OKAVANGO DELTA, Botswana, March 2020/ — My recent sojourning at the prime Wilderness Safaris Camp situated smack in the middle of the Okavango Delta dubbed Mombo and Little Mombo was quite fascinating to say the least. True to its popularised moniker, ‘Mother of all camps’ or ‘Mmadikampa’ in vernacular, its lap of luxury and congeniality will leave you breathless. The Garden of Eden has nothing on this spellbinding and alluring Botswana beauty. Botswana Unplugged was one of the lucky few media houses chosen to experience this alluring Botswana beauty first hand courtesy of Wilderness Safaris and Hotwire PRC when they hosted the Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism, Philda Kereng, and a small delegation from her ministry for the official re-opening of the newly refurbished King’s Pool and Mombo in the Okavango Delta.
The peace, serenity and tranquillity that exist here is utterly supreme. Situated right in the middle of the Okavango Delta – often considered one of the most incredible sanctuaries in Africa courtesy of its fascinating and delicate ecosystem crammed with wildlife, Mombo is every photographer and filmmaker’s dream. This place truly offers spectacular photographic experience thanks to its unspoiled African wilderness in different habitats.
You see, in life, doing things for the first time is exciting and fun, but it can also be a bit scary especially out here in Mombo where wild animals run amok in their own backwoods unperturbed, and only the fittest survive here. It’s a real jungle out here, and you either fight to stay alive or succumb to being eaten or trampled to death by all the Big Five.
Going on safari here is not for sissies, as everywhere you go you are surrounded by wild animals! However, once you know you’re in good hands, the anxiety dissipates and you’re left with the freedom to make the most out of your adventure, which is exactly what I truly experienced here in Linyanti Wildlife Reserve last week.
Let’s do a recap to my thrill-seeking trip at the exclusive and intimate Little Mombo Camp, the baby sister of the larger Mombo Camp, connected via a raised walkway.
My peaceful first morning at Little Mombo got off to a frightening start with lions roaring all over the camp. I awoke in the luxury accommodations of Little Mombo where I had the pleasure of enjoying a warm shower. Prior to that though I had laid in bed, gazing at the ceiling of my bed’s mosquito net until my wake-up call which came in the form of a human being knocked at my door.
The wooden door was tightly bolted – because out here you don’t take chances. The wake-up call was an arrangement I had made the previous night as I did not want to miss the early morning game drive. I was truly raring to see all the Big Five especially predators such as leopards, cheetahs, lions, hyenas and all the varied bird species.
A couple of minutes later having made sure my Canon camera had sufficient battery life I was ready to enter and capture the incredible wilderness that is Moremi Game Reserve. My experienced driver and guide was Doc, who came to get me slightly a few minutes after 0530hrs, and it was still dark. Doc told me he had come across a lioness wandering around the camp a few minutes ago. Well, this kind of freaked me but the game drive had to be braved.
Just a few minutes having stepped off the raised walkway from my chalet and boarding the game drive vehicle, a lioness which Doc had spotted earlier came out of the shadows towards our vehicle. At this very moment I believed God was omnipresent. I was also certain my Crocodile ancestors (Bakwena) were ubiquitous.
My thoughts started running wild, thinking what would have happened had we been a minute later! I guess we were just plain lucky as the lioness went about its way composed. Doc, as an experienced guide told me the female lion was simply looking for its partner, and that all the boisterous roars that permeated our camp the previous night and early morning was due to a confrontation of pride territory.
Still shaken by the experience off we went and soon we encountered our first wildlife sighting – we came upon a herd of elephants and buffalos grazing together in harmony against the backdrop of faint chromatic mist of Little Mombo Camp. This was truly a rare sight to behold and I could not stop clicking away in search of that perfect shot.
Wildlife is abundant here in Mombo Camp, thousands of grazing animals such as zebras, elephants, giraffes and antelopes can be found everywhere, with predator animals such as lions not too far behind. With such large populations of zebras, lions and antelopes, it didn’t take us long to encounter our first lions, a couple seemingly smitten. The vehicle went quiet. The pair gave us a full wild show as it took turns mating until the male lion couldn’t take it anymore.
This for me was a Heaven sent moment, something I’ve always wanted to witness and freeze digitally. I enjoyed taking photos and talking about the amazing wildlife we were witnessing. All that could be heard was the quiet sounds of the lions, lounging next to an anthill and the subtle sounds of our cameras. That quiet, combined with the magnificent sight of the lions up close, was a stunning beginning to my first day on safari in Mombo Camp. A few moments later, we navigated the rugged and rough terrain of the Mombo Concession in search of more wild animals.
PLACE OF PLENTY, MOMBO CAMP
Located in the Mombo Concession on the northern tip of Chief’s Island, in the central Okavango Delta, is the celebrated Mombo Camp. Built under large shady trees on the edge of a scenic floodplain, Mombo offers an unforgettable safari; from the minute the staff starts their swinging welcome tunes. Mombo Camp is smack in the middle of the rich Moremi Game Reserve: amazing wildlife viewings become reality when you simply grab your binoculars while sitting on your own veranda. And after a safari activity, the barman, who has a serious allergy for empty glasses, makes sure yours stays full, while you kickback and gaze at the ever-changing sky of Africa’s Okavango Delta.
While the chef prepare a gourmet dinner in the kitchen, safari stories are shared with other guests, or you can browse through your wildlife guidebook to look up what colourful birds you spotted today. And what will tomorrow bring? Mombo means ‘place of plenty’ in the Botswana language, and once you venture out for a safari activity, you will understand why; this refers to the massive concentrations of plains game and predators that can be seen, including all the big cats – of which lion sightings are frequent – leopard, cheetah, spotted hyena. Also expect to see large herds of buffalo, elephant, giraffe, blue wildebeest, Burchell’s zebra and many, many more.
Nine luxurious tents accommodate eighteen guests. Raised two meters above the ground the tents are spacious, twins or double, have en-suite facilities that include indoor and outdoor showers and a separate flush toilet, bathroom amenities, mosquito net, and fan. The tents are spacious and well designed: rustic, tranquil and contemporary. Glass doors open onto a veranda and comfy sala, where game viewing starts in the morning in all privacy with a fresh coffee or tea.
Listen to the birds that are waking up, watch the dew evaporate from the floodplains or hippos taking a morning bath. Wooded walkways connect you to the main living areas. The dining room, lounge and bar are on a raised deck under thatch – with again stunning viewings. There is a separate reading room with plenty of cosy nooks, boma for dining under the stars, and private lounge for intimate dinners, small groups or honeymooners. Two plunge pools offer welcome refreshment, or break a sweat in the gym area during a siesta. Feeling more like relaxing? There is an extensive menu of massage treatments available, for some African pampering.
ACTIVITIES AT MOMBO CAMP
Because the Moremi Game Reserve is renowned as one of the best game viewing areas in Africa, activities at Mombo Camp completely focus on game drives, even though you will see water in the area at times. The peaceful ‘Hippo hide’ is twenty minutes from camp and offers excellent bird and animal watching. Binoculars, peaceful sleep and reference books are available to on drives, as is a ‘window’ seat for perfect sights. All guides at Mombo Camp are professional, thoughtful and come with a good sense of humour.
To meet your expectations, a flexible schedule for game activities is available. Because in the end, what really sets Mombo apart – beside the luxurious accommodation, excellent food and great game viewing – is the high-quality service. Every single member of the staff is experienced, knowledgeable and they are there to meet all your needs. So, amazing wildlife experiences and serious pampering: Mombo Camp has plenty of both.
MOREMI WILDLIFE HEAVEN, LITTLE MOMBO
Situated in the best part of the Okavango Delta, the Moremi Game Reserve, on Mombo Island, is the very exclusive and intimate Little Mombo Camp. This is the baby sister of the larger Mombo Camp, to which it is connected via a raised walkway. Little Mombo is built under a shady canopy overlooking a grassy floodplain dotted with tree islands, in an area renowned for having Botswana’s highest density of wildlife.
Don’t be surprised if your first lion sighting is on the way from the airstrip to the lodge. You might even encounter the famous Legadema; the star of National Geographic’s documentary Eye of the Leopard. This twelve-year-old lady cat raised three cubs in this part of the Delta, and is one of the most impressive predators.
Spectacular buffalo kills in the water, baboons frolicking on boardwalks, hunting wild dogs, countless elephants and hippos (especially at night, right next to your tent…): just some of the wildlife viewings you might experience here. It is so extraordinary; we would almost forget to mention the high hospitality standards of this small gem. Simple luxury, tinged with a little decadence here and there, an extremely dedicated staff and knowledgeable guides; it has it all. And that might be exactly the reason why you want to revisit this camp soon after leaving.
This is a superbly run camp that matches the high standards of big brother Mombo Camp. The three spacious tents – only three! – are generously set apart enhancing privacy. Raised on decks, suites overlook the surrounding game-filled floodplains: settle down in your private sala with a freshly made coffee or cocktail, or grab your binoculars and look out over your large veranda. Of course, the tents come with all the en-suite facilities you need, including a separate flush WC, and an indoor and outdoor showers (outdoor showering is just one of those unforgettable Delta experiences).
There are fans, mosquito nets and hairdryers on request. Walkways connect you to the main areas, where you will find a dining room under thatch and raised on a deck, a private lounge (shared with Mombo main camp) with inviting chairs, a boma for traditional dinner nights under Africa’s famous starry skies, sparkling pool, gym area (to burn a few calories after another extremely delicious lunch or dinner) and curio shop. To truly unwind: order a traditional massage in your room, with the relaxing sounds of bird chirping and hippo callings in the back (additional cost). Oh, did we mention the entire camp runs on solar power? Great luxury, small footprint!
ACTIVITIES AT LITTLE MOMBO CAMP
Welcome to this predator haven with frequent excellent sightings of lion, leopard, wild dog and plenty of inter-predator interactions. With viewings like this, it is not at all surprising that Little Mombo Camp focuses completely on game drives. Plains game is also prolific, and birding, with over 400 species, is superb year round. So let experienced guides like Tshepo, Sefo or Dr. Malinga, take you to Chief’s Island and the surrounding areas, and start your adventure. Game drives take place in the early morning, and afternoon.
In between, there is time for brunch, high tea, a refreshing plunge in the pool, some exercise or a massage. For birding enthusiasts, there is definitely a lot of species you can cross off your bucket list, like the rare Pel’s Fishing Owl.
The guides will also provide some of their knowledge when it comes to shooting that ‘picture perfect’ of a lion, a cheetah sleeping on a branch, or a predator in full action; they know all about lighting and the right angle, so you and your camera are in good hands. By returning to the camp, a rich, homemade buffet waits, and all you have to do is open up your senses once again, while you kick back with a glass of African red wine. The guides, cooks, team – and even the wildlife seems to join in – will all go that extra mile to offer you a great safari trip, with plenty of memories to cherish.
Since 1983, Wilderness Safaris has been dedicated to conserving and restoring Africa’s wilderness and wildlife by creating life-changing journeys and inspiring positive action. As Africa’s leading authentic and sustainable ecotourism operator, Wilderness Safaris operates camps and safaris in some of Africa’s best wildlife and wilderness areas across seven countries: Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
In this way it offers its guests private access to almost 2.5 million hectares (over six million acres) of Africa’s most remote and pristine wildlife areas, while remaining fiercely committed to protecting our planet’s precious natural and cultural resources. Wilderness Safaris is deeply committed to its 4Cs sustainability ethos of Commerce, Community, Culture and Conservation. It firmly believes that its single most important achievement to date is to have built a sustainable business model that does not compromise environmental principles and that provides jobs, training, skills, careers, adjusted horizons, hope and a realistic alternative to less sustainable development.
Last week Thursday, (March 19 – 20), we were privileged to join the Minister of Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism, Philda Kereng, when she officially re-opened both Mombo and King’s Pool, Wilderness Safaris’ Premier camps situated in the heart of Botswana’s Okavango Delta and Linyanti Wildlife Reserve.
The ceremonies served as official Ministerial launches, following both camps’ post-renovation openings in January 2018 and July 2019 respectively. The Honourable Minister visited the camps to better appreciate the Wilderness Safaris investment in Botswana, her people, her rich and pristine wilderness, and the communities that Wilderness Safaris is proud to call home.