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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  If we are  looking at say a potential partner agent then an outdated website with wrong information (camps that don’t exist anymore for example) just grates.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/

Why the Kafue?

The Kafue National Park we are always being told is unknown and not on people’s radar. Agents and destination management companies tell us that it is far easier to sell South Luangwa and that Kafue is just “too hard”. We are all hoping that in 2015 to a certain extent that will change with Proflight running a scheduled service to Chunga airstrip. Hopefully this will make it an easier sell for agents and guests booking direct and the profile of the Park will rise.

So why should a visitor choose the Kafue over another safari destination? Indeed why do we as operators choose to be here in the Kafue? Or is it all just “too hard”..?

It is not a simple question to answer. The Kafue is diverse and varied, but out of all the features of the Park, the one standout fact always mentioned is its sheer size. At 22,500 square kilometres it is larger than some countries! Wales is always the one compared (at about 20,000). But size alone is not relevant unless we try and describe the other facets of the Park that go along with this size. Size and numbers are also difficult to comprehend without something to compare to.

Kruger and Kafue – both start with a K and are broadly similar in size (Kruger is a a shade under 3,000 square kilometres smaller). Kruger receives around 1,400,000 visitors per year while the Kafue gets around 10,000. This means that while you are on safari in the Kruger you are sharing the Park with and average of 3,835 people each day. Come on safari in the Kafue and you are sharing the park with an average of 27 people!

Now for most people an African safari should be about wilderness areas and the fauna that inhabit these areas. I have never met a guest yet here in the Kafue that complained about not seeing enough fellow tourists! Now one definition of ‘wilderness’ that I found is:
“An unsettled, uncultivated region, especially a large tract of land that has not been significantly affected by human activities”.
Now a place like Kruger boasting those sort of visitor numbers as well as massive rest camps equipped with Wimpy fast food restaurants is (for me at least) just not what I want from a safari.

Of course here we are looking at extremes, but I think this gets my point across. There are very, very few places left where the feeling of untouched solitude and nature are felt as strongly as the Kafue. In fact the only other place I have been to where I have had the same sort of feeling is the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana.

“Of course the Kafue doesn’t have the game numbers”. True. We don’t have the big five (Rhino is missing) or the elephant herds of Chobe. Sometimes we have to work hard at sightings. But neither do we have to have self imposed rules about the maximum number of vehicles on sightings and neither do we have the terrible sights of desolate landscapes with hardly any vegetation left and animals literally dropping dead from food and water stress at the end of the dry season. I know what I would rather see. Sure Chobe is mind boggling in terms of elephant numbers, but so is the lack of feed and the imbalance in the whole ecosystem. Not to mention the number of Land cruisers going there every day from Kasane!

I could go on and on and list species to justify ‘why the Kafue’, but I wont. I will just paraphrase a journalist guest this year who wrote:

“It is not just the animals. OK, Kafue is not yet fully back to where it used to be and you will see a higher volume of animals in somewhere like South Luangwa. But the animals are there and somehow when you see them in the Kafue National Park, they are wilder and you are more rewarded.
If there are no animals in the immediate vicinity, there will still be the birds. You do not have to be a twitcher to simply wonder at the birds of the Kafue, from the hugely colourful bee-eaters to the majestic hawks and eagles”.

Then there is the sheer variety of the Kafue National Park and its immediate surroundings. More antelope species than any other place in Africa, 515 bird species and habitat ranging from unique teak forests in the south through to the year-round papyrus swamps of Busanga. Pristine Miombo woodland, Mopane woodland in the south and then of course there is the Kafue river itself and it’s major tributaries, feeding into Lake Itezhi Tezhi. Water is not generally an issue in the Park!

What definitely is changing in the Kafue also is the quality of the experiences offered by operators. This ranges from the standard of camps through to an increased focus on guiding standards and training (to bring the Kafue in line with South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi). Like those other parks we also now have an organisation (Game Rangers International in our case) that are working alongside ZAWA to support and help in the fight against poaching. To be honest the Kafue has been playing catch up for far too long, but this is now definitely changed. The overall quality of operators is rising and so therefore is the tourist experience. But again, lets look at numbers….

I have no idea what the number of visitors to South Lungwa are per annum, but a quick skim of Trip Advisor shows that there are 41 active “speciality lodgings”. The Kafue in comparison has only 19 active properties – of which two sites are only offering camping. So once again the point here is the low visitor numbers and the less developed nature of the park.  And of course you have to bear in mind that South Luangwa is less then half the size of the Kafue.

Kafue also offers something for everyone in terms of budget. You can choose to stay at budget facilities and campsites or you can spend over a thousand dollars per night. You can drive in or fly in or even get the bus and be met at the bridge on the M9! There are not many places where the flexibility and range of options are as diverse as here. And this is how it should be – an equal chance for all to experience this wonderful place.

Increasingly we feel that the safari experience in the Kafue is what people are looking for. Perhaps they have done the (in my mind, over the top in many places) opulence of the Delta or the private concessions around Kruger. They might well have seen the spectacle of East Africa’s migration. But they are looking for a degree of what I would call ‘reconnection’. Being out in a true wilderness hardly touched by man and with passionate guides and managers and owners who have chosen to be in this place. Not because it is easy, but because of everything I have talked about. Even in the most luxurious camp in the Kafue you will not find electric gym equipment or private butlers. Why would you want it in the bush? You will not find people coming here for the bragging rights, as who will they brag too? Will anyone know what they are on about…? For something the size of Wales it is a remarkable secret.

And the Kafue is not the only place like this in Zambia. Liuwa Plain National Park, North Luangwa and the Bangwelu swamps are other very much lesser known but truly special places.

So to sum up, well it is not “too hard”. In fact it is one of the easiest true wilderness areas to get to that I know. Certainly easier and faster to access from Lusaka than Lower Zambezi or South Luangwa. The standards are rising all the time and to cut it all short in fact there has never been a better time to visit. Come and see it now!  Proflight flights are available to book online!

 

 

The Kaingu Water Project

The Itumbi Village is the home of Chief Kaingu and so plays a very important part in our local communities.  Located some 27km (in a straight) line south from the lodge, the village is also the site of the ‘Kaingu School’ which was built through funds raised by guests and then matched by the Dutch Government.  Kaingu Lodge pays the salaries of two extra teachers and we are proud of the impact that our lodge is having on education in Itumbi village – it is genuinely transforming peoples future.

However the School has never had running water (despite being a modern construction to quite a high standard).  Now in a school with several hundred pupils there is clearly an issue here with sanitation (particularly hand washing) and drinking water.  Over the years a borehole had been tried at the school several times, but every drilling rig hit granite rock sadly.

There is a borehole at the village, but this is 750m away from the school!

Rewind to May 2013 and we were sitting on the deck at Kaingu talking with two guests from London.  They were with us after an amazing time in Liuwa Plain and anyway, to cut a long story short they expressed an interest to help us solve the problem of water at the school.  From using solar pumps here at the lodge we thought that given some investment in a pump, tanks and stands and a LOT of piping it would be quite possible to achieve it.

Anyway nothing ever moves as fast as one would want…. bush life I suppose.  Over the course of the next year we realised that the money from our very kind guests from London would not quite make the whole project happen.  We at Kaingu had also put in a sizeable chunk, then further guests (Keith and Bev) who make rotory moulded plastics decided they would also chip in with a tank, some pipe and a very good discount on other items.  Clive (from the parent company) later also visited and pledged more material.

We started to get the items ready and contracted Davis and Shirtliff in Lusaka to come and do a feasibility study and then supply the pump and solar panels and do the installation into the borehole.

The community (under the Chief’s careful supervision) dug all the pipe trenches and helped a local contractor erect the two tank stands.  We (rather optimistically) decided that the project would consist of three spurs – going to taps at the Chief’s Palace, a central location in the village and up to the school itself.  The recovery rate of the borehole when it was sunk was good enough on paper…  but boreholes change over time and water flow can reduce.  But anyway, we went ahead with crossed fingers.

So a few weeks back D&S arrived and sank the pump, plumbed it in and wired up the panels.  It all worked beautifully.  So much so that there is so much water being produced that irrigating small field gardens is even going to be possible.

The project was not a small one, and while it took time it is worth it.

J&R (London) – $10,000

Kaingu Lodge – $4000

Keith and Clive  (Rototank) – 1 tank, pipes and other material.

Our future thoughts are now turning to WC sanitation and not Ventilated Pit latrines, but for now the benefit to the children and the community (who no longer have to spend hours hand pumping and carrying water) is there!

IMG_6515 IMG_6517 IMG_6526 IMG_6532

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kaingu Lodge Video.

The KaingU 2014 Recipe Book

Here is the Kaingu recipe book for this year.  A lot of guests ask to take some of the recipes home, so Julia has created a booklet with her best ones.  It is optimised for printing, so if you want to download and print it then it will all go together nicely.  The booklet includes some of Nelson’s Ila translations – he translates all the recipes into his own book in Ila.  Totally awesome.

Enjoy!

recipe book

 

Picking up guests on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.

Just the beautiful ride from Kaingu Lodge to the carpark on a Saturday afternoon.  The only thing missing here is you on the boat!

 

Return to Snake Island

Just rubber ducking down the side of ‘Snake Island’.

Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence

We are delighted to have received a 2014 Certificate of Excellence!

Love it or hate it, there is no getting away from the fact that increasingly everyone researches their safaris in detail beforehand and Trip Advisor is now becoming an essential research tool.

While we understand that people use it as a research tool it is not always an accurate reflection of properties. Trip Advisor currently lists Shumba Camp (The Kafue’s most expensive and luxurious camp) as a campsite…. certain reviews for one other camp are actually for a completely different camp. Etc Etc.

While it is a guide, it is just that. The way a camp responds to emails, answers questions etc must also be critically looked at. Do they sound like they know what they are talking about? Do they respond quickly? Or are they just shooting you a rate sheet and a one line reply…

There is no doubt that travel agents face increasing competition from people putting their own packages together. In our experience if you are working with a good travel agent that REALLY knows the camps, the transfer arrangements, how the country works – and what you the guest’s expectations and wants are – then you will reap the benefits.

Anyway, we would really like to say a big thank you to all our guests who contributed reviews over the last months. Twalumba!

Fishing at Kaingu.

Dr Sven Vrdoljak from Wildtracks who with his brother Pete has helped us out massively with regards to all things angling very kindly wrote this about angling here at Kaingu:

In terms of fish diversity, the Kafue system has a total of 68 indigenous species (according to a report by Biodiversity Foundation by Africa). Obviously not all of these are species that would be targeted by anglers but there are a few groups of interest:

The most diverse group of angling fishes will be the serranochromine (largemouth) breams of which there are nine species in the Kafue system. These include, thin-faced bream, purple-faced bream and of course the nembwe (yellow-belly) all of which are large predatory fish sought after by anglers. Nembwe can grow up to 3.5 kg in weight. They will take a variety of spinners, lures, flies and live or artificial worms.

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Dr Sven with a thin-faced Bream 

Another distinctive Kafue predator is the African pike. With their large teeth they feed almost exclusively on fish and usually inhabit the quieter backwater areas. Females grow larger than males and may attain up to 2 kg. They are good fun on light tackle and will also take a variety of spinners, lures and small spoons.

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Steve (Amazon Angler) with an African Pike 

The Kafue also has a number of catfish, the largest being the sharp-tooth catfish which is widespread in Southern Africa. Around KaingU these tend to be very darkly coloured, hence them being referred to there as ‘black barbel’. An extremely strong fighting fish, they are more suited to heavier tackle. Although your KaingU record is 11 kg, elsewhere they can grow to over 50 kg. They are omnivores and will take almost any bait, but can also be caught on lure. The other catfish that anglers will encounter is the butter barbel or silver catfish. A separate family to the sharp-tooth catfish they are a shoaling species which also have a highly varied diet. They will take cut bait or worms but can also be caught on small spinners. Anglers should be aware of the needle-sharp, barbed spines in their pectoral and dorsal fins which can inflict very painful wounds due to the poisonous mucous that covers them.

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Steve with a Sharptooth Catfish (John in the background with the camera)

Some other interesting species that more determined anglers might catch include labeos which may be found in some of the faster shallower water. Although not really a popular angling fish in Zambia as they are often difficult to find and catch They may however be of interest to fly-fishermen (especially those familiar with yellowfish in South Africa, a related species). Larger individuals are strong swimmers and can give a good fight on fly or light tackle. They will also take worms. Another lesser known species is the western bottlenose which can be found among rocks in deeper, quieter waters. These are odd looking fish which are one of the mormyrids a group found only in Africa. They are able to generate weak electrical impulses to detect predators and communicate with each other. They have small mouths and will take worms on small hooks. The Western bottlenose grows up to 2kg.

What makes KaingU an interesting place to fish in my opinion is the diversity of habitat available from shallow riffles and rapids to deep, rocky  pools and quiet backwaters under overhanging trees. The fishing does offer something for everyone whether they prefer to use fly, artificial lures or bait and can include catching fish that they may never have encountered elsewhere. Options for fishing are also varied – fishing from the boat, rock hopping by the rapids or combining the two and spending the day island hopping and fishing among the numerous islands and channels around KaingU.

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Dr Sven with a hump-backed Bream

As with all recreational fishing I would recommend that there is a good catch and release policy or at least bag limits on what guests can catch to keep. Another good way of limiting this is to have a policy that fish may not leave camp, so they can catch a couple of fish for their evening meal for instance, but not take home cool-boxes full of fish. Some simple guidelines for catch-and-release are given below:

Basic catch-and-release guidelines

  • Never play a fish to complete exhaustion. It is important that the tackle used is strong enough to handle the potential size and power of your target species. The use of light and ultralight tackle is discouraged for sport species. The minimum recommended line strength for tigerfish and vundu is 8 kg or 20lb.
  •  Keep fish in the water. If possible unhook the fish without removing it from the water. Using barbless hooks make this easier. Important: always be aware of the potential threat posed by crocodiles when handling fish in the water.
  • Use knotless landing nets. Newer nets are made of a soft rubber mesh that is much less damaging to skin and mucous membrane
  • Avoid handling the fish excessively. If you must handle a fish, use wet hands to avoid damag¬ing its protective mucous coating (a protective secretion that keeps fish healthy and free from infection).
  • Minimise airtime. Even short exposure to the air can damage gill tissue. If you must remove a fish from the water return it as quickly as possible.
  • Take care when photographing fish. Be prepared, Have a camera ready to photograph your catch so that it can be returned to the water quickly. Don’t suspend fish by the jaw or gills when photographing. Hold the fish horizontally, supporting the body with both hands.
  •  Exercise restraint. Not all the fish you release will survive. Catch and release reduces but does not completely eliminate fish mortality. Overfishing a particular area will still deplete fish. Give fishing spots time to recover
  •  Fish responsibly. Considering the welfare of every fish that you catch will ultimately benefit the fish population and fishery as a whole.

More detailed information on catch-and-release is available from the Lower Zambezi Catch & Release Initiative. Visitwww.wildtracks-zambia.com/index.php/LZCRI or contact Dr Sven Vrdoljak (sven@wildtracks-zambia.com) to download printable guidelines on responsible angling techniques and, releasing, handling and photographing fish.

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Trans-frontier Conservation News from South of the Kafue Park

Exciting news about trans-frontier conservation that hopefully will ultimately benefit the Kafue!

 

Simalaha PPF