Posts

September News

The heat has been building up nicely (if you like heat that is!) as September progressed, although surprisingly we received a bit of a downpour in the middle of the month. So let us start with sightings and what has been going on ‘out there’. September saw increasing elephant activity on the islands and around the camp – which is great to see again.

sep news -9576

sep news -9550

 

We also have had a lot of lion activity very close by in the GMA and in the park. At times this got quite frustrating for the guests and guides as we were waking up almost every morning to contact calls but struggled to locate them as they were in areas where there are no tracks: south of the car park in the park side and on this side to be honest we had no idea!

GMA males

GMA males

 

Anyway finally we managed to catch up with them more regularly and the frustration levels of Isaac and Kaley and Major dropped a bit! Overall this year Lion sightings in the GMA have been significantly up on last year which is really encouraging.

The Pools Loop that we created has also been living up to expectations and Kaley also got a new camera and managed to capture lots of decent, relaxed Sable!

sep news -1060040

sep news -9367

 

 

On the more ‘lodge related’ side a lot happened….

We managed to top 100 reviews on TripAdvisor which we got so excited about that Nelson and Wina and Victor were asked to show our certificate of excellence in a rather different setting than the more usual hanging on the wall!

sep news -9219

We started our canoe trips, our good friend Paul Barnes (Pioneer Camp and Safaris) was out guinea pig along with his two guests…. But joking apart it went brilliantly and the guests liked it so much that after our island breakfast we went for a second round. Since then we have been doing regular trips and everyone has really enjoyed it.

sep news -1050572

 

canoe-

New Chalet construction was also well under way and we could see rapid progress on a daily basis. Julia of course was instrumental in deck laying, glass bottle design and generally spearheading the whole show.

sep news -9446

 

sep news -9435

 

But saving one of the best of the month for last, on an evening drive Isaac managed to get a ‘lifer’ sighting – up close and personal with a Pangolin. Amazing.

sep news -00444

We end with a selection of random images from the month of September:

 

DCIM100GOPROsep news -9284 DCIM100GOPRO sep news -9451 sep news -9785 DCIM100GOPRO

 

November November

November: The best month to go on Safari?

Traditionally October is one of the busiest if not the busiest month for safari camps here in Zambia. For a long time I have wondered about the reasons and why not November? October… Yes the game is there. Everything is pretty parched and dry so animals are often far more present around water still available. But it is hot – really hot. Here in the Kafue we at least have a bit of altitude, down in the valleys of the Zambezi and the Luangwa it gets pretty extreme. But even here the mid-30s are normal. The smoke and dust are at their peak: proper rain has not been seen for 6 months and it shows. The airbourne dust and smoke from bush fires make for pretty sunsets and sunrises but make for lousy long lens work! It is not as extreme as say the Hamattan in west Africa, but still it adds to the sense of heat. Us humans we also get affected. Temperatures and tempers rise. Camps have often been flat out for months and there is an air of waiting. Waiting for the rains and waiting for a breathing space. Just a few weeks earlier we were offering hot water bottles and blankets. Now we are being asked for thin sheets and gallons of cold water.

And then at the end of the month (usually) the rains break and things begin to change. The rains start and what a change! It doesn’t pour each and every day – far from it. Showers and electrical storms sweep in and quickly disappear. Everything starts to green up and November turns into what is for me the best month.

The dust and smoke is washed from the air and everything becomes clearer and more vibrant. The advantages of safari in November are many, the disadvantages are few.

The Pros:

  • Lush green vegetation rather than parched brown. The grass is still not so high that it hinders visibility though.
  • Animals are still present near large sources of water as there hasn’t really been enough rain for them to disperse.
  • New birth: many animals birth at the onset of the rains in order to ensure the young are coming into a world with plenty to eat.
  • Migratory birds are here in numbers. Not just the palearctic migrants but also intra-african ones.
  • Most roads are still accessible. This depends massively on where you are. The Kalahari sands of Liuwa are not a problem but the black cotton soil of Busanga will be by late November!
  • The onset of the rains lowers the temperatures dramatically.       November is much cooler than October (which is the hottest month in Zambia).
  • Clear skies for photography, star gazing and just good old watching.
  • Lower visitor numbers make for more relaxed visits. Often you might be alone in the vehicle or have a camp to yourself. The heat and busyness of October are over: relaxed guides and managers and staff!
  • If you plan well some of Zambia’s highlights can be combined.       This includes the Kasanka Bat migration (in terms of numbers it is the largest mammal migration on earth!) and the gathering of herds in Liuwa Plains.

So those are the advantages. What about the disadvantages? Well there are not many to be honest. The rains are sporadic and getting a touch damp now and then will not be the end of the world. You might end up delaying activities a couple of times or parking under a tree for a while. Hardly an ordeal.

The Cons:

  • Occasional rains. Take a lightweight poncho and an ortleib dry bag for electronic gear.       It will cost you very, very little.
  • Not all camps will be open so choices might be limited. On the other hand this means lower visitor numbers.
  • Not all roads and tracks will be driveable in some areas.
  • Vic Falls (or Mosi Oa Tunya) will be at its least dramatic. Whichever way or whenever you go it is still a very large impressive waterfall.  However we firmly believe that planning a trip to Zambia just around the falls is a myth perpetuated by those that don’t know the rest of the country.

So that is our thoughts on November and why it really is the best month for a safari here. We leave you with some images in a slide show taken in November here in the Kafue and in Liuwa Plains.

 

 

Mid-Season Agent Newsletter

Hover mouse over the image to pause

 

August Newsletter

I cannot believe that it is August already. It seems like just a few weeks ago that we were tying boats up to the top of the deck and boating over the Luansanza bridge!

 

Things are getting hot now – still a bit of a chill in the air in the mornings, but Winter is pretty much long gone.   Last time I mentioned that we had a Pro photographer here, and we have been really delighted with Anthony’s images which we have now used to update pretty much everything!   We did run out of time though as we had a very ambitious shot list, so we have to get game driving and the family house done by ourselves.  Here is an example of his work:

Kaingu Lodge Main Area

 

The sightings have been strong – best month so far I would say.   We have had a group of elephant bulls that actually spent most of the month on the islands around the lodge and this led to some really fantastic sights.

ellies in group

ellie on rock

 

Some of the sightings allowed us to get really up close with them.  The leader of the group of six is a most magnificent bull who is nicely relaxed.

 

Kafue_

 

 

We also had the most fantastic relaxed Serval cat on a drive up the spinal road.

serval

 

For me at least though the highlight has been a nesting pair of African Skimmers appearing on the island formerly known as ‘Pork Belly’ island – now obviously we are calling it Skimmer Island!   There are three eggs on the nest (which is just a scrape in the sand) and we have positioned a trail camera to hopefully catch some interesting images. Several times I have gone up there just to sit in a boat near the island and try to catch skimming moments.

skimmer

 

skimmer2

We also had some very interesting sightings on this side of the river in the Game Management Area. Rick found a large (150+) herd of Buffalo, and then while we were looking for building sand we had a hyena and Lion encounter. Wild dogs were then seen by Bo and the guys the following day while driving in loads of thatching grass. That makes three confirmed sightings this year within 2km of the camp. A huge improvement on last year.

 

The new ‘Pools Loop’ continues to yield great sightings of Sable, Kudu, Hartebeest, Oribi and Bush Pigs.   This month Major even tracked down two male lions on the loop which is very heartening!

 

In terms of camp and guest experience improvements we have a few:

 

We completed the installation of our new breakfast counter and grill, this is seeing action for cooked breakfasts and evening steaks.  Here is trainee chef Nelson behind it.

Nelson Grill

We also acquired three brand new custom made inflatable canoes for running our own canoe trails. This is really a value addition to our activities here and finally we can now do trails whenever we want.

Kaley

 

Isaac’s Field Notes

Not really notes.  But pictures.  Some of our lead Field Guide’s photographs from the last few weeks. IMG_1416 IMG_1396 IMG_1242 IMG_1384 IMG_1357 IMG_1326 IMG_1287 IMG_1293 IMG_1271 IMG_1220 IMG_0874 IMG_0862 IMG_0955 IMG_1108 IMG_1212 IMG_1296 IMG_1308 IMG_1440 IMG_1439

July Newsletter

July has been a month where we got so busy that we forgot to do the newsletter for June!  Apologies for that one.

 

So in the last news we talked about a new campsite that we were constructing.  The ‘Chief’s Campsite’ is a site that we identified and started developing last year.  Over the rains we cleared the site and planted grass, ready for construction this year.  After all the lodge work that we have been doing the campsite had to wait…  Now some of you may know that Julia is a glass artist by training and with her dad being a master builder she has also inherited and learned some serious skills.

 

I will let the pictures tell the story:

 

start of chiefs campsite 1

 

 

New campsite progress 2

 

 

New campsite progress 1

 

 

And the finished product!  Ready for the first guests, who fittingly are repeat guests and great people.

 

finished!

 

We also started driving the new “Pools Loop” with guests and we have been very happy with consistent regular sightings of quite relaxed herds of Sable and Hartebeest:

Pools loop  2

 

Pools loop  3

 

Pools loop  4

 

 

Pools loop  1

 

 

In the same vein of exploring new areas we also positioned a small rubber duck at the “tunnels” area south of Kaingu.  This is an area where the river fractures and goes through a series of narrow rock channels.  It is highly spectacular.  We took two guests down there and spent a morning climbing around the area and trying to get up some of the channels.  An absolutely amazing area.  For those that know the Kaingu area it is like the river here but on steroids!

This is what it looks like on Google Earth from an altitude of 2km – these channels are over 1km long and some of them are 4m deep:

Tunnels

And this is what they look like from the ground and from the water:

Tunnels 2

 

Tunnels 1

 

Then we also had an evening with guests doing some star gazing from Mpamba rock.  We took a simple pot of stew, a couple of bottle of wine and a green lazer and a camera.  It was a lot of fun and a great way to spend an evening.

starscapes 1

 

This then gave us a bit of encouragement to do a few more when we spent two nights down at lake Itezhi Tezhi.  All exposures are a bit too long so the stars are starting to blur…

starscapes 2

 

starscapes 3

 

Then at the end of the month we got very excited to get a professional photographer – Anthony Grote – so we will be updating the website and other material as soon as possible.

 

 

June Newsletter

June is one of my favourite months. The chill in the air and the daytime temperatures are a great contrast and you really get the feeling that the dry season is starting properly.  We had a great month in terms of pretty much everything.  Occupancy and turnover continued to improve massively over 2013 (never mind the previous years!).

We also started off some really interesting new developments.  More on that later.

 

Sightings have been quite strong, an absolute highlight was (being selfish here) two sightings of Wild Dogs on consecutive weeks while doing our weekly supply pick up from the main road:

 

Wild dogs

 

The same deliveries have shown us an unexpected advantage to the new boat.  Once you pull the swivel seats out of their sockets it turns into something that feels at first like an aircraft carrier (bear in mind we are used to tiny boats here):

Delivery boat 1

 

We also were highly excited to receive permission from the Zambia Wildlife Authority to start construction of a new game viewing loop in the park.  We are calling it ‘Pools Loop’ as it reaches semi-permanent pools of water that we have been looking at closely for one year now as an area with good potential.

The loop was done all by hand and is 13.4km long.  A very valuable and interesting exercise.  For those interested (and I know everyone is perhaps not a road geek like myself) it took 104 man days and total cost was less than $600.  Way cheaper than when I used to make roads with D8Rs and 140Hs and all that stuff!

New Pools Loop 2

 

 

New Pools Loop 1

 

Another reason that I like June is because like all men over the age of 5 quite a lot of us are fascinated by fire…  And June is the time for firebreaks.  This year we sent Bo (our labour team leader) for a second TNC sponsored fire training course, and we also had TNC donate some fire equipment.  In addition to this we also proposed and executed our black line burning using google earth and got the TNC team to come for lunch and have a look at our proposals.

Here you can see the google earth image showing the blue lines where we do protective black lines and then burn the dambo out to create a firebreak that fully encloses the lodge area:

burning

 

Then we get out the ‘bladder backs’ and the drip torch and the firebeaters.  This is the BEST part!!!

 

Wildfire season 2

Wildfire season 1

 

 

Then we had some keen fishermen come to camp.  Now there is nothing new in that, but what is quite special is what they caught…  1kg Silver Barbel.  This is without a doubt a camp record and quite possibly even a Kafue record.  Kaley and Major who were guiding them were delighted.

rocord barbel

 

Julia has also been introducing a few new menu additions.  As always they are totally delicious:

 

New food 2

 

New food 1

 

Towards the end of the month we started on quite a special new campsite.  We are calling it ‘Chief’s Campsite’ and the materials, features and location are quite special…   more to come on that in the next news!

start of chiefs campsite 2

 

 

 

 

May Newsletter

May has been quite a month so far. We have cemented our guiding team with a young and enthusiastic junior Field Guide from the Lower Zambezi. Major is mad keen on fishing and is a natural boatman so fits in very well to the Kaingu team.

IMG_6162

 

Lodge improvements and additions continue, we have built a fantastic jetty from solid Mukwa to replace the rather rickety solution that has traditionally been used here!

IMG_6964

 

Our curio shop has been completed (well, except shadecloth in the windows), and Julia and Lynda have been stocking it up. Everything from Losi knives to pictures, to body and face creams and all sorts.

IMG_6939

curio shelf  029

And then we have received our eagerly awaited new boat. It is a joy! Six spacious swivel seats for fishing or photography. We are now wondering what we did before we got it….   And we are contemplating another one!

P1040565

The weather has certainly started to turn colder, misty mornings and campfires and hot water bottles are most certainly on the agenda now.

IMG_6178

The cold weather has brought the crocs out! We do love these fresh crisp morning game drives.

IMG_6239

IMG_6212

 

The river is dropping really quickly so in between guests we have been quickly extending our jetty to match the water levels.

 

jetty 2  027

 

 

Towards the end of the month we were please to receive a Trip Advisor ‘Certificate of excellence’ for 2014!

TA

And then something that is certainly not news in most parts of the world, but was BIG news here: we got a credit card terminal! This makes life a hell of a lot easier than trying to phone authorisations through over skype and scanning passports and cards and all that…

CC terminal   028

All in all a good month! Our occupancy compared to May 2013 has more than doubled.

 

Oh, and we received permission from ZAWA to construct a loop in thePark near the lodge.  The guys are busy there now and came face to face with a leopard on the first day of cutting road!  An encouraging start.  Gil, Bo and Mr Moonga (ZAWA scout) did more than 30kms of walking in two days looking at areas to put the loop.  Exciting stuff!

P1040576

 

 

April Newsletter

So we are a bit late with our April Newsletter.  My apologies, we have been very busy indeed – lodge renovations, guests, guides training and so on!  And of course a massive Easter Weekend.  The rains have eased off in April, we only had 5 showers and the river has slowly dropped.  The guides training was good fun, people from all over the Kafue thrown together in the ZAWA training school for 8 days.  Then Easter – we had guests see Wild Dogs about 3km from the camp – on our side of the river.  A fantastic sighting and really encouraging.

Anyway, the last newsletter we showed you some works in progress, now we can show you some more as well as finished improvements.

The bar now looks quite clean and modern, certainly different.  Removing the thatching and some of the poles has lifted and opened up the whole main area.  Julia made a completely new design for behind the bar, incorporating whitewashed local timber, decorations, seeds and even battered propellors!  Already we have had some people enthusing about it.

IMG_6793

 

I am not going to show you a close up: you should come and see it (and sample the offerings) yourself!

We also have bought quite a bit of new furniture and added colour to the main area.  The closure of the old entrance has created a small intimate corner with a half mokoro bookshelf.

 

IMG_6951

The old ‘lounge’ area has brightened up nicely, and we have added some more furniture to the deck so that guests can laze with a book while occasionally scanning for Otters and Finfoots.

 

IMG_6947

 

 

IMG_6952

Then we built a curio shop…  All local construction, from grass to mud brick walls through to beautiful ‘Mukwa’ timber doors and shelves.  We have started stocking it with a real mixture of LOCAL products.  Stools, axes and knives made by some of the guys, Aprons made by Lizzie, Bush Jewellery from Julia and some of Isaac’s photographs.  We really want to keep it as local as possible.

IMG_6939

 

Some of the interior.  We haven’t fully stocked everything we have ready yet as the windows are awaiting shadecloth and there are thieves around:  Vervet Monkeys, not the real type!

 

IMG_6938

 

IMG_6941

 

Thats about for this month.  However we are looking forward to showing you some wildlife – Isaac has got himself a used EOS 50D and we have lent him a lens, so we will have some interesting shots and sightings to share with you in a couple of weeks!

 

 

 

 

New Lead Field Guide

We are delighted to announce that we have a new Lead Field Guide.  Isaac Kalio was born in 1978 and grew up in a small village on the Zambezi and has worked his way up to become one of the Kafue’s top guides and a rising star in the guiding industry in general.  He started with canoe safaris after schooling and later qualified as a guide in the Lower Zambezi in 2004.  Since then he has worked in many top lodges in the Lower Zambezi and now joins us after seven years guiding in the Busanga Plains, an area that is unique in demanding skills from top level field guiding, through to balloon logistics, bridge building over swamps and even Mokoro skills!

DSC_1219

Married to Jenala with four children (Frazer, Taurai, Fungai and Smith) he is a keen educationist having run a small kindergarten with his wife in a deprived rural area for several years in order to give back to his community.  He is a passionate conservationist and photographer who is now actively promoting and selling his work.

 

He brings an easy manner, passion and ability in quantity!  We are really looking forward to sharing with you some of his photography.  Or even better; come and be guided by him!

Welcome Isaac.

IMG_6586