The park, the lodge, the transportation, the added fees—when it comes to decision-making, safari vacations in Africa can get complicated. So it’s a blessing for agents and clients alike when a product comes along that makes everything simple again. Goway Travel, in partnership with Shamwari Game Reserve, has done just that. Shamwari offers a safari experience that’s less well-known, and therefore less traveled, than bigger names in African safaris—sometimes resulting in a higher incidence of game sightings on a drive. And with a variety of accommodations to suit all niches, and experienced Goway travel experts on call to ensure clients’ trip moves smoothly, Shamwari’s an easy sell for agents, too.
the safari experience Situated in South Africa’s Eastern Cape, Shamwari’s hills and open plains are home to everything travelers hope to see on safari. There’s the Big Five—elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard—a checklist of game sightings that some safari-goers use as an indication of how successful their trip was. The thrill of encountering these animals in the wild can’t be overstated. From the comfort of an open-air Jeep, with three rows of well padded seating built theater-style to ensure that everyone gets a front-row view of the animals, some game comes so close that part of you feels the peaceful effects of communing with nature; the other feels the thrill of exposure to such huge, dangerous beasts. Shamwari’s elephant population is particularly active and well used to being on display. We encountered herds of mothers and young on their way to a watering hole, as well as males sparring over dominance, on just about every game drive—some just a few feet away.
There’s plenty to see beyond those five, too. Clients can feel as if they’re exploring an open-air zoo on game drives, with zebra, cheetah, hippo, large birds and more on display. Throughout a 3- to 4-hour drive, rangers point out dozens of exotic species. For first-time safari-goers, sightings of monkeys and zebra can be just as exciting as sightings of leopards and buffalo. If more experienced clients have a specific animal they’d love to catch in the open, rangers are happy to try to make those requests a reality.
Clients staying at Shamwari have the opportunity to go on game drives in the morning and at night; it’s the most popular activity, and certainly one of the most exciting, offered at the park. Morning drives include a coffee break, while night drives stop for sundowners at scenic locations.
Clients looking for even more of a thrill can arrange to spend a night in a tented camp inside the reserve. A nighttime game drive ends at a campsite in a remote area in the wilderness; a short hike from a Jeep trail leads you into a campsite sheltered by trees. There, Shamwari staff have set up a sumptuous dinner served beside a campfire, with grilled meats and other traditional South African dishes. But it’s not all luxury—these are basic tents set up with basic cots, and there are no public restroom facilities out in the wild. Clients are also assigned 2-hour time slots throughout the night to keep watch, ensuring that the camp isn’t raided by the full-time residents of the reserve. One of two guides is awake at all times to ensure the group’s safety, telling stories of life in the wild—close calls with lions, strange habits of elephants—throughout the night.
The next morning, Shamwari staff packs up the campsite while rangers lead the group on a walking safari back to the lodge, putting clients as close as they can get to the flora and fauna of the reserve. Along the way, they’ll track the animals by their footprints and droppings—again, luxury this is not. For travelers who are accustomed to luxury, a night out in the open may not hold much appeal. But for clients looking for a real adventure, it’s an inimitable experience.
Rangers can also take clients out to a shooting range to learn or improve their skills with a variety of guns and rifles. On a dusty range carved out of a small hill, rangers-in-training aim at a series of paper bullseyes at distances of five, 10 and 15 meters. Beginners get a lesson on proper positioning and stance before they shoot, while experienced marksmen can test their skills on higher caliber weapons. Along the way, rangers share tricks for perfect aim, such as slowly breathing out before pulling the trigger. Clients can also see a demonstration of the rifle skills of their rangers—a reassuring memory for close encounters with lions and rhinos later on.