VUMBURA PLAINS LATEST CAMP NEWS
Life on the edge of the Okavango keeps us on our toes. As the waters move towards us, wildlife wade in and out, out and in, and we tread a bit more carefully these days. It’s still the wet season and the terrain is still shifting beneath our feet….
Life on the edge of the Okavango keeps us on our toes. As the waters move towards us, wildlife wade in and out, out and in, and we tread a bit more carefully these days. It’s still the wet season and the terrain is still shifting beneath our feet.
We are certain of a few things: it’s halfway through the year and the bulk of winter is behind us. As days stretch longer now, our anticipation of spring also grows. Not that winters in the Delta are known to be especially cruel, but temperature fluctuations often catch guests off guard. This month, the average high was 28° C, with a low of 10° C. In the mornings we clutch coffee around the fire and watch our breath; come afternoon, we’ve shed our scarves and are sunning pool side.
Also shedding prolifically are the jackal berry trees. We’ve been utterly assaulted by the small, yellow oblong fruit; however we measure our complaints, as what litters our decks also draws the insatiable sweet tooth of kudu, warthog, porcupine and a myriad bird species. We’ve also been visited in steady droves by elephant, which vacuum our walkways and probe every surface for this sugary fruit, making for some spectacular armchair sightings. A seasonal delicacy for the people of the Delta as well, daily, staff members are found filling buckets and pockets full of these berries that have a taste and texture similar to a date.
Not to be overlooked this month was a notable happening in the night sky. The moon, on its elliptical path around the earth, came the closest it has to us in two decades. This Super Moon, as it is popularly known (or a perigee full moon), provided the perfect opportunity to look skyward and refresh ourselves on the workings of our solar system. Improvising with a flashlight and an orange, our general manager gave a mini fireside science lesson, explaining why we see the moon in its different phases.
But plenty of action took place right here on the ground (well, mostly). We glimpsed a four-metre-long crocodile in the floodplain within view from the dining room. Guests witnessed the young Kubu Pride of lions pursuing a variety of endeavours: sleeping clustered together on a termite mound, feasting on a buffalo kill, terrorising a leopard and (not so successfully) stalking guineafowl.
The prize for the most unusual sighting, however, goes to a solitary wild dog who took shelter near camp for a few days, during which time he killed a baby kudu, ate it by himself and then lingered a day or two more looking for other opportunities. Who knows what the normally social, pack-bound dog was doing on his own or how he managed to take on a kudu. Any predictions?
Well, if full moon really does awaken strange behaviour, how much more so a super moon…
Things became extremely exciting, when more lions moved into the area, pushing the number of resident prides up to four. This has certainly resulted in action, quite often very close to camp, with all of us witnessing the sounds in the darkness.
Vumbura has for a long time been a place dominated by the Kubu Pride, which is led by four massive males and the Eastern Pride – of which this month, we only saw one lioness with her two cubs. The interesting thing is that this particular family has adapted to climbing trees and has often been seen surveying the area from a branch. During the second week of March, we encountered a new pride of six lions as well as another one of four individuals. Throughout the month, these two new prides were seen throughout the concession, often on successful hunts. They are obviously in the process of scouting out a new territory.
On the wild dog front, the Golden Pack has not been seen for some time now, but another nomadic pack has been seen now and then.
On the herbivore side, game viewing has also been fantastic as we have enjoyed some incredible sightings of zebra, giraffe, elephant and buffalo.
Another highlight for the month was the sightings of sable – sometimes these regal antelope were seen very close to camp.
As the annual inundation starts to spill into the area, we expect a very productive winter season in the Kwedi Concession.
Weather and Landscape
Yet another exciting, hot month in Vumbura Plains, with temperatures ranging from 26 to 36 degrees Celsius. We are still waiting for the rains to arrive though. A sure sign of the arrival of summer is the arrival of the woodland kingfishers which are here in full force, filling the air with their characteristic call.
All of the deciduous trees have long shed their leaves?making space for their explosion of greenery which is currently underway. The area is starting to resemble a lush and green Eden?much to the relief of the herbivores we are sure.
Wildlife sightings this month have been spectacular as the new found greenery attracts huge numbers of hungry herbivores…closely followed by hungry predators. We have noticed a big increase in the numbers of giraffe, baboon, kudu, impala and wildebeest. Sable, elephant and buffalo have also been seen frequently.
On one afternoon, some guests decided to go out and experience the area by boat?this produced some really interesting sightings for them indeed. The group had a great sighting of sitatunga out in the open! They were really blown away by this rare sighting.
We were also treated to great sightings of a pride of lions feeding on an elephant carcass. The gorging lions were constantly being bothered by some opportunistic jackals which were trying to steal some tit bits. A new male lion has appeared in the area and it was not long before the resident pride encountered him and chased him off?for now. The lions seem to have moved to the eastern areas of the concession.
The famous Golden Pack is still quite active in the area and we were lucky to witness them hunting and killing two impala on separate occasions. They were also seen chasing a wildebeest which was not successful for them this time. Leopards have been around this month and below is a sighting which simply just left our guests speechless.
One interesting morning as the guides were driving out of camp, they spotted a hyaena which seemed restless and unsettled – the guides immediately suspected the presence of another predator in the area. After a little investigation, the guides spotted a male leopard which was running away. The hyaena immediately ran to the area from where the leopard ran. As soon as the hyaena stopped, a young female leopard darted up into a tree where there was a warthog cached. Suddenly a low growl was emitted from behind the vehicle?a third leopard was standing there, looking at the feeding feline in the tree. Imagine that – three leopards and a hyaena in one sighting.
June was yet another exciting month at Vumbura Plains – with temperatures averaging a low of 12° C and an average maximum of 27° C. Most mornings were characterised by beautiful sunrises as there was a thin cloak of mist hanging in the air. In general, the water levels have started to recede and more roads are becoming accessible.
The Kubu lioness was spotted very close to the staff village after a few months of hiding the cubs from the rest of the pride. Since the nomadic males were in the vicinity as well, we thought she might have lost her cubs. When we found her, she appeared to be searching so we assumed the worst. Luckily that afternoon we located her again, and this time she was with her cubs.
The four nomadic lion males have been actively patrolling the area, being on the cusp of acquiring new territory. They have been seen actively hunting, as we found them chasing a giraffe and a number of buffalo too. Interestingly, the Eastern Pride was seen fighting with the Kubu lioness at a zebra carcass.
In terms of wild dog, the Golden Pack was seen on several occasions. On one occasion, we found the pack in hot pursuit of a wildebeest. Later on in the afternoon, we found the dogs chasing an impala. As the dogs grounded the impala and started feeding, a clan of hyaena swooped in and stole the carcass – a great display of how opportunistic predators will seize any opportunity which presents itself. On another occasion, the dogs were seen chasing a large herd of buffalo, and interestingly, some hyaena were following closely in the hope of stealing an easy meal.
We suspect the Golden Pack has denned and the pups are back at the den, as the adults make a kill and feed quickly and then gallop away – most likely to the den to feed the pups.
The resident female leopard, Selonyana, has been successful in raising her offspring. The two have been seen together regularly. The pair have also been found on a reedbuck kill, both feeding side by side. It seems that Selonyana is spending most of her time on the eastern side of her territory. One of the highlights for the month involved both a leopard and cheetah – in the same sighting. We found the cheetah hunting, all the time being watched by a lazy leopard from the comfort of a tree.
Good numbers of sable, tsessebe and impala have been seen throughout the area. The prolific numbers of both vervet monkeys and baboons have also entertained our guests. Big herds of elephant have been hanging around camp, with most herds having some very small babies tagging along. Watching these youngsters is so entertaining as they are curious about everything and they don’t quite have control over their trunks.
Amazing avian behaviour has been observed this month as the water levels begin to recede, exposing and isolating big numbers of fish. Huge congregations of pelicans, marabou storks and yellow-billed storks are flocking to the abundant food sources.
April was characterised by some drastic changes in weather and great wildlife sightings. At the beginning of the month the landscape was soaked with water as we had received lots of rainfall in the previous months, but this all changed as we moved further into April. The rain-bearing clouds disappeared, revealing crisp and clear winter skies. The surface water has also started to disappear as it gets soaked up by the soils and sucked up by the sun.
The drying conditions have produced some fantastic sightings, especially of elephant, which have been arriving in huge numbers as they continue with their seasonal migration. Large numbers of baby elephant have been present in the arriving herds; our guides estimated that some of the calves were only a day old. On the subject of youngsters, sable continue to be seen with their youngsters, which is always a special sighting.
Despite a slow start for wild dog sightings this month, the charismatic Golden Pack has made an exciting return to the area by killing a young wildebeest right next to one of the guest rooms. This particular day turned out to be an action-packed day as some lions were found on a buffalo kill later on in the afternoon. As we gazed at the Golden Pack in amazement, it became clear that the alpha female is pregnant – great news considering the loss that the pack experienced last month, when one of the adults perished on a hunt. New pups will definitely change the dynamic of the pack, as the Golden Pack currently consists of 20 members, which means if the pending pups are reared successfully, the pack could possibly split. We expect the pack to den sometime in June or July. Apart from being great news for the pack, it is great news for wild dog conservation in general.
At the top of the predator hierarchy, the four male lions continue to dominate the area, providing us with many great sightings as they go about their territorial duties. Quite often, the four impressively large brutes were seen with the rest of the Eastern Pride, which provided the ultimate photographic opportunities.
The large male leopard that patrols the plains was spotted often, while the shy female, which has become known as Selonyana, was only seen a couple of times. It appears her last cub has finally embarked on finding her own territory as the two are no longer seen together.
As far as predators go, the highlight for this month was the cheetah sighting that we were blessed with. Cheetah are very rare in this area, so we were overjoyed when we had a brief sighting of a very impressive male, albeit a brief one. Perhaps as the dry season sets in and the vegetation opens up, we may have more sightings of these fantastic predators.
The annual inundation has started to creep in, as the various channels and waterways in the area are slowly filling up, while the rest of the temporary surface water dries up. It seems that the inundation has arrived later than last year and may not be as heavy, but this can change overnight as we don’t know what Mother Nature has in store for us.
Vumbura Plains Camp is a luxury camp situated in a private concession in the extreme north of the Okavango Delta. The concession, which is leased from the neighbouring community, includes a wide variety of habitats, diverse wildlife and an enormous traversing area of 60,000 hectares.
Vumbura Plains Camp comprises two separate seven-roomed satellite camps, each with its own raised dining, lounge and bar area tucked beneath a canopy of cool, shady, indigenous trees . Magnificent vistas across the Okavango Delta floodplains are a feature. A star-gazing deck with comfortable cushions protrudes into the floodplain, a place to gaze upwards, or a convivial camp fire setting.
Vumbura Plains Camp is unlike any safari camp you will have seen before. Each large, luxurious room is raised off the ground on wooden decks and each comprises a bedroom, lounge, shower and full en-suite bathroom. Outdoor showers are standard. It is open on three sides, and the billowing curtains between the various areas create the sense of a yacht floating through the floodplains. Each room also has a plunge pool and ‘sala’ – a comfortable area to lie and relax, watching the waving grasses of the floodplain.
What makes the Vumbura concession so unique is its position on the extreme north of the Okavango Delta. This position encompasses such a wide variety of habitats and species that it has representatives of just about every animal that occurs in the Okavango biome.
Vumbura Plains Camp offers both land and water activities, principally nature viewing in varied habitats in open 4×4 vehicles, nature walks, mokoro trips and boat excursions. Whilst exploring the spectacular ecology of this area, one can enjoy close-up viewing of lion, leopard, elephant, cheetah and buffalo along with all the plains game.
Birding around Vumbura Plains Camp is incredible – with both variety and prolific numbers. The Vumbura area is possibly the only area in the Okavango Delta where one can see red lechwe (an animal that inhabits the fringes of the waterways) and sable antelope (an animal that prefers the dry countryside) on the same game drive.
Camp Features / Activities:
Photos courtesy of Wilderness Safaris, Colin Bell, Dana Allen, Michael Poliza, Mike Myers and Peter Lamberti