Samara: Finding Calm in the Karoo

by Jared

This article originally appeared here in VIEW Magalogue.

Speak to anyone who has lived in, grown up in, or spent significant time in the Karoo, and they’ll tell fond tales with a gentle smile on their face. Until recently I hadn’t shared their opinion, primarily because I’d labelled it a necessary stopover and not a destination in itself.

After months of lockdown, suddenly the Karoo’s open landscapes were more appealing than ever, and so I planned a trip to a lodge that had long been on my bucket list.

Just outside Graaff Reinet, I found my new home at the five-star Samara Private Game Reserve. This corner of the Karoo offers far greater biodiversity than I’d expected, encompassing the grassland, wooded savanna, thicket, Karoo bush, but then also towering mountains. I wouldn’t have necessarily associated the Big 5 or game with the Karoo, but the discovery of journals of antiquity, that record the once-presence of game, has validated conservation research and now the reintroduction of wildlife to the area.

Jan and Klippers, our guide and tracker, provided valuable insight into the area’s history, fauna, and flora. Samara places a strong emphasis on walking safaris; little compares to the thrill of walking through the bush, where at times the only sound louder than the crunch of the dry grass underfoot, is that of your heart beating in the excitement. On one of these walks I had the privilege of meeting five cheetah cubs; a wild encounter that won’t easily be forgotten.

At Samara’s Karoo Lodge, several typical Karoo-style homes wait to welcome guests, all privately secluded in the bush. Every time I arrived back after a lodge activity, the fireplace would be lit, and most times some form of wildlife visible from the veranda.

Samara also offers a unique and luxurious sleep-out option: a star bed situated above a riverbed for a private bush experience unlike any other. You’re left with supper, drinks, a radio to call for any assistance, and electric wires under the platform ensure you’re completely safe. A thousand stars are ready to usher you to sleep, along with a soundtrack courtesy of the surrounding wilderness.

Leaving the Samara family at the end of my stay was indeed difficult. They’re a close-knit team of dedicated conservation pioneers and hospitality staff who truly operate as a family, welcoming you into their home.

After this first serious sojourn to the Karoo, I now understand Eve Palmer’s words in Plains of Cambedoo, referring to it as “a land of secret beauty and infinite variety.” At this confluence of conservation and luxury tourism, there is indeed starting variety, gently reminding me the Karoo is infinitely more than a mere stop between Cape Town and Johannesburg. ―

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