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Intimate sightings of iconic species

Karoo wildlife

The extraordinary diversity of Samara's born-again wilderness delivers an exceptional wildlife experience.

The reserve is home to over 60 mammal species, including the storied “Big Five”, the endangered cheetah, the much sought-after aardvark and black-footed cat, and vast herds of desert-adapted antelope. 225 bird species have been recorded, including impressive eagles, endangered bustards and Karoo endemics.

As a result of Samara’s vast size and low-impact ecotourism model, guests are treated to intimate sightings of charismatic species, including lion, elephant, giraffe and black and white rhinoceros, without the pressure of other vehicles. Iconic antelope seldom found in other South African reserves, including gemsbok, springbok, eland and red hartebeest, come together in abundance on Samara’s plains, as does South Africa’s national bird, the blue crane.

Widely regarded as one of the best places on the continent to view wild cheetah, Samara offers privileged access to tracking these graceful predators on foot – a truly humbling experience.

The reason for this astonishing wildlife diversity in a semi-arid region is the size and variability of the reserve itself. Samara is larger than 30% of South Africa’s national parks and combines elements of 5 of the country’s 9 major vegetation types (known as biomes). Across Samara’s 67,000 acres, mountain-top grasslands akin to a mini-Serengeti marooned in the sky combine with dense Spekboom-covered valleys, winding river systems and flat plains with distant purple peaks to create one of South Africa’s most diverse and scenic safari destinations.

World-class viewing

The endangered cheetah

Samara is widely regarded as one of the best places in Africa to view wild cheetah – especially on walking safaris. Samara's cheetahs, though wild, are habituated to being approached on foot. This provides opportunities for incredibly intimate sightings as they live out their natural behaviour, from hunting to rearing cubs to just lolling about as cats do. For keen photographers, there is no better way to capture the magnificence of these graceful predators.

Cheetah tracking

Unique and unusual

Semi-desert specialists

Many species found in abundance at Samara are absent from or more difficult to spot in other safari areas like the Kruger. Desert-adapted black rhinoceros, Cape mountain zebra, black wildebeest, blesbuck, red hartebeest and springbok are just some of the species that thrive in the more arid Karoo. As a result of its topography and climate, Samara has also earned a reputation as a stronghold for smaller but no less interesting creatures, like the bat-eared fox, black-footed cat, meerkat and Cape fox. In the winter months, many usually-nocturnal or crepuscular species, including aardvark, porcupine and aardwolf, emerge during the day.

Aardvark safari

The storied "Big Five"

Predators and pachyderms

Although the Samara experience is about reconnecting with Nature and all its inhabitants both great and small, there is an undeniable thrill to spotting the most famous animals in the safari world. Samara's vision to reintroduce all the wildlife that historically-occurred in the region has seen the return of the charismatic "Big Five" – lion, elephant, black rhinoceros, buffalo and leopard. Guests are treated to intimate and exclusive viewing of these animals without the pressure of other vehicles or sighting time limits. Leopard sightings remain infrequent due to their elusive nature and continued persecution in the region, but conservation projects are underway to protect and grow leopard populations.

225 species recorded

Birdlife galore

Samara is home to at least 225 bird species across a variety of habitats. The Karoo plains host the endangered Ludwig's bustard, several Karoo endemics and flocks of blue crane. The thickets and riverine habitats are home to chattering weavers, colourful kingfishers and all manner of smaller species. Summer migrants include rollers, cuckoos and booted eagles. A trip to the mountain grasslands promises sightings of the stately Secretarybird, noisy francolins and nesting black eagles. Expert guides and private vehicles are available for keen birders wishing to adopt a slower pace on game drives or to spend a morning at the bird hide.

Birding safari

A living rewilding project

Recreating what once was

First and foremost an ambitious conservation project, Samara has pioneered the rewilding of a landscape that had been turned over to agriculture for the best part of three centuries. Before its wildlife was largely eliminated, this region was home to many species of antelope, meandering herds of elephant and fearsome black-maned lions. Most impressive of all were the springbok, who occasionally converged in their hundreds of thousands into a single herd 5 km wide, traversing the region leaving clouds of dust in their wake. Today this wildlife has largely been eliminated, except in havens like Samara, where a painstaking programme of land rehabilitation and wildlife reintroduction is restoring the biodiversity of the landscape that our guests enjoy today.

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