Jordi Fernandez Blog

Duba Plains, a special wildlife destination

This post is also available in: Spanish

I have had, up to now, the privilege of visiting Duba Plains, in the heart of Okavango Delta, twice, in May 2012 and 2013.

Duba Plains map

Duba Plains has become famous worldwide thanks to the popular documentary and films, produced by National Geographic, filmed there and centered on the endless conflict between lions and buffaloes. In this post, I will try to explain what has been my personal experience there.

Having visited as well other areas of the Okavango Delta, like Chief Island, and of Bostwana in general, like Kwando, the experience in terms of landscape, vegetation and wildlife, as well as in accommodation (luxury lodges) is very similar; top range worldwide.

In my opinion, the definitive factor that can make Duba Plains a unique naturalistic experience is the presence, in the period of your visit, of the buffalo herd in Duba Plains Island.  If the herd is in the island (and has not moved temporarily to the swampy Paradise Island, where they can’t be followed by vehicles), all safari activities evolve around the buffalo herd, and more specifically around the activities of the lion’s prides that are following, fighting and hunting the buffaloes.

In my first visit to Duba, in May 2012, I was unlucky (or not, you will see) and the buffalo herd had just moved to Paradise Island on the days previous to our arrival.

Malachite kingfisher

Malachite kingfisher

Therefore there were no legendary lion-buffalo interaction (except the observation for 2 days of one of the lion prides eating a big buffalo bull they had killed the day before our arrival, which produced endless photographic opportunities), to see, but that gave us time to pay more detail to other aspects of the island, as the richness of birdlife, and discover much more photographic subjects (out of the buffalo and lion).


Swallow-tailed bee eater

I would say that for a person that is travelling for the first time to the Okavango Delta, and who is not a fanatic of naturalism, this scenario is the best to discover the real Okavango Delta.

In my second visit, in May 2013, the buffalo herd was on the island, and that was a completely different history.   The trip became a four intense days (sunrise to sunset non-stop) of following lions and buffaloes (at dawn we drove quickly to locate the buffalo herd, because lions would be around). What I valued more of this experience is the naturalist part of it, more than the photographic. I will try to explain.

The opportunities that one have there of photographing lions and buffaloes interacting are incredible, and the photos taken would be astonishing , but as astopnishing as other wildlife photos (of different type and subjects, of course) one can obtain in many wonderful locations worldwide.

But the experience of following a pride of lions dawn to dusk, seeing how they move, interact, hunt, rest, etc is simply unique, and I’m not sure if they can be experienced somewhere else by “normal” people (meaning no scientists or National Geographic / BBC photographers).  I would try to describe it in this way:  instead of a “still” image of a lion (30-60 minutes of their day), you can watch a full day “movie” of their lives.

Ma di Tau and cubs

Ma di Tau and cubs

And this “movie” is best world quality.  As a proof, National Geographic filmmakers/conservationists Beverly and Derek Joubert were there, beside us, one morning, following the same lion pride chasing the buffalo herd.


Beverly and Derek Joubert following the same pride that we were following

As a summary, I would say that Duba Plains is a unique experience, but it wouldn’t be the best experience for all people.  Most “average” people could became bored of seeing the same lions and buffaloes for 4 days and asking to see “other animals”, or willing to return to lodge after a morning drive instead of staying out all day. And even lovers of wildlife and wildlife photography that haven’t had the chance to visit Africa often previously would have a more complete Okavango “experience” in other areas. But if you have already an experience in African wildlife, and as a cherry on this cake, you want to add a “what would be having a National Geographic experience” to your live experiences, Duba Plains IS the place for it.

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