The Vumbura concession was looking superb from the a ir with delightful scenes of elephant tromping through the delta waters. The draw of Africa happened on the first game drive into camp with sightings of a hornbill eating a puff adder, Lechwe and reedbuck simmering in the afternoon sun among the grasses , and more breeding herds of elephant parading through their water playground. Boisin the camp-manager greeted us with his signature grin and wave and cold drink in hand on the dock at Little Vumbura.
A quick lunch and Matt was badgering my son Miles (14 ) and I back into the boat to take a short boat ride to a near-by island. He quickly showed off his superior guiding skills by finding a Pels fishing owl and we knew he had earned his dinner ! Our game drive continued with sightings of a big herd of buffalo throwing up dust in the sunset making for great photography with back lighting. We found two male lions from the Kubu pride who were keeping right up with the herd and into the night. The best time of the day for me is the fading light of the African day with the orchestra of calls and sounds that accompany the traditional sundowner.
The evening meal was a traditional Boma dinner with the guides in camp including Kay, Lazarus and Rain and trainee camp manager , Tendai joining in the festivities around the jumping campfire light.
The alarm call was early morning splashing through the shallow water in front of the tents. Dark silhouettes of Lechwe antelope could be seen through the cracks in the drawn canvas blinds.
The morning sunrise was greeted with Coucal calling in the reeds . Matt got us out bright and early for a morning walk and enroute were rewarded with a sighting of a hyena dragging a lechwe that had been stolen from the resident leopard and a few families of breeding herds of elephant .
The walk started at Jackie's Pan and soon Matt was introducing us to his collection of animal names including an implausability of Wildebeest and murmation of Starlings. On the walk we were able to get a decent sighting of a breeding herd of elephants, warthog, baboon troop, a lone buffalo ambling through the thicket, starlings diving onto a mongoose and a pair of giant eagle owls .
After a late brunch we enjoyed the ambiance of Little Vumbura which has a lovely library area and bar area built in and around the resident fig trees and alike. The deck area overlooks a waterway through the delta that the mokoro rides take and often the camp will arrange this in combination with a walk to Darter Island.
The afternoon drive was a combination of more interactions with elephants, h ippos in the marsh area and finally a rewarding sighting of a male cheetah on a lechwe kill. We sat with him until dusk and enjoyed a moon-upper afterwards as we were too late for a sun -downer. A porcupine was the lone sighting on the night game drive back to the dock/camp.
Matt was determined and bound to go back to the cheetah sighting from the previous afternoon to see what was there. His intuition of following his guiding instincts was spot on and we shared in his obvious passion with nature and bush when the lone cheetah was still where we had left him.
We sat quietly listening to the sunrise chorus of egrets and malachite kingfisher and the sight of huge bull elephant with very large tusks standing proudly in the early light with clouds of mist and wet grass. Not for long! Splashing and calling of two hyena echoed through the delta waters and they rapidly approached to chase off the cheetah.
The cheetah made his way through the Vumbura plains for over an hour sighting, and finally poised on a tree trunk - magnificent! The morning concluded wi th tea at the pool at Vumbura Paradise with elephant, hippos and lechwe being our Bush TV documentary.
Arrived into Vumbura Plains Camp for an overnight stay and got off to flying start with afternoon tea of samoosas and chocolate brownies. DELICIOUS !
The afternoon drive to find lion on buffalo and hy ena cubs at the den did not materialize and we quietly had sundowners with curios giraffe off in the setting sunset .
The dinner setting was more formal and the managers, Rodger, Ryan and Janice gave some delightful pre- dinner chats at the minimalist bar with crazy-fun bar stools. The North Camp looks over a lagoon whereas South Camp has views of the grasses of the delta. Johannes the new chef showed off some wonderful talent with his mushroom risotto!
Freezing morning so 'nice Matt' let us sleep in until 6:30am.
As a specialist guide Matt can walk all over Botswana and he arranged our final morning to be a walk in an easterly direction hoping to pick up the recent sightings of the pack of wild dog. We did see their tracks and followed them for some distance but eventually had to turn back as we knew there was a flight to catch to the next camp. Matt got us nice and close to giraffe with his weaving bushman walk which h also took us through lovely vistas under forests and around several pans.
Back for brunch which was a n OUTSTANDING DISPLAY . However, more outstanding, was the quality time that my son Miles and I had shared with Matt and to be surrounded by his superior tracking skills, incredible photographic experience, encyclopedic knowledge of nature and the bush, a keen sense of humor - and we learnt why he is called the Silverback of the Okavango!
The welcome at Mombo was 'like home -coming' with a lovely staff of smiling faces. Our guide Cisco introduced himself and he is pedigree of note as he has brothers and uncles are all over Botswana in camps. His private vehicle 'Tonto', which we nicknamed in c onfusion with the two shows Cisco the Kid and The Lone Ranger, delivered well and our first 24 hours of game viewing at Mombo was incredible.
Miles and I had missed the morning baby giraffe and lion interaction which we heard was amazing, but thankfully we had an equally exciting time ourselves starting in the afternoon and turning into the best game-viewing on all my Africa trips. First followed the lion and they were hunting a herd of buffalo - magic sighting of male lion running forward with mane flying back - Bob Marley as he has big dreads! Ran into 3 wild dog and whoopee followed them for a good hour as they ran towards Chiefs - came into open
area and they chased down lechwe until the water got too deep. Continued following them and they found a small impala which we missed seeing. Ran into a cheetah male who was sauntering through and Cisco picked up a caracal in the background in the fading sunset. Fabulous sighting! Enroute home ran into Legodima female leopard and her two cubs drinking near camp!
Natalie met us back in camp and Tsile and Cisco joined us around the campfire before dinner. Early to bed as early to rise was happening!
Found Legodima in the early morning light sitting under a tree quite near camp. T hen Cisco picked up another male leopard in a tree with a kill. As we watched him a 3 rd male leopard camp into the picture who he thought was the father of the two cubs. We got a few nice pictures of him before we looked for the cubs - a female and male and what a treat to view them. Can you believe we saw 5 leopard s within an hour all in a very small area? We spent a delightful few hours working our way around the various sightings.
This afternoon Cisco wanted to find us the resident Maparota pride - 20+ with two lions and about 4 cubs. Picked up the tracks and he followed them until light ran out. It was a different kind of drive as Cisco was using his skills as a guide to find us wildlife and it is incredibly exciting to have him point out what he is finding in the patchwork quilt of the African veld.
Back in camp it was 'Boma night' so had the wonderful 'braii brashness' from Simon the chef with about 10 selections sitting in traditional black pots over warm glowing coals. Tsile was overseeing dinner and then herded us upstairs as Poster and his Mombo choir was the after dinner entertainment . Lizzy, one of the Managers of Main Mombo had a spirited voice along with being very sassy and getting guests to dance the African way. A fun, fun evening and I was eager to make a purchase of their CD in the shop on our last morning.
Up early as Cisco wanted to continue the tracking of the lion so headed over the to the rhino boma where he had picked up the tracks yesterday. Drove for 7 hours tracking to Lechwe Heaven and traversed along an entire river line. Saw many, many lion tracks of all sizes, hungry vultures in trees, zebra grazing peacefully, kudu grazing peacefully, lechwe grazing peacefully - and no sign of lion. With the sun high in the sky we headed home tired but having enjoyed a morning of tracking. There was a reward as we found the two males of the pride lying up as we headed back to camp. Nat our tireless manager had late brunch waiting and new visitor, Grant Woodrow who heads up the whole Botswana Wilderness operation.
Poster did an excellent pre-dinner presentation on the Mombo, rhino mixing in his humor along with the seriousness of the re-introduction of rhino into the Delta.
Our final evening in Botswana ended with conversation s around the campfire. The background hippo splashing through the delta waters kept us serenaded.
Cisco was eager as the first day , for the final game drive. Found the two lion cubs playing at their tree and Cisco picked up a hyena coming along who had a wiff of their scent, our hearts pounding, we could only hope that the cubs saw him. Rejoice they did and were up in the tree in a flash'¦Ye ah! Dare I say it'¦.more lion tracking and gave up with still no fresh tracks.
Taps (from Zim and the GM of Mombo camps) joined us for brunch and a lovely 'laid-back' ambassador for Mombo and the Wilderness Botswana Camps in general. Our private vehicle (Tonto) was the hit of the trip at Mombo as it gave us the perfect schedule to be game -viewing at all hours of the day! The rooms are perfectly under-stated and yet have all the refinements of a Premier Camp. We thought Little Mombo had the most idyllic setting overlooking the floodplain in front.
Toka Leya has a great feel and the setting on the upper Zambezi River is magnificent . The rooms are large and all beautifully situated along the river ecosystem. George and Chipo the new managers are running a good show. Stayed in camp for sunset and enjoyed sundowners on the deck. First international reception on the cell phone!
Had an 8:00am sunrise cruise with Donald (ex Tongabezi) who showed us elephants on the islands, hippo still on the island beaches and the first migrant skimmers arriving as the water levels were dropping on the Zambezi river. Lots of microlights flying overhead! Would highly recommend going in the morning as no other boats around and had the mighty river and all its glory to our selves.
Picked up by Shearwater vehicle and Menguzo was the guide who gave a good safety talk and took us through quite a few sma ll rapids before Raymond was there to take us out. Saw waterbuck, baboons and some buffalo.
We thoroughly enjoyed dinner at the Boma with lots of game meat and some great drumming. They also have a CD out giving the Mombo choir competition!
Met Yvonne at 9:0 0am and our resident Vic Falls ambassador Esther was there too - these two wonderful ladies have been mentors for me for many years . Alex was our wonderful driver and visited the two schools that we sponsor. First was Chamabonda Primary School in Victoria Falls. And then Chinotimba which is th e oldest school in the Falls. Very interesting as the second election results (June 2008) were posted up outside the classrooms as it had been a voting station , and all the precincts in Vic Falls were won by the opposition even though he was not standing in the election.
Had our final dinner in Africa at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge and was very thankful that Victoria Falls and Zimbabwe had pulled through this last round of elections.