Prior to my visit to Samara Karoo Lodge outside Graaff-Reinet I had never spent much time in the Karoo. In my mind it was a desolate expanse of dusty fields and farms and on arrival at the main gate I still had very low expectations for my stay. In my experience of the Karoo I had never encountered wildlife and after a recent trip to the Kruger I thought I would be let down by the lack of animals at Samara, but this was not to be the case….
You see Samara is full of secrets that one only discovers once you slow down and spend some time in this special place.
The secrets of Samara are countless and may be different for you than they were for me, but here I will share just 5 secrets I came to discover during my incredible 3 days in the Karoo.
1. The Karoo is full of life
The natural vegetation of the Karoo is not only little brush shrubs and vast tracts of red-brown earth. Over the past few years, the owners of Samara have allowed the land to return to its original state and this has resulted in surprisingly lush, green vegetation in certain areas of the reserve. I spotted Acacia trees lining the river banks and abundant spekboom in the deep valleys. From the top of the Camdeboo mountains, another world awaited me – grasslands reminiscent of the Serengeti stretch as far as the eye can see.
2. Close encounters with animals in their natural habitat will leave you changed
Samara may only offer 2 of the Big 5 (rhino and buffalo), but what this means is that at Samara you are far more likely to enjoy a close encounter with the animals you do spot. One morning I joined a guide to track down one of their cheetah on foot. Walking casually through the bush I was amazed when, just meters from us, he pointed out the most majestic mother cheetah cooling off in the shade. An incredible photo opportunity ensued!
Other awesome animal encounters I enjoyed in my few days at Samara included seeing large herds of the endangered Cape Mountain Zebra and gemsbok cantering across the grasslands, two juvenile giraffe battling it out in their dance-like fight, watching a pair of blue cranes take flight and looking a buffalo in the eye as our safari vehicle came face to face with him at a river crossing. I left Samara with a whole host of new animal experiences that resonated with me long after I left.
3. A safari is about more than just the Big 5
When planning to go on safari one of the biggest criteria is often whether you’ll see the Big 5… and when you get to the safari destination it can feel like you’re just there to tick animals off a list which can leave you not really experiencing some of the secrets a safari can offer. At Samara there is so much more to discover than just seeing the Big 5…each animal encounter is unhurried allowing you time to really revel in the animal you are viewing. The frequently ignored bird and insect life becomes far more exciting and there is actually time to learn about these fascinating creatures. And you really appreciate the setting you find yourself in… soaking in the infinite stars of the night sky on the drive back to the lodge, watching the large eland antelope herd from my bed while sipping my morning tea and taking time to turn the vehicle off and listen to the various calls of the bush – birds, monkeys, warthogs - made this a truly memorable experience even though we never tracked down the elusive rhino!
4. Samara is the best place to view an African sunset
Nothing more needs to be said about this than these pictures….
I’m sure you’ll agree that it is beyond any other sunset you have seen in pictures, and the photos don’t do it justice either. To sit in silence and experience such a wonder for myself was beyond description and definitely one of the highlights of my stay at Samara.
5. Luxury is space and quiet and time to breathe
If you’re looking for luxury you’ll find it at Samara, but not in the way you have come to expect. Yes, the gorgeous private suites, outdoor showers and four poster beds are there along with delicious cuisine, but the true luxury of Samara is its’ space. The peaceful quietness that descends around you as you arrive, and continues to follow you wherever you go, is the true taste of luxury so many of us are missing from our busy modern lives. This time to breathe is worth far more than any 5 star treatment and is the very essence of escape – the definition of Samara.
Images & Text: Kathryn Rossiter