Tracking cheetahs, Eastern Cape
Did you know?
Sibella the cheetah has contributed 2% to South Africa's wild cheetah population.
Samara Private Game Reserve nestles amongst 28 000ha of achingly beautiful wilderness in a hidden valley deep in the Karoo desert of the Eastern Cape.
Your first impressions will be of vast spaces and overwhelming quiet. However, when you go tracking cheetahs on foot at Samara, you’ll discover that this part of the Karoo is also home to an abundance of wildlife, including Samara's iconic cheetahs.
The first cheetah to come here was Sibella, almost dead at the hands of hunters and then confined in brutal captivity. She was rescued, survived life-saving surgery and was rehabilitated at the famous Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre (formerly known as the De Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife Trust).
Released along with two males at Samara in 2003, Sibella has has never looked back. She has successfully raised 20 cubs and become a much-loved and admired Samara institution. You will probably see Sibella and some of her offspring when you go tracking cheetahs at Samara.
Samara Game Reserve works closely with the Endangered Wildlife Trust to make sure that the endangered cheetah species will continue to survive. So that the gene pool is kept healthy, Samara swops its cheetahs with other reserves.
An interesting innovation in tracking was the CyberTracker. Not intended to replace ancient human tracking skills, it merely complements them. A Tracker Academy has been launched at Samara Game Reserve, and with the help of the CyberTracker, master tracker Karel Benadie was able to impart his exceptional tracking skills to the next generation.
Your day of tracking cheetahs begins at dawn. After coffee and muffins, you climb into a game vehicle to drive to where cheetahs were last seen. Then it's on foot with a tracker and the hunt begins. So keep your eyes open and your senses honed.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Samara Private Game Reserve
Tel: +27 (0)49 891 0880
How to get here
The closest airport is at Port Elizabeth, some three hours' drive from Samara Private Game Reserve. From Port Elizabeth take the R75 to Graaff-Reinet. Turn right onto the R63 toward Somerset East. Turn left after 7km at the St Petersburg sign, then follow the signs to Samara.
Best time to visit
The weather in this part of South Africa can be extreme. It's very hot in summer and often snows in the mountains in winter. Spring (September to October) 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.
What will it cost
Check the website for details, and always be on the alert for special offers.
What to pack
Walking shoes/boots, binoculars, sunhat, sunscreen, insect repellant.
Where to stay
You have a choice between the stylish Karoo Lodge, three self-catering cottages, the Manor (which caters for the exclusive use of up to eight guests), or the rustic but charming Mountain Retreat.
What to eat
The local Karoo lamb is a must.