Samara – restoration and rewilding

One of the most impressive aspects about Samara is that the owners and managers are restoring this game reserve back to its original state. The founders of the Samara Game Reserve, Sarah and Mark Thompson, established the reserve in 1997. Their objective is to restore the reserve back to its natural state, in terms of fauna and flora diversity, which last existed 200 years ago.

Away, away, from men and towns,
To the wild wood and the downs, —
To the silent wilderness,
Where the soul need not repress its music.”

~Percy Bysshe Shelley

Samara appears to be a model of cooperation with conservation and scientific bodies to achieve the biodiversity and preservation of the four vegetation biomes in this part of the Great Karoo.

“The earth is what we all have in common.” ~ Wendell Berry

I have not put the images in this post in any sort of order to illustrate the eclectic experience in this wonderful game reserve. The first image was taken on our game drive at dusk looking toward the illuminated sky after the sun had set in the west.

Above the Karoo escarpment on the edge of the plateau looking down onto the flat Klein Karoo and the plains of Camdeboo.

Black rhinos were reintroduced in 2013 and are heavily protected. Several black rhinos were relocated to Samara under a custodianship agreement with SANParks. This initiative expands the range of the species and playing a crucial role in the growth of the metapopulation. They seem to thrive on the difficult to get to slopes of the escarpment.

The first cheetahs were reintroduced to Samara in 2004 after an absence of 125 years. The two cheetahs in the next image are Sibella’s second generation offspring. Sibella was one of the first three cheetahs introducted into the reserve. The cheetah cubs were cleaning the blood off each other after feeding on a kill.

The old farm houses have been restored and converted into luxurious lodges. The next image shows the view looking west over the swimming pool at last light.

The cheetah cubs training lesson. One of the unique features of Samara is that you are able to walk with a wild cheetah family. Perhaps “walk “is the wrong word because even when they are walking it is difficult to keep up with them on the Karoo terrain.

The inside of the manor lodge. It has been graciously restored and modernised.

Samara offers several possible unusal sightings. For me, one of the several highlights was walking with aardvarks. This is a seasonal opportunity and mainly possible in winter when the aardvark comes out to forage for ants in the late afternoon, when it is still warm.

After a busy day walking with cheetahs or rhinos or aardvarks, it is sublime to clean up and sit down in front of the fire and chat about the days activities over drinks.

Samara’s wildlife is diverse and varies dramatically in size, nature and speed.

The manor lodge provides scrumptious meals in a five star wildlife lodge setting. This makes wildlife photography very comfortable with plenty of room to relax and edit your images when you are not out walking with the wildlife.

“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference and you have to decide what kind of a difference you want to make.”
~Jane Goodall

Samara’s elephant reintroduction in 2017 brought back these pachyderms onto the plains of Camdeboo after an absence of 150 years. Both black and white rhinos have been reintroduced.

The view at dusk looking down on the plains of the Klein Karoo off towards Port Elizabeth on the coast around 246 kilometres away.

Occasionally dinners were set outside. The setting was gorgeous, but nippy as it was winter.

“Nature is painting for us, day after day, pictures of infinite beauty.”
~John Ruskin

A herd of black wildebeest on the escarpment plateau at dusk.

A view of the manor house from across the pool at night with the moon rising in a clear winter sky.

A Gemsbok making its way down from the higher section of the plateau. You can also see mountain zebra, eland, blesbok and black wildebeest up on the plateau.

Samara reintroduced lions into the reserve in 2019. This brings these predators back to this part of the Karoo after an absence of 180 years. This will of course alter the dynamics in the game reserve especially among the predators and the cheetahs in particular.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
~Margaret Mead

Samara is now a big five game reserve. The “big five” being elephants, rhino, buffalo, lions and leopards. While the “big five” has been a good marketing slogan it does not do justice to the fascinating biodiversity in this area.

A big thank you to Lou Coetzer and CNP Safaris for introducing us to this wonderful game reserve. It was a highly productive photographic trip. We spent five fascinating days in the reserve in late winter last year. There is no doubt that the seasonality of the Karoo offers very different experiences in the different seasons.

“The Earth is a fine place and worth fighting for.”
~Ernest Hemingway

Explore, seek to understand, marvel at its inter-connectedness and let it be.

Have fun, Mike

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