Surrounded by the most breathtaking mountains and steeped in history, you will find Samara Private Game Reserve in the malaria-free Great Karoo. Looking out from a hilltop over the vast Camdeboo Plains, the peace and tranquility you so richly deserve is all yours.
Have you ever imagined what it must feel like to stand a few yards away from the fastest land mammal on earth? It is both life-changing and surreal. We have just embarked on our first game drive under the guidance of ranger Gibson Mufoya, when he spots four sub-adult cheetahs having a lie-down in the late afternoon sunshine.
“Please disembark the vehicle and join me in taking a closer look”, he suggests. We all clamber off excitedly, but walk quietly and cautiously in single file behind Gibson not to scare these beautiful cats away.
Samara has been instrumental in securing the longevity of the cheetah species and the story of Sibella will certainly tug at the heartstrings. Sibella was the first cheetah to be released in the Karoo in over 140 years, and along with two male cheetahs, she produced 19 offspring over four litters. When she died at the age of 14 in 2015, she left a lineage that will hopefully continue to increase the numbers of the highly endangered cheetah species.
Standing alongside Sibella’s daughter, Chilli’s four cubs, the overwhelming feeling is that of hope for the future of these stunning spotted apex predators.
Back at the lodge after our sundowner stop, we take a leisurely stroll to our luxury 5-star accommodation for the next two nights at Karoo Lodge, Karoo Suite no. 3. Our standalone cottage is the perfect fit for our family of three and the beautiful freestanding Victorian bath with a view over the landscape is a must-do.
The very hospitable assistant manager, Veronica le Grange is at hand to ensure that our stay is comfortable. The crisp evening justifies a visit to the lounge, seated close to the fireplace.
We are invited to the dining room to enjoy our dinner. The food is top quality and tonight, we dine on beetroot salad, broccoli soup, stuffed pork fillet, chicken breast fillets, both with cauliflower cous cous & carrots and poached pears for dessert.
Time to call it a night and before retiring to our Suite, we pause on the veranda to admire the star-spangled Karoo night sky. After a good night’s sleep, followed by a hearty breakfast, we set off on our morning game drive up the mountain.
At the top, we are greeted by the most exquisite vistas over the Camdeboo Plains with a welcome hot chocolate and coffee stop. We spot the usual suspects at the top of the mountain – Cape mountain zebra, wildebeest and oryx; only a small handful of animals that inhabit the 70,000 acres of pristine wilderness.
The introduction of a herd of elephants took place in late 2017 and the diverse vegetation is the ideal stomping ground for these gentle giants. According to Gibson, the elephants love the mountainous terrain and spend their time feeding on a variety of plant species.
It is time for brunch and we feast on salad, fish cakes and milk tart for high tea. The late afternoon game drive yields lots of exciting sightings and when Gibson stops the vehicle and gestures for us to quietly follow him, we trail him on blind faith. As we approach them, he asks us to stay perfectly still as their sense of smell is far superior to their sight. We are a stone’s throw away from a white rhino and its calf. Another once-in-a lifetime experience.
Being in the Karoo, one of the most sought-after and tasty meals is Karoo lamb. At Samara, it can be presented in a variety of dishes, and I have found out from Veronica that there is a surprise for us at dinner tonight. In the dining room, we are served the most delicious rack of lamb, grilled to absolute perfection.
It is our last day at Samara and our game drive promises to be an exciting one when we see Gibson taking out the tracking device. He is driving with purpose and stops every now and then to check if there is any audible beeping from the device. At the edge of the plateau, we suddenly hear ‘beep’, followed by another one. Then it gets louder. How loud must the beep be, I wonder.
Then we see her, Sibella’s daughter Chilli, having a siesta under a tree. She rises from her slumber, stretches, yawns and continues her mid-morning sleep in the dry riverbed. Having just kicked her sub-adult cubs out of the ‘nest’, she is spending her days solitarily, hoping to attract a suitable male to further increase the cheetah population.
| Photography courtesy of Samara and by Heléne Ramackers
** Views expressed are the author’s own. **
Thank you to Renee Schonborn from Little Black Book PR for arranging our stay.
Samara is easily accessible by road. The road from Cape Town encapsulates the beautiful scenery that takes you through the historical town of Graaff-Reinet and on to the Karoo where the majestic mountains are snow-capped in winter. Summers in the Karoo are dry and arid and thank goodness Samara has a swimming pool.
For international visitors, the best option is to fly to either O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg or Cape Town International Airport in Cape Town. From Johannesburg or Cape Town, a local flight to Port Elizabeth brings you closer and Samara is 270 kms away by car.