If it's old-style African safari ambience you're looking for, then this camp is not for you. These state-of-the-art buildings are all about space, shape, light, and texture on a grand scale. Public areas are decorated with rag rugs, beaded throws, enticing hanging chairs and some exquisite indigenous African artwork. The art deco–style carved wooden bar divides the lounge area from the dining area, which is decorated with dry hollow palm trunks and hanging lamps that
mimic the local "sausage" trees. Sip your coffee or after-dinner drinks in deep padded L-shaped sofas by firelight on the deck as frogs pipe and fireflies dance. There are many steps and long up-and-down boardwalks between the widely spaced rooms. If this seems a bit challenging, you may want to stay someplace else. Each en-suite room has a huge wooden outside deck, with comfortable lie-out chairs, a sala (thatched, outdoor daybed area), and plunge pool, and the enclosed living spaces have floor-to-ceiling windows and mesh doors that capture every source of light, from the early rays of dawn to the blazing sunset. Curl up with a book in your cushioned, sunken lounge, snooze in your king-size bed, or cool off in the emperor-size, mosaic-floor shower. Suspended woven rugs divide the sleeping and bathroom areas, and the decor of cream, grey, soft browns, and moss green melds with the outside environment. Vumbura has the same community relationship with the Okavango Community Trust as its neighbor, Duba Plains. Don't miss out on the superb curio shop; it's one of the best in Botswana.
Okavango Delta, Botswana
May 14, 2013
After staying at Chitabe, followed by a wonderful stay at Mombo camp, I was off to my next camp in search of more adventure. After a 30 minute small plane transfer, I touched down on Vumbura International Airport’s dirt airstrip (obviously it is not an international airport but the hand painted wooden sign on the side of the airstrip said differently! I grabbed my bags and walked off of the plane. As I stepped onto the dirt airstrip and breathed
in, I thought to myself “and it begins again.” I took a few more steps towards a couple of parked Land Rovers and a man started walking towards me. Diminutive in stature, and with a bald head that looked like he had just applied a fresh coat of wax to it, held out his hand and introduced himself to me as Onx. I said, “Onx it’s great to meet you!” He replied, “Tim the pleasure is truly all mine.” He looked at me sheepishly and informed that were going to have to take the long way back to camp, because there were heavy rains that hit this area the day before and the direct route had been submerged under water. I looked at Onx and exclaimed “No problem, I’d rather take an hour drive through the bush than be stuck in traffic in Seattle any day”. Onx gave me a puzzling look for a second, but then chuckled as he understood what I was trying to say. I hopped into the Land Rover and we began our journey to the camp. The first thing I noticed was the immense number and variety of birds in the area. As we were driving different bird calls could be heard, and around every corner some bright colored flash would fly by… Onx would call out the birds name before you even realized it had flown by. We kept on driving, often half submerged in water, and I noticed what I thought was a herd of Impala. Onx stopped and asked me if I knew what they were, I replied emphatically “of course those are impala - I’ve seen them all over the place.” Onx looked back at me, he then chuckled and proclaimed “Tim you aren’t ready to be a guide yet” I replied “Why is that Onx?” He looked at me and said, “those may look like impala, but they are not. They are called Red Lechwe and they look very similar to the impala, but they are a species that reside near water and are unique to this area of the Delta.” I pondered this for a second, then I looked at Onx and said “Well that is why you are the guide, my friend, and I am just your humble guest”. He laughed at this and replied “no worries, people commonly mistake the two, especially when coming from a place like Mombo or Chitabe”. We continued onwards spotting all sorts of game including elephant, warthogs, impala, and red lechwe. As we neared the camp I noticed a large herd of elephant in a clearing. As we came around the next bend I spotted the camp on one side and the herd of elephant on the other. This area was rich with wildlife and the camp was amazing looking. As we pulled up I was met by several of the camp’s staff. One handed me a fruity drink and another handed me a cold towel. He introduced himself to me as Roger, the camp manager. Roger walked with me towards the main lodge and we began to talk as though we were old friends. Entering the main lodge there was a huge spread of food waiting for us. We indulged as Roger covered the camp details - he informed me that the Vumbura area had several different camps. There is a Vumbura Plains North, where I was staying, Vumbura Plains South and Little Vumbura. North and South, both Premier level properties with matching price tags, were very similar except the main lodge at North had burned down in a fire and had just been rebuilt. Little Vumbura, a Classic camp at a lower cost, is situated on an island about 45 minutes drive from Vumbura Plains and consists of 6 tented rooms. Being on an island it is reachable by boat. After eating some amazing food we continued on a tour of Vumbura Plains. He showed me the main lodge, the star gazing deck where I noticed several guests having a drink and looking out over the water. I introduced myself and asked them how their stay at Vumbura Plains had been so far? They emphatically exclaimed “Amazing”. I walked with Roger down the raised boardwalk towards my room. As we continued onwards I was admiring the beauty of our surroundings and not paying much attention until I walked directly into Roger. I looked up and about 50 meters in front of us there was a large female elephant walking across an area where the boardwalk dipped down to the ground. Roger whispered “this is why you must keep your head on a swivel when walking through camp”. We sat for a few minutes admiring the massive animal until she was far enough away that we would not disturb her. We continued on about another 100 meters before coming to my room. On my deck there was a table, chairs and a wonderfully placed plunge pool looking over the Delta. The room itself was giant with a thatched roof and mosquito screens all around it. I remember thinking “wow – now this is amazing”. The room I had at Chitabe (a Classic Camp) was excellent and my room at Mombo (a Premier Camp) made Chitabe feel small. Now at Vumbura Plains I had to recalibrate – I believe part of the affect comes from the high ceilings. Overall it was spectacular with a sunken lounge area, a huge, extremely comfortable, bed, and a desk with a full charging station for all of my electronics. In the far corner of the room was a beautiful indoor shower with a stone slab floor with infinity edge drain… nice! The toilet was in a separate room and the large double sink and counter was in between the bathroom and the shower. I looked at Roger and said “this room is amazing, I don’t even know what to say.” He laughed and replied “If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that”. He then left me to the comfort of my room and told me to come to the main lodge around 4 o’clock for a light meal before my game drive. I was exhausted from waking up early in the day for a game drive at Mombo, and then traveling here. I walked out onto the deck on the far side of the room to find an outdoor shower facing Delta’s waters. I showered in the serenity nature and then plopped into bed. I think I fell asleep before my head even hit the pillow. I awoke several hours later to birds calling and I walked towards the main lodge. As I neared the main lodge I saw my guide Onx who came over and greeted me. He asked me how my nap was and I replied, “how do you know I was napping”? He laughed and replied, “all you have to do is touch the beds here and you will decide it‘s time to take a nap”. I indulged in coffee and some snacks with Onx, and then we headed out. As we drove around I couldn’t help but notice all of the birds. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be so enthralled with watching birds. When I first thought of going to Africa on safari, I inevitably wanted to see the big 5: Lion, Leopard, Buffalo, Elephant, and Rhino. However, at this moment in time I was enthralled with the birds. They were so colorful and so graceful - truly amazing creatures. We continued spotting numerous herds of elephants, Red Lechwe, Impalas, and a pride of Lion. Around a bend and I saw a large antelope standing on the road. He had huge horns and his body was primarily black in color. I said “Onx, what on earth is that”? He replied, “That my friend is a Sable”. I admired it for quite a while, and sadly it would be the only one I would see on my entire 24-day trip throughout Africa. We continued on until the sun was low in the sky. We pulled over next to a watering hole and again – there were loads of birds. Onx pulled out a cooler filled with drinks and snacks. I said, “Onx how do you have all of my favorite food and beverages in this cooler”? He laughed and replied, “Mombo and Chitabe radioed us with some helpful information to make your stay here favorable”. Wilderness properties have this way of going the extra mile, doing all the small things that add up to a life changing adventure. We finished our sundowner and continued back towards camp for dinner. As we neared camp Onx says, “I need to show you something cool” and we took a road off to the side into the darkness. I was thinking what could he possibly want to show me in the darkness – perhaps some rare nocturnal animal that I was unfamiliar with? I started to see light in the distance and heard people talking. As we got close I noticed the camp’s staff and all the other guests were there. They had set up a special bush dinner! There was a large campfire and huge table of food. I was speechless. I think I muttered something like “this is so amazing”. There were lanterns everywhere providing a soft glow. After drinks at a makeshift bush bar we commenced dining! The food was served buffet style and all the guests sat together at a communal table. Under the stars we ate, we drank, we all told stories of our journeys in the bush and became friends. Satiated we headed back to camp for some well deserved sleep. The next morning I awoke to the trumpeting of elephants in the camp. There is nothing like waking up and knowing you are surrounded by these massive and gentle creatures. About a half hour later Onx showed up at my door bearing gifts of coffee and biscuits. He left noting he would be back in 20 minutes and we will go the main lodge for a light snack before we start our day’s activities. I got ready and patiently awaited Onx’s return. True to his word, Onx was back in exactly 20 minutes and we headed back up the boardwalk towards the main lodge. There we stopped for a bite. We then headed out for what I thought was a game drive. As we hopped in the Land Rover, Roger approached from the lodge. He looked at me and said, “do you mind if I join you”? I replied, “by all means, hop in”. We started on our drive and immediately started seeing game all around us. After about 10 minutes, Roger looked at me and said “we aren’t going to be going out on a game drive today”. I looked at him and replied, “Yeah? Well what are we doing right now”. He laughed and stated “we are driving to a dock where a boat awaits us “. True to his word, after another 10 minutes we arrived at a dock where there was flat-bottomed power boat waiting for us. Once aboard we took off down the channel, the African sun on my skin felt amazing. As we motored down the channel I saw birds of all sizes, shapes and colors. We continued a little further and on the bank lay a crocodile, mouth open, sunning himself. We approached within a few meters. This was truly frightening and exciting at the same time. Before this boat ride I could have cared less if I ever saw a crocodile, but after watching him close up it was easy to appreciate the beauty. We continued spotting wildlife on the banks and stopped at a small island where we walked for a bit before enjoying a private picnic. I really enjoyed the beauty and serenity. Back in the boat we headed back to our vehicle… Being out on the water was wonderfully refreshing, I remember telling Roger. “I wish I had a fishing pole” he replied, “You are here at the wrong time for that, my friend.” Apparently you can actually fish here, but not in the months of January and February when fish are breeding. Eventually the dock came into view and we were once again back onto dry land. Back in camp I sat at a table on the deck where I ordered eggs Benedict. I snacked on cheese and crackers and enjoyed a cup of coffee while I waited. I can say without any hesitation my breakfast that day was one of the best I’d ever had, compliments to the chef at Vumbura Plains. After breakfast, sadly I had to pack up and say goodbye to my new friends, Roger and Onx. It was so hard to part ways, because I felt truly at home in this camp. The staff was amazing and the room was the best I’d had so far. If I had to choose I much preferred the main area of North Camp to the main area of South Camp although the rooms at both were the same. The animals were not as abundant as at Mombo, but water activities made up for that. I was truly saddened as I boarded the small plane and headed towards my next destination – Zarafa.