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.