Abu Elephant Camp Trip Report, Oct 20-23 2011
Tea time in the bush with the Abu Elephants
Okavango Delta, Botswana
Trip report by: Cindi LaRaia
I am trying to put into words here, the extreme emotion that grips you beyond anything you are prepared to feel when you visit this special place in the Okavango Delta, Botswana called Abu Camp.
For years I have heard about Abu Elephant Back Safaris and the pictures looked divine. As an Africa Travel Specialist, you might know I have had many opportunities to visit Africa; I have been all over southern and east Africa many times. Simply put, my heart lies in Africa….
Africa offers life enriching experiences like no other place on the planet. I have travelled extensively escorting scuba diving adventures around the world and Africa safari trips for 20 years. This life changing transformation I encountered these 3 nights has sent my heart soaring beyond the limits of space. I am consumed with emotion here as I write this, it's about self-actualization. I have been touched beyond description; my heart is exploding with love, the love of 6 gorgeous Elephants that I have been so privileged to spend the most intimate, outrageous quality time with.
I started my travels to the African Continent one year after Apartied ended in South Africa. My first and true love has been the beloved majestic African Elephant. The sufferings these gorgeous family loving behemoths have gone through since western man arrived on the continent have been enormous. Hunted down for Ivory and sport, humans never thinking for one minute what it may mean to a baby Elephant that is still nursing to lose its mother for the sport of the hunt as well as poaching for Ivory.
Elephants are amongst one of the most intelligent species on our planet. The family structure is like our own, close ties with sisters, aunties and cousins; relishing the close relationships of a loving family, enjoying life and sharing in sorrow of the death of a member of a herd or friendship of another friendly herd.
As a guest of Abu Camp, you are invited to walk with and ride the elephants, enabling you to feel the world of the Elephants, to learn about each individual Elephants story of why and how they came to be a part of this amazing family herd. This is an extraordinary privilege and one of the greatest joys that can be experienced in our life time. This is the only safari camp in all of Africa that allows you to indulge morning and afternoon with the Elephants way of life. Each encounter with the different personalities of each Ele, seeps into your soul, your veins, your heart. Before you realize it, you are one of them, one with the Elephants, you are so close, touching and talking to them, peering into their beautiful golden eye draped with long eyelashes through to their souls. This is truly a tactile, affectionate loving experience.
This is not only a story about the Elephants but about the love the 'Mahouts'; the caretakers of the beloved Elephants, whom they live with, care for and keep safe. Their entire life from morning till nighttime, are caring for the Ele's. They are 'Elephants' 80% of the time, out in the bush to explore, feed and play in the river and wallow in the mud. 20% of the time they are sharing time with the visitors of Abu Camp and being looked after.
This group of Mahouts the 'boyz' as I called them, have such love and passion for the African Elephants they look after. Here are these amazing African men openly in love with their Ele's, training with positive reinforcement and respect. The stories of each of these 6 Ele's and how they came to be here is not only sad at times but so heartwarming. Cathy the matriarch has accepted most of the Ele's and cares for them. Some of the other females will act as surrogate mothers to the baby Paseka the youngest found abandoned and starving for milk and love. She is now 2yrs old and is so loved by the entire herd, she is strong willed and playful and it is all about her! She is so funny to watch, she is like a bull in a china shop when she comes to greet you or join the others, and she just bulldozes her way in. Baby Abu is most playful and adorable he is now 6 and named after the giant bull Abu for which the camp was named 20 yrs ago. He and Paseka are great mates and keep everyone laughing constantly. Shereni is now pregnant and due at Christmas time, she also has a young Elephant in the herd. Cathy and Kitty have accepted Paseka and she is nursed by Kitty. The dynamics of how each Elephant interacts with each other are just like humans, some are more tolerant than others. The Mahouts have done a stupendous full time job maintaining a happy union in this herd; they sleep very near to the boma where the Ele's sleep safely at night.
They do interact with the many herds of wild Elephants in the area, hence why Sherini is now pregnant. Several Elephants from Abu Camp have been successfully released back to the wild herds where they have been accepted. They come by the boma often to say hello to the Ele's they grew up with and off they go. Amazing isn't it?
Abu Camp is now operated and managed by Wilderness Safaris, the most successful operator of camps & conservation in Southern Africa, they are now opening up into the Congo and Kenya for the unique conservation needed there. The Abu camp is one of their top Premier camps, part of the newly formed Wilderness Collection. The most unique of all the camps they own and operate. Abu Camp is the most beautiful of all the camps I have visited, a unique blend of Modern and Classic Old style Africa, the library is the most amazing with a collection of old gorgeous books all on the African Elephant. The food is beyond 5 star, the rooms are hugely spacious and impeccably decorated. The staff can read your mind before you know what you want. There are many other surprises that I will not advise as I feel we all need to be surprised! I will mention they have an amazing 'Star Bed' situated at the Elephant Boma, built high up with all the amazing visuals of the delta and the sounds of the Elephants sleeping at night. Your giant King bed has an amazing mosquito net, reminding me of the opulence of a Cleopatra type setting. Nothing can compare to sleeping under the starry night of the African sky. Whatever it is you need want or desire is always ready and waiting for you.
You need to stay 3 nts here to be able to spend all the special moments they offer guests with the Ele's. The morning and afternoon activities can include walking with the Elephants as they head to the feeding areas after they wake up. Evening Elephant back game drives are beautiful as the soft light of late afternoon glistens on the rivers you cross with them, traveling through the bush and flood plains all the while game viewing. The mahout driver will share the story of that particular Elephant and offer info on the bush, I love to touch and feel them as they move. You will watch them as they find a mud wallow and the 2 young ones Little Abu and Paseka run head on into the mud, flopping over and rolling back and forth and having the time of their life! The older ele's will throw the mud up and around and over their big bodies. Abu just lolled and rolled and kept slapping his feet in the mud, It was hysterical to watch they joy they felt!
My absolute favorite was my last morning Elephant game drive, the quiet peace of the vocal Ele's in communication, you feel the entire vibration through your body, ahhhhhhhhh so magic to feel part of this gorgeous creature. We had wonderful game viewing without the sound of a vehicle, walking silently through the bush one with the Elephants……… Heaven on earth.
Nearing the end when it was time for me to disembark for the last time,,,,, the tears just fell. Saying farewell to my beloved new Ele friends, getting to know each one intimately, talking and thanking them for sharing their souls and love with me. I was just as sad to say farewell to the Mahout caretakers. Jealous of the job they have, complete and total unconditional love they have for these amazing intelligent, loving, giving animals.
I will be back…….. I have to see our new baby that will be born Christmas of 2011 !!!
-- Cindi LaRaia
Read more about Abu Camp
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