First Time Safari? Here’s All You Need to Know…

Kate Morfoot, leading travel writer from goes on Safari at Malaria Free Shamwari Private Game Reserve in South Africa.

Shamwari Private Game Reserve, situated in the Eastern Cape is the premier and exclusive malaria-free reserve in South Africa.  Home to the largest concentration of the Big 5 in the region, the 25,000-hectare reserve has a reputation for five-star luxury combined with top-rated safari experiences and is one that leaves guests with a lifetime of treasured memories.  

Shamwari has 38 experienced and qualified rangers who are experts in Shamwari wildlife and its terrain as they transport guests around the reserve in comfortable converted high seat Shamwari branded Land Cruiser ranger vehicles. 

The Born Free Big Cat Sanctuary and the Shamwari Rehabilitation Wildlife Centre are both located within the reserve giving guest-only exclusive ‘behind the scenes’ access to learn about and to meet some of the animals that are given sanctuary or receiving ‘hands off’ rehabilitation. Local school children in the community are invited to learn why it’s crucial to keep wild animals in the wild and are given trips out on the reserve to see the animals in the wild.

In 2019 a US$25 million investment programme was launched to refurbish the lodges making Shamwari first class in every aspect of accommodation and hospitality.

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The seven lodges at Shamwari Private Game Reserve each provide a distinct experience, from exclusive tranquillity, fun family enjoyment or the back-to-nature appeal of a luxury tented camp.

Long Lee Manor is an Edwardian-era manor that has been lovingly refurbished to restore its original features with the surrounding 18 new luxury suites focusing on guests’ privacy and comfort while maximizing the commanding views of the area.  

The interiors pay homage to the Long Lee Manor’s origins and gives guests a wonderful ‘Out of Africa’ experience. Interior spaces use rich leather, luxurious linens and nostalgic florals. Guest suites’ walls are treated with traditional timber panelling and textured wallpaper, bathrooms have crisp white marble floors with generous showers and bathtubs.

The entire, exclusive Sarili Private Lodge is available to families and groups of friends. The ten bedroomed lodge sleeps ten adults or up to twelve if the children are small.  This fabulous lodge experience includes a bespoke itinerary, private staff, this includes your personal chef. The substantially sized bedrooms offer panoramic views of the reserve and you have your own swimming pool.

Sindile is Shamwari’s new luxury flagship lodge located deep in the African veld within the reserve providing guests with ultimate seclusion providing excellent vantages over the Bushman’s River.   This adult-only tented lodge has nine bedrooms, and it is ideal for couples wanting a luxury break or a romantic getaway.  The entire lodge for 18 people is also available to be hired.

Bayethe offers newly refurbished 12 ‘back to nature’ luxury tented lodges that have indoor and outdoor showers each with a private outdoor spa tub.  The tented lodges are all luxuriously appointed with beautiful views overlooking the reserve.  The lodge’s spacious central lounge leads to indoor and outdoor dining areas, in addition to a sundeck and swimming pool where guests can relax between game drives. Spa treatments are available at this bush retreat which overlooks a waterhole attracting much wildlife.

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Riverdene Lodge is family friendly with nine bedrooms.  There’s an incredible indoor play centre and a vast outdoor adventure playground, with rope walkways, climbing walls, slides and ziplines. The facilities are colour-coded according to age and ability, and it is under constant supervision. Children can expect to receive Shamwari backpacks and branded bath robes. Families with children staying at Long Lee Manor and Sarili are given access to this amazing playcentre.

Eagles Crag blends exclusive luxury with the solitude of a remote bush camp. It is set in a tranquil, forest-covered valley floor at the base of the cliff from which it takes its name.

The lodge’s upper deck, with its intimate dining pods, provides panoramic views over the canopy. The ground floor offers an entertainment lounge, complete with billiard table, and a gym. 

The nine suites blend sophisticated African-inspired interiors with the natural surroundings, each opening out onto a private deck in the forest with its own heated plunge pool.

Recently opened is Explorers, a camp set deep in the bush, that provides an ideal base for walking safaris.  It is rumoured that Tiger Woods enjoyed this experience so much he took his ranger for a private golf lesson as a thank you. 


Whichever accommodation you choose at Shamwari, expect a luxuriously appointed bedroom with an incredible view to spot the vast amount of wildlife on the Reserve.  Don’t be surprised to see a tower of giraffes grazing on trees in the distance or the sound of monkeys calling out to each other!

Long Lee Manor has exceptional views over the veld and watering hole.  The lodges adjacent to the Manor are luxurious and spacious.  Enjoy the comfort of a luxe super king bed, Egyptian cotton sheets with super cosy duvet and pillows.

There’s a lot of wardrobe space with enough hangers and plenty of room to store your luggage. 

In all rooms across the reserve, you will find a Nespresso coffee machine and lots of tea choices with bespoke in-room snacks and mini bar.

In most bedrooms across the accommodation in the reserve, there is a super-sized bathtub, an outdoor shower and / or a large walk-in shower with Healing Earth toiletries, fluffy towels and bath robes.

If required there’s table space to work and English plug sockets if you forget your South African plug adaptor.

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Each day and every game drive on safari at Shamwari brings with it much excitement, expectation coupled with anticipation.

Shamwari is home to the Big 5, so you should be lucky and see, elephants, lions, leopard, the black or white rhinos and cape buffalo. You may see a pod of hippo lounging in a pond, a tower of giraffes, a dazzle of zebra crossing your path, a parade of elephants grazing, a pride of lions eating their kill or sleeping under a tree or a troupe of fighting baboons and even cheetah!  There’s also a huge amount of indigenous bird life to watch out for that includes Owls, Rock Kestrels to African Harrier Hawks.   Don’t forget the smaller animals, the funny warthogs marching across the reserve, the tortoises and the cheeky mongooses.  Your ranger will point out the wildlife and stop and speak to you about the terrain, the ecology of the reserve and how their team works to ensure that the wildlife is protected and kept within its natural environment.

Getting Around the Reserve

Shamwari have their own custom-made Land Cruiser game vehicles to transport guests across the reserve in search of the wildlife.  While in the vehicle, guests can safely observe the wild animals. Unlike some game reserves you will usually be the only vehicle visible on your game drive giving you an exclusive experience with the animals as you search out the Big 5.

Terrain can be bumpy and hilly as you go up and down the valley, however the rangers are not only experts on nature they also know how to navigate the guests across all terrain bumpy tracks.  Warm blankets and rain ponchos are supplied in case of bad weather.

Safari Times: Morning & Afternoon

Morning Safari: Be prepared for early start as a wake up call from your ranger is at 5.30am, ready to meet at 6am.  All is not lost as there’s a morning briefing from your ranger about where you are going and what to expect with tea/coffee/juice provided with tasty cakes and snacks. A rewarding breakfast is provided on return anytime from 9am to 10am.

Afternoon Safari: The afternoon safari meeting time is 3.30pm for a 4pm start.   Daily safaris include a stop for drinks and snacks overlooking a stunning viewpoint with your fellow safari guests.   Expect to be home to base anytime from 7pm to 7.30pm.

Guests have the option to take safaris on foot or even by mountain bike. Every detail has been considered to ensure authentic and unforgettable safe encounters in a special place.

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Think ‘Out of Africa.’  Linen shirt, long chino trousers, hat and sunglasses.  Don’t forget to pack your sunscreen.  Although you’re not getting out of the ranger vehicle, the sun can still catch you.

Wear warm layers and a jumper for early morning and late afternoon safaris which can get cold and windy when up in the hills.  A windproof rain jacket is also a good idea.  Blankets are supplied for extra chilly safaris. 

Binoculars are crucial.  Even for the close-up animals and birds, you can get a really good view!  Swarovski Optik CL Companion binoculars were the best that I used on this safari because they were light and compact, and they gave me excellent viewing from the farthest points and the detail you could see was incredible.

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The food at Shamwari is exceptional.   Your ranger will normally join you for a beautifully cooked hot breakfast which even includes an optional fried banana. There is a wonderful grazing table complete with a wonderful display of yoghurts, bread, cereals, pastries, cheese, ham, juices and fruit.

For lunch there is a diverse tapas-style themed menu which changes daily.  Dishes  include marinated rack of lamb, honey and hummus, tandoori chicken lollipops and aromatic sake steam mussels. 

Dinner, served with attentive service is sustainable grilled line fish or a selection of local meat including Karoo lamb or local beef fillet and a vegetarian option.   If you have room for a pudding, you won’t be disappointed by the selection of wonderful puddings including familiar favourites, fondant, sorbet, affogato, apple crumble and double chocolate ice cream!

One of the nights may include a ‘boma’ depending on the weather.   Sitting around a large ‘boma’ firepit, drinks and your starter are served which is a perfect time to meet your fellow guests and chat about your safari and what you have been lucky enough to witness. The main meal is served to you in a luxury wicker tepee, complete with candles and a true safari outback atmosphere!

There is an extensive world menu of drinks to choose from, which are reasonably priced.  When in South Africa we always enjoy the superb South African wine. 

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Fly into Johannesburg and take a connecting flight to Port Elizabeth.  Hire a car or transfers can be arranged.

Alternatively, fly into Cape Town and drive to Shamwari taking the Garden Route or the Karoo Route.  Allow three days to do this journey comfortably or longer if you want to spend more time exploring. 


Drive one way then fly from Port Elizabeth back to Cape Town. 

Drive the Garden Route (Coastal) and come back the Karoo Route (Inland).


Shamwari is not to be missed, it is a perfect safari for couples and families alike in the malaria-free Eastern Cape.  You can enjoy a safari experience in luxury with knowledgeable rangers, comfortable transportation and exclusive access to the Born Free Cat Sanctuary and the Shamwari Rehabilitation Centre.

Expect sumptuous and well-appointed accommodation with a warm South African welcome from their friendly staff and rangers, excellent locally sourced food, lovely wine and best of all, their wonderful wildlife and scenery.

Watch their conservation efforts on TV!

Shamwari Untamed can be found on Netflix here:

Long Lee Manor Plains Room from now until 31 March 2023 starts from (R = South African Rand) R15 535 per person sharing per night.

The rate includes, accommodation, meals, selected local beverages, game drives, guided walks, tourism levy, 15% VAT.

Address: Shamwari Private Game Reserve, Paterson, 6130.

Phone: +27 (0) 42 203 1111



To learn more about taking a safari at Shamwari visit Instagram @Shamwariprivategamereserve and @Love2eat2Travel