Singapore Tatler Homes - - ARTISAN -

Seam­lessly blend­ing with its sur­round­ings, the Sa­mara Pri­vate Game Re­serve in South Africa em­braces a de­sign fo­cused on tread­ing a light foot­print and pro­vid­ing dra­matic views of the na­tive flora and fauna

Sa­mara Pri­vate Game Re­serve, lo­cated in South Africa’s Eastern Cape (south of the coun­try near Port El­iz­a­beth), is a tran­quil sanc­tu­ary set amidst the stunning Ka­roo land­scape. This is the ideal point of de­par­ture to set off on an un­for­get­table sa­fari ex­pe­ri­ence in search of blue cranes, Cape buf­falo, black wilde­beests, elands, springboks, rhi­nos, gi­raffes, ze­bras, vervet mon­keys, meerkats, ser­vals, striped pole­cats and Cape leop­ards – wild an­i­mals that guests will have the op­por­tu­nity to catch sight of. Sa­mara was the brain­child of Mark and Sarah Tomp­kins, who bought the first farm on the site in 1997. The idea was to ac­quire enough land to es­tab­lish a self-sus­tain­ing ecosys­tem that would wel­come game – the herds of an­te­lope that used to in­habit the area and the preda­tors that main­tain the bal­ance – and thereby cel­e­brate the re­birth of a unique piece of Africa.


Restor­ing the bio­di­ver­sity of the Great Ka­roo is a key fo­cus at the Sa­mara re­sort – a mul­ti­mil­lion-dollar project – with a main ob­jec­tive to re­alise the land’s po­ten­tial as an area of out­stand­ing nat­u­ral beauty and home to rein­tro­duced en­dan­gered wildlife. With a de­sign that re­volves around sus­tain­abil­ity and of­fer­ing the best views for game and bird watch­ing and stargaz­ing, Sa­mara’s old farm home­steads were re­stored in­stead of build­ing out in the vir­gin bush. All suites come with ve­ran­das so guests can ab­sorb their sur­round­ings and adopt the pace of na­ture.


Ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tions com­prise Moun­tain Retreat, The Manor and Ka­roo Lodge, where el­e­gant lodges are en­cir­cled by pris­tine wilder­ness. On­go­ing build­ing ren­o­va­tions be­gan at Ka­roo Lodge 12 years ago, and at The Manor and Moun­tain Retreat five years ago. It took three years for the in­te­ri­ors to be dec­o­rated and two years for the land­scap­ping to be com­pleted. The wild, rustic and se­cluded Moun­tain Retreat was re­stored by the own­ers as their per­sonal get­away to the moun­tains. It’s suit­able for fam­i­lies and groups who value pri­vacy, as well as be­ing close to na­ture and slower pace of life.

The Vic­to­rian homestead houses three en-suite bed­rooms, and the re­stored 250-year-old barn two en-suite bed­rooms. A jacuzzi on the deck and a cov­ered pa­tio with comfy so­fas al­low guests to en­joy the views down the Val­ley of the Bush­man. Fam­ily an­tiques em­bel­lish the in­te­ri­ors. “Part of my fam­ily are from the 1820’s set­tlers; some of the fur­ni­ture came from them,” says Sarah. “Oth­ers were sourced lo­cally in Graaff Reinet, which is a quaint lit­tle town. My ma­ter­nal grand­mother’s name is Van der Vy­wer, and we have a priceless col­lec­tion of Boer War plates com­mem­o­rat­ing the Boer War on the side of the Bo­ers made by Li­mo­ges; th­ese are dis­played in an an­tique dresser in the dining room.


We have some lovely old English and Dutch ta­bles and a rustic pine dresser that came from a con­vent. Plus I have lovely old pic­tures from my Girdle­stone cousins, also from the Eastern Cape. The Girdle­stones were orig­i­nally de­scended from Ad­mi­ral Lord Nel­son’s sis­ter.”


The Manor is all about luxury, pri­vacy, ro­mance and in­dul­gence. Here, guests may take ad­van­tage of the ser­vices of a per­sonal ranger, chef, but­ler and nan­nies. The con­cept was for a con­tem­po­rary Ka­roo house em­body­ing el­e­ments of Ka­roo de­sign with a mod­ern twist us­ing light, colours and struc­ture in­spired by the veld that sur­rounds the site.

Sarah ex­plains, “Ka­roo de­sign is sim­ple colo­nial use of reeded ceil­ings with mud packed on top to keep the sum­mers cool and the win­ter warm. The mod­ern ren­di­tion of it is us­ing el­e­ments such as lo­cal stone and lo­cal wood.” Built on the site of a Vic­to­rian farm­house and re­tain­ing one of the orig­i­nal walls, the stately homestead show­cases a warm aes­thetic re­flect­ing the lo­cal land­scape and tra­di­tions. It was de­signed by well-known South African designer, John Zwiegelaar. “The Manor is Zwiegelaar’s in­spi­ra­tion to­tally and com­pletely,” notes Sarah. “He has a unique way of con­ceiv­ing the vi­sion and then ex­trap­o­lat­ing it bit by bit, layer by layer, us­ing height, form, light and colour to achieve his goals. We were in­spired by ma­te­ri­als from the veld, old stone walls, stone from other parts of the prop­erty, the colours of the white bark of the Shep­herd’s Trees and the olive green leaves.” Zwiegelaar skill­fully trans­formed an area once used for rais­ing goats, sheep and cat­tle into a mod­ern living space de­signed so that all rooms flow into one an­other. The dining room leads off the living room and has a bar around which guests may gather for a pre-din­ner drink. Di­vided into two ar­eas, the living room places great em­pha­sis on nat­u­ral light that floods in through tall win­dows. The al­coves are dec­o­rated with marsh­mal­low com­fort cush­ions for chil­dren to have an af­ter­noon nap; they are also per­fect


for play­ing card games. Ac­com­mo­da­tion con­sists of four spa­cious air-con­di­tioned luxury suites with large en-suite bath­rooms for up to eight guests. Th­ese suites open out on to pri­vate pa­tios fea­tur­ing spec­tac­u­lar views and out­door so­fas. The 21-me­tre-long in­fin­ity pool de­scends into a nat­u­ral wa­ter­hole where guests may catch sight of wild game that come to quench their thirst. Zwiegelaar de­signed all the cus­tom-built con­tem­po­rary fur­ni­ture in The Manor. They were hand-crafted in Graaff Reinet or Cape Town, by tal­ented lo­cal ar­ti­sans. Sarah points out, “The Manor has light fit­tings and ta­ble bases that were made by an old guy called Talla Crouse in Graaff Reinet, who is an iron­mon­ger. Plus most of the wooden van­ity units in the bath­rooms were made lo­cally.”


A re­stored homestead with mod­ern-day ameni­ties but with echoes of its colo­nial past, Ka­roo Lodge caters to in­di­vid­ual trav­ellers and fam­i­lies, or may be pri­va­tised for up to 20 guests. Each suite is tra­di­tion­ally dec­o­rated and bal­ances com­fort and the beauty of the African bush. Think re­fined coun­try-style living with front-row seats of breath­tak­ing views of the moun­tains and mag­nif­i­cent wildlife. The three suites in the main homestead open onto a wide wrap­around ve­randa with out­door chairs, and the Si­bella suites over­look a wa­ter­hole that at­tracts abun­dant birdlife. Sarah re­marks, “Ka­roo Lodge was the fam­ily home of farm­ers, then our fam­ily home. It’s filled with old wooden floors and yel­low­wood beams on the ceil­ings laid over reeds, which have been used for cen­turies to cool a house in sum­mer and keep it warm in win­ter. We mod­ernised it some­what and built all the colo­nial cot­tages for our friends. As we have pretty fussy friends, we tried to make them as us­able as pos­si­ble with large open spa­ces and great views out over the Cape Vul­ture moun­tain in the back­ground.”

(Clock­wise from top right) A gor­geous hunt­ing lodge wel­comes vis­i­tors on ar­rival; Ex­pect to catch the ‘Big Five’ while out on sa­fari; The moun­tains by night are awe-inspiring; The breath­tak­ing and stunning Ka­roo land­scape

(From left) Dining un­der the stars is an ex­pe­ri­ence not to be missed at the re­serve; The land­scape trans­forms at dusk to pro­vide guests with a to­tally dif­fer­ent feel; Slid­ing wooden pan­els al­low the mas­ter bath­room to open up into the bed­room when...

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