Reminicent of a bygone era in South Africa’s colonial past, Long Lee Manor is a meticulously renovated Edwardian era mansion, located in the Shamwari Game Reserve just seventy kilometres from Port Elizabeth, and 23 kilometres from the Addo Elephant National Park in South Africa’s malaria-free Eastern Cape Province. By Des Langkilde – Editor: Tourism Tattler Trade Journal.
After signing-in at the South entrance access gate to the Shamwari game reserve, Long Lee Manor is a short drive along a well maintained gravel road, which takes an inordinately long time to reach due to frequent game viewing stops along the way.
The Manor property is surrounded with a low-slung electrified wire barrier to keep predator species of wildlife at bay, and guests gain access to the cobbled driveway, which is flanked on either side by manicured gardens, through a sensor activated automatic gate leading to an undercover portico at the reception area (tour coaches can disembark passengers alongside the portico).
While guests sign-in and sip on welcome fruit cocktails at the reception desk, or browse through the adjacent curio shop, the attentive staff are busy transferring luggage to allocated rooms, and the guests’ vehicle is driven away by the valet to be parked in a secure area behind the Manor house.
The room check-in time is 1pm, and guests can enjoy a sumptuous lunch in the dining room before retiring to their rooms to relax before high tea, followed by a game drive. Unfortunately, I checked-in late for my two-night stay on Friday April 29th 2016, but we (my wife Beverley and son Chase) did manage to freshen up in our adjoining rooms before the afternoon game drive. Before I describe the game drive though, the superbly appointed rooms and 5-star amenities bear mentioning.
There are 15 en-suite rooms and spacious family suites at Long Lee Manor, which can accommodate up to 30 guests at two people per room. The twin beds can be converted into Super King beds, and one the suites is designed for physically impaired guests. The Sidbury Wing is tucked away from the main manor house. These well-appointed bedrooms are all fitted with air-conditioning and under-floor heating, an electronic safe for storing valuables, fitted international electrical plug adaptors, and either a patio or balcony. An honesty mini-bar counter and fridge, stocked with chocolates, crisps, wine, beer and soft-drinks is provided in each room, as is an espresso machine (the Nespresso Citiz model uses coffee pods that get ‘thrown away’ to a wastebasket within the machine − a very tidy contraption that brews an excellent cuppa, including Rooibos tea, in under 60 seconds).
The guests preferred tipple or beverage order is taken before each game drive, so there’s no delay in getting the drive underway. And what a drive it is! Traversing the entire 25,000 hectare Shamwari reserve could take days but fortunately, our efficient guide Patrick knows where certain species of wildlife will be found at different times of the day, and besides he is also in continual contact with the other guides.
However, Patrick assures us that there will never be more than two game vehicles at any major sighting (unlike the Kruger Park, which is like rush-hour in Jozi). His assurance is soon put to the test as we crest the top of a hill to find a pride of lion lazing away the warm afternoon. Sure enough the second game vehicle only arrived as ours was departing, and we passed a third vehicle waiting its turn as we descended the hill.
With an uncanny ability for locating the whereabouts of his wild flock (ably assisted by his two-way radio), Patrick headed to the plains land and riverine forests where he immersed his awe struck passengers into the midst of an elephant herd. I commented on the placidity of the herd and specifically its matriarch, whose maternal instinct know no bounds if she feels that the herds’ calfs are threatened. “The herd is relaxed only because they have been habituated to the sight and smell of our game viewing vehicles. You will have noticed that all the other reserve vehicles used for maintenance and staff shuttle are white, while the game vehicles are green. It’s the main reason that we don’t allow self-drive safari viewing in Shamwari,” says Patrick.
As dusk approached and the herd ambled off into the thicket we headed for elevated ground to witness the splendour of an African sunset over Shamwari as Patrick unpacked a selection of snacks and beverages.
Back at Long Lee Manor, we freshened up and assembled in the dining room for the highlight of any stay-away from home – the food! And we were not disappointed as the culinary standard matches the Manor’s 5-star status. My à la carte choice consisted of traditional South African fare – a Babotie Spring Role for starters, followed by an entrée of Venison Loin served with maize cake, glazed baby carrots and asparagus prepared al dente, and paired with a glass of Ken Forrester Petite Pinotage – absolutely delectable! Dessert followed with a dark chocolate tart served with orange ice cream and vanilla anglaise, paired with a Mulderbosch Noble Late Harvest dessert wine. Bev and Chase opted for the beef fillet (tenderloin), which was perfectly prepared to their respective liking.
I could fill this review waxing lyrical on the food alone but suffice to say that all meals are ample and of the highest quality. It’s just as well then that the Manor has a fully equipped gym to work off those excess calories.
During a brief interview, I asked the Head Ranger, Andrew Kearney how Long Lee Manor interacts with the local community. “We draw staff from the communities at Patterson and Alicedale, and provide full training and certification. Your guide Patrick for example started in F&B, moved on to barman, and finally found his passion in game ranging after being certified as a FGASA registered field guide. We also fund numerous projects, such as installing flood lights in Patterson at the communities request. In addition, while we are GreenLeaf accredited, we are in the process of gaining Fair Trade certification,” said Andrew.
I also asked about Shamwari’s eco-tourism and conservation policies, but that’s another detailed story, which will have to wait for the next review as I’ve yet to visit the remaining six lodges on Shamwari Game Reserve – these being: Eagles Crag Lodge, Riverdene Family Lodge, Sarili Lodge, Villa Lobengula, Bayete Tented Lodge, and the Explorer Camp.
For more information visit the website at www.shamwari.com