Its that time of the month again.  Time to recap and review the month of May here at Kaingu Lodge.  We kicked off the month with a mini marathon and this (health!) became a bit of a recurring theme later in the month as well.  The mini marathon was great fun.  We had a day without guests so the whole thing was organised quite well.  We had a timekeeper (Mike the mechanic) on top of Mpamba rock and a timekeeper at the lodge (Joel the barman).  A few “did not finishers” ended up being brought back from the rock by Mike, but the overwhelming majority did the whole 6km. 

And the ladies are off! Matron leading the way and kept this up and ended up winning the ladies section.

And the men!

Israel was a strong favourite, here he is leading Oscar.

Chef Wina. He was certainly not a favourite! But he did really well. Go Wina. Always a winner.

Team Kaingu! Well, actually not the whole team. A lot of people had departed to grab showers at this point.

After the mini marathon (the winners being Junior and Matron) we moved straight into our annual (7th!) Father & Kids fishing weekend.  This is always a highlight in our calendar and while numbers were lower this year the number of nights was more.  So basically the fun factor was still the same.  

Stick bread on top of Mpamba. The trek to the rock is always a highlight of the last night. This event featured motivational lollipops on the path for the kids and beers for the dads – something that was certainly not a feature of our mini marathon!

A short video that we put together on the last night! 

Now we come to another annual event.  Lodge firebreaks!  Unbelievably this year we ended up burning on the 5th of May.  This is more then a month earlier than we usually do.  This shows just how dry conditions are this year. 

Oscar helping control while we are doing our primary firebreak around the lodge.

Ruben in action.

On the subject of fires…  We try to do a monthly astrophotography session on the rock (normally around the time of the new moon).  This one captured quite a large wildfire (a good few kilometers south of  us) under the arch of the milky way. 

Stars and fire.

When I captured this photo (well, actually a series of photos as it is a stitched panorama) I realised that there was a reasonable chance that the fire would creep West and two days later my theory was proven. 

For any photogeeks (like myself): This is 17 full frame images taken with a 20mm F1.4 lens at ISO 1600 for a 13sec exposure. The images are then stitched together in photoshop to create the panorama capturing the full 180 degree sweep or arch of the milky way. To the left of the arch you can clearly see the defined galactic core which is just starting to be visisble at this time of year.

And now for a totally gratuitous landrover picture.  We love (and sometimes don’t love) our old landrover!  Planning on a paint job this year though… 

The old landrover on the pole bridge over the Mweengwa river as you approach the lodge through the Game Management Area.

And then what was for me an absolute highlight of the month.  Possibly of the year.  There are a couple of ladies who come to Kaingu a LOT.  Both are passionate photographers and I have referred to them before as the ‘ladies with lenses’.  Anyway, B knew that the mists on the river were coming and that there would be some good photo opportunities.  And there was…  The cape clawless otter is a fairly infrequent sighting here.  But when you get a family group with the adults just having finished eating a fish on a rock at sunrise in the mist, well, lets just say I was wishing for a longer lens!  But still we were sitting in the boat kind of speechless.  

Otterly amazing sighting.

We went back the next day and scouted around to see if we could repeat the magic, but perhaps not surprisingly we couldn’t.  We did have some other water dwelling mammals join us though. 

Hippos in the glorious golden morning mist.

As we got back to the lodge I decided that we would try really hard to find a kingfisher that we think is nesting by the deck (as we are seeing it so often).  We failed on the kingfisher but we got lucky with another guy that we see in front of the lodge a lot. 

‘Our’ resident finfoot. If I was wishing for a longer focal length with the otters, with this sighting I was almost wanting shorter!

And as our super keen photographing guest was about to leave us we had another unusually spectacular sighting.  Osprey!  With a fish.  

Like the otters the osprey is another one that we are always left wanting to see more off.

This sighting was quite special as it was Julia’s first time to even see one and it was the first time I saw one and actually was able to get a picture.  It was also quite the moment for me because as a child I was lucky enough to be able to cycle round to the Loch of the Lowes nature reserve and watch a nesting pair. So I did.  A lot!   The story of Scottish ospreys is quite a conservation success story.  To go from having been extinct in 1916 to having only 5 nesting pairs in 1969 to now Scotland having 224 breeding pairs is quite something.  The story is here:

And then for a complete change of scene we headed North to see our friends from J&M Safaris at Musekese Camp.  This was a LONG overdue visit and we were so glad to catch up and see the stunning area that they are managing and conserving.  The guys are doing super work with their Musekese Conservation and the area has what is to me probably some of the best animal concentrations in the Kafue and yes I include Busanga in that statement!  Phil and Tyrone have been joined this year by Gareth and Frederike and it was also great to catch up with Gareth who we also know from a good few years ago.  Here is Phil and Gareth proving their conservation chops by moving ants out of the path of the vehicle!

Musekese Conservation!

We do share a lot of guests with each other so while the visit was a pure pleasure we can also claim it was business! If you want to see more of what they are doing for conservation in the Kafue then you can take a look here:

And then back to Kaingu goings on.  We had a large group that were keen to experience a bit of local culture (something that we feel is often missing on safari).  So the Kaingu team were happy to organise! 

Getting ready…. The lodge turning circle gets transformed into a lantern lit arena!

The chiwamba – noise making belt used by luvale people in dancing.

Traditional drums (Ngoma).

Bo, Benny and Dennis in action.

And in the same health vein as the mini marathon we then organised Agnes the nurse from the Itumbi clinic to come up and spend a day at the lodge with all our staff.  She is a bit of a dynamo and packed in a day of health checks, talks, testing and education.  This was the first such visit but will certainly not be the last

Agnes checking her blood pressure monitor is working!

And then the last monthly highlight was our 4th Yoga retreat.  This is most certainly a highlight of the year for Julia and Lynda.  Rick and myself are not quite so keen although I have started a tiny bit… Anyway we got Clare to come up from Livingstone and we got madam Precious the masseuse to come out from Lusaka.  It was a huge hit with the participants and we also had a Zambian TV crew film the first session. 

Madam precious in action.

Yoga by the rapids – one of the four locations for each session. The rapids, the rock, breakfast island and the chief’s campsite. Not a bad location for yoga!

Clare is a superb instructor.

And there you have it.  May at Kaingu Lodge.  We leave you with a last picture from our yoga retreat.  Clare helping Julia with the dreaded ‘bridge’…. 

The bridge. Julia reports it as a bridge too far!