In 1990, a small 1,200-hectare farm became available and was duly purchased. Shortly after, drought and financial difficulties led to a number of neighbouring farmers placing their land on the open market and further land was acquired to a a total of 7,000 hectares. Over the course of the next 15 years, Shamwari Game Reserve expanded to 25 000 hectares.
Through research, it was discovered that the Eastern Cape used to be one of the richest wildlife areas in Africa in terms of biodiversity. In fact, the legendary big 5 were first encountered in the Eastern Cape. Wildlife historians refer to the Cape Buffalo, Cape Leopard, Cape Lion and Cape Hunting Dog (Wildog) in their historical documents. The endangered Black Rhino flourished in the Eastern Cape. However, due to hunting, over farming and drought most of these species were eliminated during the 19th century.
The new owners decided to return the land to its once pristine condition. This vision included the preservation of the history, fauna and flora of the Eastern Cape. In the process, a close and enduring relationship with renowned conservationist, Dr Ian Player, founder of The Wilderness Foundation, began.
On 15th October 1992, Shamwari was officially opened. We received our first guests at Long Lee Manor, which was the original Manor House, once owned by the Fowlds family circa 1916. Highfield and Carn Ingly, two 1820 Settler cottages were also lovingly restored and opened to guests.
Seven years later, to reinforce the concept of preservation and conservation, the animal rescue and educational programme was launched in partnership with the Born Free Foundation. The Julie Ward Centre was opened in September 1999, with 5 bush enclosures, where African cats are cared for in the sanctuary.
Over time Shamwari grew and established itself, and by the year 2000, the reserve was large enough and stocked sufficiently to support large predators. A dedicated and systematic reintroduction program was launched and finally, in October 2000, the first lions were brought back to the Eastern Cape and released at Shamwari to fulfill a dream.
Today, our 25,000 hectares of land comprises 6 separate 5-star lodges, an Explorer Camp, 3 different education and rehabilitation facilities and employs over 325 local staff. It has been restored to its rightful state with the stunning Eastern Cape flora and fauna of yesteryear, flourishing with free-roaming wildlife.