Samara Private Game Reserve

Heart-stoppingly beautiful, is how award-winning Samara Private Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape, is ultimately described

Email Us

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 (map) 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 ecotourism.

Since the original conceptualization of the idea by SANPark scientists in 1998, Samara has been seen as a key stepping stone in making this connection, and served as a catalyst for this grand vision. This is based on the idea that this expanded conservation area would not be a conventional national park, with the land owned by the state, as the costs of land acquisition on this scale would likely be beyond the financial means of state conservation agencies. Instead, the idea of a model shared-ownership national park, in which private landowners and the state form partnerships to achieve a greater conservation success, is the most likely to succeed.

Samara, with its 28 000 ha of land, 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. In addition, Samara is in discussion with SANParks regarding the opportunity and what role the Samara reserve can play. At a broader scale, Mark and Sarah Tompkins are actively engaged in advocating the concept, seeking partnerships with like-minded individuals and institutions, locally and globally, who would like to help make this grand idea work.

Thirteen years ago, we fell in love. It was a very strange feeling because it was totally unprompted and quite unexpected. A battlefield is not normally the sort of place one associates with affairs of the heart. However, the battle sites of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift in KwaZulu Natal must have inspired some primal emotions that led to behaviour quite markedly in contrast to two rational human beings.

After a long dinner accompanied by a few glasses of good South African cabernet up in Northern Natal, the site of British triumph and Zulu tragedym discussion started with a chap from quite a different part of South Africa. Magical tales were woven about the millions of springbok which once roamed this area, the “Vanished Kings”, the Cape lion who majestically strode the Plains of Camdeboo, the rhino, the cheetah, the explorers, the characters of yesteryear and the haunting beauty of the semi-desert land.

Humbled by the aching beauty of it all, we went away totally and completely smitten by the Great Karoo.

Monkey Valley became the first farm that formed the nucleus of Samara Private Game Reserve and twelve years ago we happily became its owner. The dream ensued – amass enough land to have a self-sustaining eco-system that would carry game, the herds of antelope that used to inhabit this area and the predators to keep the balance that helps maintain these fragile eco-systems.

70 000 acres and twelve years later, Samara’s dream was born, pursued and continues to evolve in the Eastern Cape’s Great Karoo. The land was allowed to rest for many years and has now recovered from the effects of generations of agricultural exploitation. The haunting beauty of this landscape that first inspired Samara’s campaign of rejuvenation has been allowed to return.

Samara, land of serenity, has had as its aim, the realization of the land’s potential, not only as an area of outstanding natural diversity, but also as home to an ambitious program of game reintroduction. Herds of springbok, black wildebeest, zebra, oryx, eland and blesbok amongst others “pronk” and run again on the Plains of Camdeboo. Rhino and giraffe now meander across the veld. Nearly 125 years after it was last seen, the cheetah reigns again.

While our lodge staff focus on the exclusivity and luxury of the safari experience, Samara has a much wider vision of its future. With 70 000 acres at its disposal, Samara has space for everyone and its owners, Sarah and Mark Tompkins, are more than aware of the social, as well as ecological importance of their property.

Made up of 11 farms, Samara forms an essential part of the area’s heritage and as such, plays an important role within the local community. Not only are 90% of the staff from Graaff-Reinet and surrounds, but children from previously disadvantaged backgrounds are invited on a regular basis, to explore Samara. In association with the mayor of Graaff-Reinet, Daantjies Jafta, educational visits are arranged for local schools, during which time the children experience the magic of the wilderness and learn about South Africa’s growing eco-tourism industry.

Samara encourages all its visitors to particpate in these worth while causes, Pack for a Purpose, is one such way. We are collecting books and DVDs on birds, wildlife, flora etc for our Tracker Academy and the Student Volunteers as well as books, pencils, soccer balls etc for the previously disadvantaged schoolchildren in Graaff-Reinet.

Conservation also means acknowledging the people that have lived in this area for generations. The majority of Samara staff are employed from the local community. We have developed a relationship with the Vuyani Safe Haven in Graaff Reinet, who cares for girls and boys up to the age of 14 who cannot live at home or who have been removed from their parents by the courts or social workers. We organise environmental days for the children at Samara, and volunteers are also welcome to donate any new or used clothes, stationary, money etc to the Haven. Visit their website at http://vuyanisafehaven.co.za/

Surrounded by a natural amphitheatre of mountains, Karoo Lodge sits in perfect serenity in the reserve’s pristine wilderness. Combining colonial comforts with the essence of Mother Nature, the lodge treats you with exceptional service, enabling you to relax and allow the tranquility of the Karoo to envelop your soul.

If you choose, you can leave the game for another day and indulge in the luxury of your suite and let our experienced therapist ease your stress away with her aromatic oils and local charm.

Three Lodge Suites are situated in the main homestead and are light and airy, all opening out on to the wide wrap-around veranda. Each has a luxury en-suite bathroom and is air-conditioned

The three Karoo Suites are individual Karoo style “cottages” in the garden and are larger than the Lodge Suites. Each has a luxury en-suite bathroom, is air-conditioned and has a fireplace. Refresh yourself in the outdoor shower while gazing at the magnificent views

Echoing the pulse of the Karoo, the interiors seek to fuse the elegance of luxury colonial era with the untamed beauty of the African bush. Cradled in the softest linen, you can lose yourself in the sleepy rhythms of the land as the tranquil sounds of the Karoo lull you into the idyllic state of relaxation and contentment.

Quiet but not silent, Africa’s voice whispers sweet nothings through the grasses.

Secluded, wild and remote, Samara’s Mountain Retreat offers you the experience of yesteryear and the opportunity to re-connect with nature in its purest form.

The Mountain Retreat is an exclusive use venue accommodating up to 10 guests. There are three delightful double en-suite bedrooms in the main homestead and a further two en-suite bedrooms are situated in the beautifully restored Victorian barn. A comfortable living room with fireplace and dining room complete the indoor facilities. A wide wrap-around veranda provides the perfect area for relaxing while contemplating the awesome view. A jacuzzi on the veranda affords an ideal cooling-off spot. A Karoo-style plunge pool is situated a little away from the house. Essential power is provided by a generator.

Take leisurely walks to explore the ancient valley landscape where rare rock art paintings of cheetah are preserved. Guests will be accompanied on walks by an experienced ranger who will be able to point out all the little things one may miss on a game drive. Game drives are an optional extra.

Delicious home-cooked meals are served in various venues – the dining-room, under the stars in the boma or on the veranda.

Play Scrabble or Monopoly or challenge your loved ones to a game of chess or simply absorb the silky night skies under the Milky Way, so close you can almost reach out and touch it.

The Mountain Retreat is the perfect getaway for a family or group of friends wanting to escape from the hustle and bustle and return to a slower pace and experience the true wilderness.

The Manor at Samara is for the exclusive use of up to 8 guests in ultimate luxury and total privacy with every whim being anticipated by friendly but unobtrusive staff.

Mark and Sarah Tompkins built the Manor on the site of an old house with title deeds dating back to Lord Charles Somerset. The Manor House is available for rental when the Tompkins family are not in residence.

You will arrive at this historic homestead and upon entering, breathtaking views of this extraordinary Karoo mountain landscape will unfold over a 21m infinity pool which descents into a waterhole at which game can be present in the early morning and late afternoon.

The Manor is unique in its warm design which reflects the local landscape and traditions whilst retaining a lovely light twist. The style of the Manor is the inspiration of well known South African designer, John Zwiegelaar of John Jacob Interiors.

Relax in four spacious luxury air-conditioned suites. Beds are made up with the softest linen that lulls you to sleep and all suites have large en-suite bathrooms with separate showers and free standing baths.

Unwind in the large comfortable lounge where a crackling fire burns in the winter months and the large glass doors to the patio are cast wide open in the summer. Take time to read an interesting book from the library in the cosy reading nooks.

Dining experiences include boma, veranda, dining-room and breakfast room as well as various bush dining experiences

Services include a personal ranger, chef and butler.

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 (map) 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 ecotourism.

Since the original conceptualization of the idea by SANPark scientists in 1998, Samara has been seen as a key stepping stone in making this connection, and served as a catalyst for this grand vision. This is based on the idea that this expanded conservation area would not be a conventional national park, with the land owned by the state, as the costs of land acquisition on this scale would likely be beyond the financial means of state conservation agencies. Instead, the idea of a model shared-ownership national park, in which private landowners and the state form partnerships to achieve a greater conservation success, is the most likely to succeed.

Samara, with its 28 000 ha of land, 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. In addition, Samara is in discussion with SANParks regarding the opportunity and what role the Samara reserve can play. At a broader scale, Mark and Sarah Tompkins are actively engaged in advocating the concept, seeking partnerships with like-minded individuals and institutions, locally and globally, who would like to help make this grand idea work.

Privileged to be home to the highly endangered Cheetah, Samara also hosts a remarkable individual. Born a wild cheetah, Sibella’s life nearly ended at the hands of hunters. After being savagely treated in captivity, she was fortunate enough to be rescued and underwent life-saving surgery and rehabilitation at the De Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife Trust.

In December 2003, Sibella started a new chapter in her life when she, along with two males, was released into Samara. Despite suffering the occasional twinge from her previous injuries, Sibella has proved herself to be a capable hunter and has successfully reared 18 cubs in the time she has been at Samara. As such, she epitomizes the spirit of Samara as she plays a vital role in the rejuvenation of a once endangered existence. This exceptional cat has now contributed to 2% of the wild cheetah population in South Africa.

It has been estimated that the last wild cheetah in the area was seen 125 years ago. Cheetahs were heavily hunted in the Great Karoo and Eastern Cape areas and these cheetahs made conservation history as the first back in the area after 125 years. Part of Sibella and Samara’s cheetah conservation success is the fact that Samara is free of the predator competition found in Big 5 reserves. Without the pressure of natural predators such as lion and spotted hyena, the Samara cheetah populations have been able to thrive.

Samara works closely with the Endangered Wildlife Trust to ensure that this high endangered species is given the best chance of survival. To this effect Samara swops its cheetah populations with other reserves thus ensuring that the gene pool is as wide as possible.

Unparalleled and humbling experiences await you at Samara. With four of the country’s seven biomes, Samara’s abundant wilderness preserves a complex and diverse ecosystem, providing habitat for over 60 mammal species. Among more common species, such as the Kudu and Duiker, the secretive Aardvark and the once-endangered White Rhino roam. Giraffes can be seen peeking over the thorny Acacia canopy, while Cheetah crouch, hidden in the grass, waiting for an opportunity to stretch their legs and test the speed of the Hartebeest.

Whether ensconced in the comfort of an open game viewer, or trekking through the fragrant Karoo bush, you will feel the deep pulse of the Karoo that makes Samara truly magical.

Discover the secrets of Samara as you explore the untouched Plains of Camdeboo that once staged the massive migrations of millions of Springbok. Fossils that predate the dinosaurs and well-preserved Khoisan paintings offer a fascinating insight into some of the historical intricacies of our Earth’s past

Begin the journey of revitalisation on your 'birding safari', where you can witness the hauntingly beautiful Blue Crane mating dance, soaring pairs of Black Eagles near Eagle Rock, witness the strutting Secretary Bird and marvel at the wing span of the Kori Bustard - also plant a spekboom and explore the ancient rock art before relaxing for an afternoon of indulgence with spa treatments, Karoo cuisine and sunset game drives.

Samara's Aardvark programme especially caters for children, taking them on adventure safaris, providing private dinners and hosting young children at the lodge while mom and dad take a break. Our team is well versed at looking after and entertaining 'future conservationists'and the rangers are excellent with inquisitive, hungry young minds. The exciting children’s programme centres on the AardvArk reed enclosure where children can cavort amongst giant and miniature wrought-iron cut-outs of animals found on the reserve – giraffe legs more than two metres high and a life-size family of motionless meerkats amongst them. There’s a sandpit to excavate and weird and wonderful trees and bushes.

The programme caters to children of all ages, allowing parents to take game drives without interruption from tired small people who will be whisked away into a bush wonderland and be indulged in a myriad of thrills.

During the evening, babysitters are available on request.

Children’s activities: Spoor Identification Tracking Orienteering – knowing your way home Cheetah tales Star naming and stories Trampoline Tennis Croquet Table tennis Bushman paintings – paint you own Face painting - camouflage Play dough Samara puzzles Treasure hunts Crafting with African beads Spekboom planting Children of all ages are welcome at Samara. (By special arrangement at Mountain Retreat) Dedicated children’s programme on offer daily at Karoo Lodge Only children of age 8 and over are allowed on scheduled game drives. All children will experience a shortened, kiddies only Bumble gane drive All children before 3rd birthday, sharing with adults, are free of charge at Karoo lodge, Manor house and Mountain Retreat 3rd birthday to 14th birthday, sharing with adults, pay 50% of adult rate All guests of age 14 or older are required to take their own room at adult rates A maximum of 2 children to be accommodated in Karoo Suites and a maximum of 1 child in Lodge Suites, sharing with two adults 3rd adults are not permitted to share rooms