Samara Manor House. Eastern Cape. South Africa
Why we love it
Samara is a private game reserve that protects 28 000 hectares of South Africa's dry Karoo. This is a fascinating semi-desert that spans mountains, rivers and plains - a place where the rocks tell stories of reptiles that pre-dated the dinosaurs and ancient hunter-gatherers who used rock hand axes as tools. More than this it's a place of openness and warmth that's the geographical and spiritual heart of South Africa and has inspired artists, poets and philosophers. It will unlock your creativity too. The Samara Private Game Reserve offers exceptional game viewing of cheetah, eland, kudu and other species like aardvark, not usually encountered on bushveld safari. We love the Karoo - it has a magical way of seducing you.
What to expect
The Manor at Samara is a restored historic homestead with title deeds dating back to the 1800s, when Lord Charles Somerset was Governor of the Cape. It's been transformed by a top interior designer into a beautiful, contemporary villa using a fresh-white backdrop for interesting furniture and objets d'art. It has 4 spacious, air-conditioned luxury rooms with en suite bathrooms, separate showers and free-standing baths. The lounge has a crackling fire for cold winter months, a well stocked library and cosy reading nooks. An expansive outdoor entertainment area looks onto a 21-metre long pool, a waterhole where animals come to drink and distant mountains. It has its own private chef, butler, game drive vehicle and guide.
What to do
The Karoo is a place to unwind in the openness of the African plains. You can go on a game drive or nature walks and will encounter some of the 220 bird species, including the endangered blue crane and black eagle. Game drives cover four of the country’s seven biomes, and a habitat for over 60 mammal species including kudu, white rhino, cheetah, giraffe, and the secretive and elusive aardvark. Discover fossils and well-preserved Bushman paintings and enjoy Karoo cuisine, outdoor boma dinners, picnics and lazy breakfasts.
Kids They will love the freedom of the Karoo, the vast open spaces and the pool, plus keeping an eye on the waterhole to see who comes to visit.
The good news
There is plenty of this. Samara is part of a public private partnership to link the Mountain Zebra National Park to the Camdeboo National Park and create one of the largest conservation areas in South Africa. The owners Mark and Sarah Tompkins are instrumental in wide ranging good works for their community and the local environment, including education programs and job creation in one of the poorer regions of South Africa. They support the Tracker Project and a wealth of scientific research and rehabilitation in the region.
When to visit
Being a semi-desert area you should be prepared for extremes in temperature. Winters are usually clear and warm during the day and can be very cold at night with temperatures falling below freezing. This area is very hot during summers (November to February) with fantastic thunderstorms to bring drama and cool relief.
How to get there
Centrally located in South Africa, Samara is a two and a half hour drive from Port Elizabeth International Airport. You can hire a car, or air and road shuttles are available on request.