A vast semi-desert stretching across four provinces, the Karoo is South Africa’s answer to the Australian Outback or North America’s Chihuahan Desert. Characterised by extensive open plains bordered by dolerite-capped mountains, the infinite horizons of the Karoo have a unique, humbling kind of magic – yet they are right on the doorstep of metropolitan South Africa.
1. The feeling of space
Need we really say more? After
326 22 weeks of lockdown we have all become intimately acquainted with the inside walls of our respective abodes, and the siren call of the outside world has become almost unbearable. Now that leisure travel is permitted, a wilderness escapade to reset and recharge is exactly what the doctor ordered.
And where better than the Karoo wilderness, an uplifting, peaceful landscape of vast skies and never-ending views. Chris Marais and Julienne du Toit, renowned Karoo authors and journalists, have dubbed the region South Africa’s ‘soul space’. What a wonderfully apt way to describe this immense, heart-lifting place.
2. Perfect for a roadtrip
It’s understandable that the new normal of air travel is going to take some getting used to. Luckily for Karoophiles, the region is easily accessible (and indeed, best explored) by car. Meander along the Route 62 from Cape Town or strike out due North from Port Elizabeth, and you’ll soon witness the bossies getting shorter and the sheep (and springbok) more numerous.
With its long open roads and vast landscapes, the Great Karoo is a road-tripper’s paradise, and there are plenty of charming pit-stops in towns from Graaff-Reinet to Calvinia. A 4×4 is not even a strict necessity, although it will certainly make navigating any dirt roads you might come across more enjoyable.
3. Away from the crowds
If you’re daunted by the prospect of a hotel full of guests, you’ll welcome the accommodation options available in the Karoo. Intimate owner-run establishments abound in and around the region’s dorpies, and they’ll certainly appreciate your business in the post-COVID world.
An exclusive-use game lodge or farm stay is the ideal off-the-beaten-track option. By the time you reach your destination, you’ll most likely be some of the only humans for miles around. In the Karoo, social distancing is something of a way of life.
Samara Private Game Reserve near Graaff-Reinet sleeps just 26 guests on 67,000 acres – that’s 2,577 acres all to yourself. The exclusive-use Manor House can be booked for parties of up to 8 adults, making it perfect for families who do not wish to share with other guests.
4. Plenty of things to do
Whoever said the Karoo was merely an ‘in-between’ place that one drives through to get from A to B clearly had no imagination – it is very much a destination in its own right.
With opportunities for wildlife viewing, walking and hiking, horse-back riding, cooking classes, mountain biking, farm stays, wellness, camping, fly-fishing and conservation activities to name just a few, the region delivers in more ways than one.
If you were to visit Samara Private Game Reserve this winter, you’d wake up to the dawn chorus before setting off on a game drive to spot the elusive aardvark and cheetah (including two sets of cubs). Later, you’d feast on a mountain-top brunch overlooking the vast Plains of Camdeboo, where the springbok migrations used to congregate. That afternoon, you could opt for an interpretive guided walk, or set off along one of the mountain biking trails to explore the reserve’s diverse landscapes, before curling up by the fireplace with a fine glass of South African red.
The following day you might get your hands dirty with some Spekboom planting, before relaxing on the sun-soaked verandah of your lodge with a good book. That afternoon, the game drive beckons again… before a mouth-watering dinner of local Karoo lamb. Children will be kept entertained with a host of activities, from painting ‘rock art’ to air rifle target practice, free to explore the wilderness under the supervision of our expert guides.
By the time your visit to the magical Karoo ends, lockdown will feel like a distant memory. But be warned, once you’ve had a taste of the Karoo, you may never want to leave.
Samara Private Game Reserve is a luxury 5-star destination with a passionate conservation mission set within a breathtaking Great Karoo wilderness. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, or click here to start planning your stay with us today. A safari for the soul.
Roadtrip image credit: William Wade-Norbury