My wife, teenaged son and I stayed at Eagle's Crag for 3 nights in the waning days of the African winter and we and loved nearly every aspect. The main lodge building and detached chalets have the thatched roof design common to bush lodges in Africa, with tasteful stone exterior walls and all the expected fine appointments inside. It was cloudy and cool at the very beginning of September with a bit of occasional rain, which did not diminish the quality of the game drives. But it was chilly. A nice touch was that when you returned to your room, the staff made sure that the electric blanket was turned on, so a warm, comfy bed was waiting for you.
All meals were superb and plentiful. Dinner included a tapas option, which is worth trying---even if just as a group appetizer. There were also stand-alone entrees that included various game meats, if you're interested. On certain nights, everyone who had been on the safari drive that day, including your ranger/driver, sat at one table and shared stories, which was an entertaining, special experience. Your ranger also joins you for breakfast most days.
As for the drives themselves, the safari truck was clean and dry at the start of each ride. Eagle's Crag trucks have only 7 seats, one next to the driver and two per row with a compartment in-between for stowing gear. There is also a poncho for rain and a very heavy, warm blanket in case of chilly weather. We made use of both and were as comfortable as can be expected (we also took the advice of other travelers and brought many thin layers that could be peeled or added as needed, which worked perfectly for us). Temperatures Aug 30 - Sept 1 were 50s F in the morning and 60s F in the afternoon.
Our ranger/driver, Franz, was excellent and we came away feeling that we probably had one of Shamwari's best. Franz was excellent at spotting animals, especially from a great distance. And of course, at a reserve like Shamwari (versus a National Park like Kruger), the rangers can drive anywhere off-road in pursuit of animals. This ability afforded us some very special experiences, including two lounging cheetahs and a pair of lions munching on the remains of a warthog. At times, it seemed as though Franz was flying past impala and some other animals, but we learned that the reason was always because there was something better ahead for which he was aiming. By the end of our 6 drives, we had gotten good looks at nearly all the large to mid-sized animals the roughly 90-square-mile reserve has to offer---and a few small ones, too. Of course, each sighting is different. We saw lions several times, for example, but each sighting told a different story. The final example involved a lone lioness stalking impala. After 20 tense minutes, she charged... and missed! Seeing those impalas flying through the air in flight was really something special.
Upon returning to the lodge, we were always greeted by the friendly staff with a choice of sherry or a cup of something hot like cocoa or chai tea.
The only knock on Eagle's Crag is that, unlike some of the other lodging options at Shamwari, the lodge is tucked in amongst thick trees in a narrow valley. This limits the chance for wildlife sightings from the property. Other lodges, like Long Lee Manor, have broad views of flatlands and large decks from which to observe passing groups of beasts. But the road leading to Eagle's Crag can be full or surprises (we saw baboons on our last return) and the boardwalks leading between all the private rooms passed through thickets filled with hidden birds who sometimes popped-out for a look and this added to the intimate flavor of this place. Also, the guest list is limited here, so I imagine that even in high season, you're likely going to bump into fewer crowds. As it was, there were only about 8 or 9 guests when we were there which allowed for some nice conversations and a degree of pleasant familiarity by the time we left.
The lodge is about a 90 minute drive from the Port Elizabeth airport. It proved the perfect spot for wrapping-up our 10-day Garden Route tour.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- A mere 75 km from Port Elizabeth towards Grahamstown, Eastern Cape, South Africa. Shamwari is the crown jewel of private game reserves situated in the malaria free Eastern Cape, the birth place of Nelson Mandela. This privately owned 25 000 hectares of prime natural terrain has received numerous international awards. Shamwari is an exploration of nature with close encounters of free roaming wildlife and the coveted big five with a choice of unique lodges, an exclusive private villa and the adventurous Explorer Camp. Luxury accommodation is offered in 7 different game lodges on Shamwari Game Reserve, all of which are 5 Star graded. Choose a game lodge that perfectly compliments your ideal African experience. EAGLES CRAG LODGE - Exclusivity, privacy and serenity for the most discerning of travelersBAYETHE TENTED LODGE - The ultimate in luxury tented accommodationSARILI LODGE - A colonial and bush experience. Perfect for families or small partiesLONG LEE MANOR - Refined elegance from a bygone era. RIVERDENE FAMILY LODGE - Colonial Africa in an elegantly restored CHILD FRIENDLY frontier home. VILLA LOBENGULA - Villa Lobengula is a beautiful and tranquil space tucked away in the depths of the valley bushveld. Booked on an exclusive use basis only. EXPLORER CAMP - Camping & walking experience among the Big 5 on the magnificent Shamwari Game Reserve ON SAFARI - Game drives can last up to 3 hours each and are conducted twice a day in open vehicles / Guided walks / Star gazing RELAX - Various treatments can be enjoyed at our Relaxation Retreats which are situated at Eagles Crag, Lobengula Lodge, Bayethe Lodge and Long Lee Manor ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Shamwari Game Reserve Hotel Shamwari Game Reserve