I very rarely write reviews here on Trip Advisor, and even less so for properties that received a plethora of reports from other guests. Since I travel a lot, I'm not sure how one more stellar report will assist anyone thinking of traveling to a world-famous, and in this case exalted, venue. I make an exception here, as this is one of the few places in many decades of independent travel to almost every continent, that I felt like bawling like a baby when I said goodby to Kaci, Todd, and the rest of the team at my now-beloved Vumbura Plains Camp.
I visited Vumbura in May 2017. I'd made three other safari trips to southern Africa including one to Botswana, in recent years, but this was the first time I took advantage of the shoulder season discount offered by Wilderness, both here and at their Moremi camp, Mombo Trails. (Our prior trips had taken place in late September,early October)
We were initially worried that game viewing would not be prime in May but that was not to be the case, in the least.
From the minute we were collected at the landing strip, to the moment I bid a tearful goodbye to my Vumbura friends, I felt as if I has ascended to a celestial Eden. Our guide, Ike, asked us, as he surely asked all incoming guests, what we wanted to see. I've learned not to concentrate on big 5 (except the leopard) and to appreciate both the smaller cats and the smaller animals in general. One of my favorite sightings, in fact,was of the brown mongooses scurrying over their termite mound burrow.... I've visited with meerkats at Tswalu (can anything be cuter and more life changing than spending time with these furry critters??). But those little brown furry mongoose....wow!
I get that most guests, especially first timers, will not get lathered about mongoose. Well, add to that a plethora of lion, hippo, cheetah, leopard, giraffe, tsessebe, sable, kudu, elephant, zebra, rare birds (seen from a lovely cruise boat through the channels), vulture, hornbill, jacana, lilac-breasted roller, wild dogs (several occasions including a pack feasting on an impala). Ike was so patient as we stalked a leopard stalking a baby sable for at least two hours.
Much of the feellng of being in your own bush outpost, albeit one suffused with luxury down to every detail, was provided by Manager Kaci and her co-worker Todd. These two Batswana (hope I got that term right) not only did their best to insure that each and very detail necessary for a guest's comfort was provided, but they went out of their way to offer little extras that endeared them to them unlike almost any hotel staff member I have ever encountered. I had felt a bit dodgy after the flight from Zarafa camp and in the midst of the Monday night boma dinner (lovely music, excellent food, camraderie all around) I had to depart with most of my dinner uneaten. Kaci prepared a lovely plate for me and brought it back to ur suite herself. Oh, this woman could be my good friend if I lived nearby. she just went so far beyond the duties of a hotel manager yet remained professional to the last inch.
The tents at Vumbura Plains are tents in name only. This is luxury akin to the finest hotel in CapeTown, with indoor and outdoor showers, king sized beds with great mattresses and cotton bedding. (The mattresses sit on wooden platforms so be careful at night getting out of bed bound for the bathroom) There is a large cooler stocked with any beverage you request (tell staff ahead of time if you want a refreshment after arriving in your room the first time!) and plenty of nuts and candies that are all too delicious. There is a plunge pool on the deck (too cold to use in Botswana winter).
We had reserved a family tent at VP North (one of two camps within Vumbura Plains) which was actually a two bedroom suite and lo and behold, we learned that a former US president had checked out of our room just a few weeks prior! There are two full bedrooms and two full bathrooms, separated by an outdoor deck, so it would be great for a family of two adults with older children, or perhaps an elderly family member. Be aware that the family tents, as far as I could determine, are the furthest from the main dining and congregating area, so you will need to trek the wooden raised boardwalk a good ten minutes before reaching the main activity area. But there is a drop off area closer where you might arrange to be let down from the vehicle after game drives, to avoid the walk from the main lodge. This should all be clarified with your safari planner, as my comments are only impressions garnered from a three-night stay. (I used a marvelous planner from CapeTown; not sure if I can mention the name here but feel free to contact me about this privately).
By no means does a couple need a family tent, as the "regular" tents are just as fabulous, although lacking that second bedroom. Be aware that moving from one bedroom to another after dark might present a problem; I'd ask about that, given the fact that the camp is unfenced.
The main lodge is a delight for anyone who is design conscious on the level of a spread in ELLE DECOR.
Unlike some other prime camps, it does not attempt to replicate the safari experience of old, but brings a new, contemporary flair to the Okavango bush, with an exterior that fits in snugly with the surrounding environment, the immediate area of which includes reeds, grasses and, in May, water just outside the main deck that allow for animal viewing while seated around a fire pit for sundowners or after noon refreshments.
Oh, how I loved the noise of the hippos at night!!!
Not to the food, a subject dear to my heart. How Wilderness manages to fly the ingredients for these exquisite feats into the bush on these tiny planes shall remain a mystery. Let's just compliment the staff and I offer that there are multiple choices. This is not The Test Kitchen, folks, but to this food-obsessed person, each and every meal was very, very good and some were more than that. If kudu is on the menu, give it a try: More tender and more tasty than any venison you've ever eaten,a t least in the US.
I forget if I had the Thai fish cakes at Vumbura or at Zarafa, but they were Stellar with a capital "S!" (So apologies to Zarafa if I placed these at VP!!)
Our guide, Ike, was lovely and so knowledgeable about everything from the tiniest insect towe were paired in the very well-appointed vehicle with a lovely assortment of safari goers from England and from the US.
Last tip: Leave your fancy clothes at home; no one dresses for dinner. And you do not need special "safari" gear. Just bring a warm hat and a fleecy top for cool mornings and for evenings. Make sure your room is stocked with two flashlights and remember, you cannot walk out of your tent alone after dark.
Again, my kudos to Kaci, Todd, and the rest of the Vumbura Plains staff. And to Wilderness, who helped us continue the trip of our dreams at our next stop, Mombo Trails.
We're looking at a foray to Zimbabwe, and a return to South Africa, very soon!
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Vumbura Plains, a luxurious retreat of contemporary design, seems to float on a sea of waving reeds in the midst of a large floodplain. The sumptuous rooms, each with its own plunge pool and sala, are uniquely designed, spacious and raised on wooden decks to take in a wide-angled vista. Because the area is a mix of water and dry land, wildlife is diverse, so water-loving lechwe splash through the reeds, while rare sable antelope can be seen in the dry savannah. Lion, leopard, elephant, cheetah, wild dog and buffalo along with plains game and prolific birds provide an excellent all-round wildlife experience. • 14 tents • 100% solar • day and night game drives • village visit • mokoro • boat • nature walks • catch-and-release fishing • spa ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Vumbura Plains Camp Hotel Moremi Game Reserve