Shamwari Private Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape has made the best of lockdown, with a refurbishment as part of a $25-million investment, taking the guest experience into an ultra-luxury segment.
- 25’000 hectares make up the malaria-free Shamwari Private Game Reserve.
- The reserve has seven distinct lodges, two of which reopened in September 2020.
- Shamwari has its own Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre as well as a long-term partnership with the Born Free Foundation, providing a permanent home for rescued African big cats.
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It’s a South African bush getaway unlike any other, offering guests a safari experience with all the passementerie, from premium amenities, well-kept facilities, delectable dishes, friendly staff, and the finest hospitality execution down to the crockery, cutlery, and furnishings. It’s no surprise this destination is a firm favourite with Royalty and Hollywood A-List celebrities. And if you thought you have visited Shamwari before – think again!
The drive to the Eastern Cape is best enjoyed over a two-day drive (around 10-hours in total), passing through the Free State with a one-night stopover, for us, at the aha Bloemfontein, before heading past the Gariep Dam, through Cradock and onwards. Take a look at WE DROVE IT: PEUGEOT 2008 GT LINE A COUP DE FOUDRE. For those wanting a quicker option for a weekend getaway, opt for a flight to Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth) and take the less than a 90-minute drive to the reserve from there.
Having navigated what seemed to be the hinterlands of Eastern Cape farmland, through dirt and gravel roads, the gates of Shamwari Private Game Reserve reveal little as to what awaits once all security and COVID-19 protocols are completed. A short drive from the gate, Long Lee Manor, one of two properties currently in operation, rises from the bushveld like something from a storybook or oil painting. The refurbished building stands in stark contrast to its former self – a pink, somewhat dated building, with a humble swimming pool and, for the time, luxury amenities.
Part Winelands home, part tropical island villa, the initial impression of the refurbished Long Lee Manor leaves us spellbound, as we proceed to check-in. The reception area, just below two luxury rooms situated in the main Manor House, is tastefully decorated in a neo-African come colonial style, only to be outdone by the jaw-dropping view, which awaits as you proceed outside to the main swimming pool. Here you will find a safari oasis few can claim to match. With a rim-flow swimming pool overlooking a reserve watering hole, it’s merely a step in either direction to enjoy a drink at the Manor House bar or enjoy one of the many meals on the terrace, taking in a view of the Shamwari plains.
Built with a view from every patio, our room follows the same ultra-luxurious feel, equipped with satellite television, De’Longhi kettle, Nespresso coffee machine, full mini-bar, a neat little bag with all Safari necessities, ample cupboard space with a laptop-size safe, and a generously sized bathroom with indoor and outdoor shower, as well as a bath, two basins, and a toilet. The bathroom amenities are all Healing Earth – one of our top choices for its frosted glass bottles, amazing scents, and luxurious feel on the skin. The crisp linen, firm pillows, and tropical ceiling fan, round off an exceptional take on a modern Edwardian style room to rest and relax in.
Mealtimes are equally a treat as every dish is beautifully crafted and presented. Breakfast offers a wide range of morning favourites, but it’s the culinary customisation of ‘what we feel like having’, that takes Shamwari to that next level. The luxury is in the detail!
Lunch is made up of salads and a selection of delicious tapas whilst dinner switches between a fine dining experience or an open-fire Boma experience under African skies. There is nothing quite like a pre-dinner drink next to a roaring fire, followed by a selection of different meats cooked over hot coals in your very own bush hideaway – it’s both ultra-romantic and fairytale-like.
Yet it is the drive through the plains and bush that brings so many out into the wilderness – the thrill of the chase for the Big 5 or the joy of discovering new and rare species that have you up at the crack of dawn or just before sunset, to venture out into the great outdoors. And just because you are out in the wild, doesn’t mean it has to be rough. Not at all. From toasty blankets in the morning with an added hot water bottle for those who enjoy it extra warm, to snacks and drinks in your very own center console, everything is catered for on your drive with an experienced and intuitive ranger. If early mornings or late afternoon drives are not quite your thing, why not opt to leave after breakfast with a packed lunch, for a midday, unlimited adventure.
As the now-famous lyrics to The Lion King opening so fittingly state: “There is far too much to take in here…” and the same can be said, whilst overlooking the reserve from a lookout point, as the sun sets on another day in Africa, sipping away on a gin and tonic at a pop-up bar, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, equipped with every possible variety of liquor, garnish and sundowner snack.
As the South African hospitality industry looks forward to the reopening of the countries borders in the distant future, General Manager of Hospitality, Theo Cromhout, touched on the critical support from local visitors during this time, in an interview on The Sandton Times Podcast.
I’ve had countless conversations with South African guests, where I’ve got guests thanking us for these incredible rates, which have allowed them to come and stay here. Never in my life have I had a situation where I’ve had guests thanking us that they’ve come to stay at the lodge. And I correct them very quickly and say ‘No, we’re the ones thanking you for your support and loyalty’.
// General Manager of Hospitality, Theo Cromhout
As Theo goes on to mention, it has not been the easiest time, and keeping the doors open is truly a privilege for both staff and guests alike, yet there has been a serious commitment to South African visitors, to keep a ‘locals’ or South African residents package on the menu, into the future, even when international borders open again.
Shamwari will be hosting its first-ever Unplugged Music Getaway from 25 – 27 June 2021, bringing together Craig Hinds of Watershed with the GATE String Quartet for an unmissable weekend, including a Friday evening bush sundowner set to live music, a Boma evening hosted by Watershed’s Craig Hinds and a Sunday Brunch with performances by all the artists. Package includes all the Shamwari experiences including a visit to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre and Born Free Big Cat Rescue & Education Centre, two daily game drives, all meals, guided bush trails and luxury accommodation for R4’950 per person, per night sharing.
Having visited Long Lee Manor in the Shamwari Private Game Reserve, it is no surprise that it picked up the 2020/2021 Best Hotel Interior for Africa at the International Property Awards. If you are longing for the great outdoors and need an excuse to spoil yourself, this is a bucket-list trip that needs to be ticked off soon!
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