We arrived at Vumbura Plains Camp, at approximately 3.00pm, via Wilderness Air on a Cessna Caravan and we were the only two passengers on board. A warm welcome was offered by our private guide, S.T. before we set off in the direction of camp. During the approximately 40 minute journey, we noted the unique environment of mopane, tall grasses and fine white Kalahari sand.
After quickly settling into our accommodation, we enjoyed an amazing High Tea, before we left on our afternoon game drive, which provided Four Lionesses, Kudu, Impala, Warthog, Zebra and Giraffe. We headed back in the direction of camp following sunset. To our amazement, we drove back through some quite deep water. It was a great new experience, as we hadn’t driven through deep water in a safari vehicle before, let alone in the darkness.
Following a 6.00am breakfast, we left camp at 6.30am for our morning game drive. During the first hour we saw very little wildlife other than: Zebra, Southern Ground Hornbill, Giraffe and Egrets. There were four vehicles out from the camp, each in different parts of the concession and each in radio contact regarding any sightings. Then the excitement began – S.T. advised us that one of the other vehicles had found fresh Wild Dog tracks and had followed the tracks to locate thirteen Dogs. We were on our way to the location in a flash!
When we arrived the Dogs were resting in amongst some short and long grasses and trying to warm themselves in the morning sun. We noted the Alpha Male and Alpha Female and that there were three pups amongst the group. We could not believe our luck! For some time we watched them continue to rest as they constantly realigned themselves from the shade to the sun. Later, one Dog rose from the pack and headed in a definite direction. The rest followed. As they moved, they stopped intermittently to enjoy social interaction of playing and biting amongst the younger animals. One pup moved amongst them and whined to show its respect to the others. At the conclusion of this activity, the Dogs were on the move.
The Alpha Male led the group, with the Alpha Female behind him and the rest in a long drawn out line across the grass. They moved with a brisk trot and we then understood how they can cover so much ground in one day. We were in the Northern part of the concession and the dogs continued to move, such that one moment we were driving through open grassed areas, then it became denser mopane forest, with many stumps to navigate around and over.
We continued to follow the pack. They stopped as they had been doing, but this time, they behaved differently. Suddenly they continued, but the lead dog was crouching down and looking rather sinister. The pack that was once behind him in a strung out line, now had disbanded and several dogs were going in different directions. Then we noticed the group of impala ahead of us. They had not yet sensed the presence of the dogs. Suddenly there was an alarm snort given by one of the impala and they scattered running at great speed amongst the trees. One impala was running in our direction and the dogs had seen it. They set off after it………….. but quickly lost interest and gave up the chase.
After the excitement had died down, the dogs continued to move forward once again. We continued to follow them and tracked them to a pan, where we enjoyed watching them drink. Having refreshed themselves, they set off again and we stayed on their trail, waiting for them to settle. After a while it was realised that they were not going to stop to rest, as there had been lion seen in the area recently and because of this it was thought that they would continue onwards.
Eventually, we had to conclude our tracking of the dogs. But, what a morning! We didn’t see the dogs at our previous camp, where they are well known to be, and we didn’t expect to see them at Vumbura Plains. However, we not only saw them, we watched them interact, rest, drink, track, stalk, chase and almost kill…………how fortunate we were.
In the afternoon, after siesta, at 4.00pm, we were eagerly back in our vehicle again for another game drive. On leaving the camp, we saw Maribou Storks. Not long after, we came across a small group of adult, junior and baby Elephants in a secluded area, which comprised of lush green grass flood plain and a mud pool. We watched on quietly as they rolled in the mud and rubbed themselves vigorously against bushes and even pushed themselves backwards into the bush, so that they ended up sitting on their stomach, in the mud. As we continued on from the Elephants we saw: Hamerkop; Burchells Coucal; Saddle-Billed Stork and Striped Kingfisher before we arrived at a Hyena Den.
We had never before been to a Hyena Den and it was a fantastic experience. The female was one of the largest Hyena we had ever seen, with a thick, strong neck and a large open wound to her shoulder. We were told that she was very old, tough, clever and a good provider. We watched two cubs feed from her, one of them the stronger who prevented the other from getting anywhere near the milk. This latter cub made every attempt to get some food, inclusive of whimpering, but was continually blocked by the other. There were also three older cubs that merrily played with each other while the feeding continued.
We had sundowners on a stunningly beautiful flood plain, while we watched bats fly overhead and concluded what had been an outstanding day of safari.
That evening following dinner, we were accompanied back to our room by S.T along the camp boardwalks. As we walked closely behind him, he motioned to us to stop. S.T had heard noise from the bushes. As we did so, to our right, we saw a large Elephant enter the small clearing and walk across from right to left, directly in front of us – and then he was gone. We were on the Elephant ‘superhighway’ and we stood only 10 metres from the creature, which even took the time to look at us! Simply amazing to be that close, to such a large beautiful animal and to be standing on the same ground. A perfect end to a perfect day!
This morning our safari objective was to locate Sable Antelope, which had recently been seen on the concession. After driving through the crisp air for approximately an hour, we came into an area of tall, dry grasses. Perfect Sable Antelope territory. As we rounded a corner, we spotted something and slowed our vehicle. It was a large male Sable Antelope and looking further into the distance, we saw the herd, inclusive of males, females and babies. It was the first time we had seen this antelope and what a stunning creature it is, with its very long horns and its incredibly shiny fur. We quietly watched the group eating and interacting with each other. They then started to move off, led by the large male and we followed them to a waterhole, where we were able to watch them drink before leaving them to themselves.
Following our interaction with the antelope, we continued on our drive and saw: Pied Kingfisher, Wattled Crane, Tsessebe, Elephants, Giraffes, Zebra, Impala, Bateleur Eagle, Junior African Fish Eagle, Monitor Lizard, Fish, Saddle-Billed Stork; Kudu, Little Bee Eater, Burchells Starling, Spur-winged Geese and a Tawny Eagle.
Late in the morning we joined a Lion sighting that had earlier been reported amongst the vehicles. There were four males and four females, resting on a termite island, sunning themselves. We positioned our vehicle in the hope that they would set off across the marsh. We sat quietly, watching birds around us and every now & then peering through our binoculars to check on the lion’s activity. We waited for one and a half hours – and still no movement. There were two other vehicles positioned on the other side of the island, but they left after a short while. We continued to wait – but still no movement. We eventually decided to leave our position and return to camp – and then they moved! We followed them as they slowly paced to reach an open, very shady clearing. They each entered the clearing in single file, so we were able to take a good look at each animal. With all eight lions in the clearing, they sat in a group, socialised, cleaned, rolled around and then it appeared as though they would stay in this spot for the remainder of the day – so we finally left them and returned to camp. It was a wonderful experience.
Once again at 4.00pm, we set out for our afternoon game drive. Our guide, S.T suggested we return to the location where we had left the lions, however, on our arrival we noted that they had moved on. However, we followed their tracks and found them in another location. We watched them socialising for a little while and sleeping. As it was sunset their fur took on a wonderful golden glow and they looked very majestic sitting together. They gave no indication that they were intending to hunt and with the fading light we made our way back in the direction of camp. In doing so, we drove through the marshes and saw a large number of Spur-winged Geese. It was a great end to the day.
On our last morning at Vumbura Plains, we chose not to do a game drive. We had seen more than we had expected to, including the Wild Dogs, so instead, we slept in and enjoyed the luxury of our surroundings. We enjoyed a late breakfast, with the entire lodge to ourselves, before our 12.20pm departure.
The wildlife, environment and guiding at this camp were outstanding. Our guide S.T was excellent and he very quickly understood our desires in terms of wildlife and over delivered!! This private concession is large and has many different and beautiful habitats. The quality of the wildlife sightings was very good and all of the vehicles work together well in locating the animals. Each day when you leave camp, you drive for approximately 40 minutes, before you actually start your game drive and then of course, you drive the 40 minute route to return back to camp. This is in no way, an issue, because you do see wildlife during the ‘entry’ & ‘exit’ and you are out in the beautiful bush environment.