Did you know?
The ancient art of tracking is being revived at Samara, through its Tracker Academy.
Samara Private Game Reserve is in the Great Karoo – a somewhat unusual setting to have a bush lodge.
In some ways it resembles the customary savannahs further north. There are flat-topped trees, there is waving grass, there are antelope roaming the plains. In other ways it is utterly different.
Instead of lions, there are cheetahs – plenty of them. Instead of hyenas, there are bat-eared foxes and cheerful, scorpion-hunting meerkats. Instead of umbrella trees, there are spectacular white-barked shepherd’s trees. And you'd be unlucky not to see an aardvark.
Crush the narrow leaves of Karoo bushes in your fingers and you’ll smell something resembling rosemary, lavender, sage or thyme. These are the bushes the sheep eat in the Great Karoo, and the reason why this land used to be a series of sheep farms until it was bought by Sarah and Mark Tompkins, and rehabilitated.
It’s a semi-desert, but with high levels of biodiversity. There’s a whole different ecology here, and it’s fascinating to uncover. What is equally enthralling is the spaciousness of it all. You’ll be pampered, you’ll sleep in crisp, fine linen and eat the best food, but the greatest luxury lies in resting your eyes on far horizons and to have nothing to do except exactly what you want.
The rhythms are different here. If you’d like to go for a wander instead of a game drive, why not? If you see one of the old farmhouses that still dot the landscape while on a drive, why not explore it? You could spend hours taking macro photographs of succulents, or just sitting in a comfortable chair on the shaded verandah with a book, lifting your head occasionally to watch the mountains change colour.
The Karoo, as you’ll soon learn to appreciate, is a profoundly restful place.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Samara Private Game Reserve
Tel: +27 (0)49 891 0558
Tel: +27 (0)82 339 8646
How to get here
The closest large airport is at Port Elizabeth, some three hours' drive away. Take the R75 from Port Elizabeth towards Graaff-Reinet, but just before you get there, turn right onto the R63 to Pearston and Somerset-East. Turn left after 7km at the St Petersburg sign. Alternately air charters can be arranged, or ask for a transfer.
Best time to visit
In the Karoo, the weather can be extreme. It's very hot in summer and often snows in the mountains in winter. Spring (August to November) and autumn (March to May) are more temperate.
Tours to do
You're not far from the historic town of Graaff-Reinet and the spectacular Valley of Desolation. It's easy to book a tour.
What will it cost
Samara is a luxurious, five-star lodge, and costs accordingly.
Length of stay
A two to three night stay would be ideal.
Where to stay
You have a choice of the stylish Karoo Lodge, the Manor (which caters for the exclusive use of up to eight guests) or the slightly more rustic but utterly charming Mountain Retreat.
There's a luxurious spa at Samara, offering an array of relaxing treatments.