceremony which took place in Doha, Quatar last week. This is the 6th time Shamwari has won this award, not only that, but this year their luxurious Eagles Crag Lodge also came away with the coveted title of “World’s Leading Eco Lodge”.
Shamwari is a private game reserve owned by the world-renowned Shamwari Group: a pioneering leader in wildlife safaris that has a number of award-winning reserves and eco lodges under its banner including - amongst others - Sanbona Wildlife Reserve, Nkomazi Game Reserve and Jock Safari Lodge.
Clearly Shamwari is getting things right, so we thought we’d take a closer look at the inspiring success story behind this private Eastern Cape Reserve, and exactly what it is the makes Shamwari a leader in conservation and environmental education.
Shamwari Eagles Crag which won "World’s Leading Eco Lodge” at the World Travel Awards.
The Story Behind Shamwari
In 1990, successful Port Elizabeth (PE) businessman Adrian Gardiner bought a small farm – around 1,200 hectares of drought-damaged land, the only wildlife a scattering of antelope and baboons. At this stage Adrian had no thought of creating a game reserve, he just wanted a bushveld retreat for him and his family a reasonable drive from PE.
And that’s the way things might have stayed if Adrian had not met international conservationist Ian Player. Adrian was already interested to discover that the Eastern Cape was once considered one of the richest wildlife areas in Africa with vast herds of Cape buffalo, zebra, wildebeest, rhino and prides of lion roaming the hills - but it was Ian who inspired and motivated him to restore the land back to the way it used to be before the farms took over.
What began as a small family retreat, now captured Adrian's passion and imagination. He began buying neighbouring farms put up for sale due to drought or financial difficulties. As his land grew so a systematic and scientific rehabilitation program was launched, hand-in-hand with carefully considered game restocking procedures which transformed this degraded, overgrazed farmland into a thriving big game reserve.
A family herd of elephant seen on a game drive at Shamwari Game Reserve.
In October 1992, Shamwari Game Reserve was officially opened with a staff of just seven people receiving their first guests at the original Edwardian Manor House, Long Lee Manor. Today Shamwari Game Reserve covers 25,000 hectares, protects a huge diversity of wildlife including all of Africa’s Big 5, and offers a choice of six luxury lodges and a mobile tented camp.
Shamwari was the first private game reserve in the Eastern Cape, and its overwhelming success encouraged other farms to follow in their footsteps allowing the province to become one of South Africa’s top big game destinations. What’s more, the fact that this area is completely malaria-free makes it a popular choice for family safaris.
Getting the Balance Right
Shamwari is continuously involved in monitoring projects to maintain and improve the ecological integrity of their reserve. This responsibility lies mostly in the hands of the Shamwari Wildlife Department, which consists of two wildlife vets, two ecologists, an environmentalist and a number of qualified nature conservationists.
Conservation Experience volunteers learning to use telemetry tracking equipment to monitor cheetah and leopard.
There is more than enough work to keep the team busy, so Shamwari introduced their “Conservation Experience” - a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get behind the scenes and directly involved in their conservation efforts. Volunteers stay at a purpose-built centre on the reserve - the minimum stay is two weeks - and help with a number of projects such as game monitoring and counting, restoring and rehabilitating the land, research programmes and alien plant control.
"Forever Wild" Rhino Conservation
Shamwari has also joined the fight to save the rhinos, and encourages its guests to do the same. Guests can get a reduced rate at any of the Shamwari properties, providing they donate a minimum or R100 per night to the Wilderness Foundation’s “Forever Wild – Rhino Protection Initiative”. For every person staying on this offer, the Shamwari Group donates a further R500 and to date have raised around three million rand!
Another part of the initiative is the Ian Player Rhino Awareness Centre which opened in June 2012, and aims to help raise public awareness of the growing epidemic of poaching facing South and Southern Africa.
Micro-chipping rhino and collecting DNA samples as part of Shamwari's rhino poaching prevention programme.
Born Free Big Cat Sanctuaries
The Born Free Foundation Animal Rescue and Education Centre is a joint venture between Shamwari Game Reserve and The Born Free Foundation, UK. Over the years the Born Free Foundation has rescued a number of big cats discovered in poor conditions in zoos and circuses around the world, and these animals are given excellent lifetime care at the centres.
Shamwari has two Born Free Centres on their reserve where guests can visit some of these rescued animals, and find out more about the excellent work being done. Environmental education is also a major focus, and to date more than 700 school children from previously disadvantaged communities have visited these centres to learn about the conservation of wildlife and protection of their habitat.
Shamwari also has one of the best rehabilitation centres in Southern Africa, which is fully registered to provide veterinary care to young, abandoned, orphaned or injured animals. During the recovery phase the “patients” are kept in custom-built bomas and Shamwari guests are able to visit them and have a brief, behind-the-scenes look at where the popular series “Shamwari – a Wild Life” was filmed.
Sinbad, who was rescued for a tiny cage in a Romanian zoo and now lives at the Born Free Big Cat Sanctuary.
The Shamwari Difference
Shamwari Game Reserve offers an autentic safari experience with fantastic big game sightings and luxurious lodge-style accommodation. But there's more to this Eastern Cape Reserve, with guests being introduced to fantastic conservation initiatives and more of what goes on behind the scenes through the Rehabilitation Centre, the Born Free Centre and the Dr Ian Player Rhino Awareness Centre.
As for the accommodation, guests have the following options:
Eagles Crag Lodge: ultimate luxury in a contemporary design.
Lobengula Lodge: an intimate camp with just five beautiful suites.
Long Lee Manor: an Edwardian Manor House with gardens, pools and ponds.
Riverdene Lodge: an elegantly restored frontier homestead - great for families!
Bayethe Lodge: luxurious tented suites set on the bank of a river.
Sarili Lodge: built specifically to cater for families or small groups.
Explorer Camp: a unique walking safari and tented bush camp experience.
The view from Sarili Lodge across Shamwari Game Reserve.