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.

April 2019 News

Sometimes I hesitate to really call these newsletters as it tends to just be an image based re-cap of the month. Anything newsworthy for sure is always included I suppose though.  Mostly we just try to show what the month at the lodge has looked like through pictures and a few words.  Apart from the obviously super late ones (like last month!) we do try to keep it pretty up to date.  Personally if I go onto a website of a person or organisation and see that they have a ‘blog’ section then I generally always click on it.  If it hasn’t been updated for a month or two then I assume they are really busy or possibly even contract it out but for whatever reason things are a bit behind.  But if I see that it hasn’t been touched for over a year or so then I have to really wonder what is going on.

So with that said let us jump straight into April.

Clear skies and a new moon at the beginning of the month give us an incentive to get out for some astro photography. The most surprising thing though was that the camera was picking up the glow from extremely distant bush fires. At the beginning of April! This just shows how dry conditions really are.

Our old series III (AKA the Mpamba rock bus – as that is all that it does!) saw plenty action.  Including a terrifying warp speed drive with Julia and Lynda.  Well actually it was probably about 20km/hr.

Warp speed with the landrover ladies.

And then of course the inevitable happened.  Just as we approached the Easter weekend the weather changed dramatically.  Big rain clouds started gathering…  after about 6 weeks or so with no rains.  It was more than welcome, but far too late for local farmers.

Old landy in the rain

For some reason we went through a spell of seeing tortoises constantly.  The drive up to the rock with the land rover ladies (to drop off the vehicle and cooler box for guests on a walk) netted two:

Why did the tortoise cross the road?

To get to his pal on the other side?

We also had some beautiful game drives through the month.  The grass continues of course to be very very high but at least for elephant spotting its not an issue!

The Kafue head shake….

Beautiful male waterbuck

The impalas being in rutting season makes for some very nice sightings.  Its really fascinating to watch the herds and the older males trying to dominate them and chase of the younger males.

Young male impala. Interesting to note the damage/wear to the tips of his horns.

We also came across a terrapin very far from water but moving very purposefully to a large pool on shishamba loop.

And the ever appealing banded mongoose.

As the Easter weekend neared we were watching the weather forecast closely! On the morning of Good Friday we decided to hedge our bets and out came the old emergency “big group/wedding party/full house in the rains” tent fly sheet.  As you can see it was probably a wise decision:

Party time….

Fortunately the skies cleared that evening and for the rest of the holiday weekend we were lucky.  This picture shows it clearly – we were surrounded by storms but none actually got us.

Last of the rains?

Easter itself was a big success.  Mostly repeat guests in camp and Julia’s egg decorating and hunting (and eating) was enjoyed by everyone.

Royce with one of the dozens and dozens of coloured eggs.

Julia spent literally hours with some of the visiting children painting eggs and hanging them. In fact repeat guests who were with us before Easter (but had been with us at Easter last year) had emailed to ask if egg painting was an option even before Easter. The answer of course was yes.

So we leave you there.  We were also updating a lot of guest information material – basically all the folders that we put in every tent which tells guests everything they could possibly need to know during their stay (well, almost everything…).  One of the information panels in the brochure contains guidance on tipping.  We decided to illustrate the information with a picture of Joel and Victor.  Partly inspired by Raiders of the Lost Ark (sans the face melting Nazis) and partly by the mysterious briefcase belonging to Marsellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction.

Raiders of the Lost Tip Box?

Kaingu Lodge Soap Production

We have posted before about how at Kaingu Lodge we make as many personal touches as possible.  These ‘touches’ range from recycled furniture through ‘Monkey Finger’ jam and welcome drinks and on to almost every aspect of the guest experience.  But we are now doing something that we believe is pretty unique.  Something that when you stop and think about it is about as personal as you can get.

Soap.  Invented 2800 B.C. by the babylonians.  Life without it would be pretty horrific.  How much do you actually think about it and take it for granted.  Well, when you actually make it you think about it a lot.  To say that making it is quite complex is a bit of an understatement.

We use what is known as ‘cold process’ soap making.  I am not going to go into details, its way too long and complicated.  But a short summation goes like this:

Water and lye is mixed together in extremely precise quantities.   A vegetable oil base is then heated up.  The temperatures of the two base ingredients (lye mixture and oils) must be very carefully monitored.  At precise temperatures the two ingredients are combined by mixing until it renders into ‘trace’ which is the extremely precise and important consistency that must be achieved if the batch is to succeed.

Once it is fully blended then any aromatics or extra colours or ingredients are added.  Our soap is as ecologically sensitive as we can make it.  There are no colourants or perfumes added at all.

The only extra ingredients that we add are:

  • Mafura butter (from the Mafura tree) which has renowned skin nourishing effects and has been used in southern Africa for centuries for hair and body care.  Many conventional mass produced soaps use palm oil to get this effect.  Mafura butter is better in every way.
  • Nyamasokwe is a local plant which yields leaves that are used in the same way menthol or other decongestants are used to open the sinuses and airways when you have the flu.
  • Mukuloungu is another local plant which is used as a relish – think spinach!

Once the extra ingredients are added the soap mixture is then poured into custom made molds and left to cure for 24 hours.  During this curing phase the soap actually becomes ‘soap’ as we know it – the chemical reaction neutralises the lye and in theory it could therefore be safely used at this point.  However it would simply fall apart.  At this point however the soap can be gently removed from the mold, cut into the final small blocks and placed on racks.

The racks are then left in a fairly cool, dark and well ventilated place (i.e. our wardrobe!) for six weeks to fully cure and become the small hard bars of soap we all know.

It is then wrapped and labelled and used by our guests.  Quite a unique product:

March News

Firstly our sincere apologies for being so late with our March news.  We are writing this at the end of April!  I think subconsciously I wanted to see the end of the rains before we started talking about camp opening and the start of the season and all that.  Why?  Well I am not going to dress it up… last year March was horrendous.  We had stuck vehicles, we had stuck guests coming to us, we burned out winches, we ended up changing the entire fuel injection system in one of the game viewers, our main generator failed.  Our standby welding/generator seized.  It just went on and on and on.  While some of it was bad luck and things just wearing out, the fact is also that trying to operate in major late rains was a big factor.  Let’s compare the difference between last March and this March:

The road into our car park March ’18

The same road. The same location but March ’19

This difference made our opening tasks incredibly easy.  Roads were dry and the camp was dry.  It all just flowed smoothly.  In fact we had our game driving loops slashed and drivable by the end of March which is absolutely unheard of.   Of course the reality of all this is that it is a disaster for local communities.  Twenty six kilometers south of us the protected Game Management Area gives way to farmland. Indeed all of our staff from the villages are small scale subsistence farmers.   The whole local economy is hinging on maize production.  And this year it is a disaster.  There is going to be a lot of hunger this year.  Its times like this that makes us think and at least be grateful of how many people we now employ and how much difference tourism (and decent wages) can make to people’s lives.

Junior’s (kitchen porter) in-laws maize field. Not good.

Back to the camp though and I have to say the dry weather and super-easy opening meant that we had a bit of time to enjoy the place we live it.  Last year it was so frantic and so fraught with drama we hardly had time!

On top of Mpamba rock after a serious rain storm – one of the few of 2019.

The river levels (despite the local drought) are actually pretty high.  Now this time last year we couldn’t see a single exposed rock (and the river was lapping the deck!), but there is still a decent volume of water flowing.  And of course it’s beauty is unchanged!

Sunset skies a little bit North of the lodge.

As I mentioned, we didn’t have much in the way of big storms in March.  But we did managed to capture one big one.  It was absolutely stunning.  The clear skies (in terms of atmospheric haze; dust and smoke) help.  The early months of the season are certainly beautiful.

Where else!?! Mpamba rock…

The power of such a bolt is unreal. Illuminating the whole cloud and allowing us to see the cloud texture.

Our first guests were on the 8th of March and everyone was fired up.  The camp was looking beautiful and everything so green and lush.  The chefs were raring to go and Benny’s front of house team were as keen as mustard to do some out of camp dining.  The only problem was that our usual spot by the rapids was under water.

Rapids dining spot completely submerged!

Fortunately we have our high water alternative at the stunningly beautiful Chief’s campsite.  This spot is unreal.  Lovely green lawn and a view out over the most incredibly scenic boulder strewn pool.  And the big advantage is that the unique ‘baobab bottle’ restroom is right there….!

Ready for our first guests!

Wish you were here?

Oh and seeing as how we mentioned restrooms – here you go.  The loo with a view at Chief’s campsite!

Talking of camping there is some fairly important news that we wanted to share.  The D769 (Itezhi Tezhi road) which is the alternative way to reach us (the other way being through the National Park to our car park and then across by boat to the lodge) has finally been upgraded.  What used to be a 2nd gear grind for two and a half hours is now tar as smooth as cream cheese!  This makes coming out for a weekend far far more doable.  We have also done a LOT of work on the last 40km through the miombo woodland on our track, so that is also good going now.  And its also worth pointing out that our three campsites are fully private (so no shared ablutions) and of course no park fees and vehicle fees.

The D769. A once infamous nightmare of a road. Not any more!!!

Meanwhile over in the park…   Now the early part of the green season (lets say March, April & May) are not exactly known for great sightings in Zambia.  The grass of course is extremely high.  Basically if any animal steps off the roads it is gone from sight.  But the grass also looks absolutely beautiful.  If you don’t expect October levels of animal sightings the green season can be captivating.

Green season grass!

The ‘parrot pool’ in March is invariably a Jacana nursery!  2019 was no exception with this father and his three chicks absolutely thriving in the pool.  They were also completely unfazed by our presence.  We were pleased to see that this pool at least had a decent water level despite the lack of rain.

However our first guests were actually very lucky with what they saw on their drives.  Two separate sightings of two packs of wild dogs.  Not bad for March!

Dogs! Made much more high profile after all the BBC Dynasties hype.

The first guests also got to be the first canoeists of 2019.  Kaley and I had a great trip down the river with them.  As experienced Canadian canoe campers it was great to see them enjoy such a different but also equally beautiful area.  Good light and well behaved hippos made it even more memorable.  In fact the only problem was that it was over so quickly: The high water and fast currents meant that a trip normally taking 3hrs plus took less than half that!

Dodging storms and chasing rainbows on the way down the river.

And then the late afternoon light as we almost reach home.

This time of the year we also do quite a lot of walking on this side of the river.  Exploring the river banks and lesser known spots such as the amazing zhibakamwale pools is incredible.

Exploring the river south of the lodge. Clambering and exploring in the late afternoon or early morning is always fun in this landscape.

The secret pools and channels of Zhibakamwale is another area that we take keen guests to. Incredible what is literally on our doorstep.

More from ‘Zhibaks’ as Kaley calls it. What a place!

So that’s about it.  We will leave with a few pictures of Chalet 1.  This time of the year with the clear air, the green and lush vegetation and the camp ‘sparkling’ after opening cleaning, creasoting, canvas painting and wood oiling means that we were very happy with how everything looked at the end of March.

Nestled into nature.

Chalet 1 sparkling in the late afternoon light. Literally!

Chalet 1 outside shower. All our guest accommodation has both indoor and outdoor showers.

So from here we will get straight onto working on April’s news!  So as not to be as late as we were for this one….    Until then we will leave you with a random picture of us airing our dirty (actually clean) laundry in public.  See you!

Kaingu napkins.