Samara Wildlife Volunteer Programme
  • Graaff-Reinet

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  • Samara is located in the Eastern Cape, near Graaff Reinet; about 2 1/2 hours drive from Port Elizabeth. Guests can self-drive directly to Samara or fly into Port Elizabeth from where the lodge can assist with transfers. Samara also boasts a private landing strip for direct charter to the lodge.

    Accessing Samara By Road:

    The recommended route from Port Elizabeth takes the R75 towards Graaff-Reinet for 258km. Turn right and take the R63 towards Pearston/ Somerset East for 7km. Turn left onto the Petersburg gravel road and drive 23km to reach Karoo Lodge.

    Accessing Samara By Air:

    Daily flights from Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town to Port Elizabeth. Air charters from Port Elizabeth to Samara (gravel airstrip) can be arranged on request.

    Samara Private Airstrip

    • Co-ordinates: 24 45.48 E, 32 26.34S
    • Length –1500 m

    Graaff-Reinet, a 40-minute drive away, has a 1,500m tarred runway with landing lights which can accommodate a Gulf Stream jet. Transfers from Graaff-Reinet can then be made either by road (40 min) or by helicopter (15 min) directly to the lodge..


  • Samara's Safari Rates and Packages 2022/23


    1 Nov 2022 – 16 Dec 2022 Standard rate high season

    Karoo Lodge -    Karoo Retreat suite – R8 925.00 pppns

                            Homestead Luxury suite – R7 875.00 pppns

                            Homestead Classic suite – R6 825.00 pppns

                            Sibella Family suite – R24 000.00 per unit (sleeps 4)

    Manor -             Manor suite – R8 400.00 pppns

                            Exclusive use – R50 400.00 for 1-6 guests & R6 295.00 for 7th & 8th guests


    17 Dec 2022 – 08 Jan 202 Standard rate peak season

    Karoo Lodge -    Karoo Retreat suite – R10 000.00 pppns

                            Homestead Luxury suite – R8 750.00 pppns

                            Homestead Classic suite – R7 250.00 pppns

                            Sibella Family suite – R26 400.00 per unit (sleeps 4)

    Manor -             Manor suite – N/A

                            Exclusive use – R78 000.00 for 1-8 guests


    09 Jan 2023 – 30 Apr 2023 & 01 Aug 2023 – 31 Oct 2023 Standard rate new high season

    Karoo Lodge -    Karoo Retreat suite – R9 550.00 pppns

                            Homestead Luxury suite – R7 875.00 pppns

                            Homestead Classic suite – R6 825.00 pppns

                            Sibella Family suite – R25 000.00 per unit (sleeps 4)

    Manor -            Manor suite - R8 995.00 pppns

                           Exclusive use – R54 000.00 for 1-6 guests & R6 695.00 for 7th & 8th guests


    01 May 2023 – 31 July 2023 Standard rate low season

    Karoo Lodge -    Karoo Retreat suite – R7 495.00 pppns

                            Homestead Luxury suite – R6 250.00 pppns

                            Homestead Classic suite – R5 750.00 pppns

                            Sibella Family suite – R23 400.00 per unit (sleeps 4)

    Manor -             Manor suite – R8 025.00 pppns

                            Exclusive use – R40 125.00 for 1-6 guests & R6 450.00 for 7th & 8th guests

     Single Supplement:

    Plus 50% per person per night sharing rate applicable to single occupancy. This does not apply to The Manor when booked exclusively.

    Child Policy:

    Children of all ages are welcome at Karoo Lodge. However, children under 8 years old are not permitted on scheduled game drives with other guests. Shorter "bumble" drives are on offer to families with young children mid-morning once the scheduled game drive has returned to the lodge. A private vehicle for families can be booked by prior arrangement, subject to availability and at extra cost (please enquire with Reservations).

    Children before their 3rd birthday, sharing with adults, stay free of charge. Children between their 3rd and 14th birthday, sharing with adults, pay 50% of the adult rate. Guests aged 14 and over must take their own room at adult rates. In the Sibella Family suite, the quoted rate applies to 1-4 guests irrespective of age. Extra beds for children may be accommodated in Karoo Retreat suites (maximum two) and Homestead suites (maximum one), for use by children under 14 sharing with 2 adults. 3 or more adults are not permitted to share rooms.

     Children under 14 years old are not permitted at The Manor unless The Manor has been booked on an exclusive-use basis. Guests aged 14 and over must take their own room at adult rates. 3 or more adults are not permitted to share rooms.


    Rates include:

    • Access to 67,000 acres of private wilderness
    • Two game drives daily with experienced rangers and trackers
    • Optional bush walks outside of scheduled game drives (subject to availability)
    • Optional excursion with the Tracker Academy (subject to availability)
    • Access to conservation activities ongoing on the reserve (subject to availability)
    • Luxury en suite accommodation
    • All meals, tea, coffee
    • Children’s programme (children under 8 are not allowed on scheduled game drives with other guests   unless staying at The Manor when booked exclusively, or unless a private vehicle has been pre-booked subject to availability and at extra cost)


    Rates exclude:

    • Conservation contribution of R170 per person per night (South African guests aged 8 and above) or R330 per person per night (international guests aged 8 and above) will be added to the invoice. This contribution funds the reserve's vital projects of rhino security, anti-poaching, community engagement and ecological restoration through its registered public benefit organisation. 
    • Transfers to/from the Samara property
    • All beverages
    • Paid activities e.g. star bed & fly camping
    • Curio shop purchases
    • Laundry & telephone calls
    • Gratuities
    • Babysitting (R200/hour)


    Rates Disclaimer:

    Rates may vary and reduced rates may apply to additional persons. All rates are indicative only, may be seasonal and are subject to change without notice. Please visit our website or contact reservations for SA resident rates and specials.

Rates Disclaimer

  • Rates may vary and reduced rates may apply to additional persons. All rates are indicative only, may be seasonal and are subject to change without notice.

About Samara Wildlife Volunteer Programme

Samara Wildlife Volunteer Programme, Eco Tourism, Community Services, Samara Private Game Reserve, Graaff Reinet

Samara Private Game Reserve in South Africa is a hub of conservation and animal reintroduction efforts in the Great Karoo basin. As a volunteer you will work on ongoing wildlife research and management projecta as well as assist with community development ans enviromental education programmes.

For more detailed info see

Award-winning Samara Private Game Reserve sits on 70,000 acres of breathtaking wilderness south-east of Graaff-Reinet. Best described as ‘heart-stoppingly beautiful’, Samara uniquely encompasses four vegetation biomes offering a diversity of landscapes and wildlife. Endangered cheetah, black rhino and springbok roam the extensive plains framed by dramatic purple mountains, whilst herds of Cape mountain zebra, wildebeest and eland cavort on our unique 'Samara Mara' - thousands of acres of plateau grasslands resembling the East African Serengeti.

Samara boasts just two intimate five-star lodges, sleeping a maximum of 26 guests, so it will feel like you have this timeless landsape all to yourself when you gaze out for miles from the lookout points and dine under a canopy of stars. As well as providing a magical and romantic setting, Samara has agreater social and environmental purpose. The Samara project, started in 1997, seeks to recreate a sustainable Great Karoo ecosystem, and forms part of a greater vision to promote landscape-scale conservation in the region. When you stay with us, you'll delve behind the scenes of this conservation project, and your support will help contribute towards the achievement of this grand and worthwhile vision.

Accommodation includes:

Karoo Lodge, a lovingly renovated 1800s farmhouse encircled by a natural amphitheatre of mountains. Combining colonial comforts and modern day luxuries with a rustic and welcoming feel, Karoo Lodge is the perfect place to relax and allow the tranquillity of the Karoo to envelop you – on the wide verandah in summer or by the cosy fire in winter. With nine double rooms of varying sizes, Karoo Lodge caters for individual travellers, couples and families. It can also be booked on an exclusive-use basis for up to 18 guests, plus a limited number of extra children.

The luxurious Manor House, an exclusive-use villa ideal for families and groups looking for privacy, indulgence and complete relaxation, sleeps 8 in four luxury suites. The Manor is unique in its warm design which reflects the local landscape and traditions with a light, modern twist, interpreted through the eyes of talented South African interior designer John Jacob Zwiegelaar. Upon arrival your eye is drawn through the glass double doors flanked by beaded African artwork and traditional Karoo antiques to the breathtaking views beyond. Unwind as you watch the Karoo mountain landscape unfold over a 21m infinity pool.

Food at Samara is served from our Karoo Kitchen, delivering lovingly-prepared fare rustled up by our local chefs. Expect mouthwatering meals using the freshest produce and recipes handed down from generation to generation, evoking that famous Karoo hospitality. Friendly yet unobtrusive service is a Samara hallmark, and the team will welcome you as part of the extended Samara family.

Activities include game drives, guided walks, wilderness picnics, cheetah tracking on foot, aardvark spotting (winter is best), birding, hiking, mountain biking and our luxury star bed (open October to April). Samara is malaria-free and welcomes children of all ages with a dedicated children’s programme.

You’ll leave relaxed, revitalised and refreshed, vowing to return. That’s why we call Samara a Safari for the Soul.

research and management projects as well as assist with community development and 
environmental education programmes. Come get your hands dirty in a unique South African 
bush experience! 
Samara is located in the Great Karoo, a landscape of immense plains and dramatic mountains. Prior to 
European settlement 200 years ago, great migrations of springbuck, black wildebeest and eland passed 
through this area. Fenced farming relegated these migrations to the story books, and denuded the land. 
Samara is now pulling up the fences, rehabilitating the land and reintroducing the game, in an attempt 
to return this land to its former glory. The volunteer programme offers you the opportunity to 
contribute to this ambitious and worthy cause and experience the incredible and unique landscape of 
the Great Karoo. 
As a volunteer you will be directly involved in our reserve rehabilitation and research, including 
monitoring our most charismatic creature: cheetah. Our research is in collaboration with various 
conservation organizations and universities and we teach volunteers to be competent in all required 
field techniques, ensuring the data collected can be used by management and affiliated organizations. 
You will leave Samara with a deeper understanding of the bush, as well as useful skills and 
techniques used in current scientific research, conservation and reserve management. We also hope 
you will leave energized by the experience of living so closely with nature. 
The projects you will be involved with at Samara include management and rehabilitation efforts, 
which involve hands-on reserve work, as well as research projects requiring data collection and 
Samara is currently working on several projects in collaboration with The Centre for African 
Conservation Ecology (ACE) at The Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth 
(, The Wildlife Environmental Physiology Unit at The University of the 
Witwatersrand in Johannesburg (, the University of Cape Town’s Animal 
Demographic Unit (, and the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s ( 
Cheetah Metapopulation Project and cheetah relocation programme.
Cheetah monitoring
Cheetahs are the world’s fastest land mammals! Cheetah was first reintroduced at Samara, after 125 
years of absence in the area, in 2004. With less than 900 cheetahs left in the wild in South Africa, 
Samara has made cheetah conservation a priority. We are currently monitoring the prey preferences of 
cheetahs at Samara, which we use to determine how many cheetahs the reserve can sustainably 
support. This research requires tracking radio collared cheetahs from a vehicle and on foot by using 
radio telemetry sets. 
Tracker academy
Samara is home to the SACT tracking academy run by one of only two Master trackers in South 
Africa. With the volunteer programme you may accompany the tracker students for a session in the 
bush, seeing how they follow animals and interpret their behavior by the signs they leave behind.
Learning about the bush from one of the most knowledgeable men in South Africa is a once in a 
lifetime opportunity (see The tracker students, selected by the Peace 
Parks Foundation, come from rural areas throughout southern Africa. This will expose you to many 
different local cultures.
Reserve management
This forms a large component of your daily activities as a volunteer and you will really get to know 
your way around all 27 000 hectares of the reserve. Some of the activities you may be involved in 
during your stay are:
  Land rehabilitation - Poor farming practices in the past, such as over-stocking livestock, have 
left severe erosion gulleys on some parts of the reserve. These areas need to be rehabilitated 
by means of soil erosion control methods e.g. stone and brush packing and tree planting 
projects. Volunteers also assist in removing old farm materials such as fence wires from the 
reserve, these materials can act as snares so their removal is of utmost importance.
  Animal movement and population demography research – To determine the sex and age ratios 
of certain game species, as well as population density. This data is used by reserve 
management  to calculate the carrying capacity for game and cheetah on the reserve, and to 
maintain a sustainable balance between the environment, prey and predators. 
  Game captures and introductions – These are periodically scheduled to ensure that the correct 
sex ratios are maintained and the game stocking level is sustainable in the long-term. 
Witnessing the suspense and intensity of a large game capture is an amazing experience and a 
great opportunity to see these beautiful animals up close and personal. 
  Darting of game - cheetah and other species are darted on occasion. Possibly assisting and 
watching a wildlife vet in action is one of the most thrilling experiences of a life time.
  Invasive alien vegetation control - The control of varies species of Prickly pear, Torch Cactus 
and Agave.
  Reserve Maintenance - This is one of the key aspects of reserve management. Taking part in 
the ground level essentials of conservation gives one a greater appreciation of what it really 
takes to run and keep a reserve running sustainably. 
Birds in Reserves Project & Bird Atlas
Volunteers will aid in bird surveys which contribute to the University of Cape Town’s Birds in 
Reserves Projects, which utilizes data from many reserves across the country to determine up-to-date 
bird occurrence data. This project serves as as an avifaunal baseline monitoring tool for protected 
areas.  The project is supported and endorsed by both the South African National Biodiversity 
Institute (SANBI) as well as BirdLife South Africa (BLSA). ( The Bird Atlas 
project contributes to up to date occurrence data across the country.
Parasite Research
The programme works in collaboration with Smith College ( to collect samples for 
analysis of possible parasites. This data is used to research different types of parasites, to better 
understand the evolution of parasites in relation to their hosts and to gain a greater knowledge of the
impact of parasite infections on the health of African wildlife.
Vervet monkey
These small primates belong to a group of monkeys more commonly associated with the forests of 
tropical Africa. Yet, not only do they survive in the harsh Karoo environment, they positively thrive! 
This has drawn scientists from around the world to Samara to investigate the key adaptations these 
monkeys have made to survive in an environment not commonly associated with them. As well as 
South African researchers, there are also Canadian students researching the monkeys. As a volunteer 
you may have the opportunity to help observe the collection of behavioural data on these little 
monkeys which will help researchers understand how they utilize their environment and the resources 
available to them to survive in this harsh environment.
Community outreach
Conservation also means acknowledging the people that have lived in this area for generations. The 
volunteer programme has developed a good relationship with the Vuyani Safe Haven
( located in the nearby town of Graaff-Reinet. We occasionally arrange 
environmental education and fun days at Samara for the children of the Safe Haven. From time to 
time we spend a Saturday assisting with painting, maintenance and child entertainment at the Safe 
Haven. At the end of each year we treat the children, caretakers and board of the Safe Haven to a 
Christmas party on Samara. Gifts and donations are welcome from everyone, since the party is run 
purely on donations. 
In addition to the time we spend with the children, it is also possible to actually volunteer at Vuyani 
Safe Haven for a few days or a few weeks. You live with the wonderful manager, Riana, and assist at 
the day-to-day running of the home including school work, caring for the younger ones, weekend 
excursions and activity days. Please visit and click on the link to the 
Vuyani Information Pack under the “Community outreach” section. 
Interacting with these children is a truly eye-opening and special experience, learning from people 
less fortunate than you.
Other activities
  Hiking and camping. The mountainous landscape of Samara is ideal for hiking and camping!
Spending time disconnected from society and without our everyday luxuries is a very 
liberating experience and one of the best ways to get to know the bush. 
  Night drives are a high point in our weeks. Volunteers get to see what the night life of Samara 
has to offer. From aardvark to springhare it becomes an exciting drive.
  Other researchers come to Samara from time-to-time, and stay at the volunteer camp. In the 
last year we have accommodated both local and international students studying jackals, 
meerkats as well as predator-prey work. While researchers are with us they are grateful to 
have volunteers assist them with their field work. 
  It is possible to see some of the surrounding area on weekends. Through a local tour operator 
you can take a number of excursions, including a trip to the ocean, Addo Elephant National 
Park, river rafting or a cultural tour. These excursions are at your own cost, but we are happy 
to help you in planning them.
Though plans do change, a typical two-week stay at Samara Wildlife Volunteer Programme is likely 
to include but is not limited to: 
6 cheetah tracking and monitoring sessions
2 sessions of monitoring rhinoceros 
3 mammal demographic surveys
1 night drive
30 minute bird surveys 
1 session with the tracker academy
1 session with the vervet monkey research team
1 – 2 sessions of sample collection for parasite project
4 invasive alien vegetation control activities
2 general reserve maintenance activities including camp and road maintenance
2 erosion control/land rehabilitation activities
Weekend activities may include hiking, camping, swimming in the river, game drives, picnics, visits 
to near-by reserves, trips to town, etc. 
Example of a one week schedule:
Birds in 
Reserves + 
Bird Atlas 
Birds in 
Reserves + 
Bird Atlas 
Birds in 
Reserves + 
Bird Atlas 
Birds in 
Reserves + 
Bird Atlas 
Birds in 
Reserves + 
Bird Atlas 
Maint. –
Road Maint.
Session with 
0900 - Hike
River Picnic  Swimming 
in river or 
& 2100 
Night Drive
of Rhino
Game Drive
During your stay you will be living in our volunteer camp. The rooms are comfortable and may be 
single or shared with one other volunteer; depending on numbers (we have facilities for a maximum 
of eight students). We happily cater for couples or friends traveling together. There is a fully equipped 
communal kitchen, international meals are cooked by volunteers and coordinators in teams, and 
vegetarians and vegans are happily catered for. We have a homey relaxing area, as well as an outside 
braai (BBQ) and fire pit overlooking the mountains, where we spend many evenings relaxing and 
socializing after a day in the field. In summer volunteers are able to swim in the nearby dams and 
river pools. 
This programme is open to people from all walks of life, the only requirements being passion, 
enthusiasm and a willingness to work hard and learn. 
We offer a 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12 week programme. We do encourage longer stays, as you may find that 
it takes a while to adjust to the bush and find your feet. We want you to really make a connection with 
the bush and animals and by the end of your stay feel that this was a significant and rewarding 
experience in your life. You also receive an accredited certificate acknowledging the skills you have 
acquired and your contribution to conservation at Samara. 
2 weeks – R12 000 
4 weeks – R17 000 
6 weeks – R24 000 
8 weeks – R31 000 
10 weeks – R38 000
12 weeks – R45 000 
Special Rates For Group Bookings:
*Come in a group of 3-5 volunteers and you will each get 15% off the cost of your stay.
**Come in a group of 6 or more and you will each get 20% off the cost of your stay.
The price includes accommodation, food, transport on the reserve and transport to Samara from

Map and Directions to Samara Wildlife Volunteer Programme

Petersburg Road,
off the R63 to Pearston, 
near Graaff-Reinet, 
Eastern Cape, 

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