It is one of those times when we all start planning for the perfect end of the year getaway. The hardest part however is being able to get the ideal place of tranquility and bliss. Nature lovers from all over the world have made South Africa a choice and this is something that makes our country stand out as a favourite tourism destination in the world.
So, why not have some of the fun and share the experiences that are just right under our nose. We could not resist the beautiful story of a child that saw a cheetah and yelled out ” Mom! There’s a giant cat drinking from our fountain”.
Samara or ‘Land of Serenity’ is a dream that started over 15 years ago by Sarah and Mark Tompkins, with the goal of promoting animal conservation in South Africa and re-introducing indigenous animal populations that have been lost.
Samara Private Game Reserve has been listed as one of the 50 most romantic destinations in the world, and then a couple of years later as one of the 12 most romantic places in the world. The breathtaking beauty, lingering landscapes and incredible mountain ranges are some of the expressional words to describe the Reserve, but perhaps the most romantic description yet might be the statement from the mouth of a child: “Mom! There’s a giant cat drinking from our fountain!”
Samara takes wildlife seriously. But they try to make it playful. While indulging in the luxury of your accommodation, you can experience the Great Karoo’s wild by simply peering out of reception’s window. If you’re in any luck, you may just notice a cheetah having a sip of water from the fountain only a few metres from you. Once that initial taste of adventure has been had, enjoying all 70 000 acres of Samara is next at hand. Experiencing the largest private game reserve in the Eastern Cape, a reserve that consists of four different biomes, is a daunting task though. There’s a lot to see, and always the biggest sights tend to attract people… but it is the small things that will create lasting memories.
Samara’s subtle beauty is best viewed in the mind of a child, because the enchanting experience is about noticing the little things. That’s why children of all ages are welcome at the reserve, because they notice the little things… like the tortoise in the garden as you wake up or the aardvark at midnight sniffing around, or even that baby rhino that ran in circles. The magic for a child is in hearing the overhead leaves rustling, to look up and discover the exquisite Ververt Monkeys swinging from branch to branch. Those beautiful bundles of furry joy are not only intriguing to the children, but they have even intrigued Samara’s research team. Led by professors from the University of Lethbridge in Canada, extensive research is being carried out on the Vervet Monkey Samara population. See, the team at Samara love to learn, even from children… and that is why the full Samara experience is in noticing the smaller touches.
Samara enjoys catering for children all year round. With their Aardvark Programme for kids and young teenagers (8-14 years) taking off in the June school holidays, it is the ideal spot to holiday in and relax while the young ones have a blast. The rangers and staff make sure that your children are having the time of their lives while you are out experiencing a romantic picnic or hike. When you return, your child will be able to orienteer!There is so much more depth to Samara than the traditional safari experience. They play an essential part in the area’s heritage and the community, even encouraging the support of a Graaf-Reniet children’s home called Vuyani Safe Haven with “children’s environmental days” organised at the Samara Private Reserve. Why does Samara make sure they are child-like? It’s probably because “Mom! There’s a giant cat drinking from our fountain!” is the likeliest thing that will be heard on your game drive with kids around. Who wouldn’t enjoy that?
Samara has a much wider vision of its future. With 70 000 acres at its disposal, Samara has space for everyone and its owners, Sarah and Mark Tompkins, are more than aware of the social, as well as ecological importance of their property.
Made up of 11 farms, Samara forms an essential part of the area’s heritage, and as such plays an important role within the local community. Not only are 90% of the staff from Graaff-Reinet and surrounds, but children from previously disadvantaged backgrounds are regularly invited to explore Samara. In association with the Mayor of Graaff-Reinet, educational visits are arranged for local schools, during which time the children experience the magic of the wilderness and learn about South Africa’s growing eco-tourism industry.
The beauty of Samara is in the full experience, and the full experience is found in the child-like things.