Wilderness Safaris’ much-loved Vumbura Plains, set in the heart of the Okavango Delta World Heritage Site in Botswana, re-opened in April 2022 after an extensive refurbishment of both the camp’s exteriors and interiors. Its refreshed look and feel celebrates its sense of place and culture, bringing unique design elements of its core purpose and pioneering community partnership with the Okavango Community Trust (OCT) alive throughout the camp.
The 60 000-hectare Vumbura Protected Wildlife Area is leased from five villages through the OCT, in a 20-year partnership that ensures the benefits of conservation tourism are shared with neighbouring rural stakeholders. Vumbura is also home to a diverse array of wildlife and a varied mix of habitats – mopane, acacia woodland, floodplains and permanent swamp – offering guests an exciting year-round water- and land-based Delta adventure with extraordinary wildlife encounters.
It is this core purpose, combined with Vumbura’s beautiful Delta setting that has inspired the design, décor and furnishings for the refurbishment, not only rejuvenating the camp, but weaving these outstanding conservation and cultural stories into customised design pieces that bring the local culture alive for our guests in a tangible way — Lead interior designer, Cate Simpson
Inspiration for the room interiors is drawn from the environment to pay homage to the Okavango Delta – for example, using enlarged Andrea Crawford underwater photographs to clad wardrobe doors and shower screens. “Customised carpets and shower tiles with a blue and green colour palette imbue our suites with a sense of the Delta waters. While the new charcoal-coloured mosquito nets and black sanitary ware give the rooms a more contemporary feel, the refreshed look retains the essence of Vumbura’s place here”, added Cate. Doors and windows have been redesigned to maximise the views of the Delta, with all furniture and interiors replaced and enhanced to bring nature inside.
The formation of the Okavango Delta and the life it supports have also been brought to life on a unique wall installation in the lounge area, as well as through various other artwork, screens and maps. Cate and the in-house Wilderness design team collaborated with artist Gina Waldman to produce posters and installations in the main areas that pay tribute to the OCT community – showcasing individual stories on their heritage, basket weaving and local fishing culture, as well as a series highlighting the unique species of the area, including sable, cheetah, wild dog, common reed frog, coppery-tailed coucal, and more.
The patterns in the hand-woven basketry each tell a story or depict a particular animal – this is brought to life through an installation on one entire wall of the lounge, as well as another installation above the bar that features some 30 baskets woven by the Vumbura ladies in camp. The colours unique to this community’s crafting style are used to brighten the area, with the dyes all sourced from the surrounding area.
All furniture has been reupholstered or replaced to enhance the colour palette of turquoise, purples and natural tones, while design inspiration was taken from the basket patterning for the steel-cut side tables and screens, marquetry patterns in the coffee tables and bespoke carpets.
A new coffee bar displays various locally produced food and drink items – including twsii (water lilies), an iconic Okavango plant that has multiple nutritional and medicinal uses. The menu incorporates traditional ingredients from the villages closest to Vumbura Plains, with the chefs not only using them to create delicious word-class courses, but also providing neighbouring communities with an alternative revenue stream.
For more information, visit wilderness-safaris.com