Samara: A secluded Eastern Cape escape

2017-04-22 14:30 - Unathi Nkanjeni
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Imagine getting an invite to go to a place you’ve never really heard of - let alone thought you’d ever visit?

I don’t know what was more exciting, getting out of town or the weekend getaway itself, but when the opportunity of going to the Eastern Cape came around I was more than happy to jump on board and kiss the Mother City goodbye - even if it was just for a weekend.

Although I was a bit skeptical due to pretty much fear of the unknown. I wasn't quite sure what to expect during this wildlife getaway, but curiosity got the better of me and I accepted the invitation – and I'm so glad I did because my stay was more than pleasant.

On Thursday morning, 6 April to be precise, I hopped on a plane and went to Port Elizabeth where I would be met by three other individuals also invited on the media trip and with whom I would be driving down to Samara Private Game Reserve for a four days mini weekend – and off we went.

Arriving at Samara, we were greeted by Manor House hostess Candice Afrika - a lady with ambitions far beyond her years - as she welcomed us with hot chocolate – something we all needed after our overly-delayed flights, which at one point led to lonesome hours at a dead and cold airport.

A cold airport exchanged for hot-chocolate infused welcomes

But did I mention what a gem Afrika is, with a great personality too? And she sure can make one mean G&T.

Following the unfortunate late arrival, we headed straight to supper and then off to bed - well not quite.

My room, well, beautiful does not even begin to describe it. 

As tired as I was, I couldn't help but notice the intimate designs, never mind it being spacious with a huge bed, bathroom with shower, and everything. My personal favourite was the art, design and décor.

Art, design and beautiful décor

It took me about a good full hour to actually get over it, never mind the fact that I had to be up early in the morning for a game drive, which later got postponed due to bad weather.

Despite the delays and postponements the overall experience somehow was not disappointing.

And to make up for it, rangers, Julius Mkhize, who holds some 20 years experience as a ranger at Samara and rookie, Benedict Phepheng agreed to do a sit-down and answer all the questions we had about the place instead.

Sharing his experiences, you’d have to be tone deaf or blind not to witness the glow on Mkhize’s face every time he spoke about his job, which led the DJ turned ranger, Phepheng fully admitting that he draws his inspiration from his mentor and is the reason why he chose to be a ranger after seeing him on television.

SEE: Iconic Samara cheetah lives on with the birth of grand-cubs

While indoors and waiting for the bad weather to pass, and with not much do with myself, Candice and I engaged in some relatable conversation over some good G&Ts - there's something in that Karoo Gin and Tonic, I tell you.

The next day came and somehow I was more excited than ever - I don't know why - we got ready for the game drive and the anticipation of possible sightings began to build. Samara organises game drives for their guests over the weekend, and as was my experience, weather permitting.

During our game drive we were fortunate to spot some cheetah and as scared as I was to be only a few meters away from these wild creatures, all that fear just disappeared once I saw the cute cheetah cubs.

A variety of accommodation

Getting back to the lodge - Samara has different kinds of accommodations. Whether you are looking for a private space for yourself or you would like to share a room with 4 or 8 people, there are options to suit your requirements.

Also, one of the things I love about the Reserve is the location, which is near Graaff-Reinet in Eastern Cape and being a three-hour drive away from the buzzing city noise of Port Elizabeth, it makes Samara a “true getaway”.

The house boasts a perfect pool- side area with mountain views and not forgetting the wildlife. The staff at Samara is amazing,  as they genuinely build a relationship with guest. Literally with everyone that visits and they make delicious food, all with good portions too.

I was invited inside the kitchen for some tasting and boy did I enjoy the food. In fact, ever heard of rice pies? Yum, I tell you!  Candice made it a point to feed me more and kept saying “you need to eat all of this because in Cape Town all you guys eat is fish”. Classic.

SEE: #ShockWildlifeTruths: Karoo's Samara Reserve sees Cape Vulture revival

Global offering, sharing common ground

Samara Private Game Reserve accommodates people from all over the world. I found this so interesting as I got to engage with some of the staff, sharing our future plans and realising that we all have something in common.

On our second game drive, being out in the mountains and doing the whole safari thing, I got to see the beauty of the Karoo through the eyes of those that were also visiting for their very first time.

We did some sundowners, took some pictures - this was definitely one of my best times and I couldn't help but fall in love with the place.

Speaking to owner, Sarah Tompkins, she pointed out how her experiences as a traveller led to her seeing a gap for a conservation corridor.  Taking us on a journey about the Reserve pointing out how and why it was established 20 years ago and the future plans going forward as she describes it as a place which is more than just about animals, but also the people. Her passion for people and ensuring that they get the best out of their stay at Samara is certainly admirable.

Manor House caters for a full experience:

The house is huge with 4 bedrooms with bathrooms in each.

There is a dining room and entertainment room so there's no excuse not want to have people around.

You can book a full spa treatment where only 100% essentials oils and natural plants extracts are used. 

Enjoy good food cooked by personal chef accompanied by outstanding variety of drinks straight from the in-house bar.

There is more than one outside sections to enjoy the breeze and each room has its own mountain view with baboons and duku's roamining around.

A swimming pool and a personal massues are also on offer. 

I would recommend Samara Private Game Reserve to anyone that would like to have decent, convenient and yet affordable accommodation in the Karoo. Did I mention even though there’s hardly signal, they’ve got wifi? My only hack is that I did not get an Instagram-worthy view from my room but that is something I can live with.

*Disclaimer: Traveller24 Unathi Nkanjeni was hosted by Samara for the duration of his stay, including flights and accommodation.

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