Thursday, 1 March 2012

Vumbura Plains North

Tuesday, 28th February 2012

Well, I reached Vumbura Plains safely around 3.00 p.m. and checked into the very lavish accommodation. I discovered that Vumbura Plains has two separate Camps (North and South) a few hundred yards apart. Each Camp is self-contained, apart from sharing a single Souvenir Shop which is situated halfway along the boardwalk which interconnects the two Camps. My accommodation was in the North Camp but I did take a walk to the Souvenir Shop and the South Camp before I left. In general, the building style is less Ethnic and more architect-designed but everything is provided to a high standard.

My room was similar to the others. It was approached by its own spur boardwalk off the main boardwalk. A tall wooden fence with a door ensured the privacy of the large area of decking to the side of the room itself. This decking had a covered seating area and a plunge pool all overlooking the swampland. The walls of the large, thatched room were, for the most part, either clear plastic or fine mesh. At night, the staff rolled down blinds on the outside of the building. The room itself featured a sunken seating area facing the swampland, a large bed, a generous shower area, a pair of wash hand basins and a separate cubicle with a water closet. Internal curtains could be used to provide privacy to the occupants around the washing areas. There was also a dressing area with extensive racking along one side covered by curtains to act as a wardrobe. A second area of decking could be reached by a door near the wash hand basins and this area featured an outside shower. This bare list of the accommodation doesn't do justice to the quality of the fittings and the obvious care which was taken in construction. It was all very impressive and comfortable.

My room at Vumbura Plains.

Having briefly sampled the features of my room, I returned to the central area for afternoon tea before setting out for a Game Drive with a few guests and Ona, our guide. A number of the tracks we used were flooded and we forded long sections where the clear, unpolluted water came almost to the top of the tyres. All the guides seem to have a lot of confidence in the Land Rover. After a while, we came to a family of Elephants, moving through the Bush in their normal, unhurried fashion. Then, I saw my first Blue Wildebeest - or, rather, my first couple of dozen Wildebeest for they are gregarious animals and tend to congregate in herds in fairly open country where they graze on short grasses.

The Blue Wildebeest.

A little later, we watched a small herd of Impala. While most grazed quietly, two males were locking horns in what appeared to be a fairly ritualised contest for they soon disengaged and carried on grazing. On another flooded section, a Hamerkop was standing motionless in the shallows, intently peering at the water. They will stand like this for ages, waiting for frogs or other aquatic life which they prey on. The bird took no notice of us as our wheels passed within a few inches and, as I looked back, he was still there.

A Hamerkop standing motionless in the shallows.

It quickly became quite dark as we were returning to the Camp around a quarter to seven. The Land Rovers carry a powerful electric lamp (500,000 Candles, I think) which the guides plug in when necessary. To avoid distracting the wildlife, a red filter is fitted. The lamp is hand-held and the technique is to sweep the beam from left to right ahead of the vehicle, paying particular attention to trees where there may be all sorts of creatures. If the beam passes the face of an animal, two bright "cat's eyes" appear, even if the details of the body are hidden. Gear-changing becomes something of a problem when the lamp is in use, usually resulting in the driver using one hand for the lamp, one for the gear lever and letting the vehicle steer itself. Ona had been following Leopard tracks and suddenly the animal we'd been tracking loomed up out of the darkness of the Bush. The animal didn't seem disturbed by us, even when I took (not very good) photographs with a flash. Finally, I took a couple of pictures using the powerful red-filtered lamp.

The Leopard, illuminated by the hand-held lamp on the Land Rover.

They're handsome creatures and it seemed appropriate to meet up in the dark, which is when they do their hunting. I found it a moving encounter and a fitting climax to our game drive. Then, it was Dinner and Bed prior to a busy following day, as usual.


Vumbura Plains Safari Camp.
Vumbura Plains: Game Drive 1.