February was the month when all our entreaties – since last year – for rain were heard, and answered with enthusiasm. As we did in January, we experienced rainfall throughout the month. Has this dampened our spirits? Not in the slightest!
The Abu Concession is at its most beautiful at this time of year – lush and green. Although you could be forgiven for thinking that the annual inundation (not due here until our winter, from April or May onwards) had arrived early.
Bright, warm and sunny interludes at times gave us the impression that the rains were coming to an end, but with impressive cloud formations building again at the end of the month, we may still have a little more rain to come. Not that we mind – we’re all having a lot of fun sploshing through puddles in our Wellington boots!
As the water levels in the channels have risen, we’re preparing to refloat our flotilla of boats rather earlier than we had planned to – a new and rather wonderful string to Abu’s winter bow.
Floodplains are filling with water, pans are spilling over and some of our game drive roads have become energetic little streams. At times, the only true indication that we are very much still in summer is the temperatures, with a maximum of 36°C (97°F) being recorded and a highest minimum temperature of the month of 19°C (66°F).
We’re not sure how much of this is due to Tropical Storm Dineo, but it seems that we were caught by her tail. Rather like a lioness after a downpour, when she shook it, raindrops were scattered everywhere!
None of this precipitation has detracted from the game drive experience, and it is with great anticipation that our guests have been setting out each morning and afternoon.
February proved to be a fruitful month for general game. Large herds of female kudu took up residence in the Marabou Pan area, along with plenty of zebra and giraffe. They moved through the tall emerald grass like boats gliding on a lake, and we joked that soon only the giraffe would be able to see over the vegetation.
Despite these new ambush opportunities, it seems to have been a relatively quiet month for the big cats of the Abu Concession. We did however enjoy a wonderful evening sighting of two male lions on a fresh kill just outside Camp. Lying deep in the tall sage bushes they devoured the hapless zebra they had killed earlier that day, and none of our guests seemed to mind that their own supper had been interrupted to witness this.
Further afield, two of our guests saw a male cheetah on what was their first-ever African game drive, while the ‘honeymoon’ period for the two mating pairs of lions extended just into the new month, and the longer this mating marathon continued, the higher our hope rose of new lion cubs on the Concession soon. Watch this space!
Cats in the Delta don’t have much choice other than to get their feet wet, but the large male leopard spotted at Seba Camp was taking pains to stick to the higher, drier sandy game drive roads for as long as he could. Meanwhile we also had wonderful sightings of male lions alternately appreciating the cool of the rains, and then the warmth of the post-shower sun. After all, those manes take some drying!
Other highlights included a magnificent but shy male roan antelope, and the continued antics of the puppies at the hyaena den. It seems that they have also discovered the joy of puddles!
Our guide Joe made a tentative – and then confirmed – identification of an unusual visitor of the feathered variety – his first-ever Stanley’s (also known as Denham’s) bustard. Joe speculated that it may have been blown off course – another unexpected gift from Dineo.
February of course ended on a real high with the sighting of Gikka, one of the female elephants in the wild Abu herd, with her latest calf. The guides estimate that the calf is around one month old, and the latest addition to the ever-growing wild herd is Gikka’s third calf since she and her daughter Naya were introduced into the Okavango Delta in July 2011.
The perfect end to a February that has given us so much (and unconnected, of course, with the sudden appearance of migratory storks in the Concession!).