So apart from our ‘back of house’ news we also wanted to share our regular pictorial news of what was happening in and around Kaingu lodge for the month of August 2016. We had our usual annual share of firefighting, both in the GMA and in the National Park. This (sadly) has become such an […]
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So every month we try and post news. Generally this is pictures of scenery, birds animals and sometimes guests (and sometimes ourselves pretending to be guests). But anyone that follows our facebook page will know that we also are not shy to post what goes on behind the scenes. People are generally interested in how it all works. For the last month or so we have been embarking on a fairly major project to upgrade the staff village. Kaingu now employs 25 contract staff for ten months of the year. Last year we added 3 new houses, but more facilities are required.
We decided that another new double (flush) toilet was needed (ladies and gents) and a double shower block (four showers) was needed to supplement the existing ones. A staff kitchen (monkey-proofed) was also added to the list, as were re-thatching of Nkutas (outside shelters) and some new ones. So Mr Gibson (thatching grass) and Royd (contract builder) were engaged.
Of course part and parcel of bush life is breakdowns and repairing them! Out old Mitsubishi Canter is getting a bit tired, but it struggled vainly on moving thousands of bundles of grass, dozens of poles and all the rest...
Nkutas are found in all the village homes. They are areas where people can cook, sit around the fire and shelter from the rains and the sun. We have small ones and a massive communal one where all staff not on duty gather to eat and chat (and yes, sometimes party!). This small one below is for JohnD and Jenny:
The large one for the staff is matched by another one behind the kitchen. Eating and sitting area for the guides who cannot bear to be away from the wifi signal!
The staff kitchen is a major step forward. Up until now the cooking is done by the staff chef (Vincent) in the large Nkuta on an open fire. The staff kitchen below is having a gas range, shelves, cupboards and sinks for washing up. Our staff is what makes Kaingu, well, Kaingu. We firmly believe in trying to make their lives here as good as we really can. Wood smoke from open fires in Africa is a huge problem for people's health.
Royd was also asked to add to the contract a small outside seat and flower pot for each house. Small details, but at least the houses can be a bit more like home for everyone. Of course some of the "rugged" guys like Bo haven't actually planted anything. The ladies seem to be in the lead on this one. The house below is Chef Lizzie's house:
The thatching looks a bit like a bad hair moment, but after the first rains it all flattens down. Pictured below is the new shower block which is now finished except the tiles and plumbing. Mike is on that job as I type:
Now constructing a proper kitchen gave us another idea. In fact the idea came from Willard (camp hand, not the guide!) who jokingly told me that now there is no smoke inside the large Nkuta we could put a TV there. We started to think about it. Why not? So.... 4 solar panels, an inverter, 2 deep cycle batteries, a charge regulator, a dish and decoder and a HELL of a lot of alignment and we now have DSTV with dozens of channels as well as a charging station so everyone can charge mobile phones while watching shocking Nigerian movies (that seem to always be one of only two themes - infidelity or witchcraft. Some of the better ones combine both topics). To be fair I did find guides Kaley and Israel watching a Nat Geo programme about the Amazon.
And then we finish with an improvement that benefits everyone - a new solar pump. After our second submersible solar pump packed in (due to water ingress) we decided to install a surface pump where all moving parts are on the river bank and not submerged. This meant a few things - firstly a chicken house for the pump to go in and secondly a large extension to the panel array. So far so good. The pump is quiet and vibration free. Of course nothing is easy. People will sell you a pump, but to get fittings to plumb it in??? Our good friend Congo came to the rescue and fabricated some special flanges for us. Okay, I have to stop now because I can literally talk about pumps the whole day! We are really pleased with the staff village improvements and we are proud of the fact that we are really trying to make everyone feel that Kaingu is a good place to work.
Look at it! All shiny and sleek. Stainless steel and other bits. Sexy. I can sit for hours and just listen to the gentle whirring noises. Art in motion.
It was fascinating to watch 5 egrets all try and land at the top of the same tree. They continued wheeling around the tree for ages making for some great photo opportunities.
David and goliath
On the way up to do a staff transfer run Julia saw the rather unusual sighting of a goliath heron and a finfoot together.
One tusk in camp
We were visited in camp regularly over the course of the month by 'one tusk' who is the most regular elephant visitor here.
No GMA sightings this month, but no shortage of dogs in the National Park.
One tusk in the river
"One Tusk" again providing guest entertainment. In the river this time. The spectacle of elephants in a river is always amazing, what makes it more special here is if they then climb on top of rocks! We don't see it often, but when we do it is incredible!
Regular predator sightings. As temperatures hot up and the bush dries out sightings of lions, wild dogs. leopard get far more regular.
A massively cropped picture, but I was highly excited to see my first ever lesser Jacana (at Kaingu that is) and grab a picture of it. All while waiting for guests to arrive for an island sundowner.
The Kaingu Lodge logo is the pied kingfisher. Quite appropriate really as I don't think I have ever been on the river and not seen one. The pied kingfisher is apparently the only African kingfisher that is capable of a true hover. They have been clocked flying (not diving) at 50km/hr. Rapid little things!
Chalet improvements 1
We also rolled out some chalet improvements over the month of July. The first one is new luggage racks/wardrobe units. All work by Julia.
Chalet Improvements 2
We have replaced all the bedside rugs with new sisal rugs and every room now also has a Nguni cow skin rug too.
And then because we were taking pictures of chalets we couldn't help but take one of the view in the evening dusk.
Birdlife on the river
Its not just the mammal sightings that have started to really kick in. As the river levels continue to drop the bird numbers just keep on increasing almost daily. From the specials to the more everyday ones...
And once again the wonderful 'one tusk'. This time he was checking out the solar hot water and PV panels at Chalet 2.
American guests were celebrating a rather special event. Cake and decorations by Julia and Lizzy.
The most fantastic thing about July (for me anyway) is the morning mists on the river due to the cold temperatures. It is simply amazing and wll worth frozen fingers and an early start.
July mists 2
We can never get enough of these mists! Actually few guests elect very early morning cruises (for some reason it is usually an afternoon choice), but as you can see it is actually the best time.
Kill by the camp
A wild dog kill 1km from camp meant some great vulture sightings. Kaley and I went back after the guests had seen the dogs and spent an hour just watching the action.
River by night
Coming back after packing up an island sundowner.
I always associate our pools loop with golden evening light, golden grass and loads of hartebeest. The pools this year are really full with water and I am betting they will hold water right through to the rains. Should make for productive sightings the whole season.
We were taking guests upriver for a spot of canoeing and saw that our canoes had an admirer. Bear in mind our canoes are almost 4m long and are dwarfed by this massive crocodile. The biggest I have personally ever seen.
Kaingu rock art
And our final image from July is the rather interesting rock art that is found near the lodge. Fascinating. Most theories are that it is an ancient 'nsolo' game and that the place was probably a meeting point (market?).
Introduction We get a lot of questions about Fire in the KNP and the surrounding Game Management Areas and as we are now quite well into the dry season and a lot of early burning has been done we thought that we could talk a little bit about fires. We will see more of them […]
The month of May. I believe that here in the Southern hemisphere it is comparable to November in the North. Well, I have to see that it is way, way better here than what I remember of Scottish Novembers. For us May was the month of big groups. Well, big for us – up to […]
Well, finally the rains stopped. Thankfully. It was all getting a bit much, but the rains ceased almost with the start of the month. April fools day (I had no idea it was April fools) saw poor Nyambanza being woken by Benny at 04:30 who told her she was late for work! She did get revenge later by telling him that his house in the staff village was on fire. The nice thing about getting up super early (I am trying hard here to see positives 🙂 is that you can try and get some time on the river at sunrise with a camera after dropping guests and a guide at the car park and before the morning staff meeting. Or mess around trying to create ghosts!
April saw some great sightings. We had many sightings of wild dogs, leopards, lion (the Shishamba pride with 7 young ones on more than a few occasions) and even cheetah. Now we try to keep things in perspective – the Kafue is not Ngorogoro crater.... We will not tell you that the central area of the Kafue is a teeming multitude of predators and prey, the Kafue runs deeper than just great sightings. But for April we were pretty amazed. Remember that the game drive loops are not even fully open yet and the grass is very, very high so to get such good sightings is really encouraging.
We also had good predator sightings on the river. The carcass of a young elephant floated down the river and got trapped in rocks. This meant that literally dozens of crocodiles were present, feasting on the unfortunate elephant.
We also had lions in camp a few times over the month. I won't forget Nyambanza's statement “I thought they were big dogs walking past my door”. The pack of seven wild dogs that we see fairly frequently in the GMA here were also spotted. It was a great opportunity to drive out 1km from camp and spend some time with them. Vary sated dogs looking a bit muddy and bloody!
April also saw us doing our first ever professional chef training. We invited Sarah Lilford, a top Zimbabwean chef to come and train. We had three intense days and learned a lot. What we really enjoyed about Sarah was that her ideas and recipes are designed for remote lodges and not 'over the top' foodie extravaganzas that are more appropriate in Mayfair than in the Kafue. She focussed a lot on presentation and fine tuning our menus, but was very complementary about our menus and chefs skills and created a great atmosphere in the kitchen while she was here. I would strongly recommend taking a look at her book “Dusty Road” which combines recipes with tales of life in rural Zimbabwe.
We also did manage to do a couple of brief management excursions. Very brief ones though. We did a quick “round round” of Mantobo island on the boat. We are always telling guests that Mpamba rock is so beautiful that we actually go up there ourselves without guests. Well we do. Here is some proof. Rick, Lynda and Julia walked up and Gil brought the land rover (and a cool box, naturally).
Our guiding team is now complete! We were delighted to welcome Boyd Longwani to the Kaingu team in April. He has almost 30 years experience here in the Kafue, almost all of it at Lufupa. Starting in the days of Map Patel and through the tenure of Wilderness. He is best described as “solid”. In every way. I really feel that with JohnD, Kaley, Israel, Boyd and Kebby as trainee we have a really strong team – everyone with their own interests and specialities. Of course poor Boyd has to go through the rather nerve-wracking experience of learning the river here now. We all had to do it, but it is quite intimidating at first. These rocks...
We also got delivered a copy of the book “Kapenta and lelish and other fishy tales” which is a very interesting book filled with photographs, anecdotes and recipes from all over Zambia. We were delighted to find Julia's baobab lemonade welcome drink right at the front as well as a small write up about our good friend Marcus and Valley Lodgeistics who supplies us and other lodges here in the Kafue. The book is selling like hot cakes and raising money for the Lusaka Animal Welfare Society, of which Marcus is probably their number one supporter.... largely because he tries to trigger very generous bidding at their annual fund raising auction! Last year he very kindly kept bidding and bidding on a weekend at Kaingu, raising the prices and eventually winning it.... Which (it has to be pointed out) he could actually have anytime. For free.
As we move into May the temperatures are starting to drop, the mornings and evenings are now really pretty cool, the beautiful morning mists on the river as we head over for game drives are spectacular. It is such a beautiful time of the year – still green, no haze as yet and clear skies. Beautiful stars and the humidity is dropping. The river dropped massively too – 70cm over the course of the month, so the river is starting to show it's character again with the rocks emerging. The birdlife is also picking up on the river too as it starts to descend. For me the best sighting was on a rubber boat trip down the tiny channels south of the lodge. We came around a bend in a channel to be met with what I (initially) thought were a couple of hundred sacred ibis. It turned out though that they were Abdim's storks – easily over two hundred. I had never seen even one here. Let alone 200. Amazing. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me.
And then our last bit of news is a revolutionary device. The “Kaingu car park solar powered radio”. Now, 95% of guests that come to us come down the spinal road (through the National Park on the western bank) and then we cross them over by boat. Now this is an absolutely great way to arrive at the lodge. But it does involve a lot of guess work on our side. Trying to predict when guests will arrive. Now sometimes it all works well, but other times we end up sitting at the car park for literally hours. So we put Mike onto the job. And we now have a solar powered radio in a prominent position in our car park so guests can call us up from the car park. As usual with Mike it is quite a work of art! Incorporating aluminium chequer plate and driftwood. A melding of technology and nature. Sort of.
So you might have noticed that we have been a bit quiet! The last guests left Kaingu just after New Year. A private party had booked the lodge and really enjoyed their time here over the festive season. For the two months we are closed the lodge was looked after by guides John D and […]