Landscape and climate
The start of 2017 has most certainly been a rather wet one, as we welcomed the summer rains which have transformed the dry, dusty landscape into a beautiful riot of green growth. We recorded at least some rainfall on around two thirds of the days in January, with the total for the month exceeding 300mm (12 inches).
This has also exerted a wonderfully cooling influence on the temperatures, with the edge being taken off the heat. The highest recorded temperature was still a very respectable 33°C (91°F), while the lowest temperature we experienced was a jersey-demanding 18°C (64°F).
The sun has managed to make appearances from behind the clouds, and we’ve tended to have blue skies earlier in the day before some spectacular late afternoon electric storms, which are a real highlight of this time of year in the Okavango Delta.
The bush feels as though it has been washed clean, with plants and animals alike feeling revived and rejuvenated. The grass has grown tall and the many pans are filling with water. New puddles have been created almost daily along our sandy roads, meaning that the animals now have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to choosing where to drink.
Not one, but two mating pairs of lions were seen during January. One pair in particular became a regular sight close to both Camps. On a number of occasions, they were accompanied by the brother of the male, which led to some tension between the two of them and seemed to leave the lioness nonplussed. All being well, the next generation of Abu lion cubs should be making an appearance in the next three months or so.
One of our most dramatic sightings took place within the Camp, with lunch being interrupted by a lion calling at close quarters (after a morning spent searching for big cats much further afield). A lioness was seen, clearly looking for one of her companions as she moved between the Camp buildings, calling repeatedly.
We drove with the guests a little way behind her, as she continued her quest, but no apparent avail. We were all wary that afternoon, knowing that a lioness was close by, but also intrigued as to the outcome of this episode. Later in the afternoon, our guides tracked not one but two lionesses, and found them together - evidently the seeker had found who she was looking for.
While our guides excelled at finding wildlife, as always, one of the most memorable sightings was made by Yva, a seven-year-old guest who pointed out a leopard stalking red lechwe and impala just before dinner one evening.
We completed the triumvirate of cat sightings with cheetah being seen on two occasions. A single male was seen perilously close to one of the mating pairs of lion, while later in the month no fewer than five were spotted together hunting a porcupine on the airstrip. This ultimate contest between mobility and protection ended in a stalemate.
Of course, it was not only cats which thrilled our guests during January, a rare sighting of roan antelope was made towards the boundary with the Jao Concession.
Just as January is a time of new life for the vegetation, it is perhaps also the month of the year when the most births occur, with antelope in particular taking advantage of the abundance of new food. We enjoyed spending time watching wobbly newborns of various species, but understandably enough, most births take place in cover, with the mothers keen to avoid their offspring being detected in those first few vulnerable, feet-finding moments.
Two of our guests, who were due to leave Camp later that same morning, therefore counted themselves exceptionally fortunate to witness a tsessebe giving birth. They saw the whole spectacle unfold, from start to finish. This absolutely made their trip and reminded all of us just how magical this time of year is, with the Okavango renewing and reinventing itself all over again as the cycle of the seasons rolls on.
Life in Camp
The elephants of the Abu herd continue to thrive, with Naledi wholeheartedly embracing her full time bush life. Her special bond with Warona is becoming more and more apparent as the two young elephants happily play together.
The last day of 2016 saw the last ever elephant-back ride take place at Abu Camp. In line with our decision to focus more on the experience of interacting with the elephants and experiencing the bush through their eyes, we are developing new and exciting activities which will enable guests to continue to interact with and learn from the herd, whilst still (as always) putting the welfare of the elephants first.
Undeterred by the summer rains, we continued to explore new areas of the Abu Concession (both close at hand and more far-flung) in our quest to create unforgettable bush dining experiences for our guests.
We surprised guests who had spent a morning in the Selby’s area looking for game, with a magnificent bush brunch by Queenie Lagoon. Meanwhile, mokoro trips and afternoon bush teas with the elephants continued to be a highlight, as did our ever-popular sundowner events at Marabou Pan. It is always a pleasure to see how fully the Abu team and all our guests immerse themselves in the spirit of safari, with even the occasional downpour doing little to dampen