An African safari at Shamwari

One of Africa’s most exclusive safari destinations, Shamwari offers not only the opportunity to see a multitude of African wildlife but also the chance to actively contribute to their preservation.

Shamwari’s expert rangers ensure guests are treated to unforgettable wildlife adventures in the untamed African wilderness including guided bush walks and photographic safaris. At the heart of Shamwari is an unwavering dedication to wildlife conservation and environmental sustainability.

The reserve houses a Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre that cares for injured, sick, and orphaned animals and a vulture breeding centre. It’s a collaboration between Shamwari and vulture conservation organisation Vulpro, that will open at the end of January 2024. Shamwari also hosts two Born Free Big Cat Sanctuaries and Education Centres.

Colossal conservation

The Shamwari conservation project focus is restoring the entire ecosystem, not just parts of it. It’s why successes such as the reintroduction of the red-billed oxpeckers are considered as important as any bringing back any of the ‘big five’ to the region.

These tiny birds pecking parasites from rhino, giraffe, zebra and other mammals are so common in Eastern Cape reserves that visitors pay scant attention. Still, the red-billed oxpeckers ubiquity is a significant conservation success.

After the vast herds of game, once prevalent in the region, were all but wiped out in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, oxpecker numbers declined. The use of arsenic-based dips for cattle sealed their fate. The species became extinct in the Eastern Cape. 

The successful re-introduction of the red-billed oxpecker to Shamwari and, by extension, the Eastern Cape in the mid-90s is a testament to these and other birds’ vital role in the ecosystem. 

Cape vultures © Shamwari

Reintroducing birds into the reserve

The reserve’s ecologist, John O’Brien, recalls flying to the Kruger National Park to collect what he thought would be 100 birds. In the event, there were only 52. After the expense of chartering the aircraft and having waited five years to ensure the conditions were optimum, there was a lot of anxiety about releasing the birds at Shamwari. The conservation team picked what they thought was the ideal spot: an open area with plenty of grazing mammals around. 

But, when they opened the cages, all 52 birds headed back toward the Kruger. That was until one looked around and saw a giraffe, and the others followed. That minor conservation miracle resulted in successfully reintroducing the species to the Eastern Cape. 

Now, the conservation team is looking to bring back another bird species, which suffered the same fate as the oxpecker after the demise of wild herds and the use of arsenic cattle dips.

Return of the Cape vultures

In late January, the first tranche of 155 Cape vultures will move from VulPro’s existing conservation and breeding facility at Hartebeespoort to a purpose-built centre at Shamwari. This will mark the start of the most significant relocation of vultures ever undertaken. 

The Cape vultures’ offspring will be released on Shamwari, reintroducing the species to the reserve and the Eastern Cape. Joe Cloete, Shamwari CEO, says that in conservation terms, the project is as significant as anything done on the reserve over the past 30 years.

“Vultures play a vital role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem, are part of our natural heritage and are severely threatened. I cannot overstate how reintroducing Cape vultures is a critical step in the evolution of our conservation journey and enhancing the ecological importance of the reserve.”

To view a special episode of Shamwari TV celebrating birds, click here.

Shamwari TV

During the lockdown in 2020, Shamwari TV started to showcase the reserve’s wildlife and help some of its neighbouring communities. Andrew Kearney, Head Ranger, headed into the reserve armed with a rifle and a cell phone to film anything of interest.

His enthusiasm and encyclopaedic knowledge of the bush soon resulted in his posts gaining followers. That’s when Shamwari and Andrew Barratt, co-owner of Hungry Bison Films, teamed up to start producing professionally filmed and edited episodes. Over 100 episodes later, Shamwari TV has proved to be a huge success. With over 120,000 followers in South Africa and around the world. 

Read more
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Walk, don’t run: African safari by foot
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