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March Newsletter

What do they call it… Mad March?  We certainly had an interesting month.  The rains this year came later than last year, often our highest river levels are recorded in February, but this year the highest level (2.9m) came in March.  This means that the river had a height difference of 3m from November to March!  Fortunately it subsided before our deck was really an island!

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Not where we normally moor boats! 

While the lodge opened in March, the month really was a hectic one – we were trying to complete various upgrades to the main area, all of which we are quite happy with, but as always in this industry it got quite frantic at times.  But all in all we are very happy with our new bar, new entrance, new deck pergola and a lot of new and colourful furnishings and touches.

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New deck pergola 

Our first guests numbered 17 in total and were the annual “Fathers and Children” fishing trip.  This has become a bit of a feature in our calendar here at KaingU and is really good fun.  Activities ranged from fishing (of course) through to archery, lure making (from teaspoons), visiting the “elephant graveyard”, treasure hunts and cooking stick bread on top of Mpamba rock.  People had travelled from as far afield as Malawi and Capetown to take part in this unique event!

 

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Julia and the stick bread 

 

IMG_5844 Bottle fishing!  

Not long after the season was opened by this group, the Luansanza river rose and we were cut off!  All our vehicles were in the Park, so we had no way to get out.  And we had guests that had to make an international flight back to Germany….   Anyway we chose not to worry about it too much and took the opportunity to launch an inflatable boat at the Luansanza bridge and then boat down to the Kafue and back to the lodge.  The guests loved it – 3 Pel’s Fishing Owls were seen on the Luansanza river.

 

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The Lunsanza river in spate.  And with guests to get out! 

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Ah well, if it hadn’t been so high we wouldn’t have boated down it and seen 3 Pel’s!  

The following day a plan was cooked up to get them up to the main road by boat!  It was all going very well, but suffice to say that we now know that the Chunga rapids are not easily navigable by boat!  The evidence (a rather battered propellor) now is a feature in the new bar.  Anyway it all ended fine and very happy guests made it back to Germany.

IMG_6553After clearing the debris on the bridge once the waters had dropped.  

Since then I am happy to report that the rains have lessened dramatically and operations are back to a more normal pace!

With conditions only drying out now we have been doing a lot more boating than driving, but the Park has still (as always) yielded great sightings.  Two beautiful male lions were seen strolling down the road in driving rain, then near the car park I saw to lionesses which were new to us, and judging by their skittishness they were not used to vehicles at all.  Then guide Kaley had a fantastic sighting of three very relaxed Cheetahs.  There has been a lot of elephant activity around the lodge, and despite the very high water we even had two bulls on the island opposite the lodge.

Other developments planned in the coming weeks:  Well, we have ordered a new 6 seat boat, a great one with swivel seats and quite a bit larger than our existing cruising boat.  We are also intending to construct two new guest tents and we are still working on our campsite extension.  All exciting stuff! In and around this we have to re-vamp marketing material, shoot a video… the list goes on!

The Start Up of 2014

So we were talking about the Green Season, now we are talking about the start up period.  This year this was a very short and hectic period.  From arriving in Zambia on the 15th of February we knew that we had three weeks at the lodge until the first guests.  And the first guests were to be 17 people!  But first a quick aside:

Some recent history:

2013 was a good year for the lodge, in fact it was the best ever year.  However this is relative, we were starting from a pretty poor position, so any growth was marked.  The “new” Kaingu needs to work even harder and generate far more bookings before we can talk about any degree of success.  We say the “new” Kaingu, and you might ask why mention “new”.  Put simply, 2013 was a watershed year for Kaingu.  Rick and Lynda had joined the lodge in 2012, and already 2012 was a year of sudden growth relative to the previous years.  At the beginning of 2013 Julia and Gil joined them and a solid team was formed.  Lynda focussed on marketing and reservations (we took a decision to pull this back to the lodge and handle it all internally). Lynda being who she is, this means sometimes we have to switch off the satellite modem to get her to stop and eat!  Rick took the finances and administration by the horns.  Julia brought her formidable creative skills – be it décor, graphics or food!  Gil focussed on technical aspects, activities, social media, website and executing developments.  The four brought very different skills to the table, but complemented each other really well – important when the four of us are living and working so closely.  So “new”;  new management, new access, new guiding, new focus, new food, new staff, new developments, new game viewing vehicle (which is one of the best in the country!), new boat on order.  I think you get the picture and why I use the word “new”…

Okay, so back to 2014!

So Lynda’s marketing and reservations work continued remotely, and we all saw in 2013 a lot of things that we wanted to change and do differently as Lynda’s efforts were starting to really net some bookings.  Not all of the changes we want to make would be possible, bigger works will have to wait to early 2015.  There is nothing finer than hard work in a camp before it opens – so long as it is organised well! So long as materials are on site, so long as there is a few cold beers in the fridge for the end of the day…  When the sunset looks like this how can it not be satisfying!

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One of the priorities was to break out the old massive stone built braai.  We all felt it dominated the deck and wanted to make this the new entrance.  By doing this we could also make use of the main area better, and use the “corridor” which was lost with the old entrance being through the main area.

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The old stones from the braai we used to start creating the new entrance.

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Those that know Kaingu well might recollect the large brick built seat in the lounge area. You might then also recollect that it works if you are a giant!  For normal sized people it means your feet dangle above the floor.  Julia got “medieval” on it with a large hammer and chisel!

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Then we started closing off the old entrance.  Planting grass, building up a half wall.  The plan is that this then becomes a small ‘library’ corner with some comfy chairs, a book case.  A sort of tucked away corner for some quiet time.

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Then the bar…. This was a difficult one.  We have spent I don’t know how many hours talking about a solution here.  We all wanted it changed, but really didn’t know what we wanted, so again Julia bit the bullet and just decided to remove various bits and then add some of her ideas in terms of design.

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Then we started on the creation of a deck pergola.  Again to make better use of space, as the lodge end of the deck hardly gets used during the day as there is no shade.

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What the final results look like will have to wait as we are trying to do a photo shoot and create a whole new set of lodge images.  So stay tuned for the results.

The “Green Season”

So the lodge is now open and we are gearing up for what looks like a busy season.  But I am sure a lot of people want to know what happens when we close.

Kaingu is fortunate in that the lodge can be accessed the whole year.  Many remote lodges in Zambia have to close as it is no longer possible to reach them.  Generally speaking mid to late November is the time when a lot of operators have to close down.  We are open through Christmas and New Year though and generally close our doors after the New Year guests leave.  This time of year has its challenges though:

Activities and dining out can end up wet…

 

wet boating

So the guests leave and then a massive clean up takes place.  The kitchen is stripped out, deep cleaned and all put back together.  The guest tents are closed down, linen all stored and rat bait placed around strategic locations.  Boats are pulled out of the water, motors stored and vehicles moved from the park around to the lodge.  This year our guide Kaley and his wife stayed at the lodge between the 5th of January and Julia and Gil returning on the 15th of February.  Kaley was assisted by Bo and Nelson – our two stalwarts.  The jobs that then take place include:

–       Checking all tents and buildings for water ingress, pets such as rats and termites etc.

–       Slashing grass around buildings and paths.

–       Preparing material that will be needed on opening:  building blocks, bush poles, firewood.

–       Weeding the new campsite area to ensure the grass survives.

–       Keeping records of animal sightings, weather and rainfall and river levels.

–       Assisting the neighbours!  As Kaley is left with boats and vehicles he served as an important contact for our neighbours at Mawimbi Bush camp.  He assisted several times with moving staff in and out as well as attending to sickj staff members.

–       Checking that all solar panel banks are charging and that battery conditions are fine.  Running the generator when several really cloudy days deplete the batteries.

–       Keeping us updated by email on a regular basis.

–       Fishing!  Lots of fishing.  All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Unlike many camps, being fully solar means that we can leave a freezer running indefinitely.  So fresh food can be stored.  In many camps that close down for long periods it means almost 6 months of Kapenta, Nshima and tomato and onion mix…

The feeling of packing up a camp and then being the ones to stay behind is quite a weird one.  No guests and the feeling that you are the only people for miles and miles around.

As I have said the lodge can be accessed the whole year, but operations in January and February generally do not make sense.  The bookings are very very slow at this time of year, and it simply does not make sense.  There is also the fact that the weather means activities can be difficult, game is more sporadic as the permanent sources of water (i.e. larger rivers) are no longer the only water sources so animals spread out and are far more mobile.  The weather also means that solar panels struggle to keep up, even laundry doesn’t dry that well.

Having said that it is an absolutely spectacular time of year.  The skies are clear of all smoke and haze, everything is green and the rivers fill rapidly.  Water is everywhere and it is then your realise that Zambia really is blessed with water.  The animal sightings may be less, but like everything to do with animal behaviour there are exceptions.  For example at this time of year we tend to see more Cheetah on the roads than at other times.  The sightings that we do have of course just look better!  The brown, parched land of the end of the dry season is transformed.

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So once Gil and Julia arrived back then the absolute first priority is to then get Kaley and Lynne and Bo and Nelson out for some time off!

And then it is a case of sending the word out that everyone must come!  More on the next developments later…

November Newsletter

November.  Probably one of my favourite months in the bush here.  The temperatures drop with the onset of the rains.  Everything turns green almost overnight after the parched heat gives way to clouds and sun.  The skies are washed clear of the dust and smoke and everything takes on a new lease of life.  Plants are bursting with life and young impalas are bouncing all over the place.  This November there wasn’t a great deal of rain so in some ways even better than normal.

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The sightings this month have been stunning.  Probably the best of the whole season.

I will let the pictures do the talking!

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KaingU 19

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Great sightings.  We had around 5 encounters with Wild Dogs (two separate packs).  A hippo carcass near the Shishamba loop provided great Vulture activity.  That is it. Just the anmials this month.  Quite fitting really.  Kaingu has always been a unique place, but the access improvements and new emphasis on activities in the park have really made the season!   New developments and plans for next year we will talk about at the year end.  Until then we would like to wish everyone all the best and we hope you all have a great festive season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

October Newsletter

Well October is the hottest month in Zambia and this year we were not “disappointed”.  The temperatures in the afternoons were high 30’s.  Fortunately we are not in the deeper valleys like S. Luangwa or Lower Zambezi (or Livingstone) so the evenings are still generally a pleasant temperature.  So with the heat we decided to get creative.  Now a swimming  pool has a lot of advantages (all obvious) but there are a lot of disadvantages.  Being 100% reliant on solar electrical generation we cannot afford the load of circulation pumps.  Then there is the cleaning and the chemicals.  And then there is the fact that sooner or later a Hippo will blunder in.  And this is not a good thing!  So a simple solution was needed.  We have a set of gentle rapids south of the camp.  So with our trusty team we set off to build a small dam.  Now on one of the hottest days this was a great job!  It only took us a morning and then a few hours to scrub off the algae from the rocks.  Zero emissions.  No chemicals.  No power.  If a hippo wanders in then he will just walk through the dam wall!

October  019October  011  The sightings have continued to be strong in the park, and fairly regular sightings of elephants crossing the river have occurred throughout the month.  Lions and leopards are also being seen regularly on Shishamba loop and a big herd of buffalo has been seen regularly – coming back from the shopping run!  The birding is great at the moment with African Skimmers also having moved onto a few of the sandy islands.

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And then the rains!  This year the first proper rain fell on the 22nd and I can tell you it was welcome.  The rest of the month saw quite a few heavy downpours.

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Other news from the lodge includes the fact that we are starting construction of a third riverside campsite.  This one will be much further from the lodge (although still an easy walk) and is in an absolutely stunning location.  Oh, and those that know Kaingu very well will be pleased to know that furniture has been a major feature of this month! Ten new directors chairs makes deck life a bit easier – no more carrying chairs from the fire to the tables.  And Felix (the carpenter) has finished constructing two reclining deck chairs for each guest tent!

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And then finally we have to talk about “Amazon Angler” (Steve Townson).  Now none of us are super-keen fishing persons. But my brother-in-law instantly knew the name. He has a fishing show on smart-tv and also leads trips to the Amazon and to Africa.  He is quite a character and arrived with John the videographer to shoot an episode.  We needed help for this one, so our friends Sven and Pete (lodge owners, conservationists and major fishermen) arrived to help out.  We were very glad I can tell you.  Anyway over the next four days a total of 14 species were caught.  All strictly catch and release.  Steve was very happy with the fishing, the river and of course the lodge.  Being fishermen also meant that Victor the barman was really kept on his toes!  John is going to also put together a small video of the lodge and activities – so I hope we can share this with you sometime in December hopefully.

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As we wait for the river to rise and the rains to fall more we leave you with a blast from the past.  Taken 6 years ago.  I really hope that we don’t have these sort of levels next year!

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Knowledge from Mr Brightson Mwanga Shambweka:

We have been doing a lot of staff biographies and profiles, and I asked our oldest staff member to write a bit about himself.  Here is it below (translation from Ila to English by Willard):

My name is Brightson Shambbweka.  My knowledge announcement is:

I can make some axes, hoes, knives and spears from the irons made by the white mens, and this experience is my father who left it to me.  The elder brother of my real father is Mr Samanga Kauwima, and myself I know how to carve canoes, small stools, axe and hoe handles, walking sticks and even the thing for pounding maize, groundnuts and other small items, all of these things are from the trees planted by God and for this I have been trained by the parents.

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And myself I am a man who can walk in the forest and know the bush very well, becuase some years ago I was used to hunt animals, for we were keeping dogs, guns and spears for hunting.  That’s why I got an experience of knowing many things like cat animals, snakes, trees and grass and rocks.  Sometimes you find a rock with a small crack and a small tree in it, so that when the tree gets bigger the root starts to push over the rock until the rock gets expand and that piece stays on top of the root.

 

And myself also I’m a man who can manage to know the place where a human being can make a village with his family and farming.  I’m a man who knows everything because I was understanding what the parents was telling me about their situation, so I got this experience of making such things of materials, and my father’s home was near the river line area, so that myself I can cross the river without canoe, beacuase I know the places which got some rocks from here up to the park.

 

Some years ago we were farming in the islands and doing some activities of fishing, with hooks, fishing baskets and small round spears with hooks.  Sometime we used to block a small tributary river which is passing over the rocks beside the island, going through into the big river.  So we were making a big basket and put it to the outlet line of the river and open a small gap for the fish to pass through to get in the basket.

 

My mother was used to make clay pots, clay calabash.  My father also was making some clay bowls and put a long medium stick, used for smoking tobacco and they were looking for a special place to find the special clay soil and me also I can make these things.

 

 

 

 

 

September Newsletter

Well, the heat is now officially on us!  As predicted the rock pools are getting use.  The daytime temperatures are mid to high 30s, but the evenings and early mornings have been around 17 degrees.  Of course we are lucky here as the lush riverine forest and the green grass keeps the temperatures down.  And there is always the rocks where one can cool off!

 

Game has been good. We have been seeing the Shishamba lions a lot, but also great other sightings.  The camera trap was put up at our car park in the Park and we realised that a leopard is regularly visiting the car park.

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But perhaps the most spectacular sighting was a small group of eight elephants that spent an entire afternoon crossing between islands opposite the lodge.  Everyone got great sightings from tent decks, main area and from boats.  It was a real highlight.

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The Rock Pratincoles have arrived and are all over the river (on the rocks), and the White Fronted Bee Eaters are also really numerous at the moment.  The river is really low – we are still able to get up beyond the Mweengwa rapids, and down past Mantobo island, but it needs care!

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We have had some fantastic guest feedback.  Chef Wina was compared to Gordon Ramsay – in fact the guest said Wina was even better.  I do have to say that I have never heard him swear though….

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Out of camp dinning has been amazing – the lawn like banks of some of the islands are at their most spectacular so we have been doing a lot of island breakfasts and sundowners.  Sundowners with freshly caught Bream in beer batter with a soya dipping sauce is now certainly on the menu!

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Keep following us on facebook for regular updates, and we are looking forward to doing October’s newsletter – featuring “Amazon Angler” filming a TV fishing show here at the lodge, home made rock pool swimming tubs and much more.

On that note, we leave September with the amazing smoked pike timbale!

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August News!

Well August has been a great month for Kaingu.  In fact our most successful month ever! We had lots of guests and lots of game and lots more.

Summer is now on us and temperatures are rising – this time of year we start looking for croc-proof pools in the rocks to bathe in, although we must stress at the moment we are only looking but I bet by the end of September people are in the water!

The fishing has also been steadily improving, repeat guests came back for a family fishing weekend and really enjoyed!

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Our chef Lizzie also became a bit of a facebook legend when a picture of her stuffing six hippos into the oven was seen by over 20,000 people.  Of course the hippos were actually made from bread and was part of a childrens programme!

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Our canoeing partners at Mawimbi are busy building the new canoe camp, and a target date for the end of September has been set.  The camp is going to be really quite something special and we will keep updating as it goes.

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One of the best moments of the month was when we got handed the keys for our new Game drive car and then brought it up from South Africa to the lodge.  This means that we are now doing comfortable game drives in the park (where the vehicle is stationed)!  This also means that Kaley can drive up to 9 people and believe me he has been getting great sightings recently – lion cubs on the ‘Shishamba’ loop have been fairly regular sights.

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And speaking of lions we also had some nocturnal visitors in the camp.  Three lionesses silently slunk through the camp one night and we wouldn’t have had a clue they were there if we hadn’t checked the camera trap.

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We also had a great sighting right on the Spinal Road (at the Luansanza Bridge) of a herd of 200+ Buffalo.

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So all in all a great month.  September started off great too – with 1000 likes on facebook and a fantastic relaxed leopard when we all went for a staff game drive at Shishamba loop.

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Stay in touch with us on facebook for more updates.

https://www.facebook.com/kaingu.safarilodge

 

 

June Newsletter

June has been a phenomenal month for Kaingu Lodge. The sightings have been amazing, with elephants regularly crossing to the islands in front of the lodge and even lions in camp!
Guests were also lucky to see Pel’s fishing owl twice. We also saw two otters cavorting in the river downstream of one of our bush dinner spots. A canoe trip at the end of the month also were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the elusive cape clawless otter demonstrating it’s amazing swimming prowess in the rapids. We also had some very good leopard sightings on the spinal road – two in one day!

This beautiful cat (and another) provided great sightings on a drive down the new spinal road

This beautiful cat (and another) provided great sightings on a drive down the new spinal road

In the Park the sightings have been encouraging around the new Bush Camp site – with great sightings of Hartebeest, Kudu, Sable and even a herd of 300 Buffalo! As well as lions and leopards calling at night as well as encounters with the two cats on a walk.

Apart from the Pels owl notable bird sightings included a white backed night heron!

The fishing has been picking up and guests have been catching decent sized bream and pike and we are very excited that we are getting a visit from a fishing TV show later in the season – we will keep you posted how it goes!

Two young males and a female provided some great adrenaline moments and sightings in the camp!

Two young males and a female provided some great adrenaline moments and sightings in the camp!

The northern section (i.e. the bet we use) of the Kafue National Park ‘spinal road’ has been finally completed. Global Construction have done an absolutely outstanding job and this really has transformed access to the camp. We thanked the site engineer for such an amazing job – and told them that their workmanship and dedication is way beyond the contractor in charge of the southern end. The good northern end means that guests coming here have a smooth ride through a national park without a single pothole. Coming to Kaingu is now far, far easier than before. While we are on the subject of roads it seems official that the other route here – the Itezhi Tezhi road is finally going to be repaired. The road was tarred in the early 70s when the lake dam wall was constructed and now it seems it will be again! This is fantastic news for us as well as the villages and town itself.

Just an example of the high quality workmanship on the new spinal road which has just been completed through the Park.

Just an example of the high quality workmanship on the new spinal road which has just been completed through the Park.

We have done a lot of interesting dining recently – at the rapids downstream of the camp as well as the famous Mpamba rock. We put on a special “winter solstice” dinner that was to celebrate the solstice, the ‘super moon’ as well as the 7th visit of a couple that keep returning from Norway to see us all at Kaingu!

Our proposed bush camp site has been the subject of lots of focus, we have been planning driving loops and walking trails and the sightings have been very encouraging! Sable, Hartebeest, Lion, Leopard have all been seen there. More news soon.

Our winter solstice dinner on the rock.

Our winter solstice dinner on the rock.

Our partners in canoeing (Mawimbi Adventures) are also having a good month, the first canoe trail was run and a great trip from Kaingu south was also run. Meanwhile Bernard is busy with the logistics of the new tents and interiors for the Mawimbi Bush camp.

That is about it for this month – it has been a great month in terms of bookings and July looks also good. Oh, we nearly forgot – we also became number 1 on Trip Advisor for the Kafue!

The canoe trail south of the camp is a mix of slow and fast water - this is the slow.

The canoe trail south of the camp is a mix of slow and fast water – this is the slow.

But some sections are much, much faster!  Here is Bernard giving some tips on how to get through.

But some sections are much, much faster! Here is Bernard giving some tips on how to get through.