So the lodge is now open and we are gearing up for what looks like a busy season. But I am sure a lot of people want to know what happens when we close.
Kaingu is fortunate in that the lodge can be accessed the whole year. Many remote lodges in Zambia have to close as it is no longer possible to reach them. Generally speaking mid to late November is the time when a lot of operators have to close down. We are open through Christmas and New Year though and generally close our doors after the New Year guests leave. This time of year has its challenges though:
Activities and dining out can end up wet…
So the guests leave and then a massive clean up takes place. The kitchen is stripped out, deep cleaned and all put back together. The guest tents are closed down, linen all stored and rat bait placed around strategic locations. Boats are pulled out of the water, motors stored and vehicles moved from the park around to the lodge. This year our guide Kaley and his wife stayed at the lodge between the 5th of January and Julia and Gil returning on the 15th of February. Kaley was assisted by Bo and Nelson – our two stalwarts. The jobs that then take place include:
– Checking all tents and buildings for water ingress, pets such as rats and termites etc.
– Slashing grass around buildings and paths.
– Preparing material that will be needed on opening: building blocks, bush poles, firewood.
– Weeding the new campsite area to ensure the grass survives.
– Keeping records of animal sightings, weather and rainfall and river levels.
– Assisting the neighbours! As Kaley is left with boats and vehicles he served as an important contact for our neighbours at Mawimbi Bush camp. He assisted several times with moving staff in and out as well as attending to sickj staff members.
– Checking that all solar panel banks are charging and that battery conditions are fine. Running the generator when several really cloudy days deplete the batteries.
– Keeping us updated by email on a regular basis.
– Fishing! Lots of fishing. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
Unlike many camps, being fully solar means that we can leave a freezer running indefinitely. So fresh food can be stored. In many camps that close down for long periods it means almost 6 months of Kapenta, Nshima and tomato and onion mix…
The feeling of packing up a camp and then being the ones to stay behind is quite a weird one. No guests and the feeling that you are the only people for miles and miles around.
As I have said the lodge can be accessed the whole year, but operations in January and February generally do not make sense. The bookings are very very slow at this time of year, and it simply does not make sense. There is also the fact that the weather means activities can be difficult, game is more sporadic as the permanent sources of water (i.e. larger rivers) are no longer the only water sources so animals spread out and are far more mobile. The weather also means that solar panels struggle to keep up, even laundry doesn’t dry that well.
Having said that it is an absolutely spectacular time of year. The skies are clear of all smoke and haze, everything is green and the rivers fill rapidly. Water is everywhere and it is then your realise that Zambia really is blessed with water. The animal sightings may be less, but like everything to do with animal behaviour there are exceptions. For example at this time of year we tend to see more Cheetah on the roads than at other times. The sightings that we do have of course just look better! The brown, parched land of the end of the dry season is transformed.
So once Gil and Julia arrived back then the absolute first priority is to then get Kaley and Lynne and Bo and Nelson out for some time off!
And then it is a case of sending the word out that everyone must come! More on the next developments later…
November. Probably one of my favourite months in the bush here. The temperatures drop with the onset of the rains. Everything turns green almost overnight after the parched heat gives way to clouds and sun. The skies are washed clear of the dust and smoke and everything takes on a new lease of life. Plants are bursting with life and young impalas are bouncing all over the place. This November there wasn’t a great deal of rain so in some ways even better than normal.
The sightings this month have been stunning. Probably the best of the whole season.
I will let the pictures do the talking!
Great sightings. We had around 5 encounters with Wild Dogs (two separate packs). A hippo carcass near the Shishamba loop provided great Vulture activity. That is it. Just the anmials this month. Quite fitting really. Kaingu has always been a unique place, but the access improvements and new emphasis on activities in the park have really made the season! New developments and plans for next year we will talk about at the year end. Until then we would like to wish everyone all the best and we hope you all have a great festive season.
Well October is the hottest month in Zambia and this year we were not “disappointed”. The temperatures in the afternoons were high 30’s. Fortunately we are not in the deeper valleys like S. Luangwa or Lower Zambezi (or Livingstone) so the evenings are still generally a pleasant temperature. So with the heat we decided to get creative. Now a swimming pool has a lot of advantages (all obvious) but there are a lot of disadvantages. Being 100% reliant on solar electrical generation we cannot afford the load of circulation pumps. Then there is the cleaning and the chemicals. And then there is the fact that sooner or later a Hippo will blunder in. And this is not a good thing! So a simple solution was needed. We have a set of gentle rapids south of the camp. So with our trusty team we set off to build a small dam. Now on one of the hottest days this was a great job! It only took us a morning and then a few hours to scrub off the algae from the rocks. Zero emissions. No chemicals. No power. If a hippo wanders in then he will just walk through the dam wall!
The sightings have continued to be strong in the park, and fairly regular sightings of elephants crossing the river have occurred throughout the month. Lions and leopards are also being seen regularly on Shishamba loop and a big herd of buffalo has been seen regularly – coming back from the shopping run! The birding is great at the moment with African Skimmers also having moved onto a few of the sandy islands.
And then the rains! This year the first proper rain fell on the 22nd and I can tell you it was welcome. The rest of the month saw quite a few heavy downpours.
Other news from the lodge includes the fact that we are starting construction of a third riverside campsite. This one will be much further from the lodge (although still an easy walk) and is in an absolutely stunning location. Oh, and those that know Kaingu very well will be pleased to know that furniture has been a major feature of this month! Ten new directors chairs makes deck life a bit easier – no more carrying chairs from the fire to the tables. And Felix (the carpenter) has finished constructing two reclining deck chairs for each guest tent!
And then finally we have to talk about “Amazon Angler” (Steve Townson). Now none of us are super-keen fishing persons. But my brother-in-law instantly knew the name. He has a fishing show on smart-tv and also leads trips to the Amazon and to Africa. He is quite a character and arrived with John the videographer to shoot an episode. We needed help for this one, so our friends Sven and Pete (lodge owners, conservationists and major fishermen) arrived to help out. We were very glad I can tell you. Anyway over the next four days a total of 14 species were caught. All strictly catch and release. Steve was very happy with the fishing, the river and of course the lodge. Being fishermen also meant that Victor the barman was really kept on his toes! John is going to also put together a small video of the lodge and activities – so I hope we can share this with you sometime in December hopefully.
As we wait for the river to rise and the rains to fall more we leave you with a blast from the past. Taken 6 years ago. I really hope that we don’t have these sort of levels next year!