Did you know?
Samara is one of the few places where you’ll almost certainly see an aardvark.
Heavy rains have just fallen on Samara Private Game Reserve in the arid Karoo, not far from Graaff-Reinet. A triumphant message goes out on Facebook:
'The success of our land rehab efforts are now visible. Some of our rock dams have trapped 50cm of soil. The spekboom looks amazing, the grass is growing in the holes we dug.'
It might seem a tad cryptic to those who haven’t been there – but this means a lot to the volunteers who have worked hard to restore the veld in this dry region.
Samara, now a large private game reserve, is made up of a many former livestock farms. Some of them were overstocked and overgrazed, creating erosion gullies that still bleed away precious topsoil.
Volunteers at Samara have made a real difference here, slowing the water-flow down so that plants can take root and cover the bare earth.
On any reserve, private or otherwise, there is plenty to do – and volunteers get a real insider’s view into the running of such a place. While visitors may only have sightings of cheetahs on game drives, you’ll be intimately involved, watching cheetah behaviour and noting their kills and movements.
You’ll follow vervet monkey researchers to help with observations, and log the movements of secretive aardvarks.
In the process, you’ll be feeding into research being done by top South African universities. More importantly, you’ll be learning about conservation from the inside.
You can also work a little with underprivileged children at the Vuyani Safe Haven for neglected children in the nearby town of Graaff-Reinet.
Volunteering at Samara attracts conservation-minded people of all ages from many countries. A few weeks here will provide an invaluable experience in the bush. If you’re here in winter, you may even be called on to help during game capture operations – an intense experience you will never forget.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Samara Private Game Reserve
Tel: +27 (0)49 891 0880
How to get here
You are just under three hours away from the nearest airport in Port Elizabeth. The volunteering crew at Samara will organise a transfer.
Best time to visit
The Karoo is known for its extreme weather − very hot summers (November to March) and very chilly winters (May to August). The shoulder seasons are mild.
Around the area
Don't miss the Valley of Desolation at the Camdeboo National Park, not far from Samara.
While at Samara you will be transported in a 4x4 vehicle. But often, you'll be on foot. In fact, a reasonable level of fitness is recommended.
Length of stay
You have the option of staying for two weeks up to 12 weeks.
Where to stay
You'll stay at the volunteer accommodation, which is cheerful and decent. The price of accommodation is included in the amount you pay.
You work as a volunteer from Monday to Friday, but have the weekends off. The closest big town is Graaff-Reinet, which is often referred to as the 'Gem of the Karoo'. It is an historic town with many attractions.