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 16 guests – which is great. The groups give us a chance to do things that don’t tend to happen otherwise! Cultural talks, chitenge talks, drumming, dancing and all that good stuff:
“Benny’s Band” also then come into full effect. Kebby has appointed himself choir director – his love of talking carries over into singing too. There is some talk of making a CD and Benny and Kebby selling them in the curio shop for some outrageous sum! With the larger groups they get welcomed into camp with the “Kaingu Welcome” song and then the last night is a big dancing and singing session.
The groups entail some serious early morning wake-up calls on the day of departure. Getting up at 04:00 can be a bit daunting. The beautiful clear skies of May before the smoke and haze of the winter months make for absolutely stunning nightscapes. So a quick bit of super early morning star photography while the kettles boil compensates a bit:
We did have a couple of gaps in between the big groups, during one of the gyps Julia, John and I grabbed some river time and went out looking for the goliath heron nest that Israel had spotted down the side of Mantobo island. We failed to find the heron nest though. But still, being out on a boat here is always good for the mind and the soul:
Then one afternoon we were treated to a lioness casually strolling right through camp! She wandered around the guest chalets and we were able to grab the old landrover plus one group member (who had stayed in camp to relax) and follow her around. A lion moving quickly through camp is surprisingly hard to get a picture off. But finally we managed just by the battery room:
Talking of cat sightings May has been pretty good. Going through the sightings book I count 3 separate cheetah sightings in the National Park. Almost all of them were on the early morning runs taking groups up to the Chunga airfield. Now the Kafue is one of the few places in Zambia where you can see Cheetah, but its not exactly like they are sitting on every termite mound!
We made the chefs very happy in May as well! The dying kitchen range was replaced with two shiny Bosch ovens. So now Wina can roast his pork and Lizzy can make her cakes. At the same time. Awesome. We also rebuilt the parrot hide in anticipation of the gathering of the Meyer’s parrots (and yes, they are gathering). This unique spectacle is highly anticipated.
We also managed to pack in some annual first aid training. St John’s ambulance in Zambia do a really good training service and the trainers are all top notch professionals. Last year we did advanced training for the guides, this year we did basics for Kebby (trainee guide), Nyambanza (asst manager), Benny (barman). Boyd and Kaley (guides) also sat in just to refresh. There were quite a few laughs. Of course everyone wanted to put ‘Nyambos’ in the recovery position. Benny turned out to the the lucky guy!
We also had a real guest baby. Not Wina’s son Fabio (yes, Wina claims that Italian names are intrinsic to his family, so Wina named his son after one of our most loyal guests…) and not the plastic St John’s dummy. So real babies inevitably get looked after by a real professional – Aunt Jenny! Kaingu’s free babysitting service is often a huge hit with parents wanting to do an early morning game drive or a romantic dinner with some sparkling “mummy and daddy juice”…
Talking of parenthood, to round the month off we had a very different sort of big group. The annual Kaingu ‘fathers and kids’ fishing trip. Into its fourth year now, it gets better and better each time. In addition to about a thousand cooler boxes stuffed with beer and sugary drinks Victor (organizer and top guy) brought a whole lamb to roast on a spit. It was incredible. We rigged up a zip line, we created a water slide, we sampled Mark’s schnapps which makes your brain go all warm and we played hours and hours of musical cushions. It is an absolute highlight of our year!!!
And our final news for this month – we created a new extension to the ‘Kaingu Loop’ in the national park. Great stuff. We mapped it, walked it, slashed it, burnt it and then got it tow-graded. And in doing so we saw buffalo hers twice, a beautiful leopard and Bo, Oscar and Martin found a dead thing in a stunning dambo that is 5kms long. This new road is a winner. Going across very early one morning to finish it off we also had the most incredible sunrise. Now I see a fair few sunrises here, being on the river at that time is amazing, but this one was something else. The unusually cloudy sky combined to make it the best one I have ever seen.