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One of Africa’s most renowned safari camps, Abu remains one of the continent’s most famous lodges for many reasons. The abundant wildlife of the Okavango Delta, including lion, leopard, wild dog and elephant, may cross your path and since there is no roar of a Land Rover or boat engine, you will enjoy not just the sights, but the sounds of the spectacular pristine nature.
Abu occupies a concession of 450,000 acres (180,000 hectares) in the middle of the delta, and the elephant herd is the core of any visit. What makes Abu such a powerful experience is the intimacy that exists between man and beast, which includes you for the time of your visit. You meet the herd upon arrival, feed them and walk with the elephants. Each animal has a name, a story and a personality, so being at Abu allows for a much more intimate animal experience than you have elsewhere and adds a completely different aspect to your safari.
Abu, which is named after one of the camp’s original elephants, was started in 1994 by Randall Moore, an expert who rescued orphaned elephants from America and transported them home to pioneer elephant-back safaris in Botswana. His personal story and that of the herd and how he expanded it is fascinating and each of the six guest rooms contains a book with the history. Today Abu is owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen who was so smitten after his visit that he bought the camp in 2009. Many of the original elephants and their handlers remain and some say that Allen has introduced a gentler routine for the pachyderms. (They are no longer chained in the bush ever and the camp has stopped offering elephant riding as of late 2016.) The main pavilion footprint remains the same but Allen upgraded the décor in the public spaces and guests suites. He hired a stylish designer from Cape Town who added homey yet sophisticated touches like a library of African nature books and CDs; a pizza oven and a small outdoor gym (really a rowing machine). The guest tents include WiFi (very slow), copper tubs and homey touches like Africa books and objects.
In addition to walks with the elephants (which are at set times), other activities like game drives, guided walks, scenic flights (at an additional cost) or mokoro (wooden canoe) trips are available when a guest chooses. The resident manager acts as a host and sets up different “wow” moments, which could be the present of a special book or a surprise movie in the bush complete with popcorn. During high season when the weather is best, it's possible to spend the night in the Star Bed on a platform under the stars and next to the elephant boma, where the elephants sleep at night. At the end of the day there are campfires, sophisticated suppers and informal talks about the elephants and their conservation. This is truly an experience that ranks up there as one of the most memorable in Africa.
With just four tents, Zarafa Camp in Botswana is as close as you’ll get to a home-like experience in the middle of the bush.
A conservation-forward, luxurious African safari camp Mongo camp is set on Chief's Island deep in the Moremi Game Reserve.
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