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May 9, 2015

The Grey Ghost of Africa


In the 18 years that we have had Samara I have never ever seen the veld so lush, green and beautiful. We have enjoyed unprecedented rains of just under 100mm recently and the vygies and veld is flourishing as a result. All the water holes are filled to overflowing. On Sunday’s game drive, we went down south and saw bounteous game – a herd of 250 eland trotted gracefully in front of us, followed by about a 100 zebra. It reminded me of the Serengeti as they stretched languidly across the plains as far as the eye could see. Kudus peeked out from behind thickets, giraffe peering over the tops of trees forming an inevitable Journey of Africa.
The Blue Crane are starting to appear as the winter comes nigh. And Kori Bustards, and Harriers and plenty of LBJ’s too. A still, perfect day in paradise.

When we wax lyrical about how spectacular the vegetation at Samara is looking at the moment, it is worth pausing to think about what this really means. Everywhere one looks at Samara trees, shrubs, and lilies are flowering in a seemingly extravagant display or grasses are like billowing seas. Inspection of the trees shows development of skirts of luxurious growth at low levels where the smaller herbivores can reach. This was not always the case, as what we are seeing now is further recovery of the vegetation of Samara after centuries of overgrazing. The plants are making the most of the opportunity provided by good rains and good conservation management – they are capturing sunlight and carbon, trapping soil, slowing floodwaters, shading the ground and kick starting the food chain. These are all essential services, and Samara is demonstrating just how successful and important conservation can be if we just give the land the chance to heal itself. And on top of all this value, the plants are beautiful to behold.

One of the most beautiful antelopes you will ever encounter is Africa’s grey ghost the Greater Kudu. Their nickname is derived from their brown/grey color with white stripes that go down the center of their body. They are very fast, stealthy and have the ability of mysteriously disappearing into the thicket and silently re-appearing.
On arrival at Samara Private Game Reserve, these majestic animals will be one of the first to welcome you. Even though they are able to blend into their environment well, they are an easy target of the cheetahs on the reserve. Kudus have excellent hearing and their big ears act as a radar; they can pick up even the slightest sound. Their bark is an alarm call and immediately alerts other animals of danger.

Recently, whilst tracking the cheetahs, we heard the distinct sound of a kudu barking. I immediately knew the cheetahs were close by and I grabbed the binoculars to scout the area, trying to determine the kudus position and the direction in which they were barking. There was excitement all around as we walked further, following the sound of the barking kudus. Suddenly the kudus bolted past us and disappeared into the thicket. After a few minutes the female cheetah appeared and laid in front of us looking tired and disappointed. We did not see the kill but the thrill of the tracking and not knowing what could happen next is what made the cheetah walk so worthwhile and exciting.


One cool afternoon on our way back from a walk there was a brown and furry shape under an acacia about 3m away and it took me a few seconds to realise; AARDVARK! It felt as if I had found the Yeti of Samara that only a photograph would prove.
We stood for a moment staring at each other; I didn’t want to move to get my cell phone out to take a photo in case my movement scared it. When I reached for it in my pocket, the aardvark bolted and I reflexively started running after it. Despite the chase I did manage to get some amateur photographic evidence. I couldn’t believe how fast it was, those huge back feet pushing it ahead in huge leaps and bounds. I wish I could have asked him to stop to have a chat, I’d like to thank him for all of the erosion control and rehabilitation work he’s been doing in the area. It takes a team of volunteers armed with heavy tools, a week to do what he does in a night.
This elusive hard worker digs burrows to sleep in and hunts for food in underground termite nests. The holes dug from foraging and the collapsed burrows fill with rainwater, organic matter and seeds. These hollows then become ideal places for plants to establish themselves where they wouldn’t have been able to when the ground was compacted. This is extremely helpful in erosion areas where the soil is capped as the surface gets harder with every rainfall.
The daytime sighting of this typically strictly nocturnal, almost mystical creature left us feeling quite euphoric, we feel honoured to have bumped into the rangeland rehabilitator specialist on Samara.


Mixture 1
1.5kg self-raising flour
2tsp b.p
1tsp salt
400gm brown sugar
1pkt all bran flakes – 300grm
125 g Raisins
125g dried cranberries
1 cup raw almonds – chopped
Mixture 2
500gm butter
3 eggs
750 ml buttermilk
150ml oil
150ml water
Mix dry ingredients together. Rub in butter.
Beat mixture 2 together. Add dry ingredients
Knead well.
Roll into small balls then form into sausage shape and pack firmly into 2 greased baking trays.
Bake at 180 for 50min
Break up and dry in 100 deg. oven for approx 3 hoursI


Combley – Amazing stay, great service. We coming back!
Schoeman – Baie lekker, koud, nat, baie mooi diere, top gasvryheid en lekker bly!
Ndlovu – The food was wonderful and the game drives with Gibson was fantastic.
Lesiuk – Loved the food and meeting the cheetah up close!

Warm Wishes
Sarah Tompkins and The Samara Team | Join us on facebook for great competitions and promotions.

Category: Blog

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