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.

July News

I can’t believe we are basically half way through our season.  Unbelievable how time passes.  July was a phenomenal month in so many ways, but we start with Benny.  We are actually planning an entire blog post about Mr Benson, but we will start with a quick picture of him in his chef’s whites.  Although Benny is front of house he is passionate about cooking as a hobby and to generally develop himself.

Benny (on the right) taking a break from waitering!

We also did a bit of updating our activity images.  Julia was pointing out that we keep using a 6 year old boating picture in our emailers and ads.  So we did a quick evening photo session with Julia and Alphonso.

The beauty of the river

Rocky river

Now we turn to a few lodge ‘touches’.  Using humble materials – recycled charcoal braziers (Mbaulas) to create coffee tables and using some Mukwa and copper pipe (and carved Zebras) to create a safari style cake stand.  We already have had social media messages from people wanting to buy these pieces!

The humble mbaula. A charcoal brazier used the length and breadth of Zambia

Which we then turned into these!

And our Mukwa and plumbing parts cake stand:

Mukwa, copper pipe and a raid on the curio shop produced this.

Then for something completely different.  Some background story: There is a fairly spectacular Baobab about 10km up the river road from us. I had on and off thought about trying for a typical African astro landscape shot many times but never actually done it. The last couple of weeks has seen really unseasonal cloud at night, no good at all for astro landscapes obviously. A few evenings ago after dinner with guests Julia and I went out to try and find the lion that had been calling behind the lodge. No go on the lions, but sitting in our old landrover in the middle of the dambo listening the stars were unreal. The cold front had cleared the skies of smoke and it was stunning. Julia was not so into a midnight astro mission (she was keen on bed) so we headed to the house and swapped the old series III for something more reliable. Of course as I drove a few kilometers up the river road here was the lion strolling up the track. He kindly made way (he was a bit skittish) so I ‘overtook’ him and headed for the boabab. I knew he would be continuing up the road towards me and sure enough I could hear his calls approaching. I REALLY quickly set up the tripod, locked down the camera, switched to MF, found infinity focus and started shooting. The calls were getting closer and the atmosphere was unreal. If only photos had sound!

Grass.  We use a lot of it.  Every year…   We rely on the local communities for our supply.  4500 bundles in total.  Now to be really honest there are easier ways to do this but we are proud of how much impact our lodge has on the very local economy and we like to keep things traditional.  Oberty is our local organiser and the cutting team generally comprises about 30 people – often older people or very young who have little other income sources.

The man himself: Mr Oberty.  He has taken over the role from his father (Mr Gibson) who is over 85 and was until last year out cutting grass himself.

Oberty.

And now for some game drives.  We also took the opportunity to get out in our old landrover.  Now many of you know that this old classic basically is used only to drive guests back from Mpamba rock in the evening after a walk and sundowners on the rock.  However we got all brave (risking mechanical catastrophe) and went out into the Game Mangement Area to get some footage and just enjoy our beautiful surroundings.

Seriies III 109″ Landrover. Born in SA from components from Birmingham. She is well over 40 years old!

In marked contrast here is Julia driving one of our slightly younger vehicles.  Absolutely wonderful to get out a bit on our loops and get some video and pictures.  All marketing but all fun…!

Julia driving the pools loops.

Beautiful evening light.

Now we come to sightings.  What a month.  We will start off gently with what are for us very common sights.  Hartebeest.  The winter colours of the bush blends beautifully with the coats of the hartebeest.

Likewise the ever present puku melting into the background.

Then we had a rather special day.  On a transfer down to lake Itezhi Tezhi JohnD had the most incredible sightings.  A pangolin and 21 wild dogs.  Unreal!

Pangolin and Kaingu lettering – fantastic!

The best thing was that the guests on the drive were all serious safari goers and so a pangolin was the icing on the cake.

Dogs and pangolin on one drive.  Sometimes the planets align perfectly…  (more on that later!):

Then on the same day Julia and I jumped on an evening game drive with guests.  We were so glad we did as we got to spend 30mins with an incredibly relaxed young male leopard.

And now for something completely different.  We have been very busy on school related work this month.  Now most of you probably know that Kaingu was instrumental in the construction of the Itumbi school and that we (together with generous donations from guests) do quite a lot in terms of trying to upgrade (and even just maintain) standards, equipment, facilities, teacher training etc.

As I say, we are fortunate to have very generous guests and in July we were lucky to receive some very generous donations towards our ongoing desk rehabilitation and replacement.

We have been very busy using some of these funds to rehabilitate old broken desks:

These broken desks have been lying for literally years. The school is desperately short of desks, so here we go….

Willard in action, grinding off old rusted bolts before Mike welds the broken frames.

And Mike.  Welding.  In slow motion!

Then we come to the RowZambezi expedition.  Two years ago they approached us asking if we would release Kaley to help them with guidance and assistance on the river.  We were happy to oblige and Kaley was very keen on this adventure.  After a year’s delay (to raise more sponsorship money) it finally was on.  In addition to Kaley helping guide we also received a bit of a last minute call for help which ended up us taking two boats up to Chunga and assisting to lead them down to Kaingu.

The rowers included olympic athletes and boat race competitors.  It was fascinating to hep out and watch it all unfold.

The three teams approaching Kaingu.

And then lastly we come to the lunar eclipse.  This was a highly anticipated event in so many safari lodges across Southern and central Africa.  We were a little bit unlucky here as in the late afternoon the cloud started building and eventually the coverage was almost total.  We decided to head up to Mpamba rock regardless and just hope for the best.  We packed up the old landrover with cushions, blankets, a pot of chili and drinks.  We sat on top of the rock with our guests and made stick bread and ate and drank and waited.

Waiting and waiting for a break in the clouds

And finally!  The clouds parted just as the ‘blood moon’ or eclipse totality happened.  The break in the clouds only gave us a few minutes view but we did manage to grab some quick pictures which brought us almost to the end of a wonderful month here at Kaingu Lodge.

June News and images

So as per usual our news ‘letter’ is really just a series of images all taken here at Kaingu, all in the month of June.  There is no real story there as such.  Well, there is, there always is.  We are always doing stuff, upgrading stuff and creating stuff.  But sometimes a picture tells a 000 words.  Anyway, June.  Traditionally the month of mists and fires.  And the cold.  Lets go!

Looking North from straight above Kaingu Lodge in the early evening. Looking North you can see how after a few kilometers the river changes and becomes a slow, wide meander. Not nearly as charismatic as here. Still beautiful but with a totally different character!

This is the rapids. Literally a couple of hundred meters from where I sit right now in the office. A stunning spot and a site that we use regularly for dinners and drinks etc. June saw us finally able to use our usual dinner spot after the waters dropped enough. I have never seen generally such water levels at this time. Not just the rivers, but small streams and ponds that are normally dry by now are still wet.

The morning mists. June is always the month when this really starts up. It is absolutely stunning. We are so guilty of repetition when it comes to talking about this. But once you see it you will understand!

I joined one guest group that we immediately nicknamed “Ladies with lenses” as they were very keen photographers. Israel was guiding them and you can see here he also gets enthusiastic about morning mists! Anyway we had a fully photography packed few days lined up….

Repeat guests Kathy and Paul (multiple repeat I should add) heading into the sunrise on their next adventure with Kaley. The mist this morning was intense!

As we pulled back to the lodge we suddenly spotted the elusive jetty Finfoot. I was really pleased to perform a lightning quick lens change and then grab this as the “Finners” (Kaley’s shortcut name) moved through the mist. Made my day. Well, actually my week.

No guest experience here is complete without Mpamba rock. The ladies were very keen to photograph the sunset. Beautiful golden light….

Barbara’s beautiful Canon 5DMKIII with a fancy Lee graduated filter system. Ohh. I guess you have to be a real photo nut to see beauty in this image! Antonia and my own set ups were far far more basic that this.

After dinner it was back to the rock. The Ladies with lenses wanted to grab some star photos. The timing was perfect as it was a new moon so only starlight visible. It was a really good session. Everyone was happy with what they got. For me this evening was quite a novel experience as most times my night time photo sessions are pretty lonely affairs.

The following morning it was back onto the river pre-dawn for a second mist session. This mornings mists were less intense than the previous day. In some ways it was actually better as the previous day was almost too much.

Nala the cat. Okay, why a picture of Nala? Firstly because she is beautiful and very charismatic. Like all best models! Secondly because there is kind of an internet tradition that when someone gets a new camera or lens they have to take a picture of either a cat or a duck. One of the ladies with lenses very kindly lent me one of her lenses as she was leaving. Saying she will come back for it in November. Now as this whole news entry has been one long photo centric post I will now go into raptures about this thing: A Sigma 20mm F1.4 ‘Art’ series lens. This is not your average travel zoom or daily walk around lens. It is a big fat, specialized, wide, low light beast of a thing. If you know you need a 20mm F1.4 this is the thing. If you question whether you need such a lens then you really don’t. It weighs an entire kilo. It is a fixed length prime lens so not particularly flexible. It has more coma than a cheap Korean fully manual lens. It misses focus fairly often. But on the right day at the right moment it is utterly sublime! It hoovers up light like a dyson and is sharper than a katana.

The sigma again. Look at this thing! 9 aperture blades so amazing sunburts and beautiful bokeh. This is the path to chalet 4. The output from this lens can literally make you drop everything and go on safari!

Another day another sunset. By the Sigma. Yep. Test over. It works. Giving this thing back is going to hurt….

The Pools loops. June is also always the month that we finish slashing and fixing up the loops, do early burning and then start driving them. This is always hard and hot work, at times a bit nerve-wracking but always interesting. To see an area that we properly only saw almost six months ago and re-connect with it is great.

The ubiquitous puku. What has been very interesting is how over the years the population of medium sized antelopes (Pukus and Impalas) has risen in the area. We are not sure why, but it is pronounced. The first couple of years that we created and drove the areas we didn’t see half as many as now.  The larger grazers (especially hartebeest) were always there in numbers but not so much the medium sized antelopes.  Now that is all changed though.  

The Lichtenstein’s Hartebeest. This is the antelope (together with the Oribi) that is to me synonymous with the pools loops. Within one day of early burning we were counting 60 animals in 4 herds. Fantastic. They also are for sure now more comfortable with vehicles. Even after a 6 month break!

From the pools loops back to the river. Alfonso joined us on an internship again this year (you might remember him from last year). He memorably said to us – in fact while heading home from this rock) – that he told his friends that “I am going back to my favourite place in the world”. He is a great guy!

A random snapshot from early burning on the pools loops. We take it all very seriously (as we should). Fire fighting equipment, drip torches, a drone to monitor and fine tune, google earth (to plan), maps and training. We do it all.

Bo and Gil pre-burn planning. As mentioned we take it seriously. Evidence being the serious expressions and Gil’s treasured “crew boss” fire clothes. Of course 10 minutes later they are like kids running around burning stuff and saying things like “yeah, look at it rip through that dambo”.

And then finally we leave you with something more beautiful than burning. Victor setting up the first rapids dinner. Finally.

May News

Month of May.

Stargazing with Julia and Stephanie.  Stephanie joined us from Belgium on an internship.  This was them brushing up a bit before a bit of stargazing with guests.  

Lots of lanterns.  Received a new shipment of Dietz  Lanterns.  Safari staples… Lanterns and canvas! 

Dinner for 18. Hence the need for lots of lanterns!

And in daylight.

Daylight deck.  The one thing about safari lodges is that ‘gear’ takes an absolute hammering.  Constant daily use and exposure to the elements.  We sanding down and finished each and every directors chair.  A job that seems never ending.  Still, it all looked good when finally done.  

Steph heading off with Benny to set up an island sundowner

Dancing and drumming under the stars.  

Kaley and Panthera Leo.  Sightings for May were pretty good.  Long grass and lots of water were for sure there, but overall it was pretty good! 

Hippo through the deck.  This was an absolute highlight – from the guests perspective anyway.  A hippo decided to walk across the deck.  Fortunately this level of daftness is rare.  It hasn’t happened in years.  Total chaos! 

Repairs. Fortunately we had hardwood 2×6 in stock.  And screws and all the rest of it…. 

Precision.  Mike being unusually delicate.  While his talents are undeniable, at times he is not the most gentle of souls! 

Something completely different.  We grabbed a couple of nights down at the lake.  And were amazed by the small Kapenta traps that are put out every night.  As well as an alternative to the (over) conventional fishing it also is very atmospheric! 

Itezhi Tezhi town from 1000′.  The Kapenta traps are put out all over the lake.  

Pig on a spit.  A shot like this means that it is time for the annual Kaingu Fathers & Kids fishing weekend.  Anyone that is familiar with our social media content knows that this is an absolute highlight of our year.  It is something so different and informal.  

Fathers and kids on the rock

Stick bread.

Dance off! A three way competition – boys, girls and dads!

Mark and Victor choosing a song for the dads (winning) dance. Katerina finding the whole concept of dads dancing hilarious.

Back to more normal life!

Evening light and a monitor lizard

More normal safari goers!

JAAS. “Just” another African (almost) Sunset.

And lastly something VERY different. A group of dentists visiting the lodge offered free staff treatment and checkups.