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.

September News

Its 36 degrees in the office and the winds are predicted to hit gusts of 60km/hr today…   Yep.  September.  If the preceding month of August is when we talk about Winter leaving then September is a month when we forget what it was even like to be cold!

Anyway as usual we just go straight into our pictorial review of the month:

We start of with cats. Sighting in September were really good on our Pools Loops. Which was very fortunate as the Shishamba area became very quiet in terms of cat sightings.

What has been very interesting since we created these loops is to monitor and see the changes in animal densities and patterns. When we first created these loops we saw large herds of sable antelope on a regular basis. Sable sightings have reduced over the last three years and yet Hartebeest numbers have shot up. Medium sized antelope such as puku and impala also have increased in the area massively.

But cat sightings over last year and this year have increased dramatically. Which of course is absolutely wonderful. Relaxed leopards are becoming fairly usual sightings!

To see four different leopards in just two days used to be something very unusual for this area. Okay to be fair it is still not exactly regular. But there is definitely an increase in cat sightings in ‘our’ area.

We even had the mukambi river pride (named after where they were first seen) push all the way down and spend several days hanging around the pools loops. Unusual patterns of behaviour for sure.

All this discussion about unusual patterns that we cannot explain brings us to data collection. We are happy to support Panthera with data collection. So when you see our guides fiddling with what looks like a big phone they are not messing around. They are gathering data about cats. Using an open source software called S.M.A.R.T we try to collect as much data as possible. This will help the researchers better understand the population numbers, dynamics and challenges in order to better protect Kafue’s populations of charismatic mega fauna!

So hopefully playing our part in date collection will enable the custodians of the wildlife to better understand and protect them. Allowing guests to have wonderful experiences like this!

As the heat builds it is simply great to be able to offer so many different river based experiences as well as game drives. Canoeing is an absolute highlight for many. Us too!

The river always produces surprises if you look carefully. The Finfoot we normally see swimming or at best skittering across the water. But to see one (almost) in flight and rock hopping was quite a sight. We also have been seeing two young quite regularly.

Here a rather unfortunate leopard squeaker becomes a fish supper for a young reed cormorant!

September is also the month that the white-fronted bee-eaters start digging out their colonies. They are such fascinating birds. Socially extremely complex and incredibly adept in the air: we could watch them for hours. Hint: sometimes we do!

Back to the pools! It is not that often that one becomes familiar with a particular individual antelope. But there are a pair of reedbuck on our loops that we have become vary familiar with.

That was the male and this is the female. In reviewing our pictures of this pair I am once again struck by just how beautiful and graceful the reedbuck are.

one evening saw us also having a sundowner and getting the tripod out. The beauty of the area of the pools and the actual pools themselves never fails to wow.

We also had a team from the TNC come and stay and evaluate our fire management strategy. While McRee and Mundia have been here many times it was good to have them come out in the late season and see the effect of early burning and the rather less desirable late season fires. Like the data collection every little bit feeds into the bigger picture…

On the subject of fire. September. Almost guaranteed that at some point we will be out there fighting wildfires. So of course we were….

Probably the most unusual sighting for us in September wasn’t related to the animal kingdom or birds at all. It was rain!!!! We had a sudden electrical storm and quite a significant downpour. It was fantastic!

And then this was most certainly newsworthy. A large company that wishes to remain nameless donated a huge amount of (mostly) children’s clothing to the school. Over 100 boxes!!! It took us three boats to get it all across the river. A big thanks to the guys and a big thanks also to Markus and Valley Lodgeistics who transported it out to us at no cost.

Downtime: An evening at the lodge with only a few guests means that not everyone has to be on deck. We were taking an evening walk while the guests were on activity and found some of the team also enjoying the river.

When you see the river around Kaingu then you understand why it draws everyone to it. Whether it is guests on activity or us on some downtime it just never ever gets old.

Following the example of Wina and the guys we also grabbed a canoe and did a bit of island exploring. Julia getting all zen in a rather stunning area that we had never explored before.

There is indeed something about these landscapes that make you want to become all yogi.

And we leave you there for September.

Recycling at Kaingu Lodge

Claiming green credentials in the safari industry is almost as ubiquitous as khakis and gin and tonics.  Generally speaking most camps and lodges are pretty minimal impact.  It kind of comes with the territory as environmental standards in protected areas are usually quite strict.  Also being ‘off grid’ means that a lot of lodges rely on solar power generation or hybrid generation systems.  Water filtration is touted as being green (some camps will hand you a fancy water bottle with a nice story about helping the environment) but in reality it is just sensible; try carrying cases and cases of water and then having to deal with all the plastic waste.  It might be green but in reality it is just easier to manage!  But green credentials sell safaris and if we don’t all try to minimise our impact on our world then we are going to end up in big trouble.  So every little helps.  Now I am not cynical enough to try and tell you that us re-using a few wine bottles and steel barrels is because we believe it will save the world.  No.  It is rather a bit like my water bottle example; we do it because it works, we do it because there is satisfaction in creating something yourself and then seeing it used.  We do it because we want to at least try and reduce a little bit the circle of consumption and waste.  And we do it because it can save us a bit of money.  We do it because we do not want our lodge to be furnished from a catalogue and we want it to be unique and to feel like it was designed by a human being.  You won’t find that many geometric shapes in what we do here at Kaingu.  This reflects the fact that we are surrounded by nature where there are few hard edges and angles.  “Nestled into nature” is a phrase we have used repeatedly because it fits our lodge and our approach.

So in this post we want to show some examples.  Not of solar panels and batteries and toilets.  But of how we have taken items and incorporated them into our buildings and decor.  Now let’s also be clear; when I say “we” it is basically all Julia.  With a background (educationally as well as vocationally) in design she is the one who spearheads all of this.

Lets start with bottles.  We use a lot!  As much as possible we try and get our suppliers to send beer and soft drinks in returnable bottles.  This works for a lot of drinks.  But of course not all.  Wine springs to mind.  Now glass windows don’t work at Kaingu.  But what about recycling bottles to create a ‘window’ that allows light in?  And it can even be in the shower as nobody can see through it.  And it looks beautiful when the morning sun hits it.

Now we come to the humble mbaula.  This is the charcoal brazier used all over Zambia for cooking on.  They are everywhere and used by everyone.  The mbaula itself though is already a recycled item as they are made from steel drums that are used to supply oils and lubricants.  The 200L (55 gallon) ones make for quite a large brazier and smaller 50kg grease drums make for a ‘one pot’ cooker.  Initially an mbaula looks like there is very little to commend them in terms of arts and crafts:

But the finished items look fantastic once they are painted up and once we made mukwa (local hardwood) table tops for them.  We see them as practical, cheap and (being a bit fanciful here) a uniquely local item which is recognised by many and becomes a talking point where all sorts of conversations start: from cooking through to deforestation due to dependence on charcoal!

Next on our list is the humble mortar.  As in pestle and mortar.  In our house we have a couple of very old ones that we use as side tables.  We wanted to create the same for the lodge.  Now while we envisaged buying old broken down ones from the villages it actually turned out to be a lot harder than we expected.  The mortar and pestle in Africa is a seriously large implement.  The spread of small scale diesel powered hammer mills means that really the use of these is now confined to very rural areas where distances to the nearest mill are substantial.  To pound maize in these in order to produce a meal to make nshima is pretty hard work indeed.  The mortar is symbolically as well as practically a very important piece of household equipment.  It is difficult for people coming from say Europe to appreciate just how important the role of maize is here.  And in turn just how important the tool to turn maize into the staple starch dish of nshima is.  A bit of minimal painting and turned upside down they also make amazing side tables which really are truly Zambian.

Next up is the traditional canoe.  There is a good story here too.  We were approached by a nameless D.N.P.W. patrol team leader who informed us that a very trusted staff member had loaned out his canoe to people who were now using it for nefarious purposes in the villages (i.e. crossing the river to poach).  To avoid implication and trouble we sat the said staff member down and offered to buy the canoe to take it out of circulation.  Smiles all round and a great story:

The next one was yet another poacher’s vessel.  This one however was confiscated by a patrol team who had found a poacher’s camp on one of the islands south of us.  At first it was going to be burnt on the spot by the team but again we stepped in and the end result was that everyone was happy.  Except the poachers who on return to their camp would find that they were  short of a canoe!  Anyway it now resides on the deck and still carries people but in a slightly different way and for very different purposes.

Now we come to our final one and this is one which always makes me smile.  This is true recycling although not of an item that is a problem to dispose of.  Indeed rather the opposite.  Most safari goers are very familiar with the marula tree.  The fruit is much loved by elephants and indeed the elephants are a method of seed dispersal as the pulpy fruit is eaten and sometime later the seed is deposited.  In it’s very own patch of rich manure.  Studies have shown that marula seeds that have passed through an elephant’s digestive system are far more likely to germinate than those that have not.

So here is the original product:

And below is some of the contents after a fair bit of work!  Past visitors to Kaingu know that Julia as a hobby creates seed based jewelry.  I should point out that it is a hobby that pays as a lot of items are sold in the Kaingu curio shop!  The fact that people are wearing an item that has passed through an elephants digestive system is just too cool.

August News

As per the norm here at Kaingu we are doing a pictorial review of the month.  August is generally the month that winter leaves us and temperatures start to climb.  By the end of the month we were seeing temperatures in the low 30s so a big change there.  Birdlife on the river also really starts to pick up.  Anyway enough talking and we let the pictures (and captions!) tell the story.

Our motivation signs!   They are a bit ironic now (and this is why we posted this) as the road that they are on is now actually the fastest way to reach Kaingu.  The D769 (Itezhi Tezhi road) is now being tarred and is in amazing shape and then the last 40kms in through the GMA forest has been worked on by ourselves heavily over the last two years.  The net result of all this is that this is now the fastest way to reach Kaingu.  However the park side/boat arrival still has far more charm and “safari theater”!

School visit

A delightful family from the UK visited ‘our’ school.  They had brought footballs and other supplies and were absolutely amazed by the friendliness and enthusiasm at the school.

Pools loops reedbuck. The reedbuck for me is actually one of the most beautiful antelopes; perfectly proportioned and wonderful colour. Fortunately a fairly common sighting on our loops.

Another common pools loops sighting: Israel!

New life at chalet 1: JohnD spotted this tiny newborn bushbuck from the river and radioed in. A new addition to the numerous bushbuck that reside around the lodge.

New life in the river too! In the wild crocodiles are extremely slow growing though so this guy is probably a couple of years old. Check out that eye!

Safari staples: G&T has to be the most often requested sundowner drink. While others go for the botanicals and fancy gin tastings we keep it simple. As it should be.

As the river levels drop August is also the month that we start doing more sleepouts and different activities. A simple one-pot meal under the stars and reviewing the day with a glass of wine and good company. Doesn’t really get much better than this!

Half-collared kingfisher. on the river with a bit of natural framing.

Latest lodge details: A true story is that this bench was once a canoe and used in poaching activities. (we only tell the full story if you sit on it!). 100% recycling.

As water levels drop we start assessing our natural bathing/paddling pools. The late and heavy rains mean that they are not quite there yet. But any day now…

Tonga basket: during August we finished two additional ones. So we now can offer sleepouts for up to 6 people. We are totally biased of course but think they are totally stunning and totally unique.  Mike the mechanic (known for his rather sharp and eccentric observations) calls them “human nests”.

Of course in fine-tuning the guest experience testing is required. A hard job! Here is Julia contemplating sunrise from a Tonga basket (human nest).

And now for something completely different. Latest lodge details: We have decided to create our own handmade soaps for our guests. Turns out there is a fair bit of complexity to soap production…..

But the finished results look (and smell) amazing. Everything is curing at the moment so the final results will take a few weeks until they are in. But so far so good.

We did a fair bit of canoeing in August. Always such a fantastic activity.

I always enjoy Kaley’s safety briefs. He has truly developed them into a comedy art form which always puts sometimes nervous guests at ease.

Nyambanza. She is a bit of an unsung hero to be honest. Quiet, efficient and brilliant with family groups. We don’t post enough about her but will get that sorted!

Pic from JohnD: He called up on the radio to announce that once again we had lions in the carpark! Its becomming a bit of a regular thing.

Now when John called the lion sighting in I jumped in a boat and headed across. But what ended up happening was that the early morning light hitting a young puku actually made me leave the lion and photograph the puku. Sometimes it is the smaller things that make your day!

Wildfires. Sadly late season wildfires are a fact of life in the Kafue and surrounding GMAs. Actually historically the GMAs suffer late season fires less than the NP. Anyway we had quite a large one burning out to the East. Due to our regime of firebreaks and early burning we were not really concerned but I did go out to monitor it and ensure we were not going to get any nasty surprises. The opportunity to photograph it was taken for sure.

Moonrise while monitoring the fire.