Student Sponsorship. By Linda Doughty

My love affair with Zambia started with my first safari there in 1997. Over the years, I have gained immeasurable joy and inspiration from the landscapes, wildlife and people. I’ve always been very conscious that there is a great deal of poverty and felt privileged to be seeing the best of the country through my trips.

In 2013, I visited KaingU for the first time and joined a trip to the local, lodge supported primary school. The day was very special for me – a window into everyday life in a remote Zambian village. Apart from the obvious lack of school resources, three things really made me think:

  • that, in their remote location, without the support of KaingU Lodge and their clients, these 250 children would not have been able to go to school
  • in the first grade, classes are split 50 / 50 girls and boys, by grade 7 there are very few girls as many stay at home to help take care of their families
  • how appreciative the children are of so little. We took stickers and a few balloons for the younger children to play with. I couldn’t believe the excitement and joy that such simple things created.

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For me, having been born in the UK, the experience brought home how much I have to be thankful for and take for granted. I believe that education relieves poverty – especially educating girls – and I wanted to do something to help. In some small way to pay back Zambians for the joy they give me.

Lynda and Rick from Kaingu and their friend Allyson and I talked about ways of getting more supplies to the school. We also discussed the value of girls getting a full education. Only a few village families would be supportive of their daughters going to secondary school and even less could afford for them to do so. I wondered if I could help. Maybe, if I could enable one girl to go to secondary school, something positive would come from her experience.

So began a complex journey – my new friends at KaingU working to find a girl who would be willing and able to continue her education outside of her village, away from her family and friends. We agreed that I would sponsor Evony and she started school in Itezhi-Tezhi in 2014.

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The school she attends does not include boarding. She stays at a local boarding house and initially struggled with homesickness and academically. Having settled in and made friends, her second year has been much happier and she has just retaken her exams which we hope she has passed.

As sponsoring Evony has cost relatively little and with the objective of making a real difference to more lives, we decided to look for another girl to sponsor. Lynda and Rick visited the new Itezhi-Tezhi Boarding School and found two girls in need of sponsorship to finish their secondary education – Euphemia and Ebbiness. I met them during my recent visit to KaingU. They are bright, enthusiastic and articulate young ladies who both want to be doctors. They have worked hard at school and achieved great results despite really difficult backgrounds. I think they are an inspiration!

I couldn’t decide which to sponsor and so, having looked at the numbers, have made the commitment to sponsor both of them to the end of their secondary education – two years. As far as I’m concerned, my investment is great value – schooling, boarding, uniforms and personal items come in at approx $500 a year. I have already had an email from them thanking me for supporting them and am looking forward to hearing how they are doing each term.

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Whatever the the three girls make of their futures, I know they will do us proud. I get to repay a fraction of the joy that Zambia gives me, and, who knows, maybe the contribution that Evony, Euphemia and Ebbiness make to Zambia in the future will be extraordinary!

This sponsorship makes me feel that I am doing something positive and gives me a special connection to a country I love. In addition, I have a great reason to return to see my KaingU friends in their incredible environment every year which can’t be bad!

Linda Doughty

December 2015

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November Newsletter

We have written a lot previously about why in many ways November is our favourite safari month, so I will not repeat all that!

November saw the start of (the sporadic) rains, but remarkably little has fallen to date. Looks like the predictions of low rains this year may well be correct. Anyway, we wrote loads last month, this month we are just going to do our usual and claim that a picture tells a thousand words. Except they don’t always! So we have added a few short descriptions…

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The onset of the rains brings some interest to the sky (finally). For many many months there is hardly a cloud. I never thought I would say it, but constant blue skies actually gets a bit boring!

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With the rains being so sporadic and the river still dropping we talked last month about contemplating dynamite! Well, instead we have Bo, Mike, Handson and some cables and hilt jacks. We actually managed to move the large and troublesome rock in the “funnel” between the car park and the lodge. Quite a heroic (according to Gil & Mike) feat that Mike and myself are very proud of! With little rain though, November saw the river hardly rising at all. Normally by the end of November we are seeing a fairly steady rise.

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A French photography group share our sentiments about November…. We were delighted to host a very charming group led by Eric Le Go. Professional photographer (and East African lodge owner) Tony Crocetta was also along to give tips and tuition. I had some serious gear envy when Eric broke out his top of the line drone, Sony A7RII, Nikon 600mm F4 and D4s, etc etc. Wow. I was dreading capsizing the boat and sending $30K worth of gear to the bottom of the Kafue!

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The group inspired a bit of creative photography from our side

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And then talking of being creative we attended the Zambia Art & Design Show. This is one of the highlights of the Lusaka social scene – it is great. We shared the stand with Game Rangers International and promoted various products (and the lodge of course!). Julia’s seeds and beeds jewellery, local handcrafts and Polly from GRI brought a lot of baskets and bags from the Mukambi Women’s Group that they are supporting and helping. All in all it was a great few days and certainly worthwhile. We raised some money for the school, for GRI and were next to the most amazing bread stand. Awesome. Not to mention the chilli pickle stand, the honey stand, the other bread stand, the clothes………………..

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Just after we were doing this, Kaley (pictured above) was loading up one of the game drive vehicles and heading to Liuwa Plain National Park. Great stuff. Kaley’s first ever mobile safari (on land that is!). It went very, very well, although he reports that Liuwa is also very dry. It is great that Kaley got to see a a new (for him) park and we are looking forward to doing more of these next year.

And then of course we come to the sightings. A good month, in fact if I look at the sightings book the month was probably beaten only by October. So we leave you with some sightings, sunsets, skies and some flowers from walking around Mantobo island. Interestingly on the island we found some shards of pottery. I would love to know the story behind that. How old is it and what were the people doing on Mantobo? Interesting.

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Oh, and before we forget, we also finally got to meet Saysha our web designer. She flew up from Durban and stayed with us for almost a week. She went home inspired and already updating and tweaking the website. We hope you like the changes.

October News

So this month we are going to try and add a few more words than we have been doing recently… So lets start with the heat. This year has been hot – there was even an extreme weather warning issued by the Zambian Meteorology people. As the month wears on so do the expectations of rain. We had a few drops and even some rumbles of thunder, but the expected downpours never materialised on Independace Day. Traditionally it is often said that the rains come then. In fact the rain season for 2015/16 are being predicted to be low. This is less than ideal, already the last season was not great and the rolling blackouts (or “load shedding”) are a huge issue here in Zambia. We often are very, very grateful to be completely off-grid with our solar panels and pumps and so on.

With all that in mind, there is no surprise that this year the river is low. In fact it is so low that we are seeing new rocks that we have never seen before start showing their tops in the river. This makes boating a bit “interesting” shall we say. We are literally inching our way up certain areas. All good fun though, although I have had Mike strengthen our propellor guards! We do have to say though that the ‘funnel’ will be almost impassable with the larger boats if the river doesn’t stop dropping soon, so Rick is thinking about putting out an advert for anyone with underwater demolition skills… Anyway, despite these really low levels the surprising thing is that the pools on the ‘pools loop’ have held water right through the whole month. Which of course has meant good sightings.  In fact the sightings this month have gone up to volume 11 – spectacular stuff being seen almost daily.

I will get to sightings in a minute or so, so please bear with me… October saw us continuing our work with GRI at the community school, this time Jeni Jack and I went down with a couple of guests. We took a tiny generator, laptop and projector and Jeni backed up her lesson with pictures and video. This had the children absolutely enthralled. We are hoping that Novembers newsletter will see us posting a bit about a visit to the Elephant Orphanage Project with around 30 children. Stay tuned!

In between taking bets about when the first real rains will be, we also start to wonder when the Impalas will start giving birth. For those that are interested we pretty much reckon that it was the 10th of October this year.

The nesting skimmers did produce a chick! Sadly it was seen once by John and Kaley and then the next day when I went up to take a look there was a large croc coming off the island and no more chick. Bugger. Two years in a row now, with two nests and no offspring. To be honest when you see how they nest it is incredible that any ever survive with all the Harrier-hawks, monitor lizards and crocodiles around…

So more on sightings. Well the ripe fig trees around camp make for some great bird sightings well. But this month we have decided to create 3 slide shows to try and really give an impression of being here as a guest. With family out visiting we took the opportunity of doing a boat cruise or two and a couple of gamedrives. Julia was keeping score on the boat cruise – 32 bird species in two hours.

The first slide show is the general happenings in camp and associated with the camp. Everything from school visits to walks to violet-backed starlings eating figs:

The we move onto a montage of what we see from the boat.  These pictures are taken from two boat cruises.  The average guest does a minimum of two boat sessions usually and the birdlife is spectacular.  Recently we have also been seeing a fair few lions from the boat as well.

Then a game drive.  This was one drive.

Towards the end of the month we suddenly started running into cheetah! The first drive Israel and John found a collared male (Zambia Carnivore Project we assume) and then the following day John found a coalition of three feasting on a Puku.  Cheetah are a rare sighting here, the Kafue is one of the very few places in Zambia where they can be seen.

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The sunsets have also being getting better and better as the month wore on.  The few scattered clouds and the vegetation greening up make for spectacular sundowners on the rock.

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So now we have November to look forward to.  We have a few interesting bookings, from dedicated moth experts through to a large photography group.  I hope they bring camera covers!  The rains are going to break any moment….

 

 

 

September News

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Signs.  Nothing new, I just liked the picture.

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The skimmers that are back…  and started nesting!  That means everyone is now going to be subjected to 100s and 1000s of skimmer pictures.

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While “spraying and praying” the skimmers from the hide I noticed that repeat guests Paul and Cathy were with JohnD in absolutely spectacular light.  P&C – thanks so much for coming back and for being such great, appreciative and friendly people.  Twalumba!

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Early morning on the spinal road.  Weird road pictures again….

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The morning after – an area that burned (far too late in the season) had a strange beauty the next morning when we were up at 05:00 to look for further hot spots and embers to extinguish.

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And then an afternoon by the pools.

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Visiting the Kaingu school with the GRI community outreach project.

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An evening on the pools loop.  Living up to expectations.  When we explored this area on foot I cam face to face (and rather close) to a large male buffalo, so I always think of buffalo when driving the area.

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A very, very productive boat cruise!

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New roofs on most of the chalets!  7,000 bundles of grass, two months work for 5 thatchers from the village.

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All the older chalets (so four of them) now have proper doors now.

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I am not a huge fan of night drives, but this was a good ‘un.

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Young leopard.  On the way from the airfield to the lodge.  Middle of the day!  Captured by Nyambanza.  Kaingu intern and all round headache reducer.  Why does she reduce headaches?  Well, she makes things happen in a quiet and efficient way.

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Nyambanza. Thoughtful safari style.

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Lynda went canoeing twice.  Including the rapids!

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One in a thousand.  Literally.  It is seriously addictive.

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More of the highly scenic and beautiful natural pools.

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Bushbaby again.

August News

August. Kicked off with lot’s of excitement with good friends and repeat guests the De Scheppers bringing lots of family and two drones to film all the action while they were here.  They left us some great footage and had a great time:

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We were really impressed with the stability and the quality of the footage that Congo and Jurgen were able to capture:

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Of course some canoeing was done as well.  In fact quite a lot:

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The beginning of the month also saw the real start of the elephant island activity.  We had been seeing them a few times prior to this, but only now were guests really experiencing it.  Even from the deck while having morning coffee!

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Then we got serious with birds!  We constructed a small rough and ready hide opposite a bee-eater colony.  Of course the guys all are teasing me saying that it looks like a village shop that sells mobile phone top-ups.  It does:

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But its a case of function before fashion.  It works!  All the following images were captured from the hide:

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And a few more captured on the way to the hide (from the boat):

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Then we started the second hide project.  This one is a quite something.  There is a small natural pool near the river where JohnD had observed literally a couple of hundred of Parrots flocking every morning.  After checking, we were convinced that it is a daily phenomena whereby they flock together to eat mud before dispersing for their day’s foraging.  The reasons are (at least two theories) that the mud contains nutrients and/or the clay content helps them deal with alkaloids in fruits and seeds that would otherwise poison them.  Whatever the case it is an utterly spectacular sight.

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Parrots and Pigeons

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And then on a rare day off we saw the only positive from all the fire fighting that we have done this year… Exploring new places.  Running around the GMA putting out fires I ‘found’ another spectacular rock, so took Julia off one evening on our day off to see it.  If you look carefully in the photo you can see a bit of smoke…

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We leave you with a couple of images from the last game drive of the month, and we are hoping that this sighting of one a pair of skimmers becomes more regular.  We have been seeing them a lot, but no sign of any nesting as yet….

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July Newsletter

 

We are not going to say much about July.  We did a lot of photography updates (Anthony Grote who did our images last year was invited back).  I will just let them speak for themselves:

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June Newsletter

June turned into the month of the lions!  There has been a marked increase in lion activity around the camp over the last couple of years – most welcome indeed.  We had an early morning visit just behind the kitchen which guests got to be part off which was fantastic.  The one lioness was getting a bit antsy and the adrenaline in JohnD and myself was pumping….  but we did manage to rattle off a couple of pictures before we ran out of bravery pills….

 

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Then a few days later the camera trap caught them walking through the campsite:

 

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June is also the month when we do our protective burns around the camp.  We have fine-tuned this over the last couple of years and obtained some proper equipment, and this year we were delighted to have the Game Rangers International fire team work with us.  It is huge fun (sometimes a bit nerve wracking) as well as vitally important.

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It is also the month when we start seriously gathering in thatching grass.  This year we have to re-roof several chalets (mostly because the monkeys pull the grass out!).  In between cutting grass, Mr Gibson and his crew do a bit of a side business in supplying baobab fruit for the Kaingu Lodge baobab welcome lemonade.

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And then in stark contrast to the organised chaos of the fathers and kids fishing group in May we had a very different group.  A ladies ‘healing and wellness’ weekend was held at the lodge.  Again, the whole lodge was booked out and various activities were held.  All the ladies were enthused about our various locations for sunsets, picnic lunches, meditations and so on.

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I have to confess that the male staff component were not that excited about this, so Kaley and Israel decided to get into slightly more adrenaline filled stuff on a day with no guests.  I stood by with a camera to catch some action.  This practise session was well timed as the canoeing activities shortly thereafter started to get more and more popular.

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And then equally exciting (well, almost) was a spot of birding while waiting for Kaley and Israel to bring guests down to our pickup point at the bottom of ‘snake island’.  A Turraco – finally!!!! And the humble forked-tailed drones with their aerobatic hawking.  Turracos are very very difficult to catch with a camera – they are always highly furtive and seem to be completely allergic to cameras!

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We leave you with a few more images from June.

 

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May Newsletter

Hmm.  Late again.  Ah well, better late than never!

May was as very busy month here at Kaingu.  With large groups in camp we were happy to see the river birdlife picking up – the birdlife on the river gradually increases as the season goes on:

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We also got Mark and his homemade guitar to do a couple of songs as the guests sat down for dinner.  His guitar (made here at Kaingu) was a huge hit.  Like Benny (and his drumming) Mark is quite a talent:

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Then our big groups finished for the month and the very same day it was time for the annual Kaingu “Fathers and Kids” fishing trip.  This is now an annual fixture in our calendar.  They book the whole lodge (this year even the campsites were used).  It is a phenomenal event, involving serious logistics, serious river time and this year also an entire pig on a spit that was cooked in the turning circle for an entire afternoon!

While we awaited their arrival the various hammocks that we had set up for the kids got put to use by another type of youngster…

 

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While Julia dealt with the organised chaos of the first night (which is always the maddest) I sneaked off to take some pictures of the rapids south of the campsites by moonlight:

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We then had a visit by a professional wildlife photographer for three nights which was a lot of fun.  She was toting a monster 600mm lens (among others) and we were delighted that she got pretty much all the shots that she wanted.

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While out with Karine the photographer we also witnessed more ‘monkey business’, although this time not involving our hammocks!

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We also started driving the ‘pools loop’ that we created last year.  Firstly we had to slash and repair 14kms of road as ZAWA’s equipment was all involved elsewhere…  And we saw the first sable antelope of the year on the loop the first time we drove it – encouraging indeed!

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We also got the chance to get out there and get some shots of birds in flight.  We had a super german family who flew in to the airstrip at Chunga and who were mad keen ‘birds in flight’ photographers, so we took the opportunity….

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And then we all took shots of their plane!

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And then on the same subject (flying things) our good friends ‘Congo’ and Antonia came for a visit at the end of the month and brought his PPG (powered paraglider).  This was absolutely amazing and blew the minds of most of the staff and myself!  It was something we had talked about last year, and to finally see it happen was brilliant.

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April Newsletter

April Fools.  Well, my attempt at convincing people on Facebook that we had seen a giraffe in the Kafue was quickly rumbled, but the month really did get off to a flying start, with the completion of Finfoot House modifications and the first (repeat) guests to use it were delighted. We also started the development of a Kaingu band!  Drumming and singing has often been part of camp life – particularly when we do dinners down at the rapids, but we decided to formalise the whole thing and make it a bit better.  To be really honest I don’t think guests always appreciated the 10 minute discussion (argument actually) about what song should come next! So we set aside some afternoon time over the course of a week or so for the band to really get in shape.  Benny (new waiter) has proven to be an amazing member – he has a hugely powerful voice and is wonderful on a drum!

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We were also delighted to welcome two new members to the guiding team.  John D (who we have known for a long time) and Israel Kayombo Kayombo.  John is an absolute top tier field guide and has experience ranging from the ‘early days’ of the Luangwa scene, white water river guiding at the Falls and many years here in the Kafue.  Huge experience and knowledge.  I have never seen a guide studying a field guide to the Sierra Nevada so that he can relate flora and fauna that American guests are familiar with to what is found here in Zambia!  Not only does he have top flight guiding skills, but he is also a fine artist (in almost any medium that you can imagine). Even in addition to that he also is a highly skilled mechanic.  So to say that he is talented is a bit of an understatement. Here he is in his special handmade dancing shirt:

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Israel is a young guide who has worked in the Kafue since 2004..  He is a wonderful character and his kind and caring nature just shines through.  He scored very highly in the Kafue guiding exams last year, and to be honest this was what brought him to our attention!  34 years old and having been started his guiding career 10 years ago he is passionate about conservation, loves leopards and is fascinated by stalking predators and kills! He wants to see Zambia tourism flourish for the future of the nation.  In ten years time he would like to have written a book to help other guides!

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This means that we have now four strong guides in our team.  A far cry from a few years ago…

I mentioned Benny already, but we have quite a lot of new staff here for this season. Pythias has jumped from being a contract builder to also becoming a waiter.  He is a very quick learner at anything he turns his hand to, so waitering is proving an easy one! Here he is looking suitably thoughtful.

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Mercy (Chef Lizzie’s daughter) has joined the housekeeping team and is proving a great band member too!, Nicholas is another great new housekeeper, who unusually holds a commercial driving license.  Mercy on the left on the big pile of thatching grass and Nicholas brandishing his giraffe’s tail fly whisk (AKA: feather duster):

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New mechanic Mike Yandila is proving to be a fantastic addition to the staff.  I really struggle to find things that he cannot do!  From repairing kitchen appliances, sewing canvas and what not through to the more regular mechanical repairs and maintenance.  He really is a very talented individual indeed.  He has taken a huge weight off our shoulders.

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The sightings are difficult in April – the grass is still high, lots of water is still out there and the loops are not yet opened.  Despite that we had good lion sightings, some spectacular elephant sightings and also the first park based wild dogs of the season.  The birding (even just around the camp) has been really good, with fairly regular sightings of the sought after Böhm’s bee eaters along with a lot else.  A selection of images taken over the last month (wild dogs by Kaley):

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Speaking of water…..   March was very, very dry – so much so that we thought the rains were basically done.  Then it came back with vengeance.  Just in time for the long Easter weekend at the beginning of April!  This resulted in a temporary shelter being put over part of the main deck for Easter and then subsequent large groups that have been keeping us busy!

The curio shop has gone from strength to strength, which is a good thing as the sales have too!  New products from ‘Little Indaba’ (soft toys) have been really popular – and each elephant sold results in some proceeds to GRI.  Same with the Kaingu postcards.  Snare jewellery from South Luangwa (Mulberry Mongoose) is also proving a winner.  But the real hit over the last month has been Julia’s ‘Seed and Beeds’ jewellery.  Over 20 necklaces Sold in the last month.  That adds up to a lot of man-hours (and a lot of seeds).  Looks like we might even re-coup the costs of the kilos and kilos of seeds that came up from the villages last year when the word went out that there was a market for them here….

Some images of the ever-evolving curio shop:

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And then to sign off (pun intended) we completely re-vamped our whole radio system!  New base sets, new antennas,  new vehicle set ups and new handhelds. 10 radios in total.  Once it was all installed and set up (big thanks to Stephen the amazing radio tech from Lusaka) we were blown away….  we have gone from 3 rubbish old handsets that could hardly reach the lodge from the car park to a situation where we can even talk to the guides sitting in vehicles waiting for guests at Chunga airfield.  This is a real game changer for us and brings a massive improvement to logistics, safety, sightings and delivery days to name but a few.

 

 

 

 

 

Blog post by recent guests and thoughts on social media etc…

Recent guests Ann and Joe came all the way from New York to Zambia just to spend 5 days with us here at KaingU.  Ann wrote a great blog post which really sums up Zambia, the Kafue and KaingU.  Good reading and it interestingly shows the increasing power of the internet.  Ann booked the trip and transfers directly based only on trip advisor and internet “presence”.  Increasingly we are hearing this from guests – that they are basing their trip decisions on reviews, social media, web presence, photographs etc.

I have to admit that for me it is also an important decision making process.  If we are  looking at say a potential partner agent then an outdated website with wrong information (camps that don’t exist anymore for example) just grates.  Likewise a website where the latest “news” section hasn’t been updated for three years just shouts out that the owner of that site either can’t be bothered to update it (or doesn’t know how).  Either excuse is just that – an excuse.

There are even “social media consultants” who offer to run social media sites for safari operators.  Right.  So I will write something, take a picture and send it to a guy on another continent or country who will then stick it on Facebook and charge us several hundred dollars a month.  Makes absolutely no sense at all.

Remote administration of all this stuff just doesn’t work.  We once ( a few years back now) had marketing content generated by someone sitting in a different continent.  Just not a recipe for success.  Especially when a picture of an Indian elephant was used in in emailer.

“borrowing images” is another one that just makes no sense at all.  Some remote administrator “borrows” an image of a walking safari or whatever and posts it as if that is how it happens at that camp….  Or indeed posts a nice sighting.  But that sighting is taking place among the dry grass of October but the post is in February.  I think you get what I mean!  Don’t forget that ‘search google for this image’ can be done.  I have seen this fairly recently – a social media ‘consultant’ posting pictures of a boat cruise “at” a certain camp in the Kafue and the boat was from a completely different camp.  I only realised it because I in fact took delivery of the same boat and used it regularly!  Doing  a quick image search showed that the image in question was actually a guest’s review on safaribookings.com.

Now for a longer, complicated stay in several camps in several different parks (or indeed countries) then an experienced agent should not be under-estimated.  But for two young tech-savy scientists then going it alone was a breeze.  It was also fascinating to see how connected Ann and Joe were and listen to their take on the whole web/social media thing.

We are certainly not big time techies.  But Saysha (our web designer) made it very clear from the beginning that while she would do major changes and updates she expects us to take ownership of our website and try and do basic updates.  It’s not that hard and it is actually quite good fun.

Anyway I am waffling on…

Read Ann’s post here:

http://annerzflavoredlife.com/2015/04/24/zambia-the-lost-garden-of-eden/