Whats Happening at KaingU Safari Lodge in Zambia

Stay updated with news and information from KaingU Safari Lodge situated in the Namwala Game Management Area (GMA) on a spectacular and remote stretch of the Kafue River in Zambia.

Aerial Views!

“Drones” – love them or hate them, they are here to stay and are allowing people to get stills and video that formerly was possible only with chartering a helicopter at $$$$s of dollars.  Even then you cannot fly a helicopter in places you can fly a small quadcopter.  They come in all shapes and size, from huge rigs that can carry large professional quality video and stills cameras through to ones that can fit in your pocket.  The technology is changing so so fast.  A friend of our has lent us a quadcopter – a DJI Phantom Vision 2+.

This is not our loaner drone!  This is a $3500 dollar one…  better not crash in the river then.  

Now in the drone world this is 3 year old technology, so therefore getting long in the tooth!  DJI are a chinese company that are dominating the market with mid and high end units.  The small ‘copter has a built in camera roughly similar to a gopro type action camera, but it is able to take still photographs in .RAW format to allow more latitude for processing.   The camera sensor is pretty similar to what you find in your smart phone.  So small.  That means low light stuff is going to yield poor results. But in decent light it is capable of capturing some amazing views.  The .RAW images I found need fairly heavy handed processing to make them pop, so a lot of saturated and dramatic (almost HDR) tones are on the agenda here.  Anyway we have a whole bunch of shots and video planned and fingers crossed I don’t crash it as I did last year!

So here are some views of the area where our lodge is located.  We hope you like this different view of this stunning part of Africa!

This is just south of the lodge, our ‘Chief’s campsite’ enjoys this location.  The ablution building is just visible in the bottom left hand corner of the image.  

The rapids just below the lodge – the site of many dinners under the stars as well as canoeing set pieces!  

Looking from the rapids North.  The lodge is on the right hand river bank in the center of the frame, but it is so well hidden in the trees that it is basically invisible.  

Here the quadcopter is basically hovering over the lodge and looking west.  The myriad of channels and islands around the lodge can really be seen from up here (up here is 150m above ground level).  

Again looking North from the lodge area.  The massive island of Mantobo can be seen and the length of river visisble is basically the route that guests arrive in by boat – the car park in the National Park is beyond the two smaller islands clearly visible in the main channel.  

looking East from ‘Chief’s campsite`.  As far as the eye can see stretches Namwala GMA and nothing but bush!  

Straight-down shot above the rapids.  The dinner location is just visible in the open area between the trees at the very bottom of the frame.   

A beautiful misty morning with the mists just starting to break up as the sun rises.  The camera point of view is right above the main area of the lodge looking south towards the rapids.  

Looking south west over the top of Mpamba rock – site of literally thousands of scenic and spectacular sunset sundowners. 

The dambo next to Mpamba rock.  Straight down point of view.  

Straight down point of view of the lodge lurking in the morning mists.  

April News

So after the mega floods of March we were glad to welcome April.  While the rains reduced they were by no means gone.  We had long periods of glorious sunshine and then a good few days of heavy cloud cover and rains.  The long periods of cloud brought nice cool temperatures but didn’t do our solar power generation, pumped water and hot water geysers any favours!  But as we kept telling ourselves (especially in March): “its just weather”.  So yes, April showers and no packing away the ponchos just yet.  Fortunately the rain seemed to fall around and not on some of the big American groups that we hosted.

We were delighted to see that goliath herons were back in the same nesting site as last year with another giant chick.  Interestingly later in the month a second nest and a second chick appeared not 30m from the original.

adult goliath taking off

giant chick

The birding action continued with a very special sighting.  JohnD enroute back from a game drive was boating guests down the river when he came across a pair of crowned eagles in a tree on Mantobo island! Phenomenal.  I have always been fascinated by these birds since coming across a young one up close and personal in the Ghanaian rainforest.  Of course John immediately took up back up river to find them but they were long gone.

pair of crowned eagles

The next sighting was another unusual one.  A group of American guests were fully into morning Tai-Chi and so there was morning sessions on the deck.  The one guest was actually a martial arts instructor and managed to persuade some of the guides and staff to also join in (and Lynda!).

Morning tai-chi

The large numbers of Americans in camp meant that there was lots of singing and drumming…  and it wasn’t all one sided either.  While our staff are very very used to this (and highly skilled) we were very impressed by one guest standing up and doing a drum solo on his last night!

warming the drums

drum solo

Our second 6m swamp cruiser boat has been doing sterling service already.  Its one of those assets where now we wonder how on earth we ever managed without it…  having space on boats for 22 guests but in an 16 bed lodge means that we can really personalise activities and provide total flexibility – which is something that we really pride ourselves on and work hard at doing.  Our small fleet at rest on a sundowner island:

our small fleet

We have often mentioned Mike’s (mechanic) skills and how versatile he is.  This month he went from rebuilding a starter motor in a morning to then sewing new umbrellas for the deck from canvas… All on a hand cranked chinese sewing machine.

the talented Mr Yandila

new umbrellas

All done on this!

hand cranked chinese sewing machine

We started having a regular visitor to the boat jetty (now that it was finally not under water).  Fortunately it was about 8″ long and not a 3m monster!

mini croc

The last of our big groups for the month was one of the absolute best ever.  All friends travelling together and hailing from Spicewood Texas, they were an absolute blast to deal with from start to finish.  Including the specially written song.

Sadly the group missed out on lions, and then murphy’s law dictated that on the way back from dropping them at the airstrip JohnD came across some luggage trailer lions:

Easter was a fantastic weekend – despite one of the last death throes of the rains!

Then the month of April kept the best for last!  Repeat guests Johan and Antonia were driving out to spend labour day weekend at the lodge and came across what will almost certainly be the sighting of the year!  A caracal kitten.  Incredible.  I personally have never seen a caracal in the Kafue, JohnD tells me he has seen one in his career here!  29th of April.

We celebrated with dinner on the deck that night and then dinner at poacher’s rock the following night!

How a little girl flooded the bar! (AKA camp opening 2017)

So 2017.  Thanks to a wind in the pacific our main area got flooded!  Joking apart, the end of 2016 and early part of 2017 were forecast to be “La Nina” (Spanish for little girl) conditions.  These are conditions that follow the more known “El Nino” (little boy) conditions.  How does that flood the bar?  Well, La Nina conditions are stronger than usual easterly trade winds in the pacific.  These winds move warmer water to the west (shallower water near the west coast of South America is warmer) allowing the warmer water to be replaced with cooler water.  A couple of degrees change in temperature of a large area of the pacific then has a huge effect on the global atmospheric circulation (which you may as well just call weather!).  This basically means you then have different than normal distribution of thermal energy to the earths surface.  La Nina conditions means higher than normal rainfall patterns in Southern Africa and that was for sure this year.  El Nino is the exact opposite in cause and effect.

So it rained and rained and rained… Now lets be honest, Zambia needs a decent raining season to fill up the dams and provide relief what what has been 3 fairly dry rainy seasons.  The river just kept rising up though.  Now normally this is not that big a deal – the Luansanza and Shishamba rivers often rise over the bridges and make access impossible, but generally it is over in 24hrs and they have subsided below the bridges.  Not this time!  We were left with no choice but to boat guests down from Chunga all the way to the lodge.  Its either that or four hours around the GMA/ITT road and I know which I would prefer.

Once in camp the guests had the unique experience of seeing the waters slowly rise through the deck, over the deck and eventually into the main thatched area and up to the bar.

Interesting times indeed.  We made a plan and used the Finfoot house deck for lunch and then for dinner we used the guides nkuta – fortunately last year we built a new one and the special curved cooler box storage area could do duty as a bar.  It actually looked really good we thought.

Fortunately the waters stopped just below the guest tents.  Although most of the tents we had to place mukwa planks on breeze blocks to allow guests to keep their feet dry.

Game drives were definitely not on the menu, the car park in the National Park was completely under water.  In fact our game drive vehicles were marooned on the only bit of high ground.  JohnD, Kaley and myself took a boat through the car park and halfway down the track to the spinal road – totally surreal experience.

Almost as surreal was taking a boat up the river, up the Luansanza and over the bridge.   To give you an idea here is two pictures, one with the river at its peak and then one last November when we were clearing and burning the storm debris that builds up at the bridge.

When it came to departure time for the ‘flood group’ we elected to drive the guests around – there was not too much enthusiasm for punching upstream into the heavy current and up the Chunga rapids!  We then had about a weeks dry weather and the main area dried out and we were finally able to get a vehicle out of the car park.  Fortunately we did that day as German guests then had a fantastic sighting of a huge Pangolin as we were heading down to the Kaindabaila hills.

The very welcome week of dry came to an end though with more rains.  Just as we were gearing up for the arrival of some big groups.  This led to some very sleepless nights – these group numbers were such that driving them around was just not an option.  The river started to rise again and it was a real deja vu moment.  Fortunately the bridges stayed clear and we were able to get our groups in an out.

While the river is still really high (most rocks and islands are still totally submerged, as is our jetty) it is finally receding fast.  No doubt that the rainy season is over now and we are all breathing a sigh of relief.  We were really chuffed to still be getting good guest feedback even at the peak of the flood.  But we are really glad that not every camp opening is like this one was!

Great stay despite the unseasonal “High Tide”. Everyone did their utmost to keep the show on the road and our walking trips through the velt learning about the “smaller things” like butterflies, snakes, scorpions, spiders and trees was FANTASTIC. The knowledge of the guides was outstanding and the friendliness of the owners – staff was magic.

although the river Kafue had risen and the camp was flooded, the staff were very good and looked after you very well in the circumstances.
there was other activities to do like walking,canoeing, fishing etc. all told a different but enjoyable experience.  

We got away lightly.  A lot of other camps were badly affected.  Its a bit of a distant memory now and with a good clean up things are totally back to normal and everything is lush and green.  Getting a bit chilly in the mornings too.  Roll on winter!