5.0
Excellent 226 Reviews
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This Hotel meets our standards
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What We Love

  • All meals, daily tea and coffee, two game drives per day (including beverages) and the Aardvark children's program are included in the Jetsetter rate
  • Holiday with a purpose and opportunities to volunteer
  • Tracking cheetah across the savanna
  • Horticulturists will be interested in the variety of aloe species found here; some individual plants are 500 years old
  • Sipping South African wine and dining on country cooking in the boma under the stars
  • Free WiFi

What To Know

  • Getting to the reserve involves an international flight to Cape Town or Johannesburg, a two-hour flight to Port Elizabeth and a 50-minute flight or three-hour drive to Samara Private Game Reserve
  • Guestrooms are relatively small
  • Karoo weather can be extreme — prepare for very hot summers and cold winters
  • Spring (August to November) and fall (March to May) are the best times to visit
  • The reserve does not have any predatory cats other than cheetah
  • You will not see all of the Big Five here

Amenities

  •  Kids Club
  •  Restaurant
Disclaimer: This content was accurate at the time the hotel was reviewed. Please check our partner sites when booking to verify that details are still correct.
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Overview

The Review

The Samara Private Game Reserve offers an exclusive safari experience in the Eastern Cape. With just three lodges in its 70,000-acre expanse, it’s one of the largest and most secluded private game parks in the country. The vibe here is different from that of a traditional South African safari lodge, in part due to its unusual location in the Great Karoo.

This is a place of huge blue skies and a grass-meets-desert landscape where aloe blooms in July and old farmhouses still dot the blue-tinged landscape. Even the animals are different. There are no lions or hyenas, but plenty of cheetahs, bat-eared foxes, meerkats, aardvarks, white rhinos and two species of zebra. You will not see Africa’s Big Five — which might be a drawback for some, but it allows a more hands-on safari experience, especially for families. {“type”:”img-inline”,”src”:”/static/images/product/properties/editorialreviews/11137/pgal-96364-1311354800-full.jpg”,”width”:”275″,”caption”:”See the rare and elusive cheetah on bush walks with an experienced local tracker.”}

There are fewer than 900 wild cheetah left in South Africa, for instance, so seeing one of these elusive cats in its native environment is a special experience. At Samara you not only have the opportunity to watch this endangered predator, you can stalk and walk behind one with an experienced local tracker. There is also a chance of spotting more than 180 species of bird from the comfort of a luxurious open-air jeep — and of doing some of South Africa’s top stargazing above the wide open plains.

Just three lodges dot Samara’s vast acreage, including the Karoo Lodge, housed in an old colonial homestead. It takes design inspiration from a bygone era, with large stone fireplaces, dark wood antique furniture and savanna colors. Both the Sibella and Lodge Suites echo this traditional look, but they have modern extras like en-suite bathrooms and air conditioning.

For me, what sets Samara apart is its dedication to conservation and the local community. Since opening in 1997, the reserve’s mission has been to realize the area’s outstanding natural diversity, reintroduce endangered species and provide jobs for locals. Visitors also have the opportunity to volunteer for a few days; they can help implant aardvarks with tracking devices or assist the cheetah research project.

How to Get There

Samara Private Game Reserve
P O Box 649
Graaff-Reinet, 00000 South Africa

Reviews

5.0 Excellent 226 Reviews
Enjoyable but.......
Reviewed 1 month ago

We travelled with friends for 3 nights. The wildlife tracker, field guide and sightings were all fantastic! The best we have encounter in our more than dozen safaries in souther africa. The accommodation was good although some serious maintenance should be donne soon. However, what we did not enjoy was the meals and scarcity of same. Fruit and vegetables were almost non existence. The dinners in the boma was short of food, never offered second helpings. After the ladies had helped themselves there were not much food and vegetables left for us men. The latter made our stay less enjoyable.

Unforgettable first safari experience
Reviewed 1 month ago

Mount Camdeboo was all we had hoped for and more for our first safari experience. The property itself is remotely situated with stunning views and is very elegantly appointed. The ladies at the lodge attended to our every need and the food was first class - we especially enjoyed the fireside dinner after our first evening game drive. Our safari guide, Howart, made sure we had the best possible experience in the bush, tracking the cheetahs relentlessly and setting up the bar for a relaxing cocktail in the wild. We truly did not want to leave this place!

Personal, scenic, constantly-fed and pampered.
Reviewed 2 months ago

The Pepper Tree cottage was quaint, cozy but yet comfortable and stylish. The cottage offers privacy and a sense of serenity. Underfloor heating was amazing in the cool weather and the fire place a life saver when we experienced the Karoo rain storm with a short power outage. This was not inconvenient in the least! The stars are extraordinary!

The staff were flexible, friendly, 'salt of the earth', accommodating and thoughtful in making our stay extra special. The food was delicious and way too much because you are fed throughout the day.

I thought two game drives per day was going to be over-kill but when you see how big the property is and the 4x4 scenic routes, it is well worth it to do a game drive every day! The array of animals were amazing to observe. I look forward to returning in the future.

Cambe DO!
Reviewed 3 months ago

What an amazing place. We were only able to spend a night here on our drive through the Eastern Cape, but it felt like way more than a night.

The staff are wonderful and friendly and welcomed us to a beautiful room in the Manor House. We enjoyed a great high tea and then went on a game drive with Hewitt. He is a very passionate guide who told us all sorts of stories and filled us with knowledge about the animals we saw.

The dinner was spectacular, served with a smile.

We had the chance to take another drive in the morning and were very luck to spot a few new bird species and also see the male cheetah on foot. What a special experience. We end our trip with a great brunch in the manor house.

I can highly recommend this place for a luxury, outdoor experience.

Dramatic!
Reviewed 3 months ago

Camdeboo is essentially set up in two areas next to each other divided by a main road. The Valley of Desolation is stunning at any time of day but is enhanced at sunset. The game area is easily drivable with good quality tracks and plenty of diverse game to see. Even if there's nothing at the waterhole it's probably worth hanging around there for a while as it won't be long befoe something special appears.