Little Vumbura is a small safari camp on its own private island in the Okavango Delta
Little Vumbura: Our full report
Little Vumbura is an intimate and remote but eminently comfortable camp, built on a secluded island in the private Vumbura Reserve. The camp is surrounded by water, both permanent deep channels and seasonal shallower floodplains, with access to good tracts of dry areas of open plains, woodlands and riverine forests. It's an interesting reserve, which has a particularly diverse set of environments within easy reach of the camp, as well as a high density of game.
Little Vumbura shares its concession with its more opulent sister camp, Vumbura Plains.
Little Vumbura itself is surrounded by water, so to get there it’s a short boat ride from the 4WD that collects guests from the airstrip. The length of the boat transfer varies from three to 25 minutes, depending on water levels at the time.
A new and innovative floating jetty (made of large, hollow, plastic cubes pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle) leads to Little Vumbura’s reception area. The camp’s main areas are all open-sided with tall, circus-style tented roofs which add to the cool and spacious feel, though there are roll-down canvas blinds in case of inclement weather. Unlike most safaris lodges that we have visited, the lounge at Little Vumbura is decorated in vibrant tones of blue to complement the water setting, which we thought was an attractive departure from the traditional safari khaki. A couple of very comfortable sofas, a few armchairs and coffee tables are arranged to maximise the views over the water.
A little more secluded is the small library area, which feels a little like a tree house built around a vacant termite mound. Furnished with a couple of armchairs and a wooden chair swing suspended from the tree, it has a good selection of reference books and wildlife magazines, including some literature on research that was done in the area on the sable antelope. From the library, a few steps and a short wooden walkway bring you to the launching area for mokoro (a traditional dug-out canoe) activities.
To the other side is the dining area, with a very long wooden dining room table (which can be broken into smaller tables for individual dining), and a wooden buffet counter from where all the meals are served. You’ll also find a well-stocked bar with a relaxed help-yourself service and a tea and coffee station, where a flask of hot water is available throughout the day.
Down a short walkway is the star deck and fire pit, which juts out over the water. It’s a great spot to retire after dinner, especially when the fire is roaring on a cool evening. Behind the dining area is a secluded plunge pool and decked area, with some comfortable sunloungers and a large sunbed under a shaded canopy.
Little Vumbura also has a well-stocked curio shop that sells a wide selection of products including wildlife reference books, postcards, their in-house range of Earth skincare products, safari shirts and fleeces, hats and locally made baskets, children’s toys and jewellery.
Wooden walkways, slightly raised to allow for a rise in water levels of the Delta, lead from the central area to the tented chalets. The tents at Little Vumbura are not especially large, but they are quite smart and we found them very comfortable. The pale wooden timber of the floorboards, floor-to-ceiling mesh windows and the circus-top-style canvas roofs lend an air of space and light. The tents are furnished with the usual double or twin beds – with mosquito net – as well as comfortable chairs both inside the room and out on the deck. There is an en-suite shower room, and a separate toilet. We particularly liked the beautiful blue ceramic 'his and hers' basins on the washstand.
A honeymoon tent has exactly the same furnishings as the tented chalets, but in addition there is an outdoor bathtub on the private deck, with views over the floodplains.
The activities at Little Vumbura offer the visitor a varied choice. With both water and dry land around, there are deep-water motor-boat trips and shallow-water excursions by mokoro, as well as daytime 4WD game drives. On one visit a member of the Expert Africa team spent a fantastic afternoon fishing on the local waterways. Bream and African pike fill the meandering streams and a spot of catch-and-release fishing with your guide is a really great way to unwind and relax. Guided walks can also be arranged on request, although for safety reasons these are at the discretion of the managers and should be requested in advance of your stay.
In our view, the private Vumbura concession is one of the best areas for game in the Okavango Delta, and we’ve had excellent sightings over the years of lion, leopard, cheetah and wild dog. On our most recent stay in March 2015 our game viewing was phenomenal! Having seen buffalo, lion, leopard and elephant during our transfer from the airstrip to the jetty, we spent about two hours on our first afternoon drive watching a pride of lion as they moved through the tall grass, then lay down to wait for a large herd of buffalo grazing their way towards them. There was plenty of action as four female lions gave chase to a young buffalo, then the herd of buffalo retaliated and fended off the lions. Rather frustratingly we then had to move on as another vehicle was waiting to witness the action, and company policy permits only three game-viewing vehicles at a sighting at one time.
Another highlight of our trip was an afternoon boat cruise, when we stopped for sundowners and our guide spotted an enormous python in a tree – something we never would have seen without his expertise.
Our viewWe've been visiting Little Vumbura for many years now and it's long been a favourite. The camp is very comfortable and we've had some very good guides and generally good food. But what really stands out is the Vumbura Reserve. Not only is it an exceptionally pretty area – and thus a great backdrop for photography – but it offers fantastic mokoro and boat trips, as well as game drives that deliver regular, good and varied game viewing.
Unfortunately, Little Vumbura fills up fast, and getting space here is always a challenge unless you book a very long way in advance. Hence it’s regularly full, and at those times the camp’s sense of intimacy is somewhat lost.
Ideal length of stay: We recommend three or four nights at Little Vumbura.
Directions: Access is via light-aircraft to the airstrip, taking around 40 minutes direct from Maun. Then, depending on water levels, it’s usually a 45-minute game drive followed by a short boat transfer to the camp.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Wilderness Safaris
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: The day usually starts with a light breakfast of toast, fruit, cold meats and cereal, along with tea and coffee, served prior to your early morning game activity.
Brunch, including a hot option, is offered after the morning activity. Our options have included a buffet of cottage pie and pork belly, eggs and bacon to order, and a selection of roasted vegetables salads and freshly baked bread. Cheese and biscuits, tea and coffee always follow.
Afternoon tea is served at around 4.00pm, usually a savoury snack like pizza slices, quiche or mini pies, along with something sweet, with tea, coffee and iced tea to drink.
Dinner has a plated starter with a buffet for mains. On our most recent visit in March 2015 we had a delicious tomato gazpacho, followed by a choice of beef fillet or roast duck, with cauliflower, green beans, stuffed peppers and salad, Dessert was chocolate mousse which was very tasty indeed.
With advance notice, the camp can also cater for vegetarian and many other dietary requirements. Please contact our team if you'd like to find out more.
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Bottled water, soft drinks, local beers and spirits and a limited selection of (usually) South African red and white wines are included. Champagne and imported wines and spirits will cost extra and may need to be requested in advance. Guests are given an aluminium water bottle on arrival which they are encourage to top up with cold water in the camp’s main area during their stay.
Further dining info: Breakfast and lunch are usually group meals, with individual tables according to game vehicles for brunch.
Birdwatching: Little Vumbura is a first-rate Okavango camp for birdwatching in Botswana, offering environments that range from shallow- and deep-water floodplains and channels to dense, shady woodlands. Our sightings have included pygmy geese, carmine and little bee eaters, and plenty of owls, and we’ve heard (but not seen) a Pel’s fishing owl.See more ideas for Birdwatching in Botswana
Wildlife safaris: Little Vumbura offers some of the best wildlife safaris in Botswana. It's in one of the Okavango's prime game areas, with a real depth and range to the wildlife. In our last few visits here, we have had good sightings of lion, leopard, cheetah and wild dog.See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Botswana
Attitude towards children: Children over 12 are welcome at Little Vumbura. The camp may accept children aged 6–12, but private activities must be booked and these will be at an extra cost. Children younger than six may be accepted by special arrangement, and then only if the entire camp is reserved for exclusive use. Note that minimum age requirements also mean that children are allowed on boat trips from the age of six years, but on mokoro trips only from the age of 13 years. A dedicated ‘Bush Buddy’ is available to families who request this in advance.
Special activities & services: Little Vumbura has a new and complimentary ‘Bush Buddies’ programme, whereby a dedicated member of staff is allocated to families with children. This needs to be requested in advance, prior to arrival. The children are each given a safari bag filled with things such as a bug viewer, a safari guide booklet, water bottle, cap and torch. Activities, variously entertaining and educational, may include arts and crafts, short nature walks around the camp, tracking lessons, bird and animal call identification, treasure hunts, baking biscuits and cooking lessons in the bush (for example, pizza-making in termite mounds), as well as dancing and drumming, star-gazing and storytelling. The camp will also arrange separate meal times and menus for families with young children.
Equipment: No special equipment is available, but there is a two-bedroom chalet with an interior inter-leading door that is suitable for families.
Generally recommended for children: We would recommend Little Vumbura for more mature children aged 13 years or older, because noise travels in this small camp and it is in very close proximity to deep water.
Notes: Little Vumbura is unfenced and wildlife is known to wander through the camp on a regular basis. The pool is unfenced, too, and the camp is often completely surrounded by water. Children must be under the constant supervision of their parents.
Power supply: Generator
Power supply notes: The camp uses a generator and inverter system. The generator is run during the day and batteries are charged for lights, fans, etc in the evening. Each room has a plug for charging batteries, although an adaptor will be required. Note that hairdryers draw too much power and cannot be used.
Communications: There is no cellphone reception, no direct phone or fax and no email. Communication is maintained with the head office in Maun via radio.
TV & radio: There is no TV or radio.
Water supply: Borehole
Water supply notes: Borehole and reverse osmosis. All the chalets have running hot and cold water, with a flushing toilet.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: The nearest doctor is in Maun. All management and guides are first-aid trained and Medivac rescue is available in case of emergencies. There is a nurse on call (via radio) 24 hours a day. Please note that it is only possible to fly out of camp during daylight hours as the bush airstrips do not have any lighting at night.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Guests are escorted to their rooms after dark as the camp is unfenced and dangerous wildlife is known to wander through. A thorough safety briefing is given on arrival. 'Fog horns' are provided in the chalets to attract attention in case of emergency.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers at all the tents and in the main area.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: A laundry service is included. Laundry is collected in the morning and usually returned the same day, weather permitting. For cultural reasons and because the clothing is generally hand washed, the staff do not wash underwear. Detergent is provided in each chalet for guests who wish to do hand washing.
Money: No exchange facilities are offered. There are small safes in all the chalets, as well as a larger one in the office if required.
Accepted payment on location: MasterCard and Visa credit cards are accepted; Diners and Amex are not. Cash in the form of South African rand, GB sterling, US dollars, euros and Botswana pula is accepted.