Vumbura Plains Camp
Okavango Delta, Botswana
Few African places—or earthly places, for that matter—give us the chance to see such a head-spinningly large cast of charismatic animals as Vumbura Plains Camp. Set on a gentle rise looking out at the miraculous Okavango Delta, with golden plains and forests at its back, this luxurious and innovative camp shiningly demonstrates what Shakespeare called “Africa’s golden joys.” (He never travelled to Africa, but Shakespeare was alert to the excitement the continent has inspired for many centuries; “Always something new from Africa” wrote Pliny the Elder fifteen hundred years before the Bard was born.)
Game viewing out of Vumbura combines experiences of the oceanic plains with explorations of the world-unique Delta—where the mighty Okavango River gives up its efforts to reach the sea, and sinks life-enrichingly into the sands of the Kalahari Desert. As Frans Lanting wrote in his elegiac book Okavango: Africa’s Last Eden, “The [Delta’s] very existence in the middle of the Kalahari is nothing short of miraculous . . . like a dream.”
Vumbura’s two separate camps are intimate—each with only seven rooms, two of which are especially family-accommodating—yet unusually spacious and brightly airy, raised off the ground, lavishly windowed for views of the Delta, morning, noon, and in “the soft velvet of the [African] night…a warm conservatory whose great dome [is] encrusted with all the diamonds in the world,” as Elspeth Huxley wrote in The Flame Trees of Thika.
Cooling shade trees arch over every room, each of which features a full bath (with a delightful outdoor shower), an extraordinarily large bedroom, beautifully furnished lounge area, and a wide and open deck from which to bask in the glow of those celestial diamonds—or watch Delta wildlife (another fine vantage point: our room’s vitalizing plunge pool). Each of the two camps has its own main lounge, dining and bar area, all designed with Vumbura’s characteristic flair for gentle luxe and openness to its wonderful environment.
Along with fortifying the soul with deliciously luxurious repose, Vurumba’s great attraction is its variety of safari experiences. We spend about half our game viewing time in the enchanting waterways and lagoons of the Delta, on leisurely walks, or wending our way on small canoes called mekoros, spotting massively gamboling hippos, soaring African fish eagles, delicate and rare red Lechwe antelopes, alertly lounging, unforgettably Jurassic crocodiles, and enjoying “the sheer surprise of seeing an elephant emerge from underwater,” as Franz Lanting wrote.
Out on the neighboring plain, the Big Five (lion, leopard, Cape buffalo, rhino, and elephant) are in dramatic residence, along with a host of other mammal species, including endangered Cape wild dogs. Like the great Isak Dinesen of Out of Africa fame, we’ll see many elephants “pacing along as if they had an appointment at the end of the world,” and be amused by warthogs racing along as if they had an appointment at the end of their snouts.
Okavango game viewing is first and always fun and thrilling; it’s also a great opportunity to put naturalist Loren Eisley’s grand statement to the test. “One does not meet oneself,” he wrote, “until one catches the reflection of an eye other than human.”