The Karoo is somewhere that time and space stand still, and is a true reminder of what a distinctive South African landscape looks like. After an almost two-hour flight to Port Elizabeth and a near three-hour drive, we arrived at Samara anticipating the vast expanse and silence of the Savanna — and we weren’t disappointed.
The 27 000ha estate is 45 minutes from Graaff-Reinet and is made up of three accommodation types, including The Manor House, which is where we spent our days. It’s decorated in a warm, neutral, plush style with a touch of African design, high ceilings, and open fireplaces throughout. The Karoo Lodge, the original renovated farmhouse, and the cottage suites, decorated in a similar style and adjacent to the lodge, complete the accommodation options. They all exude that old-world charm best associated with farm houses of the area. The four-bedroom Manor house can be rented for families or friends — with chef-prepared meals, butler, and personal ranger included. Milk tart, pastries, and G&Ts were a welcome treat before each afternoon game drive.
The Great Karoo is observably different from the Lowveld. The Cape-like light is soft and gentle, the ground is covered in Spekboom and scrubby Karoo bush (the staple diet of the Angora goats and sheep that have been farmed in the area for many years), and, of course, the mountains are spectacular. Matte, inky blues span the landscape, with the red earth rolling in the valleys below — it’s quite breathtaking.
Samara’s owners Sarah and Mark Tompkins — who fell in love with the landscape years ago — have committed to regenerating the overgrazed and overhunted area by simply leaving it be and reintroducing animals that once roamed the land. Twenty-two years later and the eventual purchase of 11commercial farms makes the result a private game lodge with a difference.
Cheetah, rhino, and herds of eland, Cape mountain zebra, and the occasional aardvark freely roam the area, and there are plans to introduce more game. Anything that isn’t remotely indigenous has been uprooted, a testament to the concept of the farm and a desire to restore the Camdeboo plains to the mass migration path they once were. A tracking academy and volunteer program allows people to offer their services to the cause.
On the final day a rocky drive on an incline up one of these inky mountains revealed a grassy plain, an outstanding view of the land below, and a lunch table heaving with delicious eats and glasses at the ready for crisp white wine. All in all, a few days spent at Samara feels like a week spent in solitude: reflecting, relaxing, and taking a cue from the land by regenerating oneself.