Vumbura Plains: Our full report
North of Botswana's Moremi Game Reserve is a series of large floodplains dotted with small palm islands and ...... interspersed with large forested areas. Here, the 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 Okavango 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 their smaller sister camp, Little Vumbura.
Each of Vumbura Plains' camps has seven cavernous suites, spaced well apart and raised up on decks. These open-plan suites with high thatched ceilings 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.
Inside, the suites 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 creates space for 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 binoculars, 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 washbasins and a vanity unit complete the picture, complemented by a good selection of toiletries.
Outside each suite is a large private decked area, with its own plunge pool, sunloungers. A covered “sala” is kitted out 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 camp, 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! You can 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. A short boardwalk from the main lodge brings you to a quirky “loo with a view” (and it's a rather good view too).
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 also used for motorboat trips – and on one visit we were offered the opportunity to do a spot of catch-and-release fishing.
Over 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.
While we didn’t stay overnight on our most recent visit, in November 2019, on previous stays at Vumbura Plains the guiding has always been very good and there has usually been an exceptional array of sightings, emphasising the variety and densities of the game in the reserve. Over the years we have encountered lion, leopard, elephants, zebra, wildebeest, giraffe and a particularly large range of antelope, including red lechwe, impala, tsessebe and kudu. The birdlife is equally varied, ranging from wetland species such as wattled cranes to woodland species such as the bateleur.
Vumbura Plains is not a typical bush lodge by any stretch of the imagination. Dubbed a “premier” camp, it is unlikely to appeal to someone who is after a more traditional safari camp. However, for those who “want it all”, it offers a very good game experience with exceptionally high standards of service, attention to individual needs, excellent food and luxurious surroundings. While it isn't cheap, we think that this is a camp that delivers.
- Okavango Delta Safari Reserves, Botswana
- Ideal length of stay
- A stay of three nights is ideal at Vumbura Plains.
- 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
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- 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 the option of individual table settings rather than communal dining; another is by being more flexible on mealtimes.
Although we didn’t stay overnight in November 2019, on our previous stay, all our meals were excellent – as you would expect from a camp of this calibre. 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. For our brunch, which was served individually upon request, we chose an ostrich tart, but other options were soup, various salads and fresh bread.
Afternoon tea, 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 risotto balls.
Unlike the traditional buffet served at many camps in Botswana, dinner is usually a plated three-course meal, although this depends on guest requests. We started with calamari, then for the main course there was a choice of bream with roast vegetables, or a fillet of local beef with potato dauphinoise. On one visit dinner was rounded off with 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
- Individual Tables
- Dining locations
- Indoor and Outdoor Dining
- Further dining info, including room service
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- For an exceptionally lavish safari honeymoon in Botswana, Vumbura Plains is perfect: a great romantic getaway with a contemporary feel. And if you can bear to tear yourself away from your palatial and luxurious suite, you'll be spoiled with superb game viewing.
- See ideas for Honeymoons
- Ranging from open floodplains to dense mopane bushveld, Vumbura Plains has wonderful birding opportunities all year round. Species you are likely to encounter include wattled crane, slaty egret, chirping cisticola and possibly rosy-throated longclaw.
- See ideas for Birdwatching
- Photography holidays
- Vumbura Plains is located on Botswana’s Kwedi Concession. The range of environments here are not only attractive in their own right but also draw large numbers of wildlife and birdlife. All this makes Vumbura a fantastic stop for photographers.
- See ideas for Photography holidays
- Vumbura Plains offers in room yoga mats, skipping ropes and small free weights. Coupled with an in-house masseuse and private plunge pools for each room and this is a wonderful place for some rest and relaxation on your Botswana safari.
- See ideas for Wellbeing
- Vumbura Plains is a high-end camp that offers – and delivers – excellent standards of food and individual service in luxurious modern surroundings. Enjoy the excellent game experience, or simply retreat to your suite to relax or have a dip in your private plunge pool.
- See ideas for Luxury
- 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.
- Property’s age restrictions
- Children under the age of 16 must share a room with an adult.
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.
- Special activities & services
- Vumbura Plains 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. Each child is given a safari bag filled with things such as a bug viewer, a safari guide booklet, a 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.
- There are two family-style two-bedroom units at Vumbura Plains North Camp, but no special equipment is provided for children.
- 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 genuinely interested in the natural world.
- 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 or guardians.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Vumbura Plains
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Vumbura Plains 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
- Power Power is primarily provided by solar energy with generators used as back-up – effectively giving 24-hour power. There are plug points in the suites for charging equipment and it is possible to use hairdryers.
- 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 television or radio.
- Water supply
- 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.
A taste of the local cuisine
The luxurious camp at Vurumba Plains is built on land leased from the nearby villages of Seronga, Gunotsoga, Eretsha, Beetsha and Gudigwa through a concession agreement which ensures tourism activities contributing to the welfare and development of neighbouring communities. But for a healthy partnership to flourish, both guests and locals need to be equally considered. Chefs at Vurumba Plains seem to have found the answer in the local cuisine.
While guests indulge in the authentic cuisine of Botswana - made only with fresh and locally-sourced ingredients (where possible), local farmers and prosperous merchants are expanding their business, thus stimulating an increase in the household incomes of many families. A wide variety of dishes is served, on a seasonal-rotation and depending on individual preferences to please every taste, but one thing remains the same throughout the year: waste disposal. Delivery boxes are collected and returned to suppliers and other efforts such as informing guests and staff about how to separate waste properly made a significant difference in recycling rates.
See more great sustainability projects in Botswana
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- 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. However, 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
- 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.
Guided walking safari
- Disabled access
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- A full laundry service is included and, wherever possible, items will be returned to guests on the same day.
- 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.
Other lodges in Okavango Delta Safari Reserves
Alternative places to stay in this same area.