Shamwari Private Game Reserve was born from a dream to see the Eastern Cape’s natural heritage be restored to resemble its former glory. This corner of Africa was known to be one of the richest wildlife areas in the continent! Shamwari means ‘friend’ in Shona and this piece of paradise is certainly that – a friend to the fauna and flora, as well as the history and cultural heritage that once existed in this part of South Africa.

Shamwari is conveniently situated at the start or end of the Garden Route. Its close proximity to Port Elizabeth makes access easy and convenient, especially when traveling with kids! There is a wildness to the region. The vegetation is made up of 7 biomes and one tree that stands out is the Spekboom, also known as The Tree of Life. This small-leaved succulent plant absorbs very high levels of carbon dioxide and convert it to oxygen.

So even the air is cleaner in the Eastern Cape…

We visited Shamwari as part of our family safari in the Eastern Cape (the route is plotted on the map above). The aim of the safari was to explore the diverse wildlife areas in this part of South Africa. Shamwari Private Game Reserve was our last stop and it was evident that wildlife reserves were very successfully being established to offer a true safari experience. The reserve covers 25,000 hectares in a malaria-free area to ensure a safe, relaxed safari. When traveling with young kids, it makes this the ideal wildlife destination and the perfect start or end to a Garden Route and Cape Town holiday.

Our arrival at Riverdene Lodge was accompanied by lots of excitement and laughs from Daniel and Rebekah, our two kids. This happiness was brought forth from just a glimpse of a huge jungle gym and outdoor play area as we drove into the parking area! This was before they knew about the dedicated children’s art & play room filled with all sorts of activities and fun stuff to keep them entertained. Our kids love wildlife and appreciate the beauty of nature, but there’s nothing like a good play after a long day in the Land Cruiser!

After a refreshing welcome drink we were escorted to our suites that were conveniently linked, ideal for families with younger children. The kids were each given a ‘Kids on Safari’ backpack with games, an animal check list, a cap, quizz books and a guide to the perfect safari! The spacious rooms offer everything you’ll need for a comfortable stay, and a large bathroom with a shower, bath and double basins. Each suite has a small verandah that overlooks the beautiful gardens around Riverdene Lodge.

Meals are enjoyed either on the verandah that overlook the large swimming pool and nearby grassy plains, or in the comfortable dining room if the weather doesn’t play along. The food was fantastic! The kitchen offers kiddies meals that can be served whenever the children are hungry – this works especially well when returning from the afternoon game drive, when two hungry children can be given their dinner immediately. This is a superb family safari lodge and the professional child minder service allows for mom and dad to have some free time too!

Kids on Safari at Shamwari

Other Shamwari lodges and safari options:
Shamwari offers a range of 6 different lodges as well as an Explorer Camp – a walking experience set in a remote part of the reserve – for those who feel adventurous. If you’re looking for a honeymoon destination, go for Bayethe Lodge or Longlee Manor. For the more exclusivity there are Villa Lobengula and Eagles Crag Lodge. Villa Lobengula will also work well for families wanting exclusivity of a property. Sarili Lodge works on a similar principle where you get exclusivity of the lodge for your family or small party. The Explorer Camp is a ‘back-to-basics’ wilderness experience that takes you back to the authentic safari of yesteryear, staying in dome canvas tents and enjoying meals around a fire. The camp is set on a grassy plateau next to granite outcrops allowing for magnificent views and a really fantastic experience!  This is a great option to combine with a stay at one of the other lodges. The safari is based on a 2-night stay with walking trails to and from the camp.

We spent some time with Johan Joubert, the wildlife manager for the Shamwari group, and it was refreshing to hear their vision for this unique region in Africa. They dream of a wildlife corridor that stretches from Addo Elephant National Park north of Port Elizabeth, all the way to the Fish River that forms the eastern boundary of Kwandwe Private Game Reserve. There is regular collaboration between the different game reserves situated between these two points and it will be an enormous asset for wildlife conservation in Africa if this can be achieved!

Shamwari’s contribution towards wildlife conservation is world renowned and their expertise has been used in places as far as the United Arab Emirates where they assisted with the planning of establishing a game reserve in this Middle Eastern country.

Getting back to our safari at Shamwari, JJ our ranger made every game drive a unique experience for both the parents and the kids! He searched out interesting wildlife and shared his abundant knowledge of Africa’s fauna and flora that intrigued the whole family.

Child-friendly safari at Shamwari

One of the highlights was definitely spending time with three lionesses one afternoon as the sun was setting. The light was beautiful, and it contributed the mood as the cats prepared for what looked like a hunt!

Shamwari Lions

We also spotted some of the more rare and elusive animals in the form of caracal hunting guinea fowl as well as a family of serval. I’m not sure if it’s the Eastern Cape setting or the prime condition of the animals, or maybe a combination of the two, but searching for Africa’s wildlife at Shamwari is a great experience!

Shamwari Rhino

Other wildlife encountered on our two daily game drives included herds of elephant, impressive buffalo, black and white rhino and two cheetah that was settling in under a lone tree on a grassy savannah.

The birdlife in the Eastern Cape is something to consider if you’re into birding!

It’s always a highlight when the ranger parks the 4×4 in a scenic spot to enjoy sundowners (or in our case hot chocolate and marshmallows). We had a few action-packed days at Shamwari and this was a great way to say farewell to this part of Africa and its amazing wildlife!

Shamwari sundowners

BOOK YOUR STAY at Shamwari Private Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape, South Africa:

Central Reservations
Tel: +27 (0)41 509 3000