Reviews of Vundu Camp
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
Don't judge a book by its cover
On arrival our first impressions were a little negative. The accommodation although dated and minimal in appearance, was very comfortable. This is an intimate family run camp where the owner/guides are passionate about what they do best, which is guiding.
Alistair our guide had been guiding for years and was very knowledgeable about the bush. He worked hard to find us game and new close encounter experiences with elephants, lions and, what we went to Mana for, Painted Dogs.
The Vundu pack had left their den only a few days before our arrival so our hopes of seeing them at the den were shattered. They had just gone nomadic and had not been seen for a few days. Alistair tried desperately for our first two days to find them but to no avail. Then on our third morning, up before dawn and onto the flood plain for first light, we found them purely by accident while we were approaching a bull elephant on foot. Possibly one of the best dog encounters we have ever had, running after a pack of wild dogs while our guide followed us in the vehicle from the nearby road.
Another evening we went walking looking for three lionesses but had no luck until we accidentally walked into the scrub area where they were sleeping. The lionesses woke up and gave out an almighty growl stopping us in our tracks. Although clearly annoyed at our presence, these nice ladies said no more about it and sent us on our way. An incredible life experience.
Vundu Camp review
On this safari we wanted to get closer to the animals than we had on previous trips, so we booked 4 nights at Vundu with Nick as a private guide. We didn't realise just how close to the animals we would get! on foot. We were 5 meters away from bull elephants, 10 meters away from lions and painted dogs. We were leaving the vehicle to run into the bush having seen flashing tails and hearing the dogs barking to be confronted by the dogs and a lion was to be an experience never to be forgotten.
During our stay there Nick got us to run and to climb trees albeit so he could take a photo of us at that point. All the staff were friendly, could not do enough to ensure our stay met our requirements. We loved the homely feel with simple facilities provided, please do not try to change to meet the luxury expectations of some customers, we love outside bathrooms.
Vundu Camp review
Brilliant guiding here (Alistair Chambers). Highlights being a wonderful hour spent with wild dogs at their den with pups; a super walk to sit within yards of a lion and hyena and a hair-raising canoe trip down the Zambezi. We enjoyed the camp, although perhaps a little old-fashioned (needs a feminine touch?). A couple of glitches with regards to hot water and a game drive were handled properly
A nice camp, more homely than the previous two of my trip. The cabin was perfectly comfortable, the common areas spacious and pleasant, and the location on the river bank excellent. Food was plentiful and tasty.
My guide, Alistair, was great fun to be around and either by luck or design he did provide a good sighting of African Wild Dog, always a privilege! We also walked in on a sleeping lion, a situation he handled beautifully. My canoeing outing on the river was excellent!
Quite different safari
For us it was a quite new and exciting experience to do safari "on one level with the animals". We did a few walking safaris before, but all of them where rather boring. But here - on the right place, with the right guide - it was quite different. I wouldn´t recommend it necessarily to a first time safari goer, but for someone, who has been to some conventional safaris, it is a more than rewarding experience.
If you expect a cat around every corner and animals close to touch, it isn´t the right place for you (there is no off-road driving) - also if you need internet connection, mobile connection, silver plates and a choice of 8 different wines, you are better kept in Sabi Sand or Masai Mara. But that doesn´t mean, you have to go without excellent meals, fine drinks and an outstanding service.
So, if you know, what are your expectations are, you can reckon on marvellous days in an awesome landscape.
Good to know: for the walking safaris and the canoe tours on the Zambezi you shouldn´t be excessively frightened.
Fantastic Canoe Safari and Pack of Wild Dogs
I have to say that yes it's true that the three days I took on my canoe safari were indeed one of the most spectacular wilderness experiences that anyone can have in Africa or for that matter in the world. It was wonderful to paddle down the Zambezi River and see the both Mana Pools National Park and Lower Zambezi Park in Zambia from the perspective of the river.
There are literally thousands of hippos in the river, and one also sees elephants, buffalo, bushbuck, and a tremendous variety of birds including little bee eaters, goliath herons, and many others.
I don't consider the canoe safari dangerous because you are accompanied by some of the best and most experienced guides in Africa. They all carry both a pistol because it is more effective at short range as well as a rifle. I had a fellow canoeist who had an incredible ability to dodge hippos, and scare them off by hitting the canoe with his paddle. His name is Mark, and my guide's name is Alistair. However, I wouldn't recommend going on this canoe safari for those who are faint at heart.
In the three days that I was at Vundu Camp I was most unlucky because the game viewing hadn't been as good when I had come here two years ago nor as in the same league of Goliath camp. I did however see an elephant tear down a leadwood tree with his trunk which was quite a site to see. After six days of no luck, I was finally rewarded by seeing no less than 15 wild dogs returning from a kill. It was just as I was leaving Mana Pools. When my guide said look there's wild dogs over there I thought he was joking. It really made my stay at Vundu Camp worthwhile.
It was nice having Nick Murray, his wife Desiree, and their two children were staying at the camp. My guide Alistair was a true gentleman and it was fascinating to talk to him about his experiences as a pilot, guide and soldier.
The rooms are somewhat austere but comfortable. I love the open air showers.
My only serious complaint about Vundu Camp is that while I was there 4 out 5 of their vehicles experienced breakdowns. However, I'm sure that Nick will get the problem resolved.
The food was good, although not quite up the standards of my last stay. It was also less plentiful.
A wonderful river location
We had a super four nights at Vundu, complementing perfectly our immediate previous four nights off the river at Kanga. Dean McGregor is a brilliant guide - very knowledgeable and a wonderful sense of humour. Our walks with him were packed with interest - as well as fantastic animals - and the canoeing was the highlight of what was, all round, a brilliant trip.
In camp we were made to feel very welcome by Nick and Natalie.
As for the animals, we were delighted to see nyala for the first time ever; but the most memorable has to be the (male - his mate followed a couple of nights later) pennant-winged nightjar flying into the lounge area one evening - fabulous.
Elephants for lunch at Little Vundu
Little Vundu is in a beautiful location right on the banks of the Zambezi. Once again we spent most of our time walking in the bush and along the flood plain. One morning at breakfast Mark heard alarm calls and we set off quickly on foot just in time to see a lioness walking among the thickets behind camp.
At lunchtimes in camp elephants would walk through right alongside the dining table. One bull in particular would walk up almost to within touching distance.
We were lucky to see the area's Wild Dog pack not far from camp. The puppies were chasing a warthog which was very exciting to watch. We saw the Wild Dogs on two other occasions, the last being on foot and during which we were able to watch at close hand the darting and re-collaring of one of the dogs by the Painted Dog Conservation team.
Great time at Vundu
Mana Pools is beautiful: it was a pleasure just to be there. We liked that we could drive until we found something interesting and then investigate on foot, rather than having to decide in advance whether we wanted to drive or walk, as in some other places. It made wildlife viewing feel spontaneous and exciting.
Nick Murray is up there with the best of the guides we have had on several safaris. He took care to find out about our interests and experience, and then to repeat activities we'd enjoyed or find new ones we'd asked for. We couldn't believe how close we could get to lions and elephants on foot and yet feel completely safe.
We found Vundu to be a very friendly and sociable camp and this added to our overall enjoyment of our stay. We spent our time in camp with guides, guests and staff-everyone just mixed together.
Best afternoon cakes of the trip!
Negatives about Vundu-having to leave!
Vundu Camp review
This camp was right up my alley. The rooms were comfortable yet not pretentious, the staff was friendly without being overly-enthusiastic (which some staff tend to be), and the owner and guide Nick was what I like in a host, answering questions and asking about things he wanted to know about us, but in an honest, genuine exchange.
We love to walk in the bush, and this was the best walk ever. About an hour in, on our way to a wild dog den, we had to do some very quick lateral shuffling to get out of an ele's path, Nick then found the den, we sat down and watched the pack return, the puppies come out and be fed, the vultures come in to join the feasting, just incredible! We had stay as long as we dared, as the light was beginning to fade and we had about 4 km to traverse to get back to the vehicle. It was on the return that we were saw the dust cloud of the buffalo, were mock-charged by a lone female maybe looking for her calf, and heard the hyena very close by.
At this Nick said it was getting dark, we could maybe go on rather than investigate, although we all knew this is what we all wanted to do so, after an nanosecond of consultation we headed into the the thick bush to see what we could see. Nick stopped dead about 30 meters in, turned and said "lion, large male", we turned left and kept moving toward the heart of the activity (maybe another 20-30 meters), stopped and could hear and see a pack of wild dogs on the flank, the buffalo herd was moving off ahead of us, the hyena and lion to our right (or behind). At this point it was agreed that we had used up enough the daylight and needed to move off. 20 minutes later (we must have really been moving along) we were back at the vehicle and on our way to camp.
At no point did we feel in any danger. Nick's astute understanding of the situation and conditions and our ability and willingness to follow ever instruction and stay close together (we are very fit, have walked in the bush through all types of terrain and habitat and hopefully our vulnerabilities and limitations) made this feel we had done something very special, but not an experience for everyone.
Go and spend three days or more at Vundu if you like to walk and canoe. It's the best!