Putting passion into action
- IAN MCCALLUM, POET
Samara is a passionate conservation undertaking, started in 1997 by Mark and Sarah Tompkins. 67,000 acres of land have been restored over 25 years, and Samara is working with local stakeholders to create South Africa’s 3rd largest protected area of 3 million acres in a Global Biodiversity Hotspot.
This was the area that previously witnessed one of the world’s largest migrations – when millions of springbok, wildebeest, eland and quagga, a now-extinct type of zebra, roamed these plains in search of new pastures. Herds of elephant moved through the verdant river systems, black rhino were so plentiful they were shot on sight, and the predators – Cape lion, leopard, cheetah, spotted hyena, even wild dog – accompanied the melee of prey species across this breathtaking landscape.
The Tompkinses consulted expert ecologists to determine the conservation potential of the land before purchasing 11 farms encompassing 5 of South Africa’s 9 vegetation biomes. They then began the mammoth task of eradicating alien invasive plants, tearing down internal fencing and resting the land for almost a decade. Little by little indigenous animals have been reintroduced to the area, with a focus not only on iconic and endangered species but on the ecosystem processes they promote.
Thrilling rewilding milestones have included reintroducing the first cheetah in 130 years, the first elephant in 150 years and the first lion in 180 years. Samara continues to actively restore and rehabilitate the most degraded landscapes through sound land management practice, including soil erosion control and the planting of indigenous vegetation.
Seventeen years ago, two small lodges were set up on the property to give social meaning to this conservation undertaking. The Samara team is passionate about spreading the environmental message to all who step foot on the reserve. From the youngest guests staying in the lodges, to the many local staff employed over the years, Samara seeks to instil a sense of wonder, love and understanding of the natural world.
In an area hitherto unknown to the South African public, let alone the international community, the Samara team has campaigned tirelessly to put the Great Karoo on the map and to help realise the immense potential of the land and the people of this region. In 2022 the Tompkinses were joined in their journey by the Finch and Plojoux families, equally committed to ensuring the future of this remarkable Karoo ecosystem.
- SARAH TOMPKINS, CO-FOUNDER