At 180 000 hectares, or 445 000 acres, the Abu Private Reserve (APR) is one of the largest exclusive protected areas in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. Given how richly diverse the area is, the vastness of the APR is able to contain a remarkable mosaic of habitats. This means that every safari day spent at Abu becomes a new journey of exploration – even if you should choose to relax in the camp rather than head out on activity.
Abu Camp was founded on a premise of elephant conservation and research, but as our understanding of conservation has become more sophisticated, this has evolved to focus on preserving the ecosystems upon which many iconic species depend for survival.
The area around Abu Camp perfectly illustrates the complex, beautiful interplay of habitats that makes the Delta so prolific. As each season rolls around, the APR is transformed almost beyond recognition by the return and recession of the annual Okavango inundation.
This cyclical yet highly variable pattern determines not only the movements of many animal species, but also the activities that are available at Abu Camp. It’s one of a select handful of Wilderness Safaris camps that can offer all the most rewarding Okavango experiences. This is a region shaped by the four elements of earth, water, air and fire, and each of these comes into play during a stay at Abu Camp.
During the dry season – which is paradoxically when the most water is present in the APR – boat and mokoro excursions give access to secret channels and islands where the only other footprints are those left by hippos and red lechwe antelope.
These species are both commonly encountered around Abu Camp, but represent only a fraction of the abundant wildlife that can be heard and seen. No two days in the Abu Private Reserve are the same, and even in the rare moments where there are no animals in sight, the sweeping vistas of palm dotted islands (created by termites) within rolling grassy floodplains possess the kind of beauty that can revive the most jaded imagination.
While some conservation tourism destinations pride themselves on a single signature activity, there are many ways to experience Abu Camp. Guided nature walks reveal details that might otherwise be overlooked. On game drives, you’ll most likely spot large elephant herds, lions, leopards and a wide variety of plains game, and many other creatures.
Taking to the skies on a scenic helicopter flight is not only breath-taking, but offers a new way to see and understand how the jigsaw pieces of the Okavango fit together. While helicopters may be the most modern way to traverse the Delta, they also allow you to travel back in time.
A flight to the Tsodilo Hills offers the chance to see centuries-old rock art that speak to how closely intertwined human history is with the seasons, flora and fauna. Returning to Abu Camp, via the point where the Okavango’s panhandle begins to fan out, the plethora of quiet corners with views ranging from the soothing to the spectacular, provide the perfect spot to reflect on the wonders you’ve seen.
The displays of books, photos and artifacts relating to the remarkable story of Abu and the other members of the Abu Herd can stand alone as a conservation success, but having ventured into the Abu Private Reserve, you’ll have a clearer sense of how even such magnificent animals are just one small piece of the astonishing mosaic that is the Okavango Delta.