Shamwari, I Will Return

I wanted to write a little bit more about Shamwari, because it is such a special place.  Basically, 20 years ago, the land that has now become Shamwari was entirely different. At the time, it was overgrazed ranch land long bereft of most of the animals that now call it home. The animals were killed off in the in the 1800s when settlers from Europe established farms in the area north and east of what became Port Elizabeth.  In 1991, South African businessman Adrian Gardiner bought a farm that was the first puzzle piece of Shamwari as a weekend getaway for his family.  It wasn’t long after, that he realized the potential of the place and started buying up surrounding farm land from farmers anxious to sell because of a prolonged drought and then began reintroducing animals, both large and small.  Shamwari was born.

What is amazing about the place is that now, it has been positively been transformed due to careful ecological management.  It has become again what it was hundred of years ago.  For me, it was such a great lesson that human beings can transform a degraded piece of land back to how it was as nature intended.  We can be optimistic that we can save places through conservation.

The entire reserve was beautiful, not just the sunsets.  Even if there hadn’t been animals there, I would have been thrilled to be in such a beautiful place where the air was so fresh. 

But of course, there were animals there and throughout its varied terrain.  It makes an ideal habitat for so many animals.  It’s protection offers a home to endangered white and black rhinos that are so succeptible to poaching when they are in national parks.  For example, when I was in Tanzania and went on safari in the Serengeti, Lake Manyara, and the Ngorongoro Crater, I didn’t see one rhino.  They are very hard to find.  We saw rhinos practically every day we were in Shamwari, including the more aggressive and reclusive black rhinos (more rhino photos later). It was amazing to be able to wake up every day and see beautiful, endangered animals.

What truly makes Shamwari a special place, though, are the people who work there. Everyone was so friendly and wonderful.  Our ranger was Headman, and he was not only incredibly knowledgable about the animals at Shamwari, but he could track animals unbelievably well. He grew up in the bush and after his time at the university, he traveled all over Africa getting field experience working with animals before settling at Shamwari for the past 13 years.  We were so lucky to have him as our guide, and everything that I learned at Shamwari, I learned directly from him.

Every morning, we got a wake up call at 6:15 am to go to breakfast and depart on our morning game drive. After coming back for lunch, we went on another game drive. It was at least six hours a day bumping along in the back of Headman’s trusty safari truck. Every day at sunset, we would stop for sundowners and have a drink and watch the sunset from some amazing vantage point.

 

I have written before about how wonderful Bayethe was. When we were not bouncing along in our safari vehicle, it was easy to relax at Bayethe. The massages at the spa helped.  Also, what helped was to feel completely surrounded by nature. Unlike some of the other lodges in Shamwari, Bayethe is not fenced in, so you really get the feeling that you are out in the bush and that any animal can pop in for a visit. Some, like the monkeys did.

 We lunched every day on the deck watching warthogs lunching by the waterhole that we overlooked. 

 

Speaking of those meals, I think I gained at least fifteen pounds of the course of our six days at Shamwari.  I will write a separate post later about the food in South Africa, but at Shamwari, it was amazing. 

Everything about Shamwari was amazing.  We were there for five nights, which was longer than most people who stay on average, two or three nights there. However, five nights wasn’t long enough. I could have easily stayed five more. Everything was so perfect.  David and I both were so happy there.

I hope that I make it back to Shamwari again.  I really want to take the rest of my family there. I can’t think of any person who would appreciate Shamwari more than my sister, Melissa. One day, I will take here there and we can share the beautiful African Shamwari sunset together.

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