Samara | In the Great Karoo
This is a wonderful resort that offers safari drives. This cannot be compared to a normal safari lodge in the games reserves like Sabi Sands, Madikwe or Phinda. There is only one large predator; the cheetah. This lodge offers a more relaxed safari, without the very early start and some unique antelope species, rhino, giraffe, and cheetah. The owners of Keene Luxury Travel visited and stayed at Samara in April, 2009.
Location of Samara
The Great Karoo where Samara is located is about a 3 hours drive or one hour flight from Port Elizabeth airport. The flight from Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth is about one hour. You can rent a car and at the Port Elizabeth airport and drive there and back or arrange for a land transfer or flight. We attempted to fly one way and drive the other but the weather did not co-operate and we drove both ways.
Game Drives and experiences at Samara
It is important you understood that this was not really a safari lodge, simply a place to come and chill out before going on safari or after being on safari. So keep your anticipation of the game experience in perspective. With that said, the game surprised us on our visit to Samara. On our first drive we saw giraffe, rhino, gemsbok, kudu, and many varieties of antelope. The scenery is spectacular, huge mountains all around and tremendous variety of topography. I am going into detail here so you can understand what to expect with a visit to Samara.
Walking up to animals - One of the very unique things at Samara is the opportunity to walk up to animals. Without lions, leopards and elephants this makes this a possibility. We saw three giraffes and Andre, our tracker said “let’s go”. We all got out of the land rover and approached the giraffes on foot. I have never done this before. It was fantastic! We circled around and got fairly close to the giraffes, a really neat experience.
Finding the cheetah - During our game drive our ranger pulled out a tracking device. There were approximately 10 cheetah on the property and there are only three collared cheetah. Samara is involved deeply in conservation and it is necessary to collar the cheetahs in order to find them and study them. Being a die hard safari enthusiast, my first instinct was “I don’t like that”. However, I found it was such fun to hold up the tracking device and hear the “beep beep beep” as we got closer to the cheetah. I have seen this so many times on television shows and seeing the vastness of this reserve I softened my attitude and went with the flow. With the tracking device beeping, we went to the general vicinity and then climbed out of the land rover. We started out on foot. After quietly walking for about 5 minutes, Andre our ranger told us to stay put while he went on a little further. He came back in a flash and told us to follow him. Right there in front of us, about 20 feet away was a beautiful female cheetah. We all stood very quiet and she started to walk and we followed her. I think as long as we were in the open she was fine with us. She knew we were no threat. After about 10 minutes, she wandered off into a thicker area and we left her. It was an amazing experience!
The Mountain Drive - If you have good weather a trip to the mountain top is a delight. Going on a steep road up the mountain the land rover managed the climb beautifully. Once at the top the mountain, the landscape opened up to a huge savanna area. We saw blue wildebeest, gemsbok, mountain zebras and many other savanna animals. It was a fantastic view over the plains of the Great Karoo, we could see for miles. It was really wonderful. This is where two male cheetahs live. He pulled out the tracking device and we could not get any response. Later on as we came down the mountain he tried again and we picked up the signal. Again on foot we proceeded to see if we could see the two male cheetahs. The bush got thick and Andre explained he was not comfortable taking us into this area. In the open it is fine, but not in thick bush. So we were a little disappointed, but also thankful that he was cautious.
On one drive we saw a very unusual sighting, an aardvark in the daylight (see picture at top). This is one fabulous animal, far furrier than I envisioned and quite beautiful. We followed her on foot for about 30 minutes as she dug in the ground for termites.
The cheetah and aardvark experience we were fortunate to have, and it certainly made our stay and that may not happen on every person’s visit. I would highly recommend Samara as long as people realized what Samara is really all about and that is a laid back, comfortable lodge with spectacular scenery, safari drives (leaving at the civilized hours of 7:00 to 7:30 am) that are not the action packed experiences of a normal safari lodge. I believe the opportunity to walk close to the animals being a key highlight of Samara.
The Reserve and Lodges
This is a huge reserve 70,000 acres with only the two Samara lodges traversing the property. Samara Lodge is an old farm with very comfortable accommodations and lots of public space, it can accommodate 12 guests. The main house is surrounded by a large wooden deck with comfortable chairs and seating areas. The main lounge and bar has a nice fireplace and a TV room is right off the lounge. The dining area has a large with a massive table, and great farmhouse atmosphere. The three main lodge bedrooms are quite spacious and there are three suites of about the same size located a short distance from the main house. The Lodge was completely full when we visited so I could not take pictures of the rooms. Internet is available with a computer room right off the main entrance. A curio shop has some interesting items.
Samara Manor is newer and more upscale. It can accommodate 8 guests. This is usually taken as a full house booking rather than individual guests suites. The public space for 8 guests is amazing. Four different conversation areas in the lounge could easily seat over 20 in great comfort in big comfortable overstuffed sofas and chairs. This coupled with a large terrace with even more seating areas. The lodge offers a large dining, bar and general public areas. There are two rooms with king beds and two rooms with twin beds. All the rooms have a nice view and private terrace. The bathrooms are large and feature twin sinks and a separate bath and walk in shower. The décor is colonial, very comfortable. I wish they had a few additions to the rooms, a mini bar, ceiling fan, full length mirror, bottled water in the room and a magnifying mirror. They will bring you all the water and anything you want of course I just like it to be there without asking.
The Staff and Service
There is a wonderful staff who are there to accommodate your every desire. The Manor is run by a husband and wife team with the wife managing the property and the husband the ranger. A great combination. Dinner service was efficient and very professional.
Dining and Wines
The kitchen area as well is totally open to the guests at the Manor. If you wish you can watch the chef creating your meals. The meals are very good. Although there are set meals, they do cater to the majority of people and can accommodate simple additional requests such as a simple salad. Upon arrival, you are asked if you have any food allergies and/or if you have are any special requests.
This is available only at the main lodge but they will drive Manor House guests to the lodge to use the internet.
Spa Treatments are available on request.