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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.

 

 

 

 

 

March Newsletter

Well the season is now well and truly open!
We opened very early this year with the first guests pulling in on the 28th of February. Prior to that we had our annual shutdown period in January and February which allows us to get on with various jobs. This year we had unusually low rainfall which allowed at least easier transport of building materials. It also gives us a chance to unwind a bit and enjoy some absolute serenity! It is also a great time of year to be in the bush and taking pictures – the clarity of light and the lush vegetation and blue skies. It is not often over the course of the season that we can wander round the camp with a camera and not have to rush back for guests returning from activities or to place the weekly order etc. The ‘green season’ is a stunning time of year. With the Kafue being relatively high altitude we don’t get stifling heat, so although the humidity is high it is quite pleasant.
Here are a few images taken around the camp over the closed season:

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Bushbuck on the path to the campsites

 

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Böhm’s bee eater by chalet no3

 

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Little spotted woodpecker also by Chalet No3

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Spotted bush snake (and it’s prey) by the laundry steps.

 

 

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Male Bushbuck by the solar panel bank.

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Bushbaby in the tree above our house.

 

 

Of course we also take the opportunity to get out on the boats and even combine visits to ZAWA HQ with a bit of a game drive.  The character of the river completely changes as the level rises and most of the rocks submerge.

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Elephant in the miombo while heading up to pay park fees to ZAWA

 

The birdlife is not as prolific as at the end of the dry season, but still some great sightings can be had.  Having time on our hands we can really appreciate the birds that we see pretty much every day, but never really spend time on.

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The spectacular trumpeter hornbill – we see it every day here, but amazingly this was the first time ever here getting it on camera.

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The even more spectacular Knob-billed duck.

 

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White faced whistling ducks

 

Julia went back to Germany in February for a few weeks to catch up with family and friends (and a few agents too of course!), Rick and Lynda were also back in Oz for a while so I was left to my own devices…. Which meant that apart from the building projects I got quite a few chances to try and improve and experiment with a bit of astrophotography and trying to catch lightning from Mpamba rock.  Let’s face it – while alone at the lodge there is not many entertainment options!

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Mpamba with storms racing in.  There were actually storms on three sides on this night.

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Mpamba moonrise.

 

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Mpamba milkyway.

 

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Seven sisters from the deck.

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Green laser (star pointer) on Mpamba.

 

On the way into town to pick up Julia I was amazed to have the most incredible ‘game drive’ of the green season. Sadly I had no decent camera with me, but at least the tablet managed to get the wild dogs 1km from the camp. But the Sable and Zebra shortly afterwards were way, way too far! All this a few kms from the camp in the GMA area – not the park. Very encouraging.

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The various projects over the green season…. As usual all the design work and layout is by Julia, this ranged from simple things (sign boards and re.construction of the tea station) through to more complex things (our house is anything but a simple construction!).  A few random pictures of all that was going on.

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Japhet (trainee carpenter) in action.

 

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Felix (carpenter and Japhet’s father) in action.

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Royd (builder and Chief Kaingu’s brother) and his crew in action.

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Handson and Dennis (thatching crew) preparing bundles.

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Thatcher (and general supervisor at other times) Bo in the wooly hat.

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Moving a few last minute rocks…

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Some progress!

Of more relevance to guests is the modifications that we decided to do to the ‘Finfoot’ family house.  On the occasions when the house is used by two couples there has always been a bit of inequality in the two bedrooms!  Not any more…. now the twin bedroom has some serious modifications.  We knocked out the window, changed the internal bathroom and then built a door, outside shower, bench seat and mini-deck.  Quite a change, and very favourably received by the first guests that have been using it:

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The beginning of the modifications.

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Half way through the project

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The end result.

 

Some of the less ambitious (but still effective) changes included the tea station – the old one was completely dismantled and then rearranged into a longer counter with shelving above so that more than one person can make a cup of tea at a time!

 

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To avoid confusion we also went back to basics and put numbers on chalets and pathways!  The Ila names that were used previously were great, but to be honest most guests struggled with remembering them (as did I).  Sometimes the simple tried and tested methods work best…

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That was pretty much it with regard to the green season.  We had a great camp opening and so far we have had great sightings, including the spectacular heronary which was discovered just south of the ‘tunnels’.  This is an amazing site – so many nesting birds on a small island in the river.  We took repeat guests Pete and Fran down there and had a great time watching all the action.

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On the same subject (things that fly) we had some great guests that at the last minute decided to take their planes and fly in for the weekend.  Absolutely beautiful Piper Cherokee:

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We leave you with one of Julia’s seed Neckless designs on top of the rock:

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2014 at Kaingu Part 2 (Wildlife & Sightings)

So our review of 2014 continues, now with a bit about wildlife and sightings.  We are fortunate in that all our guides have cameras and are interested in taking photographs.  Isaac has a Canon 50D with a pretty good 300mm zoom lens.  Most of our readers will have seen me posting images from Isaac quite regularly.  But taking guests out does not always allow for great photographic possibilities as one might imagine.  Suffice to say that all of us enjoy those moments when the concerns of the job (be it guiding or managing or whatever) can be cast aside and we can just concentrate only on trying to capture images.

Kaley also got himself a good camera this year (thanks Kath!) and some of his images have been quite unique – a stunning shot of a leopard and an immature Bush Baby being the ones that really stick in my mind.  Kaley’s pictures actually make me smile… they always remind me of people who say things like “of course I can’t get a good picture because I don’t have a big camera”.  Taking photos of wildlife takes various and variable combinations of patience (lots), timing, knowledge of behaviour, luck, skill and knowledge of one’s equipment.  Sure, if you want to start pictures of things like birds in flight then a ‘travel zoom’ type camera is ultimately not going to get the job done., but Kaley’s results with a second hand camera that fits in a pocket speaks volumes.

Of course a lot of the action and drama that we see doesn’t always get captured as images by electronic sensors.  I will never forget the animation of the guests that came back from boating with Major.  It was all too quick for photography, but to see a Cheetah chasing a Bush Buck into the Kafue will be a lasting memory for those guests!

Then sometimes it is wonderful just to sit back and watch.  Yet another herd of Impalas or a raft of Hippos can be absolutely fascinating if you just focus on them and not rushing on hoping for the next mega-sighting.  Kaingu is also quite different in that a lot of our ambience and experience is just as much about the landscapes as it is the occupants.  The river views in the early morning mist in June, the views from Poachers Rock when the Miombo is in summer foliage are all absolutely amazing.

 

So I have raved on enough, now to the images, which I have tried to keep in chronological order as much as possible.  Photos from Gil, Julia, Isaac and Kaley (and Anthony Grote).

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2014 at Kaingu Part 1 (Camp and People)

An amazing year!   2014 has been the year that we all wanted.  We started off in February with camp improvements and that thread continued through the whole year.  The improvements kicked off in the absolutely beautiful green season with modifications to the main area – new deck pergola, curio shop, new bar, new entrance.

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Then as February went into March we wondered if we were going to be under water!  We also ended up briefly cut off on the Park side when the Luansanza went over the bridge for two days!  This got quite tricky, and Gil and Kaley ended up trying to run the Chunga rapids in a boat to get guests out!  Trying being the operative word!  Lets just say that the propellor now makes a ‘story point’ behind the bar…

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Just before the season kicked off properly we also managed to get Isaac Kalio to join the Kaingu guiding team.  Isaac had worked with Julia and Gil in Busanga Plains for several years, and his experience and ability meant that we were now starting to build a really solid team.  Major also joined us as a trainee guide, and he rapidly became the No1 fishing guide and showed great skill and confidence in our rocky river.  The great thing about our team is that they really are a team (Kaley, Isaac and Major all come from the same area and knew each other prior to Kaingu).  They also bring different skills and facets to the guiding experience.  Isaac is the consumate guide – massive knowledge and confidence to impart it.  Kaley has a quite unique dry humour, is an amazing canoe guide and is developing at light speed! Major is a natural with anything with an engine, and for someone at a fairly early point in his career has great confidence with guests.  All the guest feedback on all the guides has been fantastic through the whole year.

In short, the expansion of the guiding team is arguably the biggest improvement in Kaingu 2015.

 

 

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The improvements then continued with construction of a new jetty which at times was quite entertaining.  Felix the carpenter is still wondering how the Kafue can swallow two axes and a 2m long straight edge quite as easily as it did.

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Then to tie up to the jetty we received a fantastic new boat, a 6m long aluminium Aliboat with swivel seats which are amazingly flexible – for fishing, photography and so on. Oh, and the seats can be pulled out in 2 minutes for freight runs!

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We also secured permission from ZAWA to start cutting a loop in the Park – which we refer to as the ‘Pools Loop’ and was a fantastic addition to activities – almost guaranteeing Sable sightings as well as allowing a nice short game drive option.

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We then turned our attentions to construction of a new private campsite with some unique design touches of glass bottles!  Fully self contained and located a bit further from the lodge.  A real hit with those looking for real solitude and a wilderness feel.

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No sooner had we finished the campsite and we turned our attentions to two new chalets!   This had been on the cards for a while, and we had decided to put them side on to the river so that guests would have river views from the bed, from the bathroom, from everywhere!  Again with some rather different design features!  The building team was lead by Royd, who is actually Chief Kaingu’s brother and is really very very good.

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Seeing the two chalets done was a reason to go up to Mpamba rock and celebrate.

 

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The next big change was the aquisition of three new custom built inflatable canoes for activities.  Formerly we used to offer canoeing in partnership with Mawimbi canoe trails, but to be honest we needed the flexibility of doing our own thing.  It has been hugely popular with guests – mostly just short paddles of a few hours duration.  It is absolutely the ideal way to experience the small channels and areas you just do not see with the boats.

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Then our second custom built game viewer arrived!  Thankfully Julia and I didn’t have to drive it up from Joburg this time, our friend Colins did that one.  Exactly the same specs and design as the other park-based vehicle.

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All in all 2014 was a great year.  Our guest feedback has been really excellent and the camp improvements and additions to the assets have all combined to really improve the guest experience.  So we look forward to 2015 now.  The projects have reduced, but we still have one or two ideas on the boil!

 

 

 

November Newsletter

So we have talked at length before about November here:  https://kaingu-lodge.com/november-november/  So I will not repeat all the reasons why November is a great month.  This year it was even better than usual for a number of reasons.  The rains were particularly light this year, so activities, dining and roads were generally not affected too much.

We kicked off the month having just in time taken delivery of our second newly converted game viewing vehicle to be based in the Park.  Absolutely identical to it’s sister vehicle – same comfortable conversion and done to a very high standard.  This means that we can now offer even more flexibility and tailor safari experiences as individually as possible.

 

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Another highlight in November is the rock pools that we take guests to.  Some of these pools are only reachable by boat, but the most ‘famous’ ones are created each year at the rapids just by the camp.  To reach them takes a degree of athleticism and determination but it is worth it. Imagine taking a natural jacuzzi next to this:

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Sightings were brilliant, I won’t talk about them but just show you some of what was seen over the month.  I can mention however that a really special group had the amazing experience of two separate packs of Wild Dogs within a few kilometres of each other on an evening drive.  Amazingn:

 

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Then we had some friends of Julia’s out as guests, so we did a trail run mobile safari to Liuwa, which was absolutely fantastic.   This is an option that we are thinking about offering during the quieter weeks of November.

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All in all it was an absolutely fantastic month.

 

October Newsletter

I have to admit that October was a great month.  But the result of that was that to be honest we were so busy that we can hardly recall what happened…   Our apologies.  What I can tell you is that we finished our two new guest chalets and we are highly pleased with the result:

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