Game viewing in the karoo wilderness
The Samara Private Game Reserve encompasses 27,000 hectares of spectacular malaria-free Karoo wilderness, incorporating dramatic mountain terrains, sweeping plains and ancient rock art. The reserve is only a 2.5 hour drive from Port Elizabeth, in the Graaff Reinet region of the Eastern Cape.
The reserve offers a tremendous game experience for those hoping to see cheetah (there is an excellent cheetah conservation programme in operation here), and herds of plains game such as gemsbok, eland, black wildebeest, girafffe and zebra are regularly seen on the grassy plains.
The reserve is home to the Big 5 - rhino (both white and black), buffalo, the occasional leopard, and a small family of elephant. In late 2018 a pride of lions were re-introduced - a real contribution to conservation and responsible tourism, as the lion population in the area had been locally extinct for 180 years.
In total, over 60 wildlife species can be found here, as well as over 225 species of birds - so this really is a bird watcher’s paradise. Take your binos and get ready to tick off sightings of the blue crane (South Africa's national bird), Secretary birds, black eagles, African hoopoes, herons and kingfishers, Kori Bustards... the list just continues.
One of the highlights of a stay here is tracking cheetah on foot - an unforgettable experience - and several of the more habituated Samara cheetahs have radio collars which assist the trackers in locating them.
There are only 2 elegant 5* lodges on the reserve. The Karoo Lodge provides colonial style accommodation in the main 1800s Homestead or in cottage Garden Suites, and The Manor is a contemporary stylish private manor house, ideal for families or groups of friends travelling together.
Guests can enjoy a variety of activities during their stay. The walking safaris specialise in all aspects of getting closer to nature and learning to track animals and approach them on foot. None of the walks are particularly strenuous but a basic level of fitness is recommended. Or travel up the steep mountain pass in a 4x4 vehicle and enjoy truly breathtaking scenery. Night safaris offer the rare opportunity to search out the aardvark, one of the most widespread mammals in Africa, but also one of the most unseen creatures that Africa has to offer.
For guests staying 3+ nights, they can also go 'fly-camping' - an immersive adventure encompassing a guided bush walk and a sleep-out in the wildernesses. The adventure begins with a guided bush walk through Big Five territory with an armed ranger and tracker team.
At dusk, guests arrive at their private camp, where tents have been set up and the fire is ready to be started. Here you will be treated to sundowners and a traditional South African braai, cooked over the fire by your ranger and tracker (with optional assistance from any budding chefs in the group!).
Your evening will be spent around the campfire, sharing safari stories, watching the stars appear and listening for the nightly chorus of jackals and nightingales punctuated by the occasional roar of a lion - a sound you are unlikely to forget. You’ll retreat to the comfort of your tent, where your bed will have been prepared for you - foam mattress, soft linen and extra blankets to ward off the night air.
The next morning, you will wake to the smell of firewood and coffee coaxing you out of your tent to take in the magic of an African sunrise. You can then choose whether to walk or drive back to the lodge. This exciting adventure is offered from October to May (excluding 15 December-10 January) and participants must be 16 years and older. There is also a maximum number of 6 guests per fly-camping trip.
For the real romantics, a night on Samara's Star Bed under the starry skies is a must. The star bed platform comprises a bespoke handmade four-poster kingsized bed with draped mosquito net, and a small seating/dining area looks out over the Milk River. Drift off to sleep with the Milky Way as your 'bedroom ceiling', and as you wake in the morning, breathe in the fresh Karoo air and say hi to another beautiful African day. This experience is obviously weather dependent and also not bookable over the colder Winter months between May and September.
Whether ensconced in the comfort of an open game viewing vehicle, or walking through the fragrant Karoo bush, guests can discover the secrets of Samara. An amazing and wonderfully relaxing experience awaits any visitor who stays here.
Samara Karoo Lodge
Samara Karoo lodge is located on a spectacular 27,000 hectare malaria-free reserve, about a 2.5 hour drive from Port Elizabeth. This abundant wilderness preserves a complex and diverse ecosystem, providing habitat for over 60 wildlife species.
Children of any age are welcome.