In 2019, Samara Private Game Reserve became the first Big Five reserve in the Great Karoo. Seeing the ‘Big Five’ in the wild is a bucket list item for many visitors to Africa. Samara is now one of the few places in Africa where visitors can see big game roaming freely.
The ‘Big Five’ is a term left over from the days of hunting in Africa – describing the most dangerous animals to encounter in the bush, rather than the size of the animals, as many people believe. The Big Five includes elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard. Samara Private Game Reserve, located in the Great Karoo of South Africa, is an excellent place to see these magnificent animals.
Throughout Samara’s 21 year-journey, our conservation strategy has been to take things slowly. The first step was to regenerate the landscape, badly degraded as former livestock farms, and promote the re-establishment of vegetation. Once that process was underway, we could begin reintroducing the wildlife species that once roamed the area.
We began by restoring the herbivore community, from browsers such as kudu to grazers such as Cape Mountain zebra and mixed feeders like red hartebeest. In 2003, we re-introduced the first cheetah back into the region in 130 years.
The first apex predator in the landscape, the lion, was released onto the reserve in January 2019, turning Samara into the first Big Five reserve in the Great Karoo.
These lions were the first free-roaming lions in 180 years to set foot back in this area. Lion are arguably the most exciting animals to see on safari – but be warned, they sleep up to 20 hours a day.
In 2017, elephants were reintroduced to Samara Private Game Reserve, restoring the function of megaherbivore processes.
These great grey giants are the largest living land mammal, amongst the most social animals living in groups of up to hundreds of individuals.
Samara’s herd was completed when the two elephant bulls arrived in November 2018.
Two species of rhinoceros can be found in Southern Africa – the square-lipped white rhino and hooked-lipped black rhino.
One of the world’s wildlife icons, the rhino, is under serious threat from poaching and the illegal trade in rhino horn. As a Big Five reserve, Samara remains dedicated to contributing meaningfully to their conservation.
Buffalo can be notoriously bad tempered – and when you learn they can run up to 55 kilometres an hour and males can weigh up to 700 kilograms, you understand why they’re included in the so-called ‘Big Five’.
The most elusive of the Big Five, leopards are naturally found on the reserve, but having been persecuted in the region for centuries by farmers, they are seldom seen.
The best chance of spotting them is in trees; which they use as a safe resting place during the heat of the day and as an observation platform. An ongoing focus for us in the future will be leopard conservation in the landscape.
The return of all these wildlife species, including the Big Five has been important from an ecological perspective and from the perspective of ensuring sustainable tourism remains a compelling land-use in the region and contributes to local economic development and job creation.
The Big Five are a major drawcard for tourists to Africa and research shows that the presence of these animals enhances the perceived value of the tourist experience, ultimately impacting on the sustainability of a conservation operation.
Samara Private Game Reserve is a luxury Big Five safari destination with a difference. Guests are invited behind the scenes of a passionate conservation journey to restore a unique South African wilderness. This genuine conservation participation, combined with heartfelt Karoo hospitality and breathtaking landscapes, offers a safari that feeds the soul.