ABU CAMP, Okavango Delta, Botswana

Elephant Immersion: Maddy’s trip to Abu Camp, Botswana

People often talk about outer body experiences. I must admit that I’d never experienced one, and had wondered whether such a thing could possibly exist. Until Abu Camp, that is.

Abu Camp is an eco-luxury camp with a difference. It has its very own herd of elephants, either orphans or individuals rescued from a variety of circumstances. Highly respected, the elephant programme at Abu has one purpose: to prepare its elephants for a life in the wild. Being a long process, and one that, in the case of certain individuals, may never be realised, the herd also offers a rare opportunity: the chance for us, lucky guests, to be totally among elephants. It’s an opportunity, when offered, I grabbed with both hands. I stayed just two nights at Abu, in December 2013.

From the point of arrival to leaving, I was utterly immersed in the everyday world of the herd. This included helping out with feeding times, walking with the elephants, going on a game ride and learning – through both observation and Abu’s excellent elephant handlers – as much as I possibly could about them.

Plenty of highlights to report, but outstanding – and source of aforementioned out of body experience – was meeting new-born Naledi, together with her mother and the herd’s matriarch. I’m not sure whether you’ve had the chance to be close enough to touch an elephant, but if so, then you will know what I mean by being surprised by the hair on the baby’s body, by the extraordinary patchwork of colours on both adults and young, by their constantly roving trunks, the texture of elephant skin, the sheer depth of their wrinkles. What a surprise. It’s the kind that slows time down, that lifts you out of yourself. It was an indescribably joyful experience.

So, here’s my advice: If you do get the chance to spend time, if only a few minutes, in the company of a knee-high elephant and her giant carers, grab it – grab it with everything you have. I can’t guarantee you’ll actually leave your body, but I can the fact that you will come away from the experience your life in some way changed for the better. Absolutely.


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