Samara Private Game Reserve is set among the vast plains of Camdeboo...
Samara Karoo Lodge: Our full report
Karoo Lodge is located in the Samara Game Reserve – which, at 283km², is one of the larger game reserves in the Eastern Cape. The lodge stands on the edge of the wide-open plains of the Great Karoo, about three hours' drive from Port Elizabeth. It’s a restored farmhouse and its fairly traditional design and décor reflects its colonial past.
Samara’s Karoo Lodge has nine suites and all of these have air conditioning, drinkable tap water, a mini-bar fridge, coffee & tea station, a safe and an en-suite bathroom. There are three different types of here:
- There are four Lodges Suites which are inside the main building, and part of it. Each of these rooms is different, for example, one has a large bookcase filled with interesting tomes. All are decorated to a high standard and use quite traditional furnishings and fittings. Each has an en-suite bathroom with a double washbasin and a separate bath and shower. They’re particularly convenient in their proximity to the dining room and lounge – and all these suites open onto a sitting area, with outdoor chairs, which is part of the large wrap-around veranda around the lodge’s main building.
- There are three larger and more modern cottages, each standing on its own and separate from the lodge’s main building: these are the Karoo Suites. These cottages are very spacious and tastefully decorated with beautifully restored traditional furnishings and fittings. Inside each you’ll find a lounge suite set beside the fireplace, a four-poster double bed and enough space to accommodation two single beds for children with ease. The en-suite bathroom is also large, with a separate toilet in its own room, bath, indoor shower, large wardrobes and a dressing table. Outside the wide private veranda wraps around three sides of the suite; at one end is the outdoor shower, and beside the patio-doors are some comfortable outdoor loungers.
- Samara’s entry level rooms are the two Sibella Suites, which are also separated from the main building. These are smaller than the Karoo and Lodges suites, but they are furnished in a similar way. Each of their bathrooms has a shower, but not a bath, and they share a single outdoor deck.
The main facilities at Samara Karoo include a very warm, cosy living room, a bar area and a large dining room, each with a fireplace, plus a very small TV area, an outside boma and a curio shop. Outside is a wide veranda, which wraps around the building. There are numerous seating areas out with large comfy sofas and armchairs, where you can relax and enjoy the surrounding landscape and mountain views.
Samara’s Karoo Lodge has a large swimming pool surrounded by sun loungers and umbrellas. When we last visited this looked very inviting, but in April it was very chilly indeed! Note that there’s relatively little shade around the pool. There’s a tennis court for guests who wish to be active and spa treatments are available in the privacy of your suite for those who prefer to relax.
Activities organized out of the Karoo Lodge focus entirely on the Samara Private Game Reserve which surrounds it. Morning and afternoon/evening drives in open 4WD vehicles are the norm – and sometimes walks to approach the cheetah, or giraffe, or something else of interest many be included in these.
See our comments on the Samara Private Reserve for a more detailed description of Samara’s environment and the wildlife which is found here. In short, this dry-country reserve hosts a variety of antelope, including red hartebeest, giraffe and, on its mountain plateau, good numbers of Cape Mountain zebra and gemsbok. There are cheetahs which can be tracked using a radio-collar, and a few rhino. Also of note: Aardvark appear to be more numerous and visible here than in most areas of Africa – perhaps due to the lack of their usual predators: lion, leopard or spotted hyena; and blue cranes can often be seen here, especially in the South Africa winter.
The vast majority of the activities in this malaria-free reserve are suitable for children, making Samara’s Karoo Lodge a strong candidate for a family holiday.
Our viewSamara Karoo Lodge is a lovely, tastefully decorated lodge with some great accommodation, particularly in its stand-alone Karoo Suites. It offers a high-quality experience to travellers of a Karoo wilderness area, with good levels of care, guiding and food. Having said that, be aware that we found its game densities, and especially its populations of the big predator, to be quite limited.
Ideal length of stay: Typically 3-4 nights is ideal to explore this vast area.
Directions: Samara is 50-minutes from Graaff-Reinet, (the nearest main town) and a 3-hour drive from Port Elizabeth.
Accessible by: Self-drive or Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: The family Tompkins (Sarah and Mark) is the owner of the reserve, as well as the lodges here.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Meals times are flexible at Karoo Lodge, breakfast is generally served at 09.30, after the morning game drive, or earlier (on request) for guests whishing to depart.
When we visited the lodge in May 2014, breakfast included freshly squeezed fruit juice; platters of fresh fruit as well as cold meats and cheese are available along with a selection of cereals and yoghurts. A hot breakfast was also available and included a selection of eggs, bacon, sausage and toast.
Lunch is generally provided from 13h00 and dinner from 7h30 or later for guests in a game drive.
One of Samara’s many evening menus, during our stay in April 2014, featured a couple of choices of starter, main and a dessert. The choice of starter was either a tomato tartlet with blue cheese sauce or a butternut and sweet potato soup. The main course was either venison fillet with black pepped sauce or stuffed chicken with mushroom sauce. Both main courses were served with stacked potatoes and vegetables. The desert was a melktert flavoured crème brulee.
Dining is also possible outside – on the veranda, in the boma, in the poolside area and on the lawn for picnics. At the Karoo Lodge breakfast and lunch are served either outside on the wide veranda or inside in the smart dining room. There is also a boma outside where dinner is served in the evenings, weather permitting.
The professionally trained chef at Karoo Lodge has his own style of traditional South African cuisine and this is noticeable in the high standard of the food at the lodge.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Drinks included: Tea and coffee are included with your stay, as are most drinks served on game drives; other drinks are charged as an extra.
Further dining info: Room service is available
Family holidays: With lots of space, the Karoo suites here are great venues for a family holiday in South Africa. Samara has a children's menu, flexible meal times, baby-sitting options and there’s little very dangerous game here, so children are generally allowed on walks and game drives.See more ideas for Family holidays in South Africa
Wildlife safaris: Samara doesn’t have the highest game densities for a wildlife safari in South Africa. However, Samara does have a high density of aardvarks – giving this reserve an enviable record for sightings of these very elusive, nocturnal mammals.See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in South Africa
Walking: For pure bush walking in South Africa, Samara Reserve offers a range of guided options including the chance to track cheetah and possibly rhino, and opportunities for spotting endangered species, like blue cranes and Cape mountain zebras.See more ideas for Walking in South Africa
Attitude towards children: Samara is very child friendly.
Property’s age restrictions: Children of all ages are welcome at Samara’s Karoo Lodge.
Special activities & services: The lodge arranges a dedicated children's program daily during some times of year – including activities and walks; currently this is just for South African holidays in June. At any time of year, children can choose from special children's menu and early dinners can be arranged for them. Baby-sitting is available on request thought not included. Note that baby-sitters are usually members of the local housekeeping team rather than trained or qualified child-minders. The lodge rule is that only children aged 8 years and older are allowed on scheduled game drives with other guests at the lodge. This is understandable, as many adult guests won’t want to share a vehicle with a child whose attention span may be very limited. The only way to guarantee game activities that include younger children would be to arrange private vehicle in advance for your stay, and pay the extra cost for this as well. Although this rule appears draconian, our own experience, of staying here with two small children, is that they were very flexible. The lodge team did their best to provide game drives and walking activities that included our whole family. For four of us that sometimes meant we were lucky enough to have our own vehicle; at other times we shared the vehicle with another family. We clearly understood before we arrived that the lodge might not be able to include the children on some or any of our drives. In the even – we were delighted that they were able to make a plan and none of us missed a single drive!
Equipment: Cots and highchairs can be provided. Each Karoo Suite can have up to two extra beds for children – without compromising the sense of space in these large rooms.
Generally recommended for children: Yes
Notes: Children under the age of 8 are not usually allowed on game drives unless the family has paid for exclusive use of a vehicle.
Power supply: Mains Electricity
Communications: There is no cellphone signal but landline access is available and there is a central phone in the lodge. At Karoo Lodge free access to WiFi is available in the main areas of the building, but this doesn’t reach the outside rooms. That said, all the rooms all have a laptop adaptor.
TV & radio: Satellite television is available in the main lounge.
Water supply: Mains
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: No
Medical care: The nearest hospital is in Graaff-Reinet (50 minutes drive away).
Dangerous animals: Moderate Risk
Security measures: For guests staying in the Karoo Suites you will need to be escorted to and from your room at night. A manager is always on duty 24 hours a day.
Fire safety: Fire extinguishers are available in the main areas as well as in each room.
Disabled access: In Place
Laundry facilities: Laundry is available at an extra charge
Money: No exchange is available. There are digital safes in each room.
Accepted payment on location: Visa, Mastercard and Amex are accepted at no extra charge. Rands, US dollars, Pounds and Euros are accepted as long as guests agree with the exchange rate used.