The rooms and main areas at Vumbura Plains all overlook the floodplains of the Okavango...
Vumbura Plains: Our full report
North of Botswana's Moremi National Park is a series of large floodplains dotted with small palm islands and interspersed with large forested areas. Here, the 94km² (60,000-hectare) Vumbura Reserve – known for wonderfully varied and high densities of game – is home to the two adjacent camps that make up Vumbura Plains. Imagine a luxury hotel of contemporary, minimalist design, deep in the Delta, and you're nearly there.
The two camps that make up Vumbura Plains – North Camp and South Camp – are run semi-independently, sharing the reserve with Vumbura Plains' smaller sister camp, Little Vumbura.
Each of Vumbura Plains' camps has seven cavernous suites, spaced well apart and raised up on decks. These suites really are luxurious, even by Botswana's standards, each with its own very private plunge pool and deck, and lots of safari-chic touches. At North Camp, two of the suites are designed with families in mind, each with two bedrooms.
The open-plan suites with high thatched ceilings are positively palatial. Floor-to-ceiling glass panels frame each suite on three sides, maximising the views of the surrounding bush. Decked out in light wood and natural hues, the bedroom, sunken lounge and bathroom flow almost seamlessly into one another, with only the odd billowy curtain to separate them. The result is a very restful space, although the downside is a distinct lack of privacy.
Set up on a slightly raised platform is a mammoth bed under an equally immense mosquito net, and to the front is a sunken lounge area. The back of the room is kitted out with a writing desk with plug points suitable for a laptop, charging electrical equipment or the hairdryer, and ample storage space. There is a minibar fridge as well as tea- and coffee-making facilities. All the rooms have a ceiling fan and small safe, with umbrellas, dressing gowns, mosquito repellent, insect spray and mosquito coils all provided.
One half of each suite is essentially the 'bathroom' area. The shower is open-plan, although floor-to-ceiling curtains can be pulled on one or more sides for privacy. A second large shower is set outside, under the stars. A separate flushing toilet, twin hand washbasins and a vanity unit complete the picture, complemented by a good selection of toiletries.
Outside each suite is a large private decked area, complete with a plunge pool, sunloungers, and a covered 'sala' with a sofa and small table for occasions when you might prefer to 'dine in'.
High wooden walkways link the suites at Vumbura Plains with the central areas. Whilst North and South camps are not identical, these sprawling areas are similar in style and provide the same facilities. In each, the deck seems to flow into sunken lounges with their blend of muted earth-coloured and green cushions. The purposeful use of shapes lends a stylish, almost organic feel, albeit very modern.
Guests are encouraged to help themselves from the bar – although there will usually be a member of staff on hand to help. Fancy a latte? Craving a cappuccino? No problem! Guests have the chance to indulge in both, courtesy of a rather elaborate coffee machine.
A large portion of the deck is dedicated to the dining area – part of it under cover and part under the stars – adorned with wooden carvings and interesting African sculptures. There is a quirky 'loo with a view' (and it's a rather good view too), which is reached by a short boardwalk from the main lodge.
Vumbura Plains offers a wide choice of activities, including day and night 4WD game drives, mokoro trips and sometimes short walks – although because of the density of big game, walks are always at the discretion of the guides and managers. When water levels are high enough, the nearby channel is used for motorboat trips – and on our last visit in March 2015 we were offered the opportunity to do a spot of catch-and-release fishing.
On our numerous visits to the Vumbura Reserve, stretching back to around 1990, we've consistently noted how varied the game is here, including the predators – and how it has gone from strength to strength. Lion are relatively common, and the open areas suit cheetah and wild dog, which sometimes den in the vicinity. Leopard and spotted hyena are also seen frequently.
Our visits to Vumbura Plains have always produced very good guiding and an exceptional array of sightings, emphasising the variety and densities of the game in the Vumbura Reserve. On our most recent visit we watched a female lion who, having just hidden her new-born cubs, was making her way back to her pride in search of food. We saw her join the pride of 14 lions in their hunt for buffalo. That evening, she returned to her cubs, which our guide was yet to see as they were hidden on a remote island – and of course he respected this. We spotted plenty of elephants, zebra, wildebeest, giraffe and a particularly large range of antelope, including red lechwe, impala, tsessebe and kudu. The birds are equally varied, ranging from pink pelicans to mopane specialists such as red-billed hornbills. We particularly enjoyed our afternoon boat trip, watching a very relaxed baby crocodile floating in the channel.
On a previous stay we visited a den where the hyenas had recently had pups – which incidentally are much cuter than their adult counterparts. We’ve also been lucky enough to see two different wild dog packs in one morning and got to follow one pack on a kill.
Our viewVumbura Plains is not a typical bush lodge by any stretch of the imagination. Dubbed a ‘premier’ camp by its owners, Wilderness Safaris, it is unlikely to appeal to someone who enjoys a more traditional safari camp. However, for someone who 'wants it all', it offers a very good game experience with exceptionally high standards of service, attention to individual needs (and delivering on them), excellent food and luxurious surroundings. While it isn't cheap, we think that this is a camp that delivers.
Ideal length of stay: A stay of 3 nights is ideal at Vumbura Plains.
Directions: Access to Vumbura Plains is usually by light aircraft, followed by a 30-minute drive from the airstrip to the camp. There is also a helipad for guests wanting to charter a helicopter.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Wilderness Safaris.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Although the general format of meals at Vumbura Plains is similar to most camps in the Okavango, the lodge aims to be more adaptable than most to the needs of individual travellers. One of the ways they do this is by offering travellers the option of individual table settings rather than communal dining; another is by being more flexible on mealtimes.
On our last visit in March 2015 we didn’t stay overnight and didn’t get to dine at Vumbura Plains, but on a previous stay in November 2013 all the meals were excellent in variety and quality - as you would expect from a camp of this calibre. We thought that some of the dishes were particularly imaginative – and tasty! The camp can cater to vegetarians and any other special dietary requirements, if a good amount of notice is given.
A light breakfast is laid out before departing on the morning activity, comprising a selection of cereals, fruit, yoghurt pots, muffins, croissants, cheeses and cold meats – with a cooked option for those who want it.
Brunch is usually available from around 11.00am, after the morning's activities, although some guests prefer to eat a little later. Most recently, our brunch was served individually upon request. There was a choice of three different dishes – we had the pork belly with an unusual but delicious caramel sauce and oriental salad. Also on offer were soup, various salads and fresh bread, as well as some yummy homemade gelato.
Afternoon tea, served just before heading out on the afternoon activity, is always a treat. In addition to freshly baked cakes, tarts and savoury snacks, there is often a freshly made smoothie. We particularly enjoyed the lemon tart on a previous visit as well as the most delicious upside-down apple cake.
Unlike the traditional communal buffet served at many camps in Botswana, dinner is usually a plated three-course meal, although this depends on guest requests. The last time we stayed at Vumbura Plains, we started with a choice of pea soup with ginger and carrot, or chicken spring rolls wrapped in beef. For the main meal there was bream with roasted vegetables, or a chicken roulade with dauphinoise potatoes. Our pudding was a very tasty lemon tart with homemade ice cream.
Once a week, usually on a Monday, Vumbura Plains offers a traditional dinner buffet – which for us was served in a clearing not far from camp and beautifully decorated using lanterns. This is usually a very festive evening when guests dine together around a large table, but individual tables can be arranged for those who prefer to dine separately.
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 cost extra and, although the cellar is well-stocked, may need to be requested in advance.
Further dining info: There is no room service and no telephone, but if arranged in advance, the camp will usually try to accommodate reasonable requests for a main meal to be served in your suite.
Honeymoons: For an exceptionally lavish safari honeymoon in Botswana, Vumbura Plains is perfect. A great romantic getaway with a contemporary feel, you'll be spoiled with superb game viewing - if you can bear to tear yourself away from your palatial and luxurious suite.See more ideas for Honeymoons in Botswana
Attitude towards children: Children over the age of 12 years are welcome at Vumbura Plains. The camp may accept those aged 6–12, but private activities must be booked and these will be at extra cost. Children younger than six may be accepted by special arrangement, but only if the entire camp is reserved for exclusive use. Note that minimum age requirements mean that children are allowed on boat trips from the age of six years, but may not participate in mokoro and walking trips under the age of 13 years.
Equipment: No special equipment is provided for children, but there are two family-style two-bedroom units at Vumbura Plains North Camp.
Generally recommended for children: The more individual approach of Vumbura Plains is conducive to flexibility and thus to the needs of families with children. The suites have space for children to play and for the family to relax together. There are no specific facilities or activities for children, however, so the camp is probably best suited to families with more mature children who are interested in the natural world.
Notes: Vumbura Plains is unfenced, and dangerous wildlife, including leopard and elephants, is known to move regularly through camp. The walkways and suites are all raised off the ground, with basic handrails only. The plunge pools are unfenced and the camp is in close promixity to open water for much of the year. Children must be under the constant supervision of their parents.
Power supply: Generator
Power supply notes: Power is primarily provided by generators – effectively giving 24-hour power. There are plug points in the suites for charging equipment and it is possible to use hairdryers.
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 television or radio.
Water supply: Borehole
Water supply notes: All the suites have plumbed hot and cold running water for showers, and flush toilets. Each room is provided with glasses and a flask of filtered drinking water that is replenished daily. Although plastic bottles of water are available, guests are encouraged to top up from the filtered water in the camp's main area. We don't recommend that travellers drink from the tap.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: Vumbura Plains' managers are first-aid trained, and a first-aid kit is kept on site. There is a nurse in Maun who is on call and can be contacted by radio 24 hours a day. In the event of an emergency, guests can be flown out to the nearest doctor in Maun.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Air horns are provided in the suites to sound the alarm in case of emergency. Guests are escorted to and from their suites after dark.
Fire safety: Fire extinguishers are located in all the suites and in the main area.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: A full laundry service is included and, wherever possible, items will be returned to guests on the same day.
Money: All suites are equipped with small electronic safes. There are no money- exchange facilities.
Accepted payment on location: MasterCard and Visa credit cards are accepted; Diners and Amex are not. Cash payments may be made in the form of South African rand, GB sterling, US dollars, euros and Botswana pula.