Set in the Okavango’s 180 000-hectare Abu Private Reserve, Wilderness Abu Camp is immersed in some of the most pristine, diverse landscapes on Earth – iconic panoramas of riverine forest, grassy floodplains, and palm-studded islands, seasonally inundated with pure, crystalline water descending from the Angolan highlands.
With the ebb and flow of the waters, Abu is one of few camps that offers a full range of Delta activities, on land, water, and in the skies. Every day here is different – filled with new adventure.
On game drives, scout for giraffes, zebras, impalas, elephants, tsessebe, lechwe, wildebeest, buffalos, hyenas, leopards, warthogs, and lions, whose calls often penetrate the night. Guided nature walks help you appreciate the local flora and smaller creatures as well as the Delta’s fantastic natural mosaic.
Explore secret papyrus-fringed channels and islands by traditional mokoro, imperceptibly gliding across the water, parting the reeds and skimming over water lilies. Or by delta boat, change your perspective on local wildlife, getting up close as they come to the waters to drink or bathe. Take an hour or two out for catch-and-release fly fishing, ending the day with sundowners on the water.
Soar into the skies for an aerial safari, flying to the legendary Tsodilo Hills, sacred to the San Bushmen, to marvel at ancient rock art. Or spend an evening in the bush dining on tapas and watching a film under the stars, sharing stories around the camp fire. Slide into a steaming bath by candlelight in your private outdoor copper tub – like the rest of Abu’s classic, striking décor, an ode to the safaris of yesteryear.
Even if you’re just lolling in your private plunge pool or lying on your teak deck watching wildlife splash through the lagoon, you’ll feel the magic.
Cheri Verster, Premier Operations Manager Botswana (formerly Abu Private Reserve Concession Manager), tells us what she loves most about Abu.
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What do you most love about Abu? And what do guests most love?
It is so difficult to choose what I love most about Abu, as so many elements make it special. The way it is nestled into its surroundings, the architecture and design making it a piece of art. The history of the lodge – the interiors full of collectors’ items, such as Maasai warrior headdresses, antique furniture, and first editions in the library. What guests love most about the camp is its staff – so genuine, caring for every detail, making your stay feel like a home away from home. All guests leave feeling part of the Abu family.
What are all the experiences on offer there, and which would you say are the most 'wow'?
Game drives are always exhilarating in this diverse concession. Every couple of minutes you enter a completely different habitat, ranging from open savannah, dense forest, channel crossings, and vast, open floodplains. Day drives yield an abundance of wildlife, including elephant and various predators and plains game. Night drives really heighten your senses – you’ll wish you ate more carrots as a kid! It’s a thrill using a spotlight to find animals almost impossible to find during the day. Bush babies are by far my favourite. Other common nocturnal sightings are scrub hares, spring hares, genets, and maybe even an aardvark on his nightly excursion eating termites.
The annual waters’ arrival around May makes for the most incredible cruises, where you can have a full game viewing experience via boat. Common sightings would be elephant, buffalo, red lechwe, zebra, giraffe, crocodile, and hippo. Sometimes you’re lucky enough to see wild dog, leopard, and lion.
Something else not to miss: a nature walk with our seasoned guides in the forests, bringing all your senses alive and truly connecting with nature amidst the most unspoiled natural beauty. The guide might stop along the way to show you the bark of the baobab tree, so you can feel how smooth it is, and learn more about these unusual, majestic trees. He might pick up certain plants and crush them so you get their scent, or offer you a taste of edible plants and berries. Or maybe he’ll break off the branch of a blue bush to show you how people used it to brush their teeth, using ash as toothpaste.
A mokoro ride through the Delta channels is extra special, moving quietly, serenely along, counting reed frogs and learning about the water life from the experienced polers.
And once you’ve done all that, at extra cost you can take to the skies by helicopter, which gives you so much insight into the animal movements below, by seeing all the patterns in the grasslands leading from one island to another. This same helicopter can then take you to the Tsodilo Hills, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to meet with San Bushman families and learn about their culture, explore the hills, and see centuries-old San rock paintings. This is one for the books!
What are some of the incredible wildlife encounters that you, guides or guests have had there?
Wildlife highlights at Abu recently have been lion cubs, and so many leopard sightings. With guests often boasting to each other about how many different leopards they saw on an activity. One morning six different leopards were sighted.
One of my most memorable wildlife encounters at Abu occurred when I was staying in a guest room and was visited by our resident leopard Bobo, the male cub from mother Bame. As I was taking an afternoon siesta, I heard something jump onto the veranda. I looked up I saw Bobo playing by my plunge pool, almost kitten-like, pouncing around and looking for squirrels.
Another memorable sighting was when a vehicle of guests watched mother leopard Bame with her two cubs hunting an impala, while another vehicle followed our large male leopard Mafunyani on the prowl. Mafunyani suddenly picked up speed and ran hundreds of metres, with guests having no idea what he was heading towards.
To everyone’s surprise, both vehicles ended up witnessing Mafunyani fighting with Bame and her cubs while they tried to protect their kill. Mafunyani soon won the battle, hiding his prize in the nearby bush then taking a much-needed nap before feeding.
Guests later returned to the sighting to watch Mafunyani feed. But the battle was not yet over – a large hyena came and stole the kill from Mafunyani, laughing in celebration.
Another interesting wildlife experience was this…In 2019 we experienced intense drought, with Abu’s lagoons being one of the last water sources in the area. Four new male lions entered the reserve and made their home in front of Abu, dominating the lagoon, preying on wildlife coming to drink, bathe or rest there. Due to the lagoon drying up, we had masses of crocs sunbathing along the edges. The lions soon earned the name ‘Kwena (crocodile) Boys’ for the vast amount of crocodile meals they had.
Abu is known as a birding hotspot. What special birds might you spot there?
Abu has some rare sightings of Pel’s fishing owls; some guests are lucky enough to share a meal with the owls in the evening as they catch fish from the lagoon and then perch on the branches reaching over the front dining deck. Other birds seen in abundance are wattled cranes, which are endangered, and lots of water birds.
What are some of the special offerings, such as movie night under the stars?
One of the most amazing offerings at Abu is the bush tapas evening, set out among the palm trees under the stars. The atmosphere is so romantic, your guide sharing stories around a fire as you’re being wined and dined, learning about the stars.
Describe the setting; decor/architecture; ambience; and food at Abu.
I was recently describing Abu to a colleague who had not yet had the privilege to stay or visit. The best way to describe Abu is a ‘home away from home’ – a very elegant home with, as I say, all sorts of classic furniture and interesting artifacts everywhere. Our repeat guests often ask for a specific room, as each room has its unique décor.
Abu’s ambience is difficult to describe. It exudes a calm, welcoming feeling, a place where you can unwind. Part of this is the tailor-made service where you never have to lift a finger, from waking up and walking through to the main area to find a steaming cappuccino screaming your name, to whiling away the hours in your favourite comfy chair overlooking the lagoon, to so much more.
And the food, oh the food. Make sure to always have space for the next meal as you never want to miss out. Abu’s exec chef Moses and his marvellous team in the kitchen make the most tantalising meals, catering for every taste.
Is there a particularly wonderful time of day there?
The best time of the day at Abu is early morning. It faces east, so you watch the sun rise over the lagoon. The start of another amazing day…