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October 20, 2014

Samara October Newsletter


Our beloved cheetah, Sibella, who has been so successful at contributing to the numbers of cheetah living in the wild, is going have her inspirational life commemorated in a book. We are requesting our guests to send hi-res photographs and comments on what “meeting” this phenomenal cat meant to them. All photos and memories will be credited to the person sending them to us. They can be sent to with SIBELLA BOOK in the subject line. We are running a Cheetah Safari in March 2015 with Marcy Mendelson of Cheetah Watch. Contact Jenny on for more details.

Photographic Safaris

Lakota Schultz says: This was my first trip to the Karoo, having moved from the UK to Durban 5 years ago. I really wanted to go on a photographic safari somewhere different to get another perspective of South African landscapes, and after seeing the trip on Africa Geographic, and researching Mark Drysdale’s photography, I decided this was the trip to do!!
I found the scenery absolutely stunning from the minute we drove through the reserve gates. Starkly beautiful compared to the lush KZN views I was used to, but everything- from the purples and yellows of the mountains to the amazing skies that would turn from bright blue to dusky pinks into the clearest of nights with a million stars was truly staggering.
All in all, I would definitely recommend a Mark Drysdale photographic safari at Samara, I had an amazing time. Contact Jenny on for future photographic safari dates.

Life giving Eland

Pepper the cheetah, was lazing under the shade of a Shepherd Tree. As we approached he heaved himself up off the ground and stepped into the bright sunlight. His belly so full from gorging that it hung only a few centimeters off the ground; his mouth stained red in blood. We had found them just after they had a made a kill. His sister, Chilli joined him and together they moved slowly towards the shade of the mountains. Sharing in this spectacle with us was a pair of excitable jackal, waiting for their turn to enjoy in the feast. Circling above us in the rising thermals, white-necked ravens joined the queue of hungry scavengers. The cheetah had killed a young eland female, an impressive prize for these two young hunters.
24 hours later and the eland had been reduced to a skeleton. In the ever dynamic system of predator and prey, life is taken and is life given. The eland not only nourished the cheetah, but jackals, crows, goshawks and a multitude of other taxa. Butterflies, particularly the Karoo Widow drink from the moisture of the stomach contents.
Eland Taurotragus oryx is Africa’s largest antelope with individuals weighing as much as 942kg. They are some of the most adaptable antelope with a broad habitat tolerance. They have an extremely varied diet consisting primarily of browse, fruits, pods, seeds, herbs, tubers and a seasonally fresh green grasses. Their social structure is gregarious, non-territorial and nomadic. During the late summer on Samara, a herd of over 150 individuals roamed the plains. A trail of dust could be seen from a few kilometers as they followed the fresh growth. Female eland are renowned for the bravery in defending their young calves and unlike most other antelope co-ordinate a co-operative defence by the adults.
The San, a hunter gather people who first inhabited southern Africa, venerate the Eland above all other animals. They are the most sacred of all animals found on the African plains and have a unique place in San cosmology. They are used for coming of age ceremonies for both boys and girls and the greatest compliment one can pay to a San elder is to be told they dance like the eland. Rock art depictions of the Eland are the most intricate and striking.

Spring has sprung

It is a phenomenon one can only truly experience in a place that experiences a wet and a dry season. With the onset of spring, warmth has returned to the heart of the Karoo and with it has returned the spring rains. The magical transformation of the veld has begun as the reserve is released from the icy grip of winter. A fresh flush of green grass is spreading across the plains, bulbs and spring flowers are blossoming and the trees are studded with colourful flowers. No more startling than the Shepherd’s Tree Boscia oleoides . It is a useful fodder plant for browsers such as Kudu, Giraffe and Eland. The roots are edible and our forefathers used to pound them and made in to a porridge, or roasted them and made into a substitute for coffee. A cold infusion of the leaves is used medicinally to treat inflammations of the eye to cattle and the green fruit has been proven to treat epilepsy. It is also useful as larval plant food for butterflies in the family Pieridae.
The rise in the mercury has had a greater affect on none more so than the Leopard Tortoise Geochelone pardalis. These archaic looking reptiles are the fifth largest tortoise in the world and can grow in excess of 70cm long and tip the scales above 40kg. After lying dormant in a torpid state during the winter months, they have emerged with surprising vigour and energy. Love is in the air as males fight for females. A strictly herbivorous reptile with a diet comprising mainly of fresh grass, annuals and succulents except for the peculiar habit of gnawing on old bones and even hyena scat. This process, known as osteophagy, is how the tortoise bioaccumulates the necessary calcium required for both bone structure and its shell growth.

Return of the Barn Swallow
Another familiar creature returning to the Karoo with the return of the sun is the Barn Swallow. These impressive little birds migrate a journey over a 10 000kms from Europe to southern Africa below the equator. They feed predominately on flying insects that they hawk from the air.

Climate Change – The United Nations

Global climate change poses a serious and imminent threat to the planet and its diversity. It is predicted that approximately two thirds of South Africa’s mammals are at risk of extinction. Working on the Samara Private Game Reserve, in the Karoo, Eastern Cape, represents an excellent opportunity to learn more about how animals are able to adapt to, and survive, extreme and changing climatic conditions. Characterised as a semi-desert habitat, animals living in the Karoo are exposed to scorching hot summers and freezing cold winters. Moreover, water is often in scarce supply during the dry winter months. The Vervet Monkey research project focuses on the behavioral and physiological strategies that wild vervet monkeys’ use in response to the extreme climate to which they are exposed. Such strategies might include sunbasking and huddling when it’s cold, or swimming and shade-seeking when it’s hot. To date, our understanding of how animals cope with both short- and long-term changes in climate is limited. From our research we hope to further understanding of how primates, and other mammals, survive the extreme climes of the Karoo, and unravel how they might be affected by the predicted effect of changing climates. When you stay at Samara you can request to go out with the monkey researchers and experience this first hand.
Sarah Tompkins says: I have been in New York during The United Nations week on climate change. Some of the functions were fascinating. Most moving was Samara’s friend, Fisher Stephens, who produced the film The Cove (about Japan’s dolphins) and on the evening of 20 September 2014, he did a special projection event for The United Nations to announce the Climate Summit 2014. Here is a 3 minute video of the event which was sent out to over 3 million people around the world. Please enjoy this and play it loud. Click here to view the video.

Vuyani Christmas Party

The season of goodwill has already started and Samara will be hosting Vuyani Safe Haven children to their annual Christmas party on Saturday 6 December 2014. Should you wish to contribute by making a donation towards gifts or by sponsoring a child for a year for R1000.00, which would include school uniform, bag, stationery and a little pocket money, you can send the funds to the Friends of Samara Trust. Click here to donate.
If you are visiting Samara during this period, please have a look at the this website for how you can help – visit

Guest Comments:
– Rachel Baker & Dietmar Wenzel : Wow, Wow, Wow! Thank you all for making this a memorable visit and stay. We shall never forget the experience ever, your hospitality, laughter and love xxx
– Henricus & Rein Rijswijk: Thank you for the nice stay, good food and lovely staff
– Peter & Christine Coote: Sublime experience, made all the better by wonderful and caring staff. Will live in our memories forever
– Digby & Gay Bridges (9th visit): Amazing experience once again! Thank you very much for the wonderful (yet too much) food and the attentiveness of the staff

For Further information contact:
African Travel Solutions
9 The Row, Village Street
Little Ponton, Lincolnshire
NG33 5BX
Tele + 44 1476 530927
Cell + 44 7780 579306

Category: Blog

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