Whats Happening at KaingU Safari Lodge in Zambia

Stay updated with news and information from KaingU Safari Lodge situated in the Namwala Game Management Area (GMA) on a spectacular and remote stretch of the Kafue River in Zambia.

October 2017 News

Just the usual images taken through the month.

September Newsletter – It is basically just baskets!

So we left you last month with a promise to have more updates about Elephayo’s woven muchinga products.  Some background.  We have always been admirers of traditional building techniques and have tried to incorporate as much ‘home grown’ building techniques and designs as we can.  The lodge overall uses a lot of traditional construction.  Local ‘bush poles’ and thatching.  It simply works, is a renewable resource and has many advantages.   We are regular users of mud bricks as well.  Simple, cheap and plentiful.  So long as you build well and keep them dry then you don’t even need to fire them in a kiln.  They are fantastic insulators of both thermal and sound energy.  Anyway we digress…

Large woven structures are often used around rural Zambia as grain stores, chicken coops and other agricultural purposes.  Muchinga as a tough and flexible plant and incredibly strong.  For a long time we have been thinking about treehouses, sleep out platforms and baskets.  In conversation with Bo (at his house while admiring his grain store) it turned out that Elephayo is a highly skilled maker of such things.  So we went to work drawing, designing, testing and creating.  The results we feel speak for themselves.

The treehouse basket off to be installed.

The first of Elephayo’s Muchinga “Tonga baskets” was completed and installed at the Finfoot Family House. Hanging from a tree so that one can just sit and watch the river go by.

The Finfoot “Tonga Basket”. We couldn’t resist getting out some lanterns during the blue hour. The end results became one of the Lodge’s most popular ever Facebook posts. Unusual to have lodge photography be so popular (normally it is lions or Israel’s selfies that generate all the ‘likes’. Made us happy though!

The completed “Tonga basket” tree house.

The completed tree house in the blue hour.

Interior shot from the treehouse.

Lodge cat Nala giving the seal of approval to one of Elephayo’s creations.

So apart from the “Tonga Basket” work we also have started replacing all the fences with woven muchinga. Here is Mr Elephayo doing his thing.

Gymnogene (African harrier-hawk) using the lift from wind on a sandbank to literally hover in place looking for prey.

September sees the arrival of the ubiquitous yellow-billed kites. Intra-African migrants, they move down from North Africa.

A photo finish captured at the Parrot hide.

So while us humans are busy as anything eating the crayfish that the local fishermen deliver, it was very interesting to see another crustacean getting consumed!

As it hots up we start utilising all the natural pools for some paddling and chilling. This is us just wandering around looking at different spots and assessing water levels.

Picture yourself on this beautiful island. A cold beer in hand, a book by your side and a totally relaxing afternoon ahead. Sounds tempting eh!

another island, another sunset and another photograph. I like repetition!

While walking around the bush we came across a rather dramatic lion skeleton largely fairly intact. The teeth wear would seem to indicate that it was a very old lion when it died.

How fast are bee-eaters?

So how fast is a bee-eater? As anyone that monitors our facebook page knows, I am quite fond of bee-eaters and taking pictures of them. For me it is the combination of amazing flying ability, beautiful colouration, social structure and obvious intelligence. From a photographic perspective they are also a real challenge to try to capture. Great fun.

So while thinking about them one evening we started to wonder just how fast they are… They are incredibly acrobatic birds, hawking insects on the wing sometimes milimeters from the water. Apparently they can spot a wasp 100m away. From watching them I can easily believe that. Now I have no idea how to really convey or measure their speed, so this is just a few random ideas jotted down to try to convey just how rapid the example of their action that was captured in the six animated frames above .

Fortunately a camera shutter can move extremely quickly. Stopping motion with a fast bird like this I was using 1/3200ths of a second shutter speed. This is 0.0003125 seconds! Now while that is extremely fast, the action of the shutter, the mirror action of the camera, the autofocus calculations and drive signals to the lens, the processing of the image and writing it to memory going means that the number of these (very short) exposures that can be made in a second is (relatively) not that many. This camera can shoot 10 exposures (frames) per second. That is pretty quick as cameras go. Remember that when you go to the movies you are quite probably watching the movie at 24fps. So the six frames showed here lasted (in terms of actual exposure time) cumulatively for only 1.8 milliseconds. The camera’s ability to keep doing that meant that the actual shooting time for the burst of six shots was a relatively long 600 milliseconds (0.6 secs).

This is the sort of speed of reaction you need if you are going to intercept, dog fight and then eat large, fast insects. Clearly bee-eaters operate in a world with completely different time standards to the one we do. Small animals, insects, even children see the world with a faster frame rate than us adult humans do. Adult humans generally are limited to about 60fps. Birds on the the other hand are able to process their visual world at 90-100 frames per second.

Interestingly this amazing processing speed, ability to see the world in slow motion and reflexes to match seems to result in a confidence in their speed and ability which can be seen. Watching them one day I saw several different large raptors flying over the colony. While the guinea fowl and spur-fowl on the islands were all alarming and diving into cover the bee-eaters just continued hawking and perching. To me it seemed that probably they are so confident in their flying skills and speed that a large, relatively slow moving raptor poses almost no threat at all.  They are truly fascinating birds.