Shamwari Private Game Reserve has announced the opening of two more of its lodges this Tourism Month in anticipation of pent-up domestic demand and a small, but welcome, increase in international interest.

CEO, Joe Cloete, says that successive waves of the pandemic have made initial pessimistic forecasts about how long the recovery would take now appear bullish.

“We estimated international bookings would recover by 2023, but now think it will take longer than that. What is encouraging is that we’re starting to get enquiries from North America and some of those European countries with less stringent travel restrictions.”

Realising early on in the pandemic that it could no longer depend on overseas demand, the Shamwari team re-focussed its marketing efforts and adjusted its rates to increase domestic market share.

This and themed weekends such as the Banquet in the Bush, in association with a leading chef and winemaker, and Safari Unplugged, with Watershed frontman Craig Hinds, have helped grow Shamwari’s domestic profile and stimulate bookings.

“We’re certainly going to continue hosting special events and have successfully piloted mountain biking safaris,” says Cloete.

He admits that the most successful promotional idea didn’t originate with the marketing team, but with rather Andrew Kearney, the ranger manager, who took to the bush with his cellphone and filmed a virtual game drive. This developed into a series of professionally filmed episodes of Shamwari TV hosted on YouTube, which has attracted followers in South Africa and around the world.

“Shamwari TV has been a brilliant way to showcase the reserve and the experiences our guests can expect. Importantly it also helped to keep us top-of-mind during the hard lockdown, when we were unable to accommodate guests.”

Shamwari re-opened two of its seven lodges in mid-September 2020, with offers designed to appeal to domestic visitors. The newly refurbished Long Lee Manor is now priced at R4 150 per person per night sharing, a significant discount in the pre-pandemic rate. The rate includes meals and the only additional costs are the conservation levy, beverages, spa treatments and laundry.

The entire exclusive five-bedroomed Sarili Private Lodge is available to families and groups of friends for R38 000 a night. This includes meals, a bespoke itinerary and a private staff including a personal chef.

Families with children staying at Long Lee Manor or Sarili also have access to Riverdene Lodge’s vast adventure playground, with rope walkways, climbing walls, slides and ziplines. The facilities are colour-coded according to age and ability, and under constant supervision.

Sindile, the newest lodge and flagship tented camp re-opened this month. Ideal for couples wanting a luxury break or romantic getaway, the domestic rates are R8 000 per person per night sharing and in addition to meals also includes selected beverages. 

Bayethe tented lodge will re-open in December. The re-opening special for domestic visitors is R4 150 per person sharing, which runs from 1 – 19 December. Over the peak period from 20 December the rate is R4 750.  

“After successive lockdowns, with the third wave abating, vaccination programme rolling out and more airlines back in the skies, we’re hopeful that we’ll see some improvement in demand this coming summer. It’s important for us, but also important for the sector because the longer it takes for us to get back in business, the harder it will be for South Africa to reclaim its place in a competitive global market,” says Cloete.

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