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Feature, Travel

The Abu Herd In Botswana’s Okavango Delta

November 4, 2015

Have you ever had a holiday of a lifetime and then looked back a few months later and wondered if that really happened to you?


As I put the best snapshots and mementos together to make an overdue scrapbook of our trip to Wilderness Collection’s Abu Camp in Botswana’s Okavango Delta – now 8 months pregnant – I truly don’t recognise myself in pictures. Is that really me jumping in a swimming pool in the African bush or riding an elephant at the crack of dawn?

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I almost have to pinch myself that I was there less than a year ago! Whether you are a seasoned safari buff or have never been anywhere very remote, the ultimate elephant interaction experience is at Abu Camp, a private concession in one of Africa’s prime wildlife-viewing areas. The exquisite six-tented safari camp is also home to the Abu Herd – six resident elephants rescued from the wild, brought in from captivity or born at Abu Camp.

ABU CAMP, Okavango Delta, Botswana


Shortly after arriving at the camp we were introduced to ‘the herd’ during an afternoon mud bath session. Once you have received the nod of approval from Cathy, the herd’s massive 55-year-old matriarch, then you have permission to meet the rest of the Abu herd – Shireni, Lorato, Paseka, Warona and baby Naledi. I never anticipated what it would feel like to stand next to one of the most powerful mammals on this planet. Despite being a bit nervous at first, I would soon feel so at ease stroking each elephant’s tough rubbery skin and playing with their ever-curious trunk as I had the privilege of getting to know them individually.


Abu camp is strongly affiliated with conservation partner Elephants Without Borders, so education, conservation and elephant research are firmly at the forefront of the camp. Abu Camp recently announced the exciting news that elephant herd member Lorato is expecting her first calf sometime around October or November 2016 after mating with a wild bull, which will be the first calf born into the Abu herd since 2013; a big mark of success for the camp’s research and elephant preservation programme. I can only sympathise knowing that Lorato has a full 22 months of pregnancy ahead of her!


What makes this particular camp so special is the incredible daily interactions with the Abu herd with the chance to observe their group dynamic as well as each individual elephant’s behavior. You quickly realise how personable elephants are and that they have really distinct characters.


One late afternoon we had a tea party in the bush, which the herd decided to join. Baby Naledi thought this was a hilarious opportunity to see whether she too could have an afternoon cuppa and just like a rebellious toddler, she promptly pushed over a table holding an immaculate afternoon tea set-up with a mere touch of her trunk. It’s moments like this when you realise how physically strong these gentle giants are from such a young age and how privileged we are to be amongst their presence in such a relaxed setting.

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For those who are a bit more adventurous and can be lured away from their luxurious tent for the night, you have the option of sleeping adjacent to the herd overlooking the elephant boma in an elevated star bed platform (weather dependent!). Here you will literally fall asleep under the African sky as you are serenaded by the snores of the herd. Mosquito repellent and a strong nightcap are highly recommended!


Abu Camp also offers stunning day and night-time game drives, birding, boating, and Mokoro excursions not to mention a gorgeous outdoor swimming pool to cool off in and a pampering spa to soothe safari induced aches and pains.


No matter what activities you fill your days with, the herd inevitably seems to steal your heart. Upon reluctantly departing this spectacular camp we truly felt a very special and emotional connection to the herd. A mere three nights at Abu Camp had utterly transformed our perceptions of elephants and the wilderness – looking through my photographs really brings back what a magical visit we had.


Food, Lifestyle, Travel

Outerlands, San Francisco

May 20, 2015

My mom and I each had a list of things we had to do together during my week-long visit to California. Towards the top of her list was eating at the must-try hipster restaurant in SF, Outerlands. Mom first heard about Outerlands on one of her favourite TV shows Check, Please! Bay Area, and has been wanting to go ever since. Before I knew it, we were headed to Sunset, a quiet area on the far West side of SF, which I’m not familiar with at all, in hopes of bagging a table at Outerlands for lunch.


We didn’t have time for a wild walk on the long beach about 5 blocks from Outerlands, making this spot a post-surf destination. My Bay Area buddies all knew about Outerlands and had tried to get a table for the famous weekend brunch, but gave up when they saw a line circling around the block. On a grey Monday afternoon, we managed to walk right in and sat at an outside table – as we had Bogart the pug in tow!


We almost walked right by Outerlands, as it blends in well on the corner of this unassuming neighbourhood. But go inside, and you’ll instantly feel a welcoming vibe from the friendly staff. The waitress who showed us to our table had a GI Jane meets Gwen Stefani platinum bleached shaved hairstyle, and I immediately knew everyone who works here is achingly cool. I would describe the restaurant decor as deceptively simple, trendy and comfortable. There is no dress code here and the more tattoos you have, the better.




As we had Bogart the pug with us, we joined the other dining dogs under the hot heat lamps outside and mulled over the somewhat limited but delicious lunch menu – soup, salads and stylish sandwiches.


In an attempt to try as much as we could off the menu, we split everything starting with the cast-iron grilled cheese sandwich with a side of vegetable broth soup ($12). The soup was a simple but healthy mixture of cannellini bean, kale, mirepoix and shallots. This dish wasn’t especially memorable for me, but the home-made perfectly toasted bread was out of this world. Outerlands makes all their bread in house, so you can tempt your tastebuds with the nice lingering smell of fresh out of the oven bread. Don’t come here if you’re not a carb lover or are attempting the Atkins diet because Outerland’s bread is a MUST.


Then a little piece of heaven on a plate was served. Behold the cast-iron grilled cheese sandwich brushed with garlic oil ($6.50), which was the perfected melt-in-mouth crusty classic. You have the option to add avocado, bacon and fried eggs to this toasted sandwich, but we thought the original version was absolute bliss on an overcast Monday afternoon.


A grilled cheese sounds simple, but this was the grown up and sophisticated version. Bogart drooled and jumped up and down optimistically begging for a taste.IMG_4614

At this stage we were starting to feel a bit full and suddenly somewhat guilty about not walking along the local beach to work up a bigger appetite and justify what was about to arrive at our table. Luckily we were sharing! As you can see the open faced bacon and egg sandwich with bok choy, caramelized onion, almonds and mushrooms ($14) is not for the faint hearted.



Mom and I agreed that this would be the perfect post-hangover dish. I can only imagine how amazing the brunch must be here. We managed to easily find room to polish off this runny melt-in-mouth egg sandwich, which was packed with flavour and crisp bacon. Outerlands prides themselves with sourcing produce from local organic farmers and you can really taste the difference –  the small side of fresh greens tasted as if they were picked that morning.


As we hoovered up the plate, Bogart became increasingly concerned that he wasn’t going to get a taste of the bacon – his favourite – woof!


If you’re used to heading downtown in San Francisco, going to the Sunset district seems quite a trek. Definitely worth it, especially if you time it right and can grab a table at Outerlands along with a trip to the local beach. Considering the standard of food is so good here – and we didn’t even sample the extensive California wine list or the creative cocktails (!) – Outerlands truly delivers without putting much strain on your credit card. A very different experience and a restaurant I’m pleased to have checked off our must-try list while in town. | @Outerlandssf