While it was very hard saying goodbye to Wilderness DumaTau camp, we were just as excited to embark on the next leg of our Botswana adventure. This time we were heading to another Wilderness camp, the Vumbura Plains Camp, and this was located in a totally different part of of Botswana, an area known as the Okavango Delta. A private charter 50 mins in the air and landing in the Delta.
This part of Botswana is famous for its diversity; because it has water all year round, all kinds of wildlife have made this their home. Other than the animals themselves, Okavango Delta also has a rich collection of birds, plants, insects etc It’s a true nature paradise.
The terrain is also very different from what we had witnessed before. While our initial exposure to Botswana showed a land going through their dry season, here the land had adapted to water being everywhere. So, there were rivers, muds, long reeds, more wet mud, more rivers, overflowing water holes; the ecosystem was entirely different and more exotic. Another new element to this experience was the game drives. Here your safari jeep was half automobile and half boat, as there were many instances of us driving deep into river crossings where the water rushed into the bottom of the jeep as we scrambled to keep our feet dry.
The varied terrain also makes game watching very different. Because there is ample water around, the animals are also spread out meaning it takes more work spotting them. The guides have to be extra vigilant and just as focused. Our guide, “Big O”, would use the entire ecosystem as well as all his senses to track the animals, from listening to the birds, watching footprints in the sand to actually smelling the air and following birds and smaller animals running as they usually led us to the bigger animals. Very National Geographic Channel stuff.
One excellent advantage to having the animals more spread out was that we could get more close to the bush and actually disembark the jeeps. Wilderness and the game guides had found these wonderful spots where it was safe for us to have sunset drinks and bush breakfast and bush lunch. It is quite a unique experience to have a beautiful, luxurious lunch setup, full with a bar and a barbecue, sitting in the middle of the bush, eating and drinking excellent selections while not too far away a herd of elephants have their own vegetarian lunch. Although it got exciting for a few minutes as a large bull elephant got a bit inquisitive and decided to pay us a visit, coming very close to the meat being cooked but then getting bored and walking away.
We also had quite a surreal experience on one of the sunset drinks as our kids decided to have an impromptu football game, my son Rio, showcasing all his football skills on the plains of Botswana, next to a watering hole with the sunset setting and lighting up the sky in pink and purple, and the next morning the same watering hole had a herd of 15 elephants swimming, playing and soaking up the sunrise at exactly the same spot our kids had been playing the night before. Only in Botswana, only in Africa.
Some of the more memorable highlights from our game drives:
· We came across a big pride of lions, 3 male brothers, 2 females (mum and daughter) and 4 babies, 2 girls and 2 boys all 9 months old; the family dynamics were so interesting we decided to track them for a while as they went about preying for food, marking their territories, and teaching the cubs all the laws of nature; at one point, and very rare for lions, the mum lion scrambled up a tree to survey the land so one of the more adventurous cubs decided to scramble up behind the mum, only when it came time to come down the cub had no idea what to do; what ensued was a delicate parenting skill as the mum lion gently trued to coax the baby lion back down the tree while the cub whined, growled and snapped at her mum. Fascinating. What was amusing was the rest of the pride just watched all of this unfold with slight detachment…
· Very unique to the delta is taking your game drive to the water. What this means is hopping into a “mokoro” or the local version of a canoe and then traversing the various delta rivers. This again calls on the unique skills of your game guide as he has to expertly manage an erratic canoe with nervous passengers while keeping an eye out for hippos and crocs. However, everything is done with a high priority on safety and the moment the guides and the security on land suspected a hippo nearby they cut the trip short and got us safely to land. Quite exhilarating and peaceful at the same time although my daughter Amara was a nervous wreck throughout!
· In all our time in Bots, we had still not come across wild dogs so when we heard a pack of wild dogs were on the move, we decided to catch up to them and follow them as they tracked prey and marked their territories. Wild dogs of Africa epitomize the wild nature of Africa. Ferrel and dirty but also industrious, always on the move, covering great distances, these dogs were so intriguing to watch. The laws of the pack were also on display as the strong leaders led the way while the weak, injured ones just tried to keep up.
Vumbura Plains Camp
Another great example of Wilderness hospitality, the Vumbura Plains Camp, is generously spread out over a large embankment, on one side a large river with all its hippos and crocs while on the other side, various watering holes that keep bringing the animals very close to the actual rooms.
Our room was a super luxurious 2-bedroom tent, very spacious, open plan, with a plunge pool outside and views especially at sunset and sunrise that were absolutely stunning.
Again the staff were excellent and always addressing you by your name. Nothing is to small to ask for as the entire team are there to make your stay as incredible as can be.
What we really loved about this Wilderness camp was their local impact and their commitment to preserving the surrounding community. A story like below which was showcased on the walls of their library/lounge, typifies perfectly what Wilderness means to Botswana and what Botswana means to Wilderness:
“Since the inception of Wilderness Safaris in Botswana in 1983, we have been fortunate enough to work with many inspirational Batswana. In this community story, we would like to introduce you to just two of them, Lenkemetse “Tracy” Nteashoma and Lpeleng Gloria “Mme Gloria” Gaosimodimo.
Lenkemetse is a farmer in Sankoyo village and received assistance during the pandemic through Wilderness Conservation Heroes Covid relief programme. Lenkemetse has been able to leverage her farming experience and affinity for the soil to pay forward and help us provide crucial food relief to members of her community during the immense challenges that rural communities have faced during the pandemic.
Lenkemetse’s assertion that “what you see depends on how you see the world” typifies the resilience she has been able to draw on as she inspires those around her to remain hopeful no matter what.
Since Covid 19 first reached Botswana in early 2020, Wilderness has been working with Ecoexist and the Ministry of Agricultural Development and food security, department of Crop Production on projects to enhance food security in rural communities by improving communal plots so that they can serve as cluster farms and produce staple foods such as beans, maize, cow peas, millet and sorghum. We’ve been able to assist with seed and the loan of agricultural equipment to reduce the labor involved in tilling and sowing.”
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