When thinking of the Karoo I used to drum up memories of long straight dusty roads and my brother and my sister elbowing me in the ribs as we made our way to the coast for our annual family holiday. For so many people the Karoo is a place to pass through on your way to somewhere, but with reserves like Samara and dorps (small towns) becoming more and more popular the Karoo is fast becoming a destination of choice.

The first thing that struck me as I drove towards Samara was just how vast the Plains of Camdeboo are…my second thought was ‘oh the Karoo has mountains’, how I’d missed the fact that the Karoo is home to two incredible mountain ranges still blows my mind but I’d like to blame it on being the much tortured younger sibling. Samara Game Reserve is so much more than your ‘run of the mill’ game reserve, in fact it would be better qualified as a conservancy. The team at Samara are doing incredible work at restoring the landscape of the Karoo to what it once was and they are the first to reintroduce Cheetahs into the area.

Getting There

Getting to Samara is a lot easier than one would think. I’d suggest flying into Port Elizabeth, there are daily flights from most airports so if you’re coming in from another country it will be really easy to connect straight away. You can also connect through Plett Air Safaris which will drop you off on Samara’s doorstep…why drive if you can fly right?

Once you’ve made it to Port Elizabeth hiring a car is really simple and the three and a half hour drive to Samara is far from boring. You’ll pass through sleepy Karoo towns and really begin to get a sense of the landscape of the Karoo.

Tip: Stop in Jansenville at the Ark Farm Stall for good coffee, farm snacks and a little peak into the lifestyle of the Karoo.

The Lodge + Food

Samara is 70 000 acres in total and is split into two main lodges, The Karoo Lodge and the Manor House. I stayed in the Manor house which is for exclusive use, that means if you’re staying there you have to rent out the entire Manor. With four suites all with adjoining bathrooms grand enough to feature in a montage of the Princess Diaries I can imagine the Manor House being perfect for group holidays and special occasions. Like any home most of the action takes place in the main living areas, there’s a main sitting area with two cozy booths, perfect for reading a book in, branching off from the sitting area you’ll find your private kitchen and bar. My favourite space in the Manor is the porch (in true Karoo style it wraps around the entire house) looking out onto the pool and a watering hole, the watering hole is frequented by a troop of spirited baboons, some friendly, ancient looking tortoises, a family of monkeys and a whole collection of birds.

The Karoo Lodge is a short drive from the Manor house and caters for couples and families or anyone not wanting to rent out an entire villa. The Karoo Lodge takes advantage of the old farmhouse with a beautiful Karoo style porch and rooms filled with rustic charm and modern luxuries. If you’re staying at the Karoo Lodge take some time to explore all the nik naks and the old newspaper clippings dotted along the walls. The Karoo Lodge is also home to the Karoo and Sibella Suites which are set a little way into the bush and are self standing cottages that give you a little more privacy if that’s what you’re in the market for.

Both the Manor House and the Karoo Lodge offer full catering and they’re accommodating of all dietary requirements, if say you’re hypothetically not into animal products. Every meal at Samara is an event with tastefully decorated tables and well thought out menus, Samara also source as much of their food from the surrounding areas so everything is fresh and the local economy is boosted.

Game Drives and Activities

Everything about Samara is done with a focus on nature and being outdoors. The main activity everyday is going out on a game drive, and of course casually watching Cheetah cubs play in the shade as they escape the heat of the day. Samara doesn’t have the entire big five but they are in the process of introducing lions and elephants in the coming months. Samara isn’t about the big five, it’s about the Karoo and restoring it to the ecosystem it once was. When you’re taking in the vast landscape of the Karoo it truly doesn’t matter if you’re staring at a lion or a buzzard they’re equally as compelling.

As I mentioned Samara has reintroduced cheetahs into the area and is currently home to a mom and three cubs, before Samara there hadn’t been a cheetah in the region for 130 years! If you’re accompanied by a ranger you can actually walk within spitting distance of the new family and really get a sense of what they get up to. Smara is also home to the elusive aardvark, I didn’t spot one on my trip but apparently they’re out in force this year.

Samara also offer a  Milky Way star bed experience where you can sleep under the stars ( it was too cold when I went), hiking, helicopter rides, picnics and more. You can check out the full list here.

Image The Roaming Giraffe

Samara’s Grand Vision

You’ll only get a true sense of just how much the owners and staff of Samara care about the Karoo when you actually meet and visit the lodge, during my visit I often found myself smiling inwardly at their pure raw passion for the land, and everything that inhabits it. Samara is one of the largest conservancy’s in the entire country and their positioning in the middle of a number of conservation areas – from the Camdeboo National Park in the west to the Mountain Zebra National Park in the east, means that one day they will hopefully be able to link the two parks through ecological corridors. This could mean that one day we’ll be able to access a  mega-park of 1.3 million acres, with no tar roads and completely dedicated to restoring the Karoo and it’s wildlife. 

To book your stay at Samara or checkout their specials click here.