Sara Cooper Photography



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Cheetah Tracking at Samara Game Reserve


June 6, 2023


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Samara Game Reserve resides on the Eastern Cape of South Africa. The majority of tourists overlook this beautiful spot and instead, head up to Kruger. However, there’s something undeniably magical about this breath taking game reserve.

First and foremost, Samara is about conservation. Yes, it’s five star, but it doesn’t rely on overtly glamorous lodges to attract its clientele. Instead, the people who visit come for the animals and the incredibly work Samara does.

After a short flight from Cape Town, we landed in P.E and drove three hours across an arid landscape before reaching the entrance of the reserve. A quick check in and coffee later, we were on our first game drive. Impressive, considering we had enjoyed a vineyard brunch in Franschoek just hours prior.

After a beautiful lion sighting, it was time for an early night so we were fully prepared for the main event – cheetah tracking on foot

I know what it sounds like…an awful tourist trap that isn’t fair on the animals. It could not be further from that. A bit of a back story is needed so you can appreciate just how unique Samara is and why, in our opinion, it’s well worth a visit for animal lovers.

It all started with Sibella; a beautiful cheetah who tragically nearly lost her life to hunters. Thankfully, she was rescued by the De Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife Trust and introduced to Samara back in 2003 to fully recover. She was the first cheetah to be released back into the Karoo wilderness in over 130 years, however, a little like the Born Free story, Sibella continued to return to the main Samara lodge. As the owner’s of Samara beautifully explain,

“The unspoken bond she shared with the humans in her new home was extraordinary – with the birth of each new litter, when the cubs were old enough to leave their den, this wild cat dutifully presented to her human guardians her latest bundles of fur, the very reason for her existence.”

Samara Game Reserve

Today, Samara is the only place in the world where you can track cheetah on foot and walk up to them (we are talking feet, not metres). We spent the next three days spending time with Samara’s current cheetah family and I can honestly say, it will be an experience I never forget. What’s more, Samara is so quiet that it was just us and the rangers so I had a unique opportunity to capture beautiful portraits (more on that a little later).

Given the first morning was spent largely on foot, it was time for what turned out to be a very special coffee stop. After parking up and pouring the drinks, a family of rhino approached out of nowhere. Curious, a little nervous yet majestic…

As with all game drives, they go too quickly! However, returning to the manor to freshen up and indulge in a homemade lunch was always welcome. The Samara manor sleeps up to 8, however, we ended up having the whole house to ourselves for three of our four nights!

Each day, we’d set off for a second drive in the late afternoon, normally searching for other wildlife. The beauty of a safari is that you never know what to expect or what you may see…

In our absolute happy place… wine & wildlife.

The style of Samara is how I imagine a safari 50 years ago (with perhaps a few more luxuries)… sherry on arrival after evening drives, roaring fires and freshly run bubble baths by the incredible housekeeper. We ended up making friends with all the staff, from the chef, maid, security and rangers and cannot speak more highly of them.

Naturally, I spent the evenings with a glass of red, plotting our next adventure…

An early alarm of 4.45am woke us up for day two of cheetah tracking. Even Clem couldn’t argue that this was worth missing sleep for.

Just us and anti poaching traversing Samara’s 70,000 acres.

And after two hours, we finally found them…this time instead of witnessing a kill, the cubs were in a playful mood which allowed us to be fully relaxed around the cheetah family.

So much so, that our rangers let us have our morning coffee break with them.

We had one further encounter with the cheetah over the course of our three-night stay at Samara. This time, we were also faced with a unprecedented thunder storm, but nevertheless, I think it made for some of the most beautiful images.

For more information on Samara or to book a stay, click here.

We stayed in the Manor Suite (Room 1) which was stunning. If you’re looking for a conservation focused safari experience with authenticity and extra activities at its core, I would strongly urge you to add Samara to your South African bucket list.

For more travel inspiration, click here.

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I'm Sara and I'm so happy you're here. This blog is a journal about my life, travels and work. Stay a while and say hello!

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