Off-the-grid safari


A grounding, explorer-style experience in the Karoo … Samara’s eco-conscious Plains Camp is all about reconnecting with nature, with the focus on the ultimate luxuries … time and space.

There’s no Wi-Fi. No electricity. No high-tech distractions. What there is, is time. And space. And solitude. And a whole load of unpretentious, old-school safari luxury.

Four tents, with a fifth serving as a communal mess tent, hug a low hill in a remote part of the Samara Karoo Reserve, with views over the plains towards the impressive mountain range. Plains where springbok and gemsbok, zebra and giraffe, wildebeest and ostrich meander and graze.

The emphasis is on ecotourism, an explorer-style experience where the early morning bush walks are the highlight. Yes, you may well walk with cheetah (Samara is well known for its hugely successful cheetah conservation programme started in 2004.). But it’s also a time to explore the smaller things so often missed on a drive … tracks and birds’ nests and ostrich eggs and flowering Karoo bossies. Maybe a snake or two.

Evening game drives see guides venture further away, often up the mountains (a hair-raising ride for those nervous of heights!) to the plateau on top where the game is abundant … mountain zebra, always, and often lion. G&Ts and Amarula and cold beers always taste better in the wild and with a view … after sundowners, the drive winds its way back to camp. Along the way, fairly large crashes of rhino (dehorned for their safety), buffalo, and a small herd of elephant … rounding off the Big Five there are signs of leopard, but sightings are rare.

The experience continues back at the camp. In the mess tent – a soft, worn khaki leather sofa, well-thumbed books, binocs for game spotting – guests are treated to simple but tasty meals … if the weather plays fair, around the fire under the Jacketplum tree, otherwise in the tent next to the fireplace. There’s a small farm-style plunge pool for really welcome dips during the heat of the day, a bar cart for equally welcome drinks anytime.

The guests’ tents are made to resemble the semi-permanent mobile camps set up during safaris years ago – and they’re not short on luxury. In shades of khaki, pumpkin and oatmeal, with twin, incredibly comfy, beds, the team have thought of everything … from warm robes and slippers to flasks of boiling water so you can sip coffee or tea on the deck. There’s no electricity, but solar lamps provide all the light you need, and there’s an indoor loo and basin with constantly-refilled jugs of water, and an outside open-air bucket shower, filled with hot water on request. Always keeping sustainability and being eco-conscious top of mind, a set of biodegradable toiletries is provided. Each tent also has a small fireplace – madly welcome for winter stays.

With a maximum of eight guests, and a small but efficient on-site team, this off-grid experience really does allow you to completely relax, unwind, reconnect with nature and remember what’s really important in life.

There’s a launch special for South African residents – pay for two nights, stay for three – until December 15, with rates from R4 750 per person sharing per night, inclusive of accommodation, game drives, bush walks and all meals. Conservation Contribution and drinks are not included. No children younger than 16.

Details: Samara Karoo Reserve, near Graaff-Reinet., 049-940-1111, [email protected]