Little Vumbura: Our full report
Intimate, remote but eminently comfortable, Little Vumbura is 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 open plains, woodland 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.
Sharing the reserve with Little Vumbura is its larger and more opulent sister camp, Vumbura Plains.
After the short boat to the island, guests disembark onto an innovative floating jetty (made of large, hollow, plastic cubes pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle), which leads to Little Vumbura's open-sided main areas. Here, tall, circular tented roofs enhance the cool and spacious feel, though there are roll-down canvas blinds in case of inclement weather.
The lounge 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, along with armchairs and coffee tables, are arranged to maximise the views over the water.
A little more secluded is the small library area, which feels rather 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. A few steps from the library, a short wooden walkway brings 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. You'll also find a well-stocked bar with a relaxed help-yourself approach and a tea and coffee station, where hot water is available throughout the day.
Along another short walkway is the star deck and firepit, 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. Set back is a secluded plunge pool, whose decked area is topped with comfortable sunloungers and a large sunbed under a shaded canopy.
Little Vumbura also has a curio shop with a wide selection of products including wildlife reference books, postcards, their in-house range of Earth skincare products, safari shirts, fleeces and hats, and locally made baskets, children's toys and jewellery.
Wooden walkways, slightly raised to allow for fluctuations in water levels of the Delta, lead from the central area to the six tented chalets - including a family tent with two en-suite bedrooms and an interleading door, and a honeymoon tent. All are spacious, smart and – in our experience – very comfortable. Pale timber floorboards, floor-to-ceiling mesh windows and 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 nets – as well as comfortable chairs both inside 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.
The honeymoon tent has exactly the same furnishings as the other tented chalets, but with the addition of an outdoor bathtub on the private deck, with views over the floodplains.
Activities at Little Vumbura are varied, with both water and dry land excursions. Deep-water channels allow for motorboat trips, while shallow channels enable excursions by mokoro. Morning and afternoon safaris by 4WD are very rewarding in the Vumbura Reserve, too.
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 November 2019 the game viewing was phenomenal! Highlights included a vast herd of buffalo, a pride of lions with cubs and a female cheetah with her two cubs. A close encounter on foot with the resident elephants in camp (carefully supervised by the guides, of course) was another unforgettable experience.
Unfortunately, our afternoon motorboat safari was curtailed by a rather angry thunderstorm – but we have had some fantastic boat safaris here in the past.
On one visit a member of the Expert Africa team also spent a fantastic afternoon fishing on the local waterways. Bream and African pike are abundant 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. At an additional cost, scenic helicopter flights and hot-air balloon safaris are also available.
We'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.
- Okavango Delta Safari Reserves, Botswana
- Ideal length of stay
- We recommend three or four nights at Little Vumbura.
- Vumbura airstrip is a 40-minute light aircraft flight from Maun. Depending on water levels, the journey to camp is usually a 45-minute game drive followed by a boat transfer of between five and 25 minutes.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- Food quality
- Over many years, we have very much enjoyed the food at Little Vumbura, and on our latest visit, in November 2019, all the dishes were delicious. As far as possible, ingredients are locally sourced. With advance notice, the camp can cater for vegetarian and many other dietary requirements.
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. On our most recent visit we were not there for brunch but on a previous occasion the spread included a buffet of cottage pie, 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, at around 4.00pm, usually combines a savoury snack, like potato croquettes, pizza, quiche or mini pies, with something sweet, such as a freshly baked cake and fruit. These are served with tea, coffee and iced tea.
Dinner is usually a plated starter with a buffet for the main course. We had a delicious corn soup to start. This was followed by a superb variety of dishes which included braaied (grilled) lamb chops, oxtail stew, bean casserole, chickpea tagine and grilled fish, with cauliflower, green beans, stuffed gem squash and salad. Dessert was doughnuts served with an Amarula sauce. All the dishes were delicious.
- Dining style
- Group Meals
- Dining locations
- Indoor and Outdoor Dining
- Further dining info, including room service
- Breakfast and lunch are usually group meals, with individual tables according to game vehicles for brunch.
- 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.
- Little Vumbura is a first-rate camp for birdwatching, offering environments that range from shallow and deepwater floodplains and channels to dense, shady woodlands. Our sightings have included pygmy geese, slaty egret and a variety of owls.
- See ideas for Birdwatching
- 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 ideas for Wildlife safaris
- 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.
- Property’s age restrictions
- 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.
- Special activities & services
- Little Vumbura has a 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. Each child is given a safari bag filled with items 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 mealtimes and menus for families with young children.
- No special equipment is available, but there is a two-bedroom chalet an interior inter-leading door that is suitable for families. Both bedrooms are en-suite.
- 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.
- 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 or guardians.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Little Vumbura
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Little Vumbura have kindly recorded their wildlife sightings and shared them with us. The results are below. Click an animal to see more, and here to see more on our methodology.
- 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.
- Relatively weak WiFi is provided in the chalets only, but there is no cellphone reception, no direct phone and no email. Communication is maintained with the head office in Maun via radio.
- TV & radio
- There is no TV or radio.
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- Water is sourced from the Delta and is treated by reverse osmosis. All the chalets have running hot and cold water, with a flushing toilet.
The Botswana Lion Genetics Project
Wildlife at Little Vumbura is flooded with predators including the African wild dog, as well as leopard, cheetah and African wildcat. However, the well-known prides of lion are the most popular among guests and photographers alike. However, to ensure the protection and conservation of the species, Little Vumbura contributes to a study on Botswana Lion Genetics initiated by Wilderness Trust.
The purpose of the project is to research the past and present genetic structure of the lion population centred in Botswana’s Okavango Delta in order to predict and mitigate future harmful scenarios.
In addition, the project aims to identify possible genetical threats that may have occurred as a consequence of habitat loss, changes in the eco-system or migration.
During the first stage of the project, samples from within the Delta were collected using biopsy darts and each lion was darted and photographed. Later in the process, with the Trust funded laboratory equipment that allowed researchers to compare the samples against 100-year-old historical data gathered from museum material (Natural History Museum, London) and ancient DNA techniques generating a historic estimate of genetic diversity to compare to the current population.
Results show that despite having an estimated population of 1 500 lions in the Okavango Delta, untenable inbreeding risks the long term sustainability of the population. Therefore, proper conservation management is required to sustain the continuity of this species.
See more great sustainability projects in Botswana
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- 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.
Guided walking safari
- Disabled access
- On Request
- 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.
- 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.
Other lodges in Okavango Delta Safari Reserves
Alternative places to stay in this same area.