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.

November 2019 – Pictorial Newsletter

Kuumbi Mpati – the month when the clouds have finally formed and it starts seriously raining.

I simply cannot believe that I am writing this at the beginning of December and our season is all but over.  It seems like only a few weeks ago that we were doing the big unpacking and getting everything ready back in Feb.  Time flies when you are having fun as the saying goes!  Fortunately for everyone and everything November reflected what the Tonga descriptive name describes – the rains really did start in earnest.  This is so welcome after the last rainy season which was a complete disaster.  In fact Zambia has suffered the worst drought for 40 years, so getting some good rains is vital.  

Rains over the West of the Kafue National Park. Most welcome indeed.

Of course the welcome clouds and rains brings real interest to the skies.  There is no such thing as a good sunset sky without clouds!  This little video clip below gives some idea of the drama of one of the first storms: 

The rains have greened everything up incredibly – all in the space of two weeks.  It is amazing that anything can survive being frozen and baked and parched in the tiny amount of soil on top of the granite rocks, but as you can see here after the first substantial rains life really does blossom: 

How anything can survive 9 months being parched, frozen and baked on top of Mpamba rock is amazing!

On the topic of plants surviving on top of Mpamba here we have one of the euphorbia that survive in this harsh climate under the after-glow of yet another amazing sunset: 

Mpamba euphorbia

Of course it is not only from higher ground that everyone enjoys the drama of November.  Out on the river or out on a game drive  the skies are just as dramatic.  

God rays as guests boat back after cruising the Kafue.

Imagine watching this with your G&T!

And now we come (back again!) to elephants….  Vera (former Puku researcher) came back for another visit from Germany and camped out with us while waiting for her research permits to be approved.  She has the coolest little short wheel base Land Cruiser: 

Meanwhile down in the campsites!

The one afternoon was in particular quite unforgettable with two huge bulls ambling up to the main area (and chalet 4, and the guest loo) and providing serious entertainment for the guests during afternoon tea…. 

Israel keeping an eye on the chalet 4 resident.

While the guests were enjoying orange cake, this guy was enjoying slightly tougher fare.

And of course a bit of a display for the guests!

We keep saying it, but this year the elephant activity around camp has been more intense than ever.  With the onset of the rains and the vegetation really bouncing back the activity has reduced, but they are still around.  Overall it has been an incredible experience. 

Departing chalet 4

 Some of the guests that enjoyed the elephants tea party later that afternoon enjoyed another stunning canoe trail.  The four ladies (all doctors from Germany and including a mother and daughter) were an absolute pleasure to show the river to.  

Happy guests. A canoe trail ending with a sleep out in our Tonga baskets – super fun!

Unusually for our canoe trails it ended up with Kaley and myself in the same canoe, so we took the opportunity to grab some video: 

 

And then towards the end of the month we move onto developments at the Keela Community School.  The Itezhi Tezhi council had several months ago promised to send the drilling rig to try and find water for the school.  So long as we could provide the casing pipes, the diesel, the hand pump and transportation of the drilling rods and bits.  And finally it happened…! 

This momentous occasion was truly a community affair, with people helping carry the drilling rods, clear trees, move fuel and do whatever needed to be done!

However things did not go according  to plans and expectations.  The first day’s drilling was totally dry.  Then the second day also.  Then the third day and the second hole.  We were now totally over budget and had to bring in a LOT more diesel.  The despondency was everywhere: 

You can read the frustration in Benny and Boyd’s (councillor) body language.

And then finally on day four it happened.  Benny and myself had driven down in the late afternoon and the new hole suddenly delivered!  In fact the drilling team stated that the recovery rate of the bore was the best out of any that they had drilled in the entire district over the course of this year.  Suddenly everything changed! 

Water water everywhere suddenly!

As the sun was setting the joy was everywhere.  The spray of water and the golden light lent further magic to what was a really joyful day. 

Benny’s face tells it all.

A huge thanks to the really committed crew from Itezhi Tezhi council. They camped out without a complaint for four days and said that they were going to stay until we hit water – so long as we could keep feeding the machine diesel!

The following day I went back down to see the installation of the hand pump.  Despite it being a Sunday people were all lined up with containers desperate for the first ever pumped clean water in the community.  It was amazing. 

The singing and shouting and pure happiness was fantastic.

We tried to capture the momentous event with a short video that we made:

 

And just to give a bit of context here is a quick snap of where the community were previously drawing water.  A few muddy inches of water at the bottom of a hand dug well.  We are really pleased to have helped make such an important development happen. 

A few inches of muddy water….

And then to end the month we want to talk about maize meal.  As we mentioned at the beginning of the newsletter this year Zambia has suffered the worst drought for four decades.  The worst hit has been the South/Central parts of Zambia – i.e. the villages south of us where all our staff live.  The 2019 harvest was more than 50% down on the already poor harvest of 2018.  A reduction of 400,000 tons.  As the lodge closes for Jan, Feb and March (with everyone coming back towards the end of March to get things ready for opening in April) then clearly there is a long period where people are needing food security.  Almost all of our staff are small scale maize farmers who normally have a stockpile to go through these months.  But of course this year there are no stockpiles.  And maize prices have risen and risen as the year has worn on.  Prices now are double what they were a few months ago. 

So as a means of supporting our staff and their families we went shopping for maize!  So on the last day ofNovember it arrived.  Over two tons of maize meal.  So with that we end the month and basically the season.  We will have a few more updates before the year’s end, so until then! 

Two tons of mealie meal ready for distribution to our staff and their families – Twalumba (thank you) to everyone for working hard and making 2019 a far more successful year than we anticipated back in March. Good job!

   

  

October 2019 – Pictorial Monthly Update

“Kakumba Kanini”  Translated as “the time when the clouds start to form and sometimes even some rain”.  The Tonga words for what in English is known as October.  Very apt!    As you can see from the below image we have had a few showers – nothing major, just enough to whet our appetites.  

Scattered sunset showers to the North of the lodge.

While the heat build up is unrelenting and the grounds are parched the Kakumbi Kanini does at least bring some interest to the sky after months of clear skies and nothing but haze. 

Looking South South West.

The one thing that we don’t have in the Kafue – despite the incredibly dry conditions – is the really terrible conditions that other parks face.  In Mana Pools people are actually bringing fodder into the park to try to sustain the animals, and conditions in Hwangwe are apparently terrible with dozens of elephants literally dying from lack of food and water.  At times like this our low animal densities and large sources of water are a blessing.  

As you can see from the below image, while the Kafue levels are low they are not THAT low.  There is still plenty water going over the rapids and the life blood of the park is in no danger of running dry. 

Still a good amount of water flowing over the rapids just below the lodge.

Of course all this means that sightings are (as they always are) good in October.  Not much to add here really. Just let the pictures do the talking…. 

Wild dogs as captured by the new member of our guiding team James – who joins us from the Lower Zambezi.

The location of this leopard on top of a termite mound meant that guests got a great perspective looking up – so often on game drives we are only looking down on animals.

I couldn’t resist grabbing a quick shot of Junior doing some animal bread making with children.  We do offer children’s activities and child minding FOC to allow adult time!  Interestingly this picture caused some hilarity in the office when one of our facebook followers got things a bit confused and thought that ‘hippo bread’ was bread that we make to feed hippos!  Classic. 

Junior helping a child make ‘hippo bread’. Which (I must stress) gets eaten by humans not hippos.

October also means that river based birding also ramps up.  A lot of migrants (both intra African and palearctic are now on and around the river.  October also brings the white-fronted bee-eaters to the fore as they are nesting now and constantly hawking above the river to feed the young ones in the burrows.  Which of course allows for some great action photography.  

white-fronted bee-eater coming in. They are capable of such fast aerobatics that they are fascinating to watch.

But sometimes far slower and less spectacular birds are also well worth capturing.  Here the sunset caught a rather peaceful and serene great white egret as we boated back to the lodge. 

Sunset gradient and a great white egret.

And now for some mean and moody hippos.  We had a repeat guest with us who stayed with us for over 3 weeks!  She became very much part of Kaingu and on many occasions we just jumped on a boat with her and did things that guests on a more time limiting trip don’t do.  Sitting watching hippos for a couple of hours is not usually done as people want to move on and see as much as possible, but in this case we did.  

just hanging around. The hippos and us.

More mean and moody hippos!

On the same laid back boat cruise (taking things very slowly and spending time) we also spent 30mins watching this pied kingfisher attempt to eat this rather large (for the kingfisher anyway) fish.  Eventually we moved on as it looked like the process was never going to end! 

Eyes bigger than her stomach (and beak!)?

The rock pratincoles also really start to arrive in numbers in October.  As their name suggests they nest on river rocks – making Kaingu a perfect place for them! While on land they look quite ungainly and fat, in the air they are incredibly graceful and agile.  Its quite a sight to see literally hundreds of them whirling and diving for insects over the river.  

rock pratincoles. Not as fat as they look!

While some birds characters differ completely in air and on land, the wattled plover is one that doesn’t.  They are strident and loud and angry on land and in the air!  

wattled plover’s default mood = angry!

Oh, and in a rare (for here) sighting Julia got a quick picture of a lesser Jacana and then accidentally deleted it from her memory card!  We only see them every couple of years.  So instead we have to make do with this African jacana which we see on every boat trip.  The symmetry of the ripples stood out though. 

African jacana that should have been a lesser one!

Moving on from birds to yet another sunset…   25 years in Africa and sunset pictures still get me excited! 

Wild sunset on the river.  

Now if you regularly read our newsletter or follow any of our social channels then you will know that star photography is a bit of a thing here.   The correct term is really “astro-landscape”, as all the images contain parts of the earth as opposed to purely shots of deep space by itself.   If you are like me and are a bit of a geek about this then you will know that the season for pictures incorporating the most dramatic elements of the milky way include what is known as the galactic core – i.e. the center of the spiral galaxy that we are in.  The core starts to be invisible in October and the season lasts for 6 months or so.  So we were pretty happy to have the ‘excuse’ of a guest who was a very keen photographer but had never attempted stars before and wanted a bit of coaching.  He was up for adventure so after dinner we jumped in a boat and headed to an island.  Our guest memorably described it as one of the best nights ever!  We were surrounded by hippos and an elephant was on a nearby island breaking branches.  The reflections of the stars in the river were governed by the movement of the hippos around us.  It was pretty incredible really.   I should also point out that this is not the first time we have done some pretty adventurous night sky photography with those that want to do something completely different! 

reflecting pools!

Last of the milky way season!

And then we come to the 24th of October – Independence Day!  So to celebrate we took a picture of the National Bird (African Fish Eagle) and made a cake in the National Colours.  Okay, the fish eagle was taken a few days before…  but the cake was fresh!  

Our national bird takes flight.

And Julia and Lizzy’s rather creative cake in the National colours.

And again on the subject of repeat guests we had a couple that have been with us so many times.  They were actually our first ever guests to canoe with us, the first guests to sleep in our Tonga tree baskets and various other firsts.  We were delighted to have them back on their fifth trip to Kaingu! So we went on a longer canoe trip…  

Into the wild.

Getting to the end.

The end of the day.

Towards the end of the month again we had some scattered showers around, but nothing substantial.  Traditionally in Zambia it is said that the first rains coincide with Independence Day, but sadly not this year.  

Scattered showers as witnesses from the top of Mpamba rock.

And now onto elephants.  I know we keep saying it, but the elephant activity around camp this season is the most intense ever.  We are starting to realise that that there is not a tree or bush around the camp that hasn’t been partially (or completely!) eaten.  Of course we don’t mind – its is marvelous to have them around and the guests love it.  We do have to be on our toes though.  So here is a few examples of our October elephant action around camp.  

Yep. Its a boy!

about as close to the main area as possible.

Chalet 3 visitor.

And the to end the month’s review we show (again) an island elephant.  October has been a fantastic month here although there is no doubt that the heat has been quite extreme.  All in all it is a month when we have been very grateful to have the Kafue river and it’s constant flow.  It really is the life blood of the area and this season overall makes one think about climate change, over reliance on hydro power and the harsh fragility of the wilderness we are lucky to live in and share with our guests.  

contemplating a crossing..?

 

 

September 2019 Newsreel.

September!  Temperatures have risen that is for sure and so has the amount of elephant activity.  Enjoy.