Duba Plains Camp – Wilderness Safari’s – 6 nights
When we landed, we were collected at the airstrip by our guide, Rueben in a customised Land Rover. There were three rows of 3 seats, with the last row having less depth for your legs. Rueben briefed us on safari safety and drove us to the camp. Every time your vehicle approaches camp, the guide radio’s ahead, and you are always met by at least 2 smiling faces.
We were greeted by two camp manager’s – Dardley and Tabby. Our bags were taken to the room. Dardley took us to the lounge area which is next to the bar. The dining room is a few steps above the bar, and in front of the lounge is a ‘star’ deck with a pit fire. A walkway from the lounge leads to the common washroom, and up the stairs to a small plunge pool, and a deck for brunch. Further on down the stairs along a walkway is a ‘hide’.
Wilderness Safari’s operate 3 levels of camps. Premier, Classic, and Exploration. The Premier camps are top of the line (we stayed at Kings Pool), Duba Plains was Classic (as was Little Vumbara), and Exploration Camps are mobile camps.
The common areas were very well appointed and extremely comfortable. Staff were always on hand to help you, and if not, you could hop behind the bar and help yourself to a drink. Next to the dining table was a tea and coffee station available all day.
Dardley briefed us on the camp (no fences so animals come in), our daily schedule (up at 5:30 am, continental breakfast at 6:00 am, game drive at 6:30 am, brunch at 11:30 am (or whenever you return), afternoon tea at 3:00 pm, game drive at 3:30 pm, and dinner when you return), hot water (available all the time through either solar or generator), laundry (same day service – weather permitting), etc. It was a very informative briefing.
We were shown to Tent 5. There are 6 tents (max. 12 guests). Each tent is on a raised platform. They are frames with canvass, and doors (not tent like zip entry). The front deck has views of the Delta (we saw elephants when we arrived), and two safari chairs to laze in. Inside there is a writing desk with 4 different shaped power points (great idea), an easy chair, and twin beds pushed together (only tent 6 is a King bed). Behind the bed is a twin vanity and two large cupboards, and then behind these, a heavy curtain a shower and toilet. A rear door leads to a private raised pathway to an secluded outdoor shower.
The toiletries used are Charlotte Rhys. The towels were very small and did not absorb water well. Washing powder is provided for your ‘smalls’ with a small clothesline on the back walkway. The indoor shower was small, and the shower head did not spurt out enough water. The outdoor shower was much better, and views to die for.
Electricity is available 24 hours a day (with a warning that at night it operates on batteries that have been charged during the day time, and may run out). There is a ceiling fan above the bed. The bed was very very comfortable, with a heavy duvet, and blanket (which were both needed together with a hot water bottle, as the nights were cold).
The tents were extremely comfortable and well appointed. Laundry was collected daily and returned the same evening. One day when we returned for brunch, we were advised that there was no water in the tents, as some elephants had dug up one of the main water pipes. This was however fixed in no time.
We were booked to stay for 4 nights, and extended another 2 nights.
Our day always began at around 5:30 am. After putting on 5 layers of clothes, we would wait on the deck (still dark outside) for one of the guides to come and get us, so we could head to the common area. He would always start at Tent 6, and work down to 1. Within 1 day, all the guests became good friends, and we talked and joked a lot.
Breakfast was buffet style and consisted of porridge, toast, muffins, fresh fruit, juice, yoghurt, cereal, tea and coffee. Some guests had it at the table, and others by the bonfire. At all meals, we always had at least one guide, and some managers (full time and trainee) join us. This is a great idea, as the interaction is invaluable.
6:30 am, we all started heading to the cars. Duba Plains has 3 vehicles (one for private use at US$500 per day), and the other two for all guests. Each one takes 6 guests with a window (they don’t exist) seat. We were offered rain/wind proof ponchos that were lined with a blanket on the inside. These helped ward off some of the cold.
Duba Plains is where Relentless Enemies was filmed. This is a National Geographic documentary filming the interaction of a huge herd of buffalo (1200 +), and two pride of lions – Tsaro and Skimmer. Most of the game drives involved drives through water (at places the whole engine of the land rover was submerged), for up to one kilometre at a time. Game drives were always in the same area (in front of the camp), and involved crossing a bridge over the river. The guides were very competent and skilful drivers, and we never felt unsafe in the cars.
We were at Duba to see the ‘swimming lions’. These cats follow the buffalo through land and water. We went on a total of 12 games drives (6 morning and 6 afternoon).
The Tsaro Pride was very famous for the Duba Boys – two massive male lion brothers. Last year one of the males was killed by a buffalo, and the remaining male lost the Tsaro Pride to a Skimmer male, who is now the dominant male in both prides. On our first morning, we witnessed the lions kill a sub-adult male buffalo. The buffalo lagged behind the herd, and was swiftly killed. One of the young females from Tsaro has been banished from the pride by the Skimmer male, and she was chased away several times by him in the 6 days we were there. Also one of the sons of the Duba Boys – Junior was chased away many times, but once he put up a fight and actually pinned down the Skimmer male, clubbed him across the chest and then ran off. After the kill, the Duba Boy returned, and was chased away by the Skimmer male through water. We followed by vehicle through water, and the chase was thrilling to watch lion run and swim through water. All the game drives were very fruitful. We saw another 5 attempted kills, but with the Skimmer male chasing off junior, the young female, and then honeymooning the pride was dis-jointed. Silver Eye attempted a few times on her own, but the buffalo proved too big and too numerous for her.
On our last morning, we watched the Skimmer male come and take over the killing of a newborn calf. He did a botched up job, and started eating while the calf was alive.
The game drives were awesome. We had Rueben, James and Carlton guide us over the 7 days. We also got to see Aardwolf 3 times (once in the evening, and twice during the day time). Other animals included lots of elephant, Red Lechwe, Tsessebe, wart hogs, and a zillion birds.
Most of our morning game drives ended at around 10:30 – 11:30 am, and we would then head back to camp for Brunch and a siesta.
Brunch always started off with a drink or two, and once all the guests were back, we would go to the Brunch Deck. Brunch consisted of fresh bread, a hot meat dish (pie, etc), a hot vegetable dish and 3 salads. On the table there was a cheese and fruit platter. Brunch was always a communal meal, again with a combination of guides and managers joining us. It was always a jovial affair, and we all talked heaps. The food was not brilliant, and many times the hot dishes would run out. Once we had cold ‘hot’ food, as some guests had an early flight, so ate around 2 hours before us. It would have been good to have more breakfast items (eggs, bacon, sausage, etc.).
After Brunch we would hang around for another drink, and then head to the tent. An outdoor shower, followed by a snooze was the order of the day. There were a couple of days when we needed more water, etc., and as there is no communication in the tents, had to head back to grab some.
At around 3:00 pm we would head back to the common area for afternoon tea. One afternoon, we literally walked into an elephant, and had to head back to the tent, and wait for a guide (James) to come and get us.
Afternoon tea always had a sweet and savoury dish, as well as iced tea and coffee. We were asked what we wanted for our sundowner drink, which was packed into cooler boxes.
We would set of at around 3:30 pm, and usually head back to where we had left the lions in the morning. I would suggest you always carry warm clothing for the evening drives, because when the sun goes down, the temperature drops. The afternoon drives always ended in drinks at sun down (many times in the car next to the lions), and there were always some snacks to go with the drinks.
We would start heading back to camp around 6:30 pm, and always resulted in a night game drive under a very clear sky showing millions of stars. These evening drives were very special.
The guides, not only at Duba Plains, but all the Wilderness Camps are very knowledgeable. They have not only studied and trained their trade, but are so passionate about it. They know birds, animals, grasses, frogs, tree’s, stars, constellations, etc. They made the whole safari experience very special.
We would be back at camp by 7:30 / 8:00 pm. Most guests headed for their tents to ‘freshen’ up. We would always head to the bar to ‘freshen’ up. The camp fire could be seen in the distance on the rive back to camp, and it was very welcoming to sit around it with a drink. Many of the staff would join us around the fire (not with a drink), and they would engage in some really lively conversations and debates. This was very refreshing to get a true perspective of the people of Botswana. Once all the guests were in the common area, an announcement would be made that dinner was ready, and if we could make our way up to the dining table.
Once again, dinner would be on a communal table. Some staff would join us, and there would be interaction between guests and also guests and staff. Dinner was always a 3 course affair, with the starter being pre plated and served at the table. After the starter plates were cleared away, the chef for the evening would come and announce what the main course and desert were for the evening. The main course was always a buffet style meal, consisting of a hot meat dish, a hot vegetable dish, sauces, and other hot vegetable sides. One of the staff members would announce if ladies or the gentlemen would go first and help themselves. You would always have to carry your napkin, as the plates were hot. Dinner was always served with some excellent South African wines (in fact the wines were available at all times). Dinner was always very tasty, and the vegetables extremely fresh. During the wet season (when the water levels are high), fresh produce gets flown in once a week, while dry goods come in by truck every quarter (imagine the forward planning). Once the main course plates were cleared, desert was served at the table, and tea/coffee orders were taken.
Many evenings we had the staff entertain us with songs and dance. These were very special moments. Most guests would retire to bed after dinner, and there was always a guide on hand to escort you back to your tent. A really smart idea was having hot water bottles in the lounge area, stored in a cooler box, so you went back with a hot bottle, and not find a warm/cool bottle left in your bed hours ago.
The nights were cold, but the beds were comfortable, with a huge stack of duvets and blankets. There was a lot of bush noise, but this noise was heaven to our ears.
Our six night stay was extremely memorable. We felt like we were staying at a friends home. We helped ourselves to the bar, and made drinks for other guests. Highlights of Duba would be the staff, the knowledge of the guides, the water, the lion/buffalo interaction, and the camp it self.
Would I go back again? Most definitely. Would I recommend it to my best friend? Without any thought I would, as long as they would take me;)
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The renowned Duba Plains Camp sits in the heart the Okavango Delta. A recent guest said it all, “I am not a religious person but I now understand that the Garden of Eden can now, in fact, be found at Duba Plains.” A matrix of palm-dotted islands, floodplains and woodland, the 77,000-acre private concession typifies the region’s unique landscape. Duba Plains offers a bespoke range of private, raised on wooden decking suites, each with private swimming pools, outside salas, airconditioning over the beds, indoor and outdoor showers and brass baths. Duba Plains is a proud member of Relais & Chateaux. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Duba Plains Camp Hotel Okavango Delta