December came roaring in like a lion in the Abu Concession, with maximum daily temperatures of 40°C (104°F) and higher. This ‘heatwave’ only made us long more fervently for the summer rains to begin, and towards the end of the month, promising clouds began to build up over our corner of the Okavango Delta.
It was only at the end of 2018 that we experienced our first real rains, with the most we recorded in a single day being 22 mm (just less than 1 inch). Often, we experienced slightly atypical light rains, but these still helped enormously in terms of taking the edge off the heat.
Being such a dynamic ecosystem, the Delta is attuned to responding immediately to changes, and the Concession is already looking wonderfully lush and green. The arrival of the new year has been signalled by a profusion of wild flowers, and everywhere we look, there are wobbly young animals trying to find their feet.
The lagoon immediately in front of Abu continues to attract large herds of elephant and buffalo, their ranks swollen by this summer’s babies. Hippo are seen in abundance, and we have spotted a particularly enormous crocodile which seems to have taken up residence.
Indeed, the game viewing from camp has been phenomenal, including sightings of wild dog, and of the Abu wild herd on a return visit, with Naya and her family pausing by the guest tents for a drink from one of the plunge pools.
Other wildlife sightings have been excellent too, even by the high standards of the Abu Concession. Cheetah have been seen regularly, and we’re also anticipating a new big cat (or should that be a small one?) – our resident female leopard, Bame, is now heavily pregnant. She’s been spending time close to the Abu bridge, seeking the shade of the sausage trees there as she awaits the birth of her cub.
A sighting of eight lions close to Maday Island – with a buffalo herd nearby – suggested that a hunt might be imminent, but it turned out that these particular cats had already dined and weren’t in any hurry to become active again.
A more dramatic run-in between these two species took place very early one morning, with the sounds of a protracted struggle echoing across the Abu Lagoon. As soon as it was light, our guides and guests were able to reach the location where they found four male lions jealously guarding the remains of a buffalo bull.
This meal lasted them for two days – lions are well-known for their amazing ability to adapt to both feast and famine, and treat these two extremes just the same.
Regular sightings of a pack of 12 wild dog have been delighting our guests, although their presence is particularly bad news for the local impala, many of whom have recently given birth. This time of year of course represents a bonanza for predators, with the many young and vulnerable animals appearing on the scene. Impala have devised their own tactics to counter predators, the most striking of which is ‘predator-swamping’ whereby births are coordinated within each herd, so that the chances of survival of each baby impala are higher.
Our most notable recent sighting occurred just before Christmas, when a male white rhino (one of the rhinos introduced into the Okavango by Wilderness and the Botswana Government, or perhaps one of their offspring) was spotted close to President’s Pool. Along with multiple leopard and lion sightings, the festive season certainly lived up to its name here at Abu.
With our sister camp, Seba, hosting a Children in the Wilderness camp, our guests had the opportunity to experience this grassroots environmental education initiative, and interact with the children.
The traditional Abu Concession Christmas party saw honours evenly shared on the soccer pitch, while Abu waitress Chinyani took home the coveted beauty queen crown. This day of fun and relaxation was a wonderful way to say goodbye to 2018, and the perfect excuse to start getting excited about 2019. A year during which we hope to welcome as many of you as possible to Abu.
Until then, best wishes for a wonderful 2019 from your Abu team: managers Kemm, Todd, Kele and Tilly, and guides Mate, Tebla and BT.