About three hours drive northwest of Addo National park (see Tuesday's blog) lies a different country. If Addo enjoys a lush and verdant environment, Samara Game Reserve is the opposite. Its semi-desert environment is more akin to Namibia. Here we are in the middle of the Great Karoo near the historic farming town of Graaff Reinet.
Over a dozen years ago, a far-sighted British investor started buying up farms, lots of them. I don't know whether he has stopped, but at 70,000 acres, this private reserve is an impressive spread. Part of the reason for buying up so much agricultural land and then letting it return to nature was to reintroduce the traditional migration route of many mammals. Up until the end of the nineteenth century, literally millions of springbok would traverse this area. Indeed, part of the great scheme is to connect Samara and other private reserves with the Camdeboo and Mountain Zebra National Parks to recreate some of that migratory path.
The adjectives of haunting beauty and serenity are apt to describe the character of this experience. You do not come here to see an abundance of game but to relax in a pristine natural environment with a clarity of light and freshness of air few of us encounter in our daily lives. The pleasure here is to sit on the verandah of one of the several old, restored farmhouses and listen to absolutely nothing in this great vastness. You have a choice of accommodation: the old farmhouse Karoo lodge, the slightly more contemporary Manor House and the far removed Mountain Retreat. The latter two are exclusive use accommodation, but all share a similar ambience and character.
The game drives here are relaxed affairs dictated by your time and interest.It is worth mentioning that Samara reintroduced cheetah to an area where it had been all but wiped out 125 years ago, and this is an example of the great importance attached to conservation and environment. You are not restricted to the vehicle with walking and night walks as well as a variety of different scenic drives. One of the most impressive sights is driving up to certain vantage points, and the plains of Camdeboo spread out before you. It is an entirely visceral experience where you will perhaps wander into a safari of the mind
There is a subdued luxury to this place. The luxury of time and space in a pristine natural environment. There are all the bells and whistles of course: excellent food, silver service, spa treatments, special programmes for children. But you will appreciate this magical place more like a retreat and thank the farsighted owners for sharing it with us for generations to come.