Samara Private Game Reserve

1 Project review of Samara Private Game Reserve

Project Details

Our focus is land restoration, rewilding and environmental education. Samara is a hub of conservation on 70,000 acres of South Africa's Great Karoo.

About the Samara Private Game Reserve

"Heart-stoppingly beautiful" is how award-winning Samara Private Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape is best described. Samara is a passionate conservation undertaking, the leader in its area and a catalyst for change in the Great Karoo region of South Africa's Eastern Cape.

The 70,000-acre reserve is located in the Great Karoo, the country's vast heartland, a landscape of seemingly infinite space, dramatic mountain ranges and vast skies. A pioneer in conservation in the Great Karoo, Samara was started in 1997 through the purchase of 11 overgrazed livestock farms. We tore down the internal fencing, removed the destructive sheep and goats and allowed the badly degraded land to rest for several years before reintroducing indigenous wildlife. Our focus has been on land restoration, rehabilitation and rewilding. 

The Location

Characterised by vast open plains bordered by dolerite-capped mountain ranges and quaint farm-style charm, the Karoo holds a unique and humbling magic. Its timelessness evokes a special kind of nostalgia and possesses a mysterious force that draws visitors back again and again.

The sense of space, the silence and the stars of the Karoo are the stuff of South African legend. There is no better place to clear your lungs, reconnect with your senses, and feel the stresses of daily life begin to slip away. 

The Karoo is roughly split into two sections: the expansive Great Karoo wilderness in the north-east, and the smaller and tamer Little Karoo (Klein Karoo) in the south-west. Samara lies within the Great Karoo, which itself covers more than 400,000 km² of semi-desert landscape, a region characterised by low rainfall and expansive, cloudless skies.

Our Vision

Our vision for the region extends beyond our boundaries: Samara is the catalyst in a project to create South Africa’s third largest protected area of 1.3 million acres in a Global Biodiversity Hotspot - linking the Camdeboo National Park to the Mountain Zebra National Park as the largest private landowner in the region. 

Our History

We see the land as a 'living laboratory' - the perfect place to learn more about the natural world. Since its inception, Samara has sought to develop its potential as a site of learning and discovery. We have entered into partnership with a number of universities from around the world who send Masters, PhD, post-doc students and their professors to Samara to conduct original and often groundbreaking research. Our longest-running research project began in 2008, and constitutes a collaboration between a number of universities. Currently, the four main protagonists are the University of Wisconsin-Madison (USA), the University of South Africa, the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa) and the University of Aberdeen (Scotland). The aims of the research are several fold, but focus predominantly on the social organisation and adaptation to climate change of vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus pygerythrus) .

In 2010, we started a Volunteer Programme to enable young people from across the world to better understand the hard work that goes into building and running a game reserve. Our vision has always been one of co-creation, and we want you to help contribute to Samara's ongoing conservation journey. Since then we have had a couple of hundred volunteers from all over the world. 

The main focus of the project is on
Foundation Year
Contact Person
Isabelle Tompkins
Spoken Languages

Social Impact

Samara's focus is environmental conservation and education through a process of co-creation. 

Samara became the first private reserve in the region to open to the public in 2005, and we have achieved a number of other ‘firsts’: first wild cheetah back in the region in 125 years, first desert-adapted black rhino reintroduced on private land in the area, first cape mountain zebra reintroduced, the cape vultures returned, the first property targeted for fracking in South Africa (which we successfully fought) and the first Tracker Academy established on the property to train young men from disadvantaged backgrounds in the skills of tracking for jobs in the ecotourism industry. 

The land was allowed to rest for many years and is slowly beginning to recover from the effects of generations of agricultural exploitation. The haunting beauty of the landscape has been allowed to return. Landscapes that had barely a blade of grass in 1997 have recovered, the deep orange of the earth now offset by green pockets of hope. We have reintroduced many indigenous species to the reserve that had gone locally extinct. These include cheetah, black rhinoceros and herds of eland, hartebeest and springbok. We have also had the great joy of witnessing the return of species of their own accord – particularly the vulture and leopard. 

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