Saturday, December 23, 2017

Shamwari Game Reserve (South Africa)

We have never spent anything above S$300 for 2 people when choosing our accommodation. It was therefore a crazy splurge when we decided to pay S$1,200 per night for our accommodation at Shamwari Game Reserve (Sarili Lodge). We had to do it because we knew that we were not going to visit South Africa without visiting a safari. 

1. Accommodation 

The lodge was clean and felt luxurious. The bed was large and you could choose from a menu of pillows. We had good views of the grass plains. 

If there is nothing to do, you can always lounge around at the sofa and watch TV. The staff placed some fudge next to our bedsides each evening as well. I am not a fan of the exceedingly sweet fudge but appreciate the gesture. There was also a mini booklet with legends surrounding particular animals- that proved to be an interesting read although the words were a little small for my old eyes.

The toilet was large. There were basins for two and a large bathtub.

My only gripe was that when I first turned on the tap, yellow water started flowing out, which freaked me out a little. After running the tap for a while, the water finally became clear again. That said, I am not sure how clean the water supply is.

There were also great smelling body and hair products.

They were also thoughtful to provide a bag of essentials, including a hand sanitiser, some tissue paper and a bag of nuts. There was also a Species Check List on the animals that you may possibly encounter, although I highly doubt if anybody seriously looks at it. There was also a weather report that they prepare, probably so that they can moderate people's expectations. However, what we learnt from our drives, was that the weather could be rather unpredictable.

2) Food 

Everything, including food and the drives, is included in the package. You would definitely not go hungry. We ate so much on the first day that we decided that we had to refuse some food on the second day, or risk feeling bloated all the time.

When it was warmer, we sat at the balcony to enjoy our meals. When it was cooler, meals would be indoors.

Meals consist of pre-breakfast (if you are going out for an early game drive), breakfast, lunch, teatime, snacks in the evening as well as dinner. Breakfast and teatime would be together with the ranger, you are on your own for lunch and dinner is with the ranger every alternate night. If you are awkward with people you are not familiar with, there may be moments of awkwardness during your meals with the ranger.

The food presentation looked good and their menu made each dish sound incredibly scrumptious. The portions were large, although the quality of food does not really match its presentation. The meals were largely average to slightly above average. They cater for vegetarians as well.

For breakfast, there was a menu you could choose from and a side table where you could take some ham, cereal etc. For lunch and dinner, it was a three course meal where there was quite a variety to choose from. During the meals, you could also choose the drinks that you will be enjoying on your game drive.

Teatime consisted of a variety of pastries which differed each day. On the days we were there, we had some scones and lemon rosemary cake. There were also some light snacks such as liquorice or sunflower seeds that you could bring along for your game drive. Every other night, there would also be a braai, where you could choose from a variety of grilled meats.

3) Amenities 

While spa treatments are available, we did not go for them. There was also a swimming people which looked rather miserable in size. But I guess you don't really go to a safari to dip in the pool.

4) Game drives 

Now, the most important part- the game drives.

There are 2 game drives a day, each lasting around 3 hours, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The game drive in the morning would usually start at 5:30 a.m. thereabouts. However, our ranger suggested that since it would be cloudy anyway, it is likely that there would be no difference even if we went out at 9 a.m. So that was what we did. The evening game drive would start at around 4 p.m. There were blankets on the vehicle, which proved to be extremely useful as it could get pretty windy on the drive.

Being on the game drive was like watching national geographic live. It was interesting to see the animals do their own thing, and you would never know what you would see on every game drive.

Our ranger was humorous and obviously knew quite a bit about animals. On drives where all the animals went into hiding (because it was raining), he would try to point out other things, such as identifying the animals' footsteps or talk about certain vegetation.

During the evening drives, the ranger would drive to some spot in the reserve and set out a picnic of sorts, complete with snacks and drinks.

5) Service 

We encountered very good service. Every time we came back from a game drive, there would be someone giving us warm hand towels and ready with a cup of hot drink, such as hot chocolate or apple tea.

6) Others

After checking out, we visited the Born Free Big Cat Sanctuaries. The sanctuary collaborates with the Born Free Foundation, which rescues animals from captivity and cares for them for the rest of their life. It was around an hour's walk and it was more of an educational tour to draw the public's attention to the plight of animals held in captivity.

7) Conclusion 

Overall, it was an eye opening experience, complete with a luxurious stay. It felt like 2 days was just right. 


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