south africa in july

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Apr 9th, 2007, 05:06 PM
  #1
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Join Date: Apr 2007
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south africa in july

Thanks for all the great tips on restaurants in cape town..a few were already on our list
We are also going to Botswana and are staying in Vuumbura Plains. We haven't seen as much posted on this camp as others that are more well known. Has anyone had any experience with Vuumbura?
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Apr 9th, 2007, 05:35 PM
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This is the link to my report that includes Vumbura from Aug 2006. The Vumbura part is in green text. Other people made Vumbura comments on this link.
http://fodors.com/forums/threadselec...4&tid=34859832

Here is the Vumbura part, copied and pasted. Thanks for allowing me to revisit Vumbura as I reread this text.

"Two and a half hours of waiting for the 5-minute Duba to Vumbura plane ride—now there’s irony. If I could have gotten a running start, I could have just leaped over to Vumbura. Apparently later in the dry season it is possible to drive between camps. Both guides at Duba and Vumbura indicated that the drive can be very productive gamewise, so that could be a rewarding option.

Eventually I was airborne for a few minutes. When we de-planed and made our way to the vehicles waiting at the Vumbura airstrip, Z came to greet me and immediately stated, “It is just you and me during your stay.” What luck! Another private vehicle--but this one without the surcharge!

Z went on to suggest, “I think tomorrow we should stay out all day.” Of course I agreed, even more amazed my good fortune. But it got better.

Next Z asked if the other vehicle could go in front of us, so it could head to tea. We, on the other hand, would skip tea and just head out for our afternoon in the bush and come back in time for dinner, if that was ok. At that point I concluded the “Z” must stand for zealot because this guy was nuts! And I was lucky to get him. I and knew we’d have a splendid couple of days at Vumbura.

I requested lechwe and Z located some herds. We spent a good deal of time with them, which was fortunate because that was my only opportunity to see them in numbers. There was so much water around that they wandered far out of the range of our vehicles. I asked Z what month of the year would usually have these current water levels. He stated late May. It was mid-August.

Z made a good suggestion. Since I had originally booked Little Vumbura, but had been upgraded to Vumbura Plains, he asked if I’d like to experience the boat ride to LV and see the camp. I agreed that would be a nice way to have a brief water activity, since Vumbura is known for water activities. I got quite the water activity, but long before we boarded the LV shuttle! We got stuck in a channel with water creeping to the very top of the vehicle. Z hopped out and worked diligently to increase the traction by shoving big sticks and branches under the vehicle. My job was to watch for crocs. I also watched a herd of giraffes watching Z wade around the vehicle. Fifteen minutes and zero crocs later we were underway again.

The transport to LV, and all of the boat activities, was in a large rowboat with a motor. There were no mekoros. (Others mentioned that they had done mekoros at Vumbura & Little Vumbura, and the web page lists mekoros.) It was a peaceful and pleasant 10 minutes through a wide channel with papyrus and reeds, and some water lilies. Eva, the LV manager, greeted us, offered a beverage, and showed us around the camp--a truly charming place, with nice views of the surrounding water environment. She could not show me any rooms because they were all taken (by the folks who had kicked me out!) As we departed Little Vumbura and returned to the dock there was a pink sunset that I could observe from the water.

Z informed me that the boat outings lasted a couple of hours and were done instead of a game drive. They were similar to what I had experienced, only longer. He said that the boat rides were unlikely to produce any game sightings but were quite relaxing and enjoyable. Finally, he mentioned that usually LV game drives returned before dark so that the boat transfer would take place while there was still light.(Others mentioned that they had made the short boat transfer to LV in the dark, with a lantern, no problem.)

The night drive back to Vumbura Plains-North produced an African Wildcat and a Civet. I arrived after dark so the view from camp would remain a mystery until morning. My orientation and introduction (made by Linda of the Linda-Richard managing team) was completed as the staff was beginning a traditional performance. The modern waiver of liability I was signing juxtaposed with the traditional drumming, singing, and dancing in front of me presented an interesting contrast. The performance was followed by a traditional African meal served outside.

When it was time to retire, I trekked with an escort to my palace. It was a trek and it was a palace. I was in #7, the last tent/palace, which was a very long walk mostly on raised platforms, but at times descending onto the ground for about four meters before the railed wooden walkway resumed. For anyone with trouble getting around, a tent near the dining area should be requested. On the other hand, for anyone who would like to do an unguided walking safari, this offers the opportunity. You can really get some exercise in beautiful surroundings. (I was told Vumbura Plains-South was identical in layout and tents.)

My palace was even larger than most since I had the family unit, consisting of two huge tents with an adjoining deck, complete with a private pool (all tents have the private pools). All told, it was far more square footage than my home! While I only glanced at the auxiliary palace across the deck, it appeared to be as finely appointed and attractive as the “mothership” palace. I would describe the decorating theme as striking, spacious, innovative, and most definitely 6-Paw.

In the middle of the night I awoke when nature called. I decided to forgo the lights and make my way in the darkness. Not that turning on the lights was a problem. On the headboard of the bed was a reading light as well as a panel of light switches that looked like the console from the Starship Enterprise.

After quite a hike, I discovered I was not at my destination; I had stumbled into the spacious shower, a place so big you could turn two cartwheels and still remain within the curtained shower plaza. Realizing where I was, I did an about face to retrace my steps. I was sure I was getting close when I scared myself by my own reflection in the full-length mirror, illuminated by moonlight and outdoor lanterns. At last victory was mine and I conquered the loo and headed back to bed for a comfortable night’s sleep.
When I awoke, the beautiful view of those plains from Vumbura Plains, which had been hidden by darkness when I arrived, became evident. Breakfast was light, but offered a larger selection than other camps, including a cheese platter—another 6-Paw perk.

Z and I were off for our full day of adventure, which began with a check of the lion pride, known as Kubu. It consisted of five lionesses and four young males all sporting the first signs of a mane. One of the females had given birth to an all boy brood of four and now they were teenagers. (Later another Fodorite offered a different explanation for how this male only litter came to be.) This pride was in beautiful shape, especially the four young males. Their coats were flawless with not a single scar or mark.

Our vehicle, along with a few others, was nearing the lions. We got a radio call that it appeared the lions were hunting the nearby buffalo. (This pride also hunts regularly in the day, just like the Duba lions. Z said day hunts reduced hyena interference.) Z quickly explained some Vumbura ground rules. Only three vehicles are allowed at any sight so only three could follow the hunt. There were four vehicles in the area, therefore he asked if I would be willing to join a family in their vehicle, bringing the total number of vehicles back to three. That was fine. I made the vehicle switch and headed off to the hunt with my new vehicle-mates, a very enthusiastic family of three.

Later Z explained the potential downside of the private vehicle especially if there were numerous in the area. He said that if those who paid for a private vehicle refused to join others, thereby reducing the total number of vehicles, then that private client could find himself waiting in the wings for two hours or more to see a good sight.

There was lots of strategizing, crouching, and stalking among the five lionesses that was modeled far less effectively by the four young males. It was quite exciting to watch as the hunt played out in the brush separated by the occasional clearing. After about an hour the lions made their move. They rushed forward out of our sight, while the buffalo stampeded and bellowed alarm calls. One loud call was especially chilling. We were on the scene in moments to find several bewildered lions milling about but no buffalo, except those in a distant cloud of dust. The guides believed the lions had jumped a buffalo, but that it had gotten away.

I rejoined Z, who had been tracking a leopard during our separation, but was not successful in locating it. Z suggested we find the lion pride, which had retired under a Kalahari Green Apple tree, and wait for their next attempt on the buffalo that he believed would occur before sunset.

I thought my days of napping with the lions had ended with my departure from Duba Plains. But here I was again with my feline friends, able to take a midday snooze. How delightful. The vegetation of Vumbura provided lots of comfortable shade for the lions and for us. Z busied himself with a book on constellations during my little nap.

In the five and a half hours that we waited and chatted, I learned part of the inspiring tale behind Z becoming a guide. His uncle worked for Xigera back when it had only outside drop toilets and his uncle’s job was to clean those loos. Eventually the uncle found a better job at Xigera. But a prerequisite of the new job was finding someone to fill the old job. He asked Z, who had left school to help his parents support his sizeable family. So Z’s career in the bush began with the Xigera loos. After about six weeks he was promoted to “leave raking and lanterns.” From there it was bartender at another camp. Obviously his magnetic personality was found to be better suited for interaction with the guests than with loos or lanterns. While bartending he studied for his guiding license and picked the brains of the guides he knew. He still remembered the favorite drink of Eyes on Africa’s Nicky from those bartending days! Hard work and perseverance paid off and here was Z sitting with the lions and me, doing a job he loved and at which he excelled.

With my prompting, Z also recounted a tale of the most bizarre incident in his guiding career. (I always like to ask guides about their most bizarre client/guiding/game-viewing incident and I am usually amazed at the responses.)

Here’s how it went: A couple arrived at camp and asked Z to come to their tent because they had a present for him and Z obliged. But instead of a gift, the husband opened up a case and removed what looked like miniature toy car. The man explained that he planned to mount a camera on the rover and maneuver it by remote control so that close-ups of the wildlife could be taken. Wrong! Z immediately informed him this was not allowed and he could not bring the device. Z also expressed his puzzlement to me about what this guy considered a gift. Showing off your own contraptions to others is not usually considered presenting a “gift.” But this guy was full of misconceptions.

The first day out Z noticed that the wife would try to distract him with photo questions or requests to position the vehicle so that the husband, who sat in back, could try to exit the vehicle. Z put an end to that routine and issued a stern warning to them.

The next day while viewing lions, the wife again became quite inquisitive and engaged Z in conversation as a ruse. Suddenly Z heard the whirring sound of a small motor and spun around to see the mini rover rolling over to where the lions were sleeping. The guy was doing a test run in anticipation of mounting the camera. Well, the lions also heard this foreign sound and immediately pounced on the rover. (Funny, lions are oblivious to a huge Land Rover full of chatty tourists wearing hats, extending monopods and pointing big lenses. Once a nearby vehicle’s horn even sounded for several seconds, which resulted in no more than a disgusted look from the lions. But this little rover got their attention.) The guy continued to activate the remote so that the rover’s wheels were spinning in the lion’s mouth. The lion freaked and flung down the rover and gave it a swat. End of rover. The guy was near tears and Z was furious. The guy even had the gall to ask to get out of the vehicle and retrieve the remains of the rover. Request denied and Z immediately drove them back to camp where the couple had the riot act read to them by the camp managers. They were threatened with “deportation” from camp. Apparently it made an impression and Z said they were model guests the rest of the trip.
(Pardon the digression)
Anyway—back to the lions—at about 2:45 they ended their naptime, sat up, rubbed faces with one another, and set out to hunt the nearby buffalo that had just started getting up from their siesta. The lions slinked their way through the Kalahari Green Apple Trees that obscured the buffalo and we followed. The herd began a stampede when several lions sprung from their crouched positions. We arrived upon the scene just after the bellows ceased, even before the young males appeared, to see one lioness with a struggling buffalo calf. The other lions soon rushed in and the calf was dead within seconds. In a 10-minute time frame the lions went from sound asleep to stalking and killing a buffalo. Z was right; they did hunt again that day.

For an hour and a half we watched the pride devour the small carcass with occasional internal squabbles and growling and then we moved off. I asked Z if there would be a panicked mother buffalo, who could not find her calf. He told me that not until evening when the mothers and calves paired up for the night would the loss be discovered. I did think of the mother buffalo that evening as the sun set.

But between leaving the lions and nightfall, there was more to be seen at Vumbura. Z spotted the African Hoopoe, my favorite bird. We enjoyed a pair of wattled cranes sunning themselves. We also came upon a couple of male kudu and watched them browse. They obligingly displayed their attractive striped bodies and their massive curled horns. I got my best kudu shots to date.

We saw an African Wildcat and genet on the night drive and were about to enter camp for the conclusion of a 12-hour day when Z stopped and commenced the star safari portion of our outing. He pointed out numerous constellations other than the Southern Cross and Scorpio, which even I can routinely spot. We arrived in camp and I expected to head to my tent with an escort, but there was still more to come. Z was focusing the telescope so we could get a better look at some of the stars that made up the constellations we had just viewed with the naked eye. The star safari continued with Z enthusiastically explaining the beautiful night sky.

Eventually I freshened up and was escorted back from my tent to the bar where my request for white wine produced several options and a sample to see if it met with my approval. The weather had turned cooler so on each chair in the dining lounge was a thick brown robe for guests to wear while dining. There were choices in each course for dinner, with one choice being a vegetarian option. The meal was served in sit-down rather than buffet style. Between the starter and main course, sorbet was the pallet cleanser. All of this is part of the “6-Paw Silver Service.” It made for an elegant experience after a day in the bush. But the part of this “Silver Service” that mattered most to me was yet to come.

Boysen, a Vumbura manager, dined next to me that evening. The terrorist plot involving chemicals had just been uncovered and dinner conversation turned toward the new strict carryon regulations. I expressed some of my concerns about potentially being unable to take my cameras or even memory card with me. At that point, the information that had filtered to the bush was only a plastic bag with money and passport would be allowed. Nothing else. Nothing in pockets, etc.

Boysen overheard my concerns and immediately offered me a solution. He told me that the camp routinely downloads digital camera memory cards onto their computer and burns CDs (at a nominal cost for the CD) for guests. In addition, the camp retains the photos for one month, just in case there is a problem of any kind. I learned there had been two instances when the Vumbura backup files were needed by a guest.

I ended up taking full advantage of this service using more disk space, more CDs, and more time of all three managers than would be expected by the average guest, all due to an “inventory error” on my part in accounting for my several memory cards and what was on them. In addition to Boysen burning CDs into the night for me, I barged (as politely as one can barge) into the manager’s office the next day shortly before my plane’s departure in somewhat of a panic with more memory card download requests. Managers Linda and Richard were there and were delighted to drop everything and assist me. We had a pleasant conversation during the additional downloading and I was even offered popcorn. From my perspective, it appeared they had been waiting there all morning for me and my urgent request. Of course we all know that’s not true, which makes this all the more impressive. With such uncertainty at the airport, this backup offered me tremendous peace of mind and all three managers played an integral role in making me literally a happy camper.

My mind may have rested easy that night, but a strong, cold, howling wind made for fitful sleep. It was still cold when we set off in the morning. During the night the Kubu pride had killed again, right outside North camp’s Tent #1. We checked out the remains and watched the lions have an after dinner drink in a shallow pool (not Tent #1’s plunge pool.) Next we headed to more wooded areas where the animals would be seeking shelter from the wind. There was some nice giraffe and zebra activity and I even bested the previous night’s best kudu shots. Seeing sable in only a 2-night stay seemed a bit much to hope for, but we had nice views of one big bull sable having his breakfast.

Z (living up to his Z for zealot name) had suggested we stay out all morning and arrive at the airstrip just in time to get the most out of our morning. The cold winds and my memory card fiasco only slightly altered that plan. Too soon it was time to leave Vumbura. This was the first time I tried a 2-night stay at a Botswana camp. I will revert to my 3+ night plan in the future. But, with the help of Z, I made the most of those 44 hours."

STAY 3 NIGHTS!
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Apr 11th, 2007, 04:01 PM
  #3
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Thanks for your beautifully detailed review of Vumbura. We are very excited about our first trip to Africa - even more so now!
Thanks again-
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Apr 11th, 2007, 04:49 PM
  #4
 
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I think you are using the same agent we used for our SA trip and our upcoming trip-you will have a wonderful time!
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