A sought after invitation indeed it was and everyone gathering at Cape Town Airport was commenting on how lucky we were to be invited on the “Shamwari – Soul of the Earth” event. A quick flight from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth Airport where the brand new Shamwari VW minivan vehicles were at the ready to transfer us to the Eastern Cape hinterland and the bushveld of the world renowned Shamwari Game Reserve. But first we were invited to lunch at Shamwari Townhouse (edit: now called 'No 5 Boutique Art Hotel'). Believe me, whenever you are in Port Elizabeth, please pop in. A unique combination of contemporary/art deco styles. One feels like a film star when you enter this luxurious small boutique Hotel! Loved it! Sure this is where the “who’s who” of Port Elizabeth hang out. I would also recommend this for a night or two just before or just after a stay at Shamwari Game Reserve.
I was very happy when I was advised I would be staying at Long Lee Manor for the next three nights. Steeped in history, this Georgian styled Manor House and surrounding buildings set against the backdrop of semi-Karoo bushveld creates images of a time gone by. Although the area is going through the worst drought in recorded history the Bushmans River still has water in certain areas and I could not detect any deterioration in the condition of the animals. In fact the antelope were in great condition and the lions even better.
Long Lee Manor is undergoing some upgrades to some of the rooms and they are adding a gym. All is looking very good and from what I was told, the spa is a gem! The style of Long Lee is English country manor with delectable antiques combined with farm style furniture, an old world charm off-set with the modern conveniences one would expect from a 5 star lodge. Rooms are large, confortable and plush and invitingly cool after a day of game viewing on 4x4 safari vehicles. Our guides were superb! They understood what we wanted and tried their very best to show us a wide range of species… and having “dangerous Dave” as our guide, we were also introduced to his world of birds, a dung beetle or two and an “encounter of a close kind” with a gorgeous white rhino!
We were also fortunate to visit the other lodges on the Shamwari Game Reserve and I must confess, although I think that all the lodges on the reserve provide fantastic service and a very high standard of hospitality, I had two favourites.
Bayethe Tented Lodge is situated in the Northern part of the reserve. Contemporary style in luxury tents on wooden decks situated in a lush valley. I just loved the style and romance of the place! The idea of tents in the bush does make one feel that you have come to the REAL Africa… each tent is air-conditioned and heated and has an en-suite bathroom, shower, private plunge pool and viewing deck. The premier tents have fire places as well which is soooo cosy in winter!
Sarili Lodge is another favourite and the newest addition to the Shamwari collection. Eclectic wall paper design, bright colours and beautiful views. This lodge lends itself to a family group or small group of friends taking the lodge on an exclusive basis.
Eagles Crag is majestic in its setting, luxurious it its ambiance and truly impressive it its scale. Rooms are large and offer private plunge pools, a sophisticated African theme in design and I would never leave my room if I was lucky enough to stay at this lodge. Eagles Crag caters for a more discerning traveller yet still provides a feeling that you are in the remote bushveld.
Riverdene is a pretty lodge in the style of the Karoo farmhouse with a combination of antiques and modern conveniences. Kids are well taken care of at this lodge as it offers a children’s playroom and all the activities that goes along with the Kids Club.
Shamwari is also home to the Born Free Foundation and Wildlife Hospital. Through education and taking part in the caring of animals, young people are taught respect for our environment and the other creatures that live here…
One of the things that stood out about my visit at Shamwari was the quality of the food. Whether it was a boma barbeque at Riverdene or a sit down dinner in the dining room at Long Lee Manor, the food was indeed excellent, beautifully presented and delicious!
Thank you very much to Mantis Collection and their team for a magnificent experience that will remain with me for a very long time.