Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, Shamwari Game Reserve is deeply rooted in a heritage of “conserving a vanishing way of life”, as Group General Manager Joe Cloete puts it. Offering a premium safari-meets-wildlife conservation experience in the Eastern Cape for friends, families and even business travellers, the reserve prides itself on being one of South Africa’s most successful private conservation initiatives.
Cloete shared some of the reserve’s milestones from its humble beginnings in 1992 and what patrons can look forward to in the coming years.
Where did it all begin for Shamwari Game Reserve?
We officially opened in 1992, but we started with just a handful of staff to help rehabilitate the land and to start bringing in wildlife that had been erased from the Eastern Cape’s landscape. It was then that we decided to “conserve a vanishing way of life”, and have stuck to this principle ever since.
Which milestones and challenges are notable?
We have seen Shamwari become a household name for safaris and wildlife conservation and, many would say, a shining example of how this has been successfully done. Challenges, there have been many, but it would probably have been in the early days convincing guests to safari in the Eastern Cape and not just the Kruger, etc. Skills development of staff – teaching them about the hospitality industry – was paramount, and finding suitable staff in the beginning. Now we can look back and see how people have grown and become trained in not just one profession during their time with us.
What future projects can patrons look forward to?
2018 and 2019 will see beautiful refurbishments and remodelling of the lodges, with new architecture and design to showcase Shamwari at its very best.
What do you find unique and inspiring about travel in South Africa and/or the continent?
There is simply so much to do and experience for any type of holiday you’re looking for. With the plethora of choices, you would have to return time and again to experience it all
What’s the best travel lesson you’ve acquired that you’ve continued to apply to your business?
Know who you are speaking with, and be mindful and respectful.
How has the reserve maintained a competitive edge?
We’ve been in business successfully for 25 years, and have done extensive marketing locally and internationally, of not just Shamwari Game Reserve but the Eastern Cape. The Shamwari brand has continued to grow over the years and gets stronger and stronger. We’ve always encouraged interaction with our guests and the industry to get feedback on the ever-changing needs of the game.
How has Shamwari Game Reserve invested in the community in which it operates?
We have multiple ongoing community services projects in and around the area, coupled with constant training and education for community members who are part of the Shamwari team. These range from supporting local schools and crèches, supporting the elders and even caring for the community pets via our team of vets. Presently, we’re rebuilding someone’s home, which had burned down. Being part of the community was crucial for us in establishing Shamwari, long before it became the norm in the industry.