Mombo Camp, the “Place of Plenty”.
For so many years I have met and connected with people who have been fortunate enough to stay at Mombo Camp, and the experiences were all the same, “Fantastic!!”, “Most animals I have ever seen!!”, “Lions killed a buffalo infront of our room!!”, Can’t wait to go back!!”. Yes, the list goes on and on. When the opportunity came my way to host a privately guided safari to Mombo Camp, I am sure you could have imagined my response. I was ecstatic and beyond myself, and boy did Mombo live up to its highly esteemed reputation.
Sit back, relax and read along as I take you through my sensational journey of the “Jewel of the Okavango”.
A view from above of one of the Okavango channels cutting through a marshy floodplain.
The flight en-route to Mombo Camp could not have taken any longer, it felt like an eternity. When we finally left Maun in the direction of the Okavango Delta, I could literally feel my heart skipping beats! Mombo Camp is located on Chief’s Island, right in the heart of the infamous Okavango Delta, a large oasis within the Kalahari Desert. It is true wilderness and unspoiled beauty. As we reached the Delta, the landscape below our plane changed from woodland to islands, and marshes divided by waterways and palm tree’s.
It was just too beautiful, a dream come true.
Minutes later we touched down at Mombo Camp’s airstrip and were met by our friendly guide Yompi-Diye. He had a big smile and a warm heart and was ready to introduce us to Mombo is his own special way.
Special little things such as laying out seeds on a beautifully made bed make all the difference. The rooms themselves epitomizes perfection.
We arrived at camp to be greeted by Graham Simmonds, Pen, Ditt, Kelly and all the rest of the wonderful team! They gave us a singing welcome and we felt right at home and were bursting with excitement. We did not take too much time to settle in as it was already late in the afternoon and we were hungry to get out on safari. A quick yet thorough check-in and a room inspection later, we were off with Yompi and on safari.
Elephants could be found around almost every corner. They are a lovely part of the safari experience and always keep us well entertained.
It soon became clear that Mombo had a lot of elephants. No, I mean elephants were around almost every corner. This was fantastic as they are extremely entertaining to watch. There’s always some form of activity within the herd as the adults are constantly on the move in search of food, and the youngsters are usually playing or up to anything that involved a little mischief.
Mating can be a rather aggressive affair between lions, but it makes for exciting safari memories.
We noticed dust rising from the earth a little distance away and we knew something was happening. We arrived to find a massive herd of Cape buffalo in a stand off with a pride of lions. The buffalo were clearly getting the better of the big cats. The lions were not looking too confident and were dispersed throughout a dense tree thicket. Two of the lions did however find a way to make the most of the situation and were mating.
Can you believe this introduction to Mombo Camp? Lions trying to catch buffalo whilst two mate off to the side! Amazing start!
On the way back to the lodge we came across two four-month-old lion cubs perched right on top of a termite mound. They belonged to one of the lionesses and must have been listening to the action not too far in the distance. I was blown away!
Once back at camp, we were starving and ready for a lovely dinner. It was set out under the stars and had a traditional theme. It was fantastically prepared and we were informatively entertained by all the local staff. After retiring to bed I was kept up for a little while longer by roaring lions to the south. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day in Africa.
The walkways between the main lodge and rooms are raised high above the ground below and are well-lit.
The main area pictured above and below is breath taking, especially at night when the lanterns are lit and the ambiance set.
Habitually I was up at 4am. Only meeting my guest at 6am, I had some time to myself. I often find this as one of the most inspiring times to be awake out here. Lions, leopards and hyena’s actively vocalize during these early hours, and to see the day change from darkness to dawn is very special. Sitting next to a crackling fire with a steamy cup of coffee is irreplaceable.
We set out in search of the roaring lions and managed to find them. They were already settling down after what would have been an active evening. We often forget that these predators have reversed schedules to that of ours, and need to rest during daylight hours. Word then came through that they had found a female leopard very close to where we were. Apart from a male lion, this has to be my number one favorite animal out here. As we arrived she was strolling through an Apple Leaf forest, laying down territorial boundaries as she went. She found opulence in the shady branches of a large tree and that’s where we left her, such an amazing sight.
We had a leisurely afternoon safari exploring further south and east. We were amazed at the beauty of the surrounding landscape. That in itself is enough to leave one in stupendous awe. What a place Mombo Camp is. Upon arrival the day before, Graham, the general manager here mentioned they had been seeing a family of Pel’s Fishing Owl. Amongst birders, this is without a doubt one of the best birds to see, a very rare sight indeed. As we arrived back at camp I could tell by the huge smile on his face that he had good news for me. He took me straight to the large owl and I was beyond myself at sighting my first Pel’s.
That night, this very special bird devoured a catfish it had caught out in the marsh right above my tent.
The next morning safari was spent mostly in the company of a large male leopard. We found him resting within the canopy of a large Ebony tree. Soon though he was up and moving and we followed him through an open wetland and onto another island. There he settled for the rest of the day, and it is where we found him later that afternoon. We decided to stick with this stunning cat for the whole afternoon. It is a special privilege to stay in the company of such an elusive animal. If they are habituated to the presence of the vehicle they will relax and behave as if you are not even there, simply amazing!
The majority of animals you get to see at Mombo Camp are relaxed within the presence of vehicles, allowing for superb viewing.
Mombo Camp thus far has exceed all of the expectations I may have had. The abundance of life and beauty was almost overwhelming. It was around every corner.
We visited King’s Pool Camp for three days and then returned to Mombo Camp for another two nights. My guest had loved it so much that she asked to extend her safari in order to spend another few days there. This bears testament to the incredible power that Mombo Camp has. The staff, food, ambiance, accommodation and last, but not at all least, the wildlife is simply sensational and has a power drawing you back like few places elsewhere.
Upon arriving back at Mombo Camp after a pleasurable visit to the stunning King’s Pool Camp, we were greeted by almost 50 elephants right infront of the camp’s main deck. They were complimented by about a hundred Red Lechwe, impala’s and a pair of extremely rare Crowned Cranes.
Animals such as elephants tend to frequent the camp during the daytime. It is also not uncommon to find leopards or lions in camp at night, a thrilling encounter.
Mombo, truly the “Place of Plenty”.
The following morning was hugely productive in the field. As usual I was up early and listening to lion roaring from the south, east and also the west. There was an electrical feel to the morning, tense with excitement. Not long after leaving the lodge we located one of the vocalists, a lone male perched right on top of a termite mound. He scoured the landscape surrounding him, I could only imagine he was attempting to locate the rest of his pride and coalition.
Well, we did that for him.
We found another 3 males and 2 females about 4 km’s west of him lazying about next to a strand of Wild date-palms in an open floodplain. They were surrounded by many male Red Lechwe attempting to establish territorial boundaries.
Our guide Yompi found us a stunning spot for a warm cup of coffee, close to a pod of hippo resting in a nearby water-filled channel. As we munched our rusks and sipped our delicious coffee, my jaw almost dropped to the ground at the sight of something I have never seen before. To our left a mother hippo was followed by the smallest little hippo I had ever seen. She was taking him to meet up with the rest of the family and it could not have been more than a week old. It was an exceptional sight to see, something very special.
After leaving the hippos rather late in the morning, we were pleasantly surprised to find that we would not be heading back to the lodge for brunch, but that it had been brought out to us. A spectacular breakfast was set out for us and the other guests in camp on the edge of a large floodplain in the shade of some large tree’s. This could not have been more perfect, from the smell of frying eggs and juicy steak, to the well-hidden and rather unique restroom facilities. Mombo Camp had again provided the magic both in the field and well, I guess in the field with brunch too. As we sat down three separate elephant herds made their way down to the channel close to us for a drink. I will never forget it!
Our bush breakfast was set in a spectacular area teeming with wildlife. In the time that we sat down three seperate herds of elephants made their way down for a drink, a mere stone throw away. The toilet, pictured below, also made for some interesting conversation.
An afternoon siesta was well-deserved and the rooms at Mombo Camp are homely and comfortable yet luxurious and opulent.
On our way to relocate on the single male lion in the afternoon, we happened upon a pride we had not yet seen. Yompi told us that these were more of his pride members a single male and two lionesses. They were tracking him by scent and as we approached the area we left him, we could see him in the distance once again atop a termite mound. He was facing the other way and took him some time to notice his pride members lying in wait. Once he did though, one could almost recognize the joy on his face as he immediately came over to greet them. To be there when missing pride members unite is a very special sight to behold.
The end of our journey was approaching as we enjoyed our last day at Mombo Camp. I did not want to leave at all, I could have stayed for months without a single thought to return to civilization. This was without doubt one of the most beautiful and complete experiences I have ever had. I knew my guest and I still had a morning safari left. We had seen all we wanted to see at Mombo Camp and also at King’s Pool Camp. After an evening dinner under the African sky, lit up with thousands of stars, I spent some time around the fireplace simply reflecting on the amazing journey we have been on.
Sunsets across the Okavango Delta leave you speechless. This hippo is bathed in golden light just before beginning is nightly activities.
There is no place like Africa.
As the sun made its arrival it found some difficulty as it was competing with the thickest layer of mist laying over the floodplains. As we left camp we were in reverence of what was happening around us. The colors were so vivid and various, and would constantly change as the sun fought through layer after layer.
This was special, this was Mombo saying goodbye to us.
From within the mist we could make out the shapes of three elephants bulls. They were completely enveloped by it and from our perspective, it was one of the most beautiful natural sights I had ever seen.
It also happened to be my guest’s birthday. I could not imagine a better birthday present, a better send-off or a better way for us to remember Mombo by.
It is one of the last true wilderness destinations in Africa, far-removed from easily accessible parks and over-crowded reserves. You find yourself on an island in the heart of the Okavango Delta, an unchanged paradise for African wildlife. I have always pondered these rumors about Mombo, the whispers of a place so different to all the others.
I will put here in writing that it is true. Mombo Camp is pure class, it is the “Place of Plenty”.
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Marlon du Toit