Samara Private Game Reserve is located in South Africa’s Eastern Cape, just under 3 hours drive from Port Elizabeth, near Graaff Reinet. Covering some 28 000 hectares, it is one of South Africa’s biggest reserves, has helped spearhead efforts to save, build and enlarge the Greater Karoo’s biodiversity, and hosts guests in 3 stunning properties: Karoo Lodge, Manor House and Mountain Retreat.
The first of these, Karoo Lodge, is classically colonial in style, a brick and corrugated iron build, its front porch, stretch verandah and French doors all motifs from another era. Consisting of a main lodge and 6 suites, and set in grounds populated by rehabilitated cheetah, the lodge includes a lounge, dining room, library, pool, spa and bar. Furnished with beautiful antique side tables, slumber seats and, on the verandah, a set of chunky easy chairs, the lodge is comfortable, and smart. With animal skins, carvings and animal patterns sitting cheek to jowl with restrained ceramic pots and glassware, the design is one that looks to have grown organically and yet retains an overall feel that is at once tasteful and welcoming. Homely, stylish, it sits comfortably with a service that is excellent, discreet, friendly, and with a standard of cuisine that is South African, delicious and caters very much for specific diets.
With room for up to 12 guests, the suites are divided according to location: lodge suites and Karoo suites, the former located in the main building, the latter in the property’s grounds. The Karoo suites, which possess the same verandahs and corrugated iron roofs, are that bit more private than those situated in the lodge, and include a lounge area, double bed and en-suite bathroom. Both types – lodge and Karoo – are beautifully decorated, with individual four poster beds complimented by the same eclectic mix of antique, stressed hand-me-down and Lamuesque furniture. The bathrooms – Victoriana claw-foot bath, flush toilet, shower and twin sink – are equally fine.
The second of Samara’s properties, The Manor, is a private home belonging to Mark and Sarah Tompkins, who with the help of John Zwiegelaar (of John Jacob Interiors), built the property on land once owned by Lord Charles Somerset. A beautiful and very private stay, accommodates 8 and includes a lounge, dining room, breakfast room, verandah, pool and 4 suites. The bedrooms are very much like the lodge’s suites, but the shared areas are, as one might suspect, more of a specific style, with less of an Africana influence. The Manor comes with its own ranger, chef and butler. Please note that The Manor is only available at certain times during the year, and as of 2011 may be booked on an individual basis, as well as exclusively.
Samara’s third property, Mountain Retreat, sleeps 10, is advertised as perfect for families and large groups. With 3 in-house suites and 2 located nearby in a converted Victorian barn, there’s plenty of room. Cosy, built around a lovely fireplace, the property possesses an extraordinary view, and specialises in being the base from which guests explore the area on foot, game drives being an optional extra.
Bearing in mind the slightly different itineraries on offer, activities include game drives, guided walks, cultural visits, rock art expeditions, educational visits and spa treatments.
Samara’s key role in regional conservation
The idea of linking the Mountain Zebra National Park and what is now the Camdeboo National Park (previously the Karoo Nature Reserve – then a Provincial reserve) is truly awe-inspiring. This connected Park would be one of the largest conservation areas in South Africa, and with its spectacular landscapes and potentially vast herds of species such as Cape Mountain Zebra, would represent not just a conservation opportunity, but serve as a key regional economic development opportunity through eco-tourism.
Samara is firmly committed to contributing towards and assisting in driving this linkage. This is expressed through Samara’s management of its land and biodiversity to the highest conservation standards, ensuring that Samara is worthy of inclusion in such an outstanding conservation initiative.
SAMARA TRUST AND FOUNDATION
Our Goals –
• To protect environmentally strategic areas in the Great Karoo through land acquisition and conservation partnerships facilitating restoration and stewardship of the soil, water, flora and fauna.
• The reintroduction and conservation of endangered indigenous species in the Greater Karoo area.
• To inspire, support and conduct research and projects that pertain to the culture and the environment of the Great Karoo.
• To promote the economic, social, physical and spiritual welfare of the disadvantaged people in the Great Karoo communities.
• To promote conservation and sustainable land use for recreational and educational purposes by local and visiting people in the Great Karoo.
• To work in partnership with institutions and the scientific community for research about the plants, environmental history, soil conservation, archaeology, palaeontology, veld management and the agricultural potential of the Great Karoo and to share this information with members of the local community.
What we have accomplished –
• We support projects that train and employ men and women in rural Karoo towns, particularly in the eco-tourism industry.
• We create nature workshops, which allow young children from the local community to have direct experience with the natural environment and learn leadership skills.
• We are actively involved in the research, conservation, rehabilitation and protection of the natural resources and biodiversity of the Great Karoo.
• We work in partnership with local and international institutions and the scientific community in various research projects.
• We educate previously disadvantaged people in a Tracker Academy set up on the property.
• We have committed 70,000 acres of land to this project and allowed the natural fauna and flora to recover and rehabilitate over 15 years.
• We have successfully reintroduced highly endangered species to the area, such as cheetah, black wildebeest and cape mountain zebra, and have created an environment where species such as the threatened blue crane and cape vulture are returning to restored habitat.
For the past few years Samara has been running a community/environmental awareness project whereby classes of secondary school pupils from Graaff-Reinet come to Samara, plant Spekboom and learn about the environment.
TOURISM AND COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT
Samara works closely with our local communities and as such is one of the largest employers in the area. In addition we run a number of community-based programmes with international organisations such as Pack a Parcel.