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Shamwari Game Reserve Lodges
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed October 27, 2009

We stayed at Riverdene for 2 nights at the end of September. This was our second visit as we stayed there in September 2008. A repeat visit was needed as we had such a wonderful time on our first visit. We booked on the Mantis Madness deal, which gave us a free hotel stay in Cape Town (Waterfront) for booking 2 nights at Shamwari. This is available from May to the end of September and is good value.
We were welcomed enthusiastically at the lodge. A nice touch was the bottle of wine and a lovely card welcoming us back to the lodge.
Our room was large and luxurious with everything you could wish for to make the stay enjoyable. There is a small patio in front of the room to sit out and enjoy the garden. There are lots of birds to watch, including sunbirds feeding on the aloe flowers - beautiful. There is also a viewing area, which overlooks the river, to view passing game.
We went on four game drives. Our ranger, Konrad was top class. He was very informative about the animals, birds and bush plants without being over the top. He went out of his way to show us the main animals, but also spent time trying to find more elusive species such as cheetah, leopard and brown hyena. He was happy to extend our game drives so that we could watch a leopard feeding on its kill. The noise of the bones crunching, as she ate, will always stay with us.
We are keen photographers and were able to get hundreds of photos. Konrad was keen to position the truck, just right, to get the best of shots.
We went on an additional trip to the Shamwari veterinary hospital, so often seen in the TV series about the reserve. We saw the baby elephant, Temba, which had been hand reared from being a tiny baby. However the tiny 3 months old Cape Mountain zebra, (Debra!) stole the show; it was so endearing. You can also visit the Born Free Foundation facility, which is very close by.
We were lucky to have 2 other couples from England sharing our game drives. We got on very well and this made our visit so much more enjoyable. Mealtimes are a shared experience with the other people on the truck. The ranger also joined us for breakfast.
It is important to plan ahead for a game reserve experience. At the end of September, the weather is very pleasant during the day but cold, especially on the drives, early morning and in the evening. We had rain on two of the drives. Ponchos were provided to help keep us dry. The drives were not curtailed due to inclement weather. In fact the longest drive we had, 4 hours in length, was on a very rainy, windy evening. This proved to be our most memorable drive.
Shamwari is a wonderful game reserve and rightly deserves its rating as one of South Africa’s best. Everything is done to make your stay so enjoyable. Staying at Shamwari is not cheap, but when you consider the quality of the lodge, the all-inclusive meals and drinks and the marvelous game drives, it is good value and worth saving up for.
We would not hesitate in recommending Shamwari for a safari experience. We will certainly go back again; we enjoyed it so much.

  • Stayed: September 2009, traveled as a couple
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Thank BrendaB_9BradfordUK
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed October 20, 2009

stayed here for 3 nights safari and if there is any better it must be something out of this world. My wife and I had the most fantastic time seeing all the major animals only one not to see was the leopard although other people in our jeep saw them the morning before
Our Ranger Jamie was excellent and very Knowledgeable about the animals and plants ,you could see he definitely cared for the animals and it wasn't just a job
We stayed in one of the superior lodges which were fantastic ,they would have the log fire on for you coming back from nighttime drive which was lovely as it gets cold at night and definitely the best thing was the outdoor shower even in the rain
The food was fantastic although not to everyone's taste,but some people should try to be a bit more experimental and not expect pie & chips abroad
A couple things to note is that it really does get cold on drives,I wore 3-t shirts,jersey,fleece ,beanie hat and gloves and still felt cold at times,this from someone from Scotland
My only disappointment was the Ranger spent one night at the meal where other groups seemed to have rangers every night,small problem but would have been nice to hear more stories from him.

  • Stayed: September 2009, traveled as a couple
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Thank tartanalDunbar
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 8, 2009

We had planned this trip for 2 years to celebrate my partners 50th Birthday. We wanted something special that we would remember for the rest of our lives..and boy did we get that. Our ranger Antoinette was fantastic; she was extremely knowledgeable, made sure we saw everything (including the leopard!) and kept us interested and entertained throughout.

We stayed at Eagles Crag for 4 nights, which is very spacious, in fact the bar downstairs was never used on our stay. The room was very nice with two of the windowed walls opening up onto your own private patio and plunge pool. Didn't use the outside too much as it was still a little cold. The only downside of this lodge is it gets it name from the fact it is surrounded by tall rocky crag, therefore you do not get the view that some of the lodges offer, where you can look out over the open planes and see animals.

The one thing that did catch us out was how cold it is on the drives, especially first thing on a morning and after dark at night. We ignored all the other reviews that said you needed lots of warm clothing and ended up having to buy fleeces, hats & scarfs in the lodge shop. We ended up with up to 7 layers of clothes including hats, scarfs, gloves....really it was this cold. We are from the North of England so are very used to the cold, but when you are in the open sided jeep travelling along, the wind chilli is very chilly!!!!

If you are looking for somewhere that gives you down to earth luxury, no pomp and circumstance, fantastic animal sightings, very friendly and knowledgeable rangers I can't imagine you can beat Shamwari.

  • Stayed: September 2009, traveled as a couple
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Thank Von_Dave
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 4, 2009

Shamwari was all I expected and then some. From arrival to departure all the staff work hard to make this an amazing experience, and they succeed. Our tent was luxurious, bed was very comfy and the outside shower was fun to use. We were told no one can see you but the animals!
Food was very good though I felt lunch was better than dinner. We had a barbeque on first (very cold) night and I did feel it would have been better to eat inside. That, however is my only complaint.
The game drives were great fun and our guide , Jerome was very informative and friendly. You do need to wrap up in warm coats, as it's difficult to imagine how cold it is in the moving vehicle in the morning and at the end of the afternoon drive.
I left Shamwari with many happy memories and photographs and having ticked off the top item on my bucket list!

  • Stayed: September 2009, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank Travellingirl58
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 27, 2009

The first thing to note is that the South Africans call these "Private Game Reserves", game farms, which is what they are: Former farms, whose owners realised they could make more money from wildlife than from cattle, sheep or citrus farming. Thus electric fences abound. If you want to see herds of hundreds of wildebeest roaming the Serengeti, then you had better go there.

That said, the reserve is vast, maybe twenty or thirty miles wide. Most of the lodges are extensions to the original farmers' Edwardian manor houses. Bayethe Lodge is new, though, in an idyllic setting in a wooded valley, by a small watering hole, which animals occasionally visit. Our large superior "tent" in our own private thatched bungalow was fantastic and luxurious, with an outdoor shower; "only the animals can see you naked", a fireplace, Jacuzzi (too cold to use). Unfortunately the gloss started to peel off when we discovered that both taps on the "his & hers" washbasins were faulty, six light bulbs were out (we only ever did get four replaced), the TV didn't work, and the French windows opening out on to the pool deck were jammed shut (never repaired).

There are signs of penny-pinching everywhere. The complementary mini-bar had no liquors, just beers and sodas, and two half bottles of cheap local wine. When we got the satellite TV working most of the channels were blocked, with the message "please contact us to upgrade your package". Binoculars for your game drive? Available to rent for R50 a drive! A bottle of French Champagne? A R700 supplement! They show you an elaborate list of local wines, but when you order a bottle, they pour a glass and take the bottle away. You are made to feel a glutton for asking for more. There are no dessert wines on the list.

Don't expect Michelin standard cooking either. Lobster, Filet Mignon? Not while we were there. Foie gras? Think chicken liver. The "elegant barbecue" night was not. The staff told me the food is the same at all the lodges. There is no bar as such, but waiters will bring you drinks, but it means that there is not really a convivial area where people gather to chat. You team up with your ranger and his group, and you eat and dine with them for the duration of your stay. Most people are so tired out after the 5.30 alarm calls that they have an early night. Our room costs R13,000 a night, so you would expect nothing but the best.

Bayethe is not contiguous to the rest of the park, so you will have an uncomfortable half-hour commute over unmade washboard dirt roads to get to the park proper, although you will undoubtedly see many wild animals on the way, together with goats and sheep! I note Bushman's River and Sarili lodges are slap-bang inside the park itself.

The game viewing was excellent, with a knowledgeable guide with telescopic vision and an encyclopaedic knowledge of the flora and fauna. He was also able to help with constellations unfamiliar to those of us from the Northern hemisphere. One hopes he is also a good marksman with his .375 calibre high-velocity elephant gun carried on the front of the jeep in case of an angry elephant attack. You have to hit the head or the heart, and he only had three bullets........

We saw almost all the animals close-up including lions mating and a near-kill of an eland by a lioness at five yards range. There are only two prides of lions in the reserve, as they are too voracious to support any more, and they would eventually starve themselves to death by eating everything else. There are up to forty Jeeps out every drive, so the lions' locations are soon spotted each day, and each driver radios to each other when they make a find. Sometimes you have to circle in a holding pattern to see the lions, so that they are not overcrowded. That's not a problem, as you are liable to see new sights round every corner.

The drives are between three and four hours long, virtually non-stop, and if you feel the call of nature, then it's back to nature - go behind a bush! The 4x4's go extensively off-road, and if you are on the back row of eight seats, it's most uncomfortable, to say the least. If you haven't got neck or back problems you could well have by the end of your stay. The best seat is beside the driver, literally riding shot (elephant) gun.

There are a few nice touches, such as the fact that they wash your car for you - which is a little bit pointless, as you have to travel ten miles down a dirt road to get back on Tarmac. And the ranger radios in when you are a few minutes from the lodge and they have appropriate drinks waiting for you as you creakily disembark the Land-Rover. The staff are smiling, friendly and helpful. When we walked a couple of hundred yards after dinner down the path back to our bungalow, there were always some kind of deer (I should know the difference between a kudu, an impala and springbok, but I wasn’t paying attention, sorry) grazing right next to us in our way. Really cute. Others guests met elephant en-route, a different proposition without the .375 calibre! (They tell you to go back to the restaurant and pick up an armed escort)

We had a great time, thought the food was average and the "all-inclusive" tag a misnomer. With a few changes this could be so much better. Next day we visited an excellent proper five-star hotel, with a gourmet restaurant; The Plettenberg Hotel, Plettenberg Bay, and the differences were immediately apparent.

The first one being that we paid around 80% less. We had a whale view, but no game viewing………….

  • Stayed: September 2009, traveled as a couple
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5  Thank Bollinge
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
MantisSouthAfrica, General Manager at Shamwari Game Reserve Lodges, responded to this reviewResponded October 5, 2009

Thank you for your comments regarding your stay at Bayethe Tented camp. I am gratified that you would recommend Shamwari to a friend after your experience. Thank you too for your great TripAdvisor ratings. I do apologize though that you did not feel you received value on your visit.

Your maintenance concerns have been corrected & we apologize that your problems slipped through our strenuous preventative maintenance program.

I am sorry you did not share your concerns about food & beverage with the management during your stay. They would have informed you that we recently changed our menus after extensive research & consultation with our guests. This indicated a trend to move away from French cuisine & we have adapted our menus accordingly. The bar at Bayethe was under utilized and was replaced with an elegant lounge area. We will certainly address your comments about the wine list.

Your impression that Bayethe Lodge is not part of Shamwari is incorrect. On consultation with your guide I have established he had a request to view specific animals in the southern part of the Game Reserve. Your guide then decided to drive outside the park parameters to minimize your driving time.

Shamwari does not own 40 game driving vehicles, at most there can only be 20 vehicles out on game drive. You are absolutely right that rangers network to offer a better sighting experience to our guests. At no given time would we allow overcrowding at any sighting.

Shamwari has purchased the best, most comfortable & safest vehicles available for game drives. However this is off-road Africa after all! Your tip of sitting closer to the front of the vehicle is a good one to future guests, especially those with back problems. Our rangers will also make more comfortable arrangements for guests mentioning discomfort on drives.

Your comment regarding Former farms, whose owners realised they could make more money from wildlife than from cattle, sheep or citrus farming needs clarification. Converting to wildlife and tourism is very much more expensive and risky than farming. It is more gentle & appropriate for the land though. It has cost millions to return the original devastated farmland of Shamwari into its natural state. We work very hard at “conserving a vanishing way of life” with the result that Shamwari has been awarded the “Worlds Leading Conservation Company” for the past 12 years.

It is true we are not the Serengeti; the experience we offer is different, but no less special. The Shamwari experience has changed many people’s lives.

We really appreciate feedback of this nature and we hope to welcome you back to Shamwari in the future.

Kind regards,

Gunther Strauss
Deputy General Manager
SHAMWARI GAME RESERVE

Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 27, 2009

We stayed at Shamwari for 2 nights. We were welcomed with grenadine and lemonade and showed to our tents. We stayed in Bayethe tented lodge which is made up of 11 tented lodges which all have king size beds with electric blankets (which they switched on during dinner, nice and toasty when you got back). The lodges are very large and ensuite with your own plunge pool out on the deck.

The staff were very helpful and accomodating and the service is excellent. I would highly recommend the spa at the lodge where i had a wonderful shoulder, neck and back massage. The spa overlooks the wateringhole where i saw girrafe and warthogs!

I would also like to thank the staff for all they did to make my boyfriends proposal so romantic. We came back from our afternoon drive to find the room decorated with flowers and tealights, champagne on ice, strawberries etc and had even made a birthday cake. Only a small charge was made for the cake.

Also a big thanks to our guide Darryl who was so enthusiastic and although we didn't see leopard on our drive we saw the rest of the big five as well as zebra, girrafe antelope etc. We also some great animal behaviours like the cheetahs play fighting watched over by their mother. At one point we were able to get off the van and walk to about within 110 or 15 metres of them- the absolute highlight of our holiday.

There is a great variety of food and drink which was absolutley delicious. Each lodge has a mini-bar, and this is included in the price. A wonderful stay, my only regret is that we didn't stay longer...

  • Stayed: September 2009, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank bluesharkgirl
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 25, 2009

With some many wonderful things to say about Shamwari i am going to try and limit it to Bayethe info so i dont waffle on for ages about all the wonderful things we saw (the big 5 and more..including the elusive leopard.).

We felt that Bayethe was the only choice for our safari as it was tented luxury so it was the one that was the most natural. There are 12 lodges and a main lodge where you meet for game drives, have breakfast, dinner etc. Our lodge, number 3, was the nearest to the main lodge (great for the spooky walk back in the dark after dinner). The lodge was gorgeous, so spacious and so clean. I was expecting lots of cobwebs and dust (based on a stay in the rainforest a few years back) but it was spotless. The bathroom area is also big and the shower was rigged up through a tree trunk (a really nice detail). There was a jacuzzi bath too. It gets quite cold at night so the electric blanket was very welcome! As was the radiator and heating system.

The food was delicious! And so much to choose from! Breakfast was a choice of cereal, fruit, croissants, cold meats etc and a large cooked breakfast menu (the omelettes are lovely). Lunch on the terrace (it was scorching in the day) was also a good choice and all 3 lunches were outstanding! Dinner on our first night was a buffet - a choice of every type of meat possible) and a off a menu the following night! Again - gorgeous!

The service was outstanding. We needed a late checkout and we heard them juggling around the lodges so that we could stay in ours until we were due to leave. All the staff genuinely seemed to enjoy their jobs and were friendly and attentive.

I loved the way the stay was structured as you really got to know your ranger and other guests. You are placed in a group of 6 and you stay in that group for the duration of the stay and you have the same ranger (we had Phillip and he was superb). You get woken at 5.30 for a 6am game drive, return about 9 and have breakfast in your group of 6 and the ranger joins you which is great because you get the chance to chat about the drive and ask more questions (they are a fountain of knowledge), after breakfast you have free time until we met at 3.30 for tea before the 4pm game drive. You got back at 7 and then met for dinner shortly after for the 7 of you again and its great fun. Whilst out on the game drives you normally stop for a drink (hot drinks in the morn, wine etc in the evening) which is really nice.

A truly wonderful stay, it was the holiday of a lifetime made all the better by Phillip the ranger, our safari companions, the excellent staff and the gorgeous lodges.

  • Stayed: September 2009, traveled as a couple
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Thank LondonAllie
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Shamwari Game Reserve Lodges

Address: N2 between Port Elizabeth & Grahamstown, Shamwari Game Reserve 6000, South Africa
Phone Number:
Location: South Africa > Eastern Cape > Shamwari Game Reserve
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Business Center with Internet Access Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Restaurant Room Service Shuttle Bus service Spa Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 4 Specialty Lodging in Shamwari Game Reserve
Price Range: $634 - $1,341 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:5 star — Shamwari Game Reserve Lodges 5*
Number of rooms: 56
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
A mere 75 km from Port Elizabeth towards Grahamstown, Eastern Cape, South Africa. Shamwari is the crown jewel of private game reserves situated in the malaria free Eastern Cape, the birth place of Nelson Mandela. This privately owned 25 000 hectares of prime natural terrain has received numerous international awards. Shamwari is an exploration of nature with close encounters of free roaming wildlife and the coveted big five with a choice of unique lodges, an exclusive private villa and the adventurous Explorer Camp. Luxury accommodation is offered in 7 different game lodges on Shamwari Game Reserve, all of which are 5 Star graded. Choose a game lodge that perfectly compliments your ideal African experience. EAGLES CRAG LODGE - Exclusivity, privacy and serenity for the most discerning of travelersBAYETHE TENTED LODGE - The ultimate in luxury tented accommodationSARILI LODGE - A colonial and bush experience. Perfect for families or small partiesLONG LEE MANOR - Refined elegance from a bygone era. RIVERDENE FAMILY LODGE - Colonial Africa in an elegantly restored CHILD FRIENDLY frontier home. VILLA LOBENGULA - Villa Lobengula is a beautiful and tranquil space tucked away in the depths of the valley bushveld. Booked on an exclusive use basis only. EXPLORER CAMP - Camping & walking experience among the Big 5 on the magnificent Shamwari Game Reserve ON SAFARI - Game drives can last up to 3 hours each and are conducted twice a day in open vehicles / Guided walks / Star gazing RELAX - Various treatments can be enjoyed at our Relaxation Retreats which are situated at Eagles Crag, Lobengula Lodge, Bayethe Lodge and Long Lee Manor ... more   less 
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Shamwari Game Reserve Hotel Shamwari Game Reserve

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