Shamwari Game Reserve Safari Guide

safarigo   South Africa  

Shamwari is the best-known of the Eastern Cape’s private reserves. It offers excellent wildlife viewing with a good variety of animals including all the Big Five. The very exclusive experience includes open-vehicle game drives with high-quality guiding and luxury accommodation with first-rate food and service. Some lodges in Shamwari are family-friendly and run a 'Kids on Safari' program

Pros & Cons

Excellent wildlife viewing
Open-vehicle game drives with knowledgeable guides
Night drives and walking safaris available
Some lodge caters specifically to kids
Great volunteering options
Only fully inclusive expensive packages, no self-drive or budget accommodation

Wildlife & Animals

Shamwari is home to all big safari animals, including the Big Five. Both black and white rhino can be seen. Lion sightings are quite common, but leopard and cheetah are more difficult to spot. A good variety of antelope has been re-introduced, including red-hartebeest and springbok. The unusual black morph of the springbok is a rare sighting.

Wildlife Highlights

Most visitors will see four of the Big Five (lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino) and leopards are also present, but quite shy. The northern half of Shamwari ranks among the best places in 
South Africa to see the endangered black rhino. A visit to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre can get you up close to some orphaned or sick animals, which are nursed here to be released back into the wild when ready.


With over 250 species recorded, Shamwari is an excellent birding destination. However, as in many private reserves, birding tends to be overlooked with checking off flagship species like the Big Five being the main emphasis. Sharing game drives with other people that might not share a birding interest could be frustrating. In that case, it is advisable to book private wildlife drives. Migratory birds are present from November to April.

Best Time to Visit

Wildlife viewing in Shamwari is good throughout the year, as its arid to semi-arid climate draws animals to water sources at any time. The best wildlife viewing is during the driest winter months of June to September. However, it can be very cold during this time of the year, and warm winter clothing is essential, particularly for taking part in nighttime and early morning game drives in open vehicles.

May to September – Dry Season

Lack of water in the bush drives animals to water sources, making them slightly easier to spot
Discounted low season rates
Blue, cloudless skies
Warm clothes are necessary for chilly game drives in open vehicles

October to April – Wet Season

Lots of newborn animals
The park's landscape is transformed by abundant greenery and flowers
Migratory birds have arrived, and birding is excellent
It is more expensive during the high season

Weather & Climate

Shamwari has a classification of semi-arid to arid and receives an average annual rainfall of less than 450mm/17.7in. Here, the winter and summer seasons occur opposite to their Europe and North American counterparts. Rain is fairly evenly distributed all year long. However, it peaks at two times during the year: February-March and October-November. During the mid-winter, temperatures can reach freezing point.

Dry Season – May to September

The winter months consist of cold nights and mornings. Winter clothes are essential, especially for game drives in open vehicles at night and in the morning. There is less rain than in the summer, and the skies are generally clear.

May – Winter is beginning. Temperatures cool to 8°C/46°F in the morning with an average temperature of 22°C/72°F in the afternoon.
June & July – These months are the coldest. Morning temperatures average 6°C/43°F, but it isn't unusual to reach freezing point at night. Afternoons range around 20°C/68°F.
August & September – It gradually warms to a typical afternoon temperature of 23°C/73°F. Mornings are less cold, with temperatures around 8°C/46°F.

Wet Season – October to April

Summer is characterized by comfortable temperatures and slightly more rainfall. Some days might be cloudy with drizzle, but it is sunny for the most part.

October & November – Warmer weather with average morning temperatures of around 12°C/54°F and 25°C/77°F in the afternoon. Rain peaks in October.
December, January & February – These months are the warmest of the year. Afternoon temperatures reach 29°C/84°F. Mornings are comfortable, with an average of 16°C/61°F. There is less rain in December and January, but it increases slightly in February.
March & April – The wettest month is March, although it still doesn't rain a lot and rarely for days on end. The weather begins to cool with an average afternoon temperature of 27°C/81°F and 14°C/57°F in the morning.

Getting There

When visiting Shamwari Game Reserve, most people first fly into O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) in Johannesburg or Cape Town International Airport (CPT) in Cape Town. A tour may be started here in the form of an organized safari or by opting for a self-drive package. Many people will take a week or two to drive east from Cape Town to Shamwari via the Winelands and Garden Route.