Mongongo oil. As part of Julia’s artisanal soap production for the lodge and for @Edenfound, an important aspect is locally sourced ingredients. Perhaps the most important of which is mongongo oil. So far this year 29 litres has been purchased, which totals 5,800 Kwacha. For rural women in Zambia this is a substantial income. Maklina insisted on Julia taking her picture with a payment for one of the consignments! Mongongo oil comes from a nut (from a tree) and is a painstaking process – gathering, shelling, pounding and heating. The oil itself has incredible properties as a moisturising agent.
And yet another example of Julia’s never-ending creativity. We gather a huge amount of the (very nice) small cotton Kasama Coffee bags that the lodge coffee comes in. And so, the trusty singer sewing machine was plugged in and these amazing tote bags are now in the camp curio shop.
If you follow us on socials, then you will know that drums get some hard use here at Kaingu. Our drums were getting a bit tired, so trainee chef John organised some cow hide and it turns out that he is a highly competent drum maker. He took the drums and fabricated new skins and pegs and then he and Benny spent hours tweaking them. Good job John!
A quick Keela school update. Exterior plastering has commenced after the rather long set back of the broken bore hole (which is now fixed). Hopefully proper progress soon! However we are not too concerned as at least the school roof is completed before the rains (which was our main concern). Other tasks can continue whether it is raining or not!
And now for something completely different. We decided to have a bit of fun on a Friday morning. Amazingly we did have guests in camp, but despite that a few staff wanted to run the rapids. So we spent a couple of hours getting in the canoes at the lodge, going through the rapids and then loading up the Hilux and driving round and doing it all over again. Chef Wina even did it in his chef’s toque for added social media bonus points! Great fun.
And then just a shot of international guests flying in. Something that we didn’t see at all the last couple of years. And it happened to be towards the end of the day, Skytrails’ Cessna 337 was landing with a beautiful golden backdrop. It had been so long since I shot a propellor driven aeroplane that I had forgotten the basics – drop your shutter speed as low as you dare in order to get the blurred disk of the propellors. In my case I was at 1/640sec which was slightly too fast to completely blur the disks. I should have been down at like 1/200 th.
As the hot weather really bites, the water levels drop enough for our natural pool to start seeing use. To lie in there with some cold drinks chatting away is pure bliss. Oh, and with small fish tickling your feet!
Then to sightings. And there were some outstanding ones. September and October historically are always the best months for sightings as the bush is now very dry and animals concentrate around sources of permanent water. So, let us start with a few sightings from our loops. In the first shot we were heading out for a quick look at the loops when we spotted a martial eagle just by the car park. On closer inspection we say that it was eating a vervet monkey! We got as close as the vegetation would allow us, and we also didn’t want to spook the eagle.
We also caught up with some lions that we last saw as cubs two years previously. “Stumpy tail” we first met on the spinal road just shortly after she lost part of her tail. She then gave birth on our loops and we saw her cubs grow to maturity and form the “mawimbi” pride. They are still around. Then two years ago we caught up with her with four very new cubs and we were please to see that three of them have made it to almost complete maturity. Following along with animals lives over longer time scales is an absolute privilege and we know it.
Israel caught some amazing pictures of this big fat and happy leopard. Cat sightings have been fantastic. Not only up at Shishamba loops, but also on our own loops.
Then to bathing elephants. Again, with the increase in temperatures the elephant activity on the river generally ramps up. This year has been no exception (although over the colder months for some reason this year the elephant activity was less). To sit having breakfast while watching a group of bulls cavorting in the river in front of the lodge is quite something.
Then the best sighting for last. On the loops for several consecutive days we were seeing two adult wild dogs with 7 pups. Incredible. What is even more incredible is that we are not sure where they have come from. The Zambia Carnivore Program researchers are busy trying to work it out. Fascinating stuff. Anyway, a very unusual and wonderful sighting!
And then as we usually do, we end with an image from the beautiful dark skies of Kaingu Lodge. Here we see M33 – the Triangulum galaxy (Messier object 33) which is 2.75 million light years away. It is about 60% of the size of our own Milkyway, and contains an estimated 40 billion stars. This image was taken at 440mm focal length and comprises around 3 hours total imaging time.