The Okavango River Delta, or 'Okavango Delta' as it's usually known, is one of Africa's top safari destinations. Protecting the Okavango Delta's amazing wildlife is a network of private 'safari reserves', or 'concessions'. Most of these Delta reserves contain a couple of small safari camps. Guests arrive at these by air, and they offer great safari activities and gourmet meals. In contrast to the public game parks in other African countries, these private reserves provide a more intimate and exclusive experience. At the recommendation of our travel agent, we selected 3 premier camps of Wilderness Safari (one of the largest camp operators in the area) for our 8-day trip to get a taste of different areas within the Delta.
It is difficult to pick our favorite camp among the three we stayed at. We actually enjoyed the combination of them because each provided a different and unique experience to make our trip complete. Here is a quick comparison:
- Vumbura Plains Camp: best suite layout & Moorish shower, most friendly staff, more diversity in activities (e.g. sunset boating, Boma Night)
- Mombo Camp: best game drive, best safari guide, best food, best overall management
- Abu Camp: best room interior (honeymoon suite), best animal interaction experience (elephants, Naledi), many honeymoon surprises (e.g. outdoor movie theater)
Wilderness camps are typically small and intimate all-inclusive safari bases in great wildlife reserves, ranging in size from just 3 to 20 units per camp. All meals and activities are included in the rates so once you make a booking, there is no further planning needed for your trip (Just get ready to be pampered!). A typical day follows a schedule like this:
- 6am: wake up call
- 630am: breakfast served
- 7am: set out for the morning game drive/camp activities
- 11am: back at the camp and brunch served
- 12-4pm: chill, nap, pool, or do whatever you like at the camp base
- 4pm: afternoon tea with snacks served
- 430pm: set out for the afternoon game drive/camp activities
- 630-7pm: sundown ritual with fresh-made drinks and snacks out in the wild
- 8pm: back at the camp and pre-dinner drinks/snacks served
- 830pm: 3-course gourmet dinner served
- 930pm: coffee & liqueurs served over camp fire
Botswana was not easy to get to. After a 15hr flight to Johannesburg, a 2-hr connecting flight from Johannesburg to Maun, a very bumpy 30-min flight on a small transfer aircraft (which made it extremely difficult to keep lunch in our stomachs), and a 45-min camp jeep ride, we finally arrived at Vumubura Plain.
We jump started our very first game drive after we arrived at the camp. We were greeted by an abundance of animals in this wild animal kingdom: giraffes, elephants, and a mama warthog with 3 babies.
Kudus, antelopes, waterbucks, wilderbeasts, elephants, zebras, wild dogs, elephants, giraffes, and different types of birds.
Lionesses, impalas, monkeys, buffaloes, hippos, hyenas, more elephants, and more antelopes.
A white rhino, a lion, jackals, owls, dung beetle, more elephants, more giraffes, and more antelopes.
A 3-lion 'bachelor club' eating a killed buffalo, a leopard and her hiding cub, many more lions with one mutated lioness (naturally only male lions have manes but this female lioness has a dark-brown mane).
A group of wild dogs killing a baby impala, a "unicorn" impala, a buffalo with his bird pals, and a lion finishing his kill.
Okavango Delta bird's eye view
our camp transfer arrived
our transfer flight captain with a beautiful smile
spotted 3 giraffes
elephants didn't seem too happy to see us
mama warthog with her babies
beautiful pond on our first game drive
arriving at the camp
Botswana is known for luxury safaris. Given the expensive rates the camps charge, we expected a lot. However, we were still completely blown away when we arrived at Vumbura Plains Camp. We thought we would stay in a nice tent but it turned out to be a huge lodge with an expansive 360-degree view, completed with a private deck/pool right outside. The inside of our room was on par with any 5-star hotel suite around the world. No wonder our travel agent jokingly said this should be called "glamping" (glamourous camping) instead.
wilderbeast is quite beast-looking
what a beautiful bird!
zebras showed no interest in us
our Mokoro (dugout canoe) rowers
Mokoro (dugout canoe) Excursion
curious kudu is one of our favorites
open jeep provides the best safari experience
a honeymoon special: private dinner for two
a natural playground for monkeys
curious baby and protective mama
butt shots work too when animals are shy
unfriendly-looking buffaloes watch us closely
a family drinking water together
yummy brunch awaits us upon return
two baby elephants munching away near our lodge
local African art crafts
everyone is helping baby impala learn how to walk
elephants have the right-of-way
mama hippo with her babies
Everything just seems more beautiful when experienced in wild nature as opposed to urban areas. Sunset is a good example - while we have seen many beautiful sunsets around the world, the sunset in Botswana is from another world. Sipping a glass of wine with a stunning sunset view, it felt a bit surreal. We tried to take it all in and wished we could stop the clock.
A special event called Boma Night takes place at the camp once a week. "Boma" night means that all staff members, which come from the 5 villages that own the land which the Vumbura camp leases, will sing and dance to their local songs around a barn fire. All the camp guests come together at a communal table to savor some delicious local dishes (instead of the typical western style dinner served) while enjoying the staff performance. It was a great way to experience the local community, culture, food, and music!
Each Wilderness safari camp holds a "Boma" night on a designated day every week. Plan your stay accordingly if you don’t want to miss this special night.
African Night: local delicatessens
enjoying the last peaceful morning at Vumbura Plains
the last brunch at Vumbura Plain
dung beetle in action
close up with a giraffe
Mombo is arguably the most famous Botswana safari camps because of its excellent game drives in Moremi Game Reserve. Moremi is situated on an island in the Okavango Delta, boasting one of the richest and most diverse ecosystems on the continent because animals can't easily run off the island and hide in the vast fields on the main land. We were surely not disappointed at Mombo. Under the lead of our awesome Safari guide, Yompy, we saw all of the Big Five and a "kill" in action.
what an ancient-looking animal
foot tracking device to protect rhinos from poaching
this rhino got super close to our jeep
the first spotting of a male lion
the proud lion guarding his buffalo kill
3 lions in a pride
round bellies too full to move
a group of impalas smell the kill nearby
'don't leave me behind
a female leopard
mama is taking a nap
baby leopard found!
our awesome guide, Yompy, making a picnic table
a dragonfly getting drunk in my wine
our colonial style lodge
a mama impala watching over her babies
a hyena family
baby hyenas checking out our jeep
mutated lioness with a mane
a group of wild dogs on hunt
they tear apart a baby impala!
eating the head of the baby impala
the buffalo and his bird pals
getting to a chewy part
'what are you looking at?'
Abu means "everything relating to elephants" in Setswana. Abu Camp has a mission of elephant conservation which is to return previously captive elephants to the wild. So at this camp, we took every opportunity we had to interact with the special Abu Herd instead of doing a lot of game drives. We met each member of the Abu Herd. We walked with them, rode on them, played with them, and fed them. We came to appreciate how intelligent these animals are. The little star of the herd, Naledi, is a playful one-year-old baby elephant. Born on an incredibly starry summer night in 2013, Naledi (which means ‘star’ in Setswana) was tragically orphaned just six weeks later when her mom passed away. Despite her difficult start in life, Naledi has grown to become a firm favorite of the camp with lots of love, care, and attention from the herd caregivers. We were lucky to celebrate her first birthday there during our stay.
Our last morning in Botswana was spent walking with the Abu Herd. The star baby, Naledi, made it especially memorable with her playfulness. She tried to steal milk from her caregiver and then tried to wrestle the manager for a can of coke. After both of these attempts failed, she joyfully ran towards us and tried to start a wrestling game with us.
a resident steenbok roaming free
this innocent-looking monkey often raids the camp
a resident steenbok roaming free
an elephant ride through the fields
elephants like playing with water
The Abu staff set up an outdoor movie theater in an open wild field just for the two of us to watch a short film on the history and the story of the Abu Herd. Fresh-made popcorns and a variety of sundown drinks completed a once-in-a-life-time movie experience. As if that wasn't romantic enough, we also saw the most beautiful sunset colors after the movie.
naughty Naledi tried to steal milk
Naledi loves her milk
'I want more milk!'
'is that a new type of milk?'
'give me that'
Naledi doesn't give up
'I am going to wrestle you'
Naledi's high five
'do you have some milk for me?'
farewell Botswana till we return