My 5-star experience at Samara Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape

My 5-star experience at Samara Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape

I was hosted at Samara in exchange for my review.

I spent 2 days in the Karoo at the Samara Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape! It was hot, cold, amazing and I even ended up making friends with a Canadian family.

Itinerary:

  • We traveled to Port Elizabeth from Johannesburg with British Airways.
  • At Port Elizabeth airport, we hired a car from Tempest Car hire.
  • We drove from the airport to Samara Game Reserve for close to 3 hours.
  • We stayed at the Samara Game Reserve – Karoo Lodge for 2 nights.

Our travel experience:

After a very long time, I flew with British Airways. I forgot how punctual they are – especially when compared to Mango. We got a good price on flights here –

We took the earliest flight out but almost missed the flight because we overslept! It felt a bit like the amazing race trying to reach the gate before it was too late.

Eastern Cape

But we made it!

First time in P.E!

We arrived in Port Elizabeth (my first time visiting the city) and it was the quickest exit out of the airport ever. However, I was not too impressed with the service at our car hire. It seemed as if no one cared about the fact that their system had been offline for a couple of days. It was slow – perhaps it was accepted in the relaxed town of P.E. but definitely not something us Jo’burgers are really used to.

After waiting……. And waiting …. And …

We were on our way to Samara! The great adventure began …

Samara is situated approximately 270km from Port Elizabeth and 53km from the nearest town of Graaff Reinet.

3 hours went quite fast with all the talking and music and before we knew it, we were on a dirt road in the Samara Game reserve property trying to find the lodge. 

Eastern Cape

We ended up taking a road that we shouldn’t have and ended up in a ditch – which kind of freaked me out – especially as we just passed a board which said: “Do not get out of the car” in this area because of the animals roaming around.

At that point, I pictured everything that one would picture in that situation.

Stuck in a ditch with no cell phone reception, animals wandering around… It felt like a scene out of a horror movie.

But my husband saved the day! He managed to get us out and a minute later, we approached the lodge that we were looking for, – for the past 15 minutes. We had a lot to talk about already and we were only on the property for like 45 minutes or so.

About Samara Private Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape:

Award-winning Samara Private Game Reserve is located on 70,000 acres of wilderness in the Great Karoo, offering breath-taking views over the Plains of Camdeboo.          

We had a tour of the lodge and was taken to our room to freshen up before lunch. At that moment, I wanted to pass out on that comfortable bed, but we didn’t want to waste time doing nothing in such a beautiful lodge.

The room:

The room we had was huge especially the bathroom.

  • Huge shower and bathtub plus an outdoor shower
  • Dressing table and closet for clothes
  • 2 wash basins – just in case you don’t want to share yours with your partner or just want to be next to each other.
Eastern Cape

The room was very private, cosy and inviting.

The Food:

Samara serves a good portion size of a balanced meal. You will always find something local on the menu. The food was average for me, but I did enjoy dessert especially the rooibos crème Brule.

After lunch, we explored a bit then went for high tea. At high tea, we met our Ranger, Julius who said that we would leave soon for our first game drive – so began the next leg of our African adventure.  

What you need to know about Game drives at Samara:

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  • There are 2 game drives a day (early morning and late afternoon). Don’t miss both! They both offer a different experience.
  • It gets colder quicker in the afternoon once the sun sets – so always carry a warm jacket and hat when you are going for a game drive.
  • The morning game drive up the mountain is a MUST!
  • Make sure you have a good camera with you and a power bank if you are using your cell phone – you will get beautiful images especially at sunrise and sunset.
  • If you don’t know much about animals, don’t worry, your game ranger will be there to educate you.
  • You must be aware of your surroundings because some of the animals move quite fast. In a flash, you could miss an amazing experience – especially that of the birds.

We went on 4 game drives in total and I think that was enough. We saw a lot – from a lion hunting and killing a warthog to an elephant stopping in front of the vehicle to sniff the tracker and make sure he wasn’t up to no good. I learned a lot during these game drives. I learned about our animals, the Karoo and how we can do our bit for conservation.

A bit of history:

Samara Private Game Reserve is a love story, a passionate conservation undertaking – the leader in its area and a catalyst for change in the Great Karoo region of South Africa. The abundant land – which has been allowed to rest over a period of 20 years – preserves a complex and diverse ecosystem. Four vegetation biomes provide habitat for over 60 mammal species, including aardvark, elephant, Cape mountain zebra, giraffe, black and white rhino, buffalo, eland, gemsbok and cheetah to name but a few. Samara forms part of a greater vision – to create South Africa’s third largest protected area in a global biodiversity hotspot. The driving force behind this vision is the desire to preserve this irreplaceable part of South Africa’s natural heritage. 

What to pack for Samara?

I was told to pack a bit of both because the weather changes quite quickly – which is exactly what happened. During the day it was scorching hot and towards the afternoon, it got cold.

  • I would highly recommend you carry light clothing especially shoes and a good comfortable walking shoe!
  • Sunblock
  • A warm jacket and hat
  • Swimming costume (summer or autumn)

You can find a more detailed post here. This was put together by the lodge.

A once in a lifetime experience:

If you really want to be adventurous then why not do the Milky Way star bed?

Set against a dramatic mountain backdrop in a secluded location, the platform comprises a bespoke four-poster bed with draped mosquito net. A seating area looks out over the river where wildlife descends to drink. A canvas roof provides shelter in case of inclement weather. Creature comforts are taken care of with luxurious sheets, mohair blankets, dressing gowns, and bathroom facilities. A truly ‘Karoo’ luxury sleep-out experience – lit by the twinkling stars overhead.

Highlights for me:

Honestly, I could go on about this beautiful place but here are a few highlights from the trip:

  • Hospitality – I will give the staff 5/5 for this.
  • View – If you love nature, you are doing to enjoy this.
  • Animals – I have never been so close to a lion who was having his lunch before. It was an experience I will never forget.
  • Peaceful – the only thing you hear is the animals and the wind. If you need a break from everything and would like to soak up what South Africa has to offer, Samara Game Reserve should be on your list.
  • Instead of supporting zoos, support local game reserves as these are places that keep the animals in their natural habitat.
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Suggestion:

A 3-night stay would be perfect at Samara. If you can, have a picnic on the mountain. It will be a cherry on the top.

Costs:

Definitely, worth the experience, and from 1 June – 31 August 2019, they are running a special – guests get to stay for 4 nights but only pay for 3 – equivalent to 25% off their stay.

You can check current pricing here, I do think it is worth it because you get the following:

  • Access to 70,000 acres of private wilderness
  • Two safari activities (drive or walk) daily with experienced guides
  • Luxury ensuite accommodation
  • All meals, tea, coffee & soft drinks
  • Children’s programme (children under 8 years are not allowed on scheduled game drives unless The Manor is booked exclusively)
  • Selected local drinks during safari activities
  • Wi-Fi
  • VAT
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For more information, visit www.samara.co.za or call 031 262 0324

Samara offers an African wildlife and bush experience every South African should experience at least once.

We think we know Africa because it is our home, but do we really?

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I TOOK A VACATION TO SAMARA WITHOUT MY KIDS AND HERE IS WHY I DON’T REGRET IT.

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Shan
Shan

Hi, I’m Shan. I’m a wife, mom to 3 kids and a businesswoman who works from home and gets very little sleep at night. My days are filled with dirty diapers and toddler tantrums, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. I am in the Forbes 30 under 30 list for Forbes Africa 2019 and just recently launched my start-up – MomSays.

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I was hosted at Samara in exchange for my review.

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