Karoo for Kids: Our last day at Samara Private Nature Reserve

Our time in Samara was such an amazing experience – much more than we had anticipated. I think that is probably the best way for a holiday to be! Arrive with no expectations and leave with an amazing sense of getting far more than you bargained for!

On our last morning game drive at Samara, we took things a little bit slower and spent the morning tracking rhino in a remote part of the reserve…

The terrain in this section of the reserve was once again very different – much flatter, drier and dustier and this meant that there were different animals than we had seen in other parts of the reserve. Here we finally spotted the South African national animal – the springbok – as well as the largest antelope in SA – the eland.

We bumped along for almost an hour, stopping every now and again to try and pick up the signal of the location of the rhino. But try as we might after 3 hours of searching we still hadn’t caught a glimpse or even a track!

This got me thinking… if we, with the help of an experienced guide radio contact with other guides in the field and some technical equipment on our side, spent so long trying to locate the rhino in the reserve how is it possible for poachers to get in and out within minutes… clearly there are some insiders giving them clues as where and when to get access. Makes me sick!

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Eventually around midday it was time to head back to the lodge – for some refreshments and respite from the heat! Slowly we journeyed back feeling slightly disappointed that we didn’t manage to spot a Big 5 animal on the drive. And then, while crossing the river, barely meters from Karoo Lodge, we spotted a huge lone buffalo enjoying a drink! It seemed like the perfect time to crack open a Coke and soak in the scene for a while. So we stopped the engine and enjoyed watching bush life carry on around us.

After a few minutes the buffalo caught a whiff of a nearby researcher in the bush and started following his nose to investigate… slowly and steadily he started stomping in our direction along the river. Kicking up the red dust with each step and stopping every now and again to lift his nose and sniff the air.

From our previous Kruger for Kids trip I knew that while most people think it’s the lion who we ought to fear most in the bush, those in the know are most wary of the buffalo due to their unpredictable natures and sheer strength — they aren’t ones to mock charge or back down either! The researchers watching the troop of monkeys in the trees realised they needed to get out of his way and backed up the embankment quickly. And he kept coming…

Until he was literally on the otherside of the river from our 4×4 and staring us straight in the eye! My heart was pounding in my chest and I maneouvered myself into the centre of the vehicle… Ben, in the front of the car, crept down into the footwell! And still the buffalo was not satisfied. He started coming across the river until he was only 5 cm’s from our car! Freak out! At that moment Ben decided to pop his head up to see where the buffalo was and proceeded to give the mighty beast a skrik! He bolted off and found a little patch of grass to snack on and we all breathed out!! What an exhilrating experience…

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After all that excitement it was definitely time for a nap and some chill out time at the lodge. And of course, to go and find out what Abi had been up to with the child-minder… Ben who is crazy about animals was fortunate enough to come along on all the game drives as he didn’t want to miss out on anything but Abi wasn’t as keen to come along and the great thing about Samara was that the staff were so flexible with how we wanted our stay with them to work. On one of the days she stayed behind to bake and decorate cupcakes, another time she stayed and painted rocks. During the school holidays Samara has  a great children’s programme scheduled with lots of fun activities. Qualified staff engage the kids in a variety of fun and educational adventures including spoor identification, African crafts, Bushman painting, dung spitting, orienteering and storytelling.

“Babysitting” is also available for children younger than 8 while parents are away from the lodge on game drives and includes “active babysitting” with activities such as walks, collecting bugs and playing in the dedicated children’s area for kids who are old enough and the usual babysitting for babies and toddlers. Both are available all year round at a rate of R100 per hour.

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After a swim, a leisurely lunch and a few hours spent relaxing on the stoep listening to the monkeys in trees it was time for our last game drive at Samara… We headed out to enjoy sundowners the Samara way one more time!

Our first animal sighting was 2 giraffe having a bit of a fight – well, one was, the other was trying his best to ignore him! It was something I’d not seen before and so interesting to watch.

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This time we also managed to spot some amazing bird life – and I was fortunate enough to catch a few of them on film! A kingfisher and a hoopoe – a bird I haven’t seen since I lived for a few years in the Northern Transvaal as a child!

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Ben become a master tracker in his 4 short days at Samara and often became the first to spot animals through the thick bush – warthog, kudu, gemsbok, eland – we were quite spoilt on this last drive!

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We all loved this special spot hidden away in a secret corner of the Karoo. The staff were incredibly friendly and made us feel at home immediately. The accommodation was top class comfort and the desert surroundings, dry and deserted from afar, held so many surprises up close. A few days spent soaking up the silence at Samara was balm for the soul and such a special way to spend a few days together as a family. We can’t wait to return to Samara soon… and hopefully we will find the rhino next time!

Samara offer a discount to all South African residents (SA ID number required) to stay in the Karoo Suites. Call Jenny at Samara Reservations on +27 (0) 23 626 6113 for more information.

(Valid only at Karoo Lodge and excluding Sibella suites. Direct bookings only. Valid until 10 December 2014 and subject to availability.)

Images: Kathryn Rossiter

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Kathryn Rossiter

Kathryn is a South African lifestyle blogger and mom of 2 who has been blogging daily for almost 6 years! She writes about travel, health, beauty, fashion, decor and family... but not food (unless it's food she's eaten made by someone else) as she is a hopeless cook. She only wakes up early for 2 things... a red-eye flight to somewhere exotic and early morning game drives. She has just finished an extensive home renovation and would prefer to never see another box again. She's never met a chocolate or glass of bubbles that she didn't like!

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