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.

Closed season and camp opening at Kaingu

So you might have noticed that we have been a bit quiet!

The last guests left Kaingu just after New Year. A private party had booked the lodge and really enjoyed their time here over the festive season. For the two months we are closed the lodge was looked after by guides John D and then Israel. This means a lot of slashing grass, fishing, checking tented chalets and houses and generally keeping an eye on things. They did a great job following on from Kaley’s stint in 2014. Last year Julia and myself stayed on through the shutdown period (Julia went to Germany to see family very briefly). The two month shut down period is important. We get asked a lot why we do indeed close down. Well, to be honest after New Year it is a very, very quiet time in terms of bookings. It seems very few people move at this time! The weather conditions are also less than ideal and drying clothes, charging solar batteries, getting hot water from solar heaters is all very hard.

I am often banging on about the green season, and it is something that every safari-goer should experience once, but maybe not in the peak rains in the Kafue! A lot of game viewing loops (well, basically them all actually) become quite impassable and not everyone finds being wrapped up in ponchos in driving rain repeatedly fun! Everyone should see the green season at least once, but lets not be trying to fool people, it can get wet, slippery, muddy, damp etc. There is a good reason that bookings in January and February are low.

For our staff it is also an important time to get home for a longer stay and do some farming chores. It is a long tiring season for everyone and the recovery period is appreciated by everyone. Of course it also means that everyone comes back re-energised and ready for the new season! Rick and Lynda get the chance to see their grown boys in America and Australia and travel around a bit but with no home as such – home is Kaingu. The same applies to Julia and Gil whose home is Kaingu, and then enjoy catching up with nieces and nephews, brothers and sisters and parents.

Bookings are looking strong, and what is very exciting is that Kaingu is part of a new air charter service that we are hoping will dramatically change access and visiting the Kafue. The consortium consists of Kantanta, Konkamoya, Mukambi and ourselves. The concept was spearheaded by Kantunta and we have bought an Islander 8 passenger twin engined plane. It is by no means new, but it is in tip top mechanical condition and should be ready to commence operations in April. The four part-owner lodges have agreed on very competitive discounted seat rates to make the Kafue even more attractive. It will also hopefully allow us to tap into Livingstone and other destinations. The plane is going to be in a unique paint scheme that reflects the name of our company – Wild Dog Air Charters! Very exciting news indeed.

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Our first guests this year into Kaingu arrived on the 29th of February, so we had quite a mad week getting everything up and running and ready. The rains over December and January and the early part of February have been pretty poor. Southern Africa as a whole is crying for rain. But the second part of February and the first few days of March have been spectacularly wet. This of course makes for some difficult camp re-opening tasks. A new kitchen waste-water scheme started to turn into a scene like that of the WW1 trenches. And then the grass slashing… A huge task. Everything from footpaths to the hide, the rock, the rapids. The campsites, the roads etc.

So let’s talk about this sort of thing. As we have commented in the past – people are genuinely interested in what goes on behind the scenes. So what is entailed in re-opening the camp? Here is a brief rundown of this year…

  • Land in Lusaka. Head to Pioneer Camp, catch up with friends and sleep for 14hrs.

  • Head into town, go to the bank. Yay! We got some deposits so can buy deck oil, nails and string. And food…

  • Drive out to the lodge. Being astonished that the grass by the side of the road is now over two metres tall. Buy fresh groundnuts on the way. While driving along the other one gets on the phone to the staff. Before leaving we have set reporting dates, but we have since accepted an earlier than usual booking. So we need to get on the phone and call housekeepers, waiters, everyone in fact. Everyone that is who lives in phone coverage! Fortunately our rural communities here are small and the ‘bush telegraph’ works well. So, for example, if we can reach Victor by phone and he is coming up from Itezhi Tezhi by bicycle, then he will spread the word as he passes through the villages.

  • Arrive at the lodge and start unpacking after a quick walk around to see everything, see Israel and Bo and Handson who are looking after the lodge. Greet the cat and discover she is fat as anything!

  • And then the fun starts. Slashing the grass in the campsites, the paths, the paths to the hides, the rock, the car park, the road into the car park etc. This job alone takes 4 people about 10 days.

  • Rubbing down and oiling every wooden deck – the main area plus all 8 accommodation decks.

  • Washing and drying all linen to get rid of the musty “stored” smell.

  • Washing down and sweeping and cleaning all the tents

  • Weeding all the pathways

  • Re-wiring and setting out all the pathway lighting

  • Digging two massive holes – each 2x2x2m, digging 60m of trenches for the soak-away. All for the grey-water kitchen waste system.

  • About 5 tons of sand and rock to fill the trenches.

  • Lifting 90% of the deck and replacing 150 metres of 2”x4” underneath. Yes, the original deck builder used untreated pine…..

  • Get first delivery from Markus (Valley Lodgeistics). Everything from Gin to maize meal to plastic tanks and pipes to petrol and diesel. Everything has to be off loaded on the spinal road, shuttles into our car park, loaded onto the boats and then boated 1km down to camp and offloaded and carried up.

  • Entire kitchen is emptied – every pot, pan, jar, box, utensil is taken out, the whole kitchen is scrubbed down and everything is washed and put back.

  • Try and remember what bird call is what bird!

  • Start going through boats and vehicles. Nothing likes to stand. So inevitably we face a few dirty carbs and rough running engines and blocked filters. Clean all the boats and vehicles properly, sand down and re-finish the woodwork on the game viewer vehicles.

  • Find out what the mice have eaten in our house. Start thinking about trying to track down a young cat for the house. Has to be hybrid wild cat or it will last about a week before being eaten. Hmmmm.

  • Get out in a boat for an hour or two on an evening before the guests. Be shocked to find that we can go just about anywhere as most of the rocks are underwater.

  • Re-stock the bar, lay out all the glasses and mugs and tea station and wash all the table linen.

  • Repair thatching grass on a few places on the roofs.

  • Repaint walls where water has marked them.

  • Get out in the bush and gather firewood!

  • Test all the hot water boilers

  • Replace fences that have sagged or collapsed in the rains.

  • Unpack and re-stock all the curio shop items

  • Start treating all the wood borers that really like to eat all the construction ‘bush poles’.

  • Start transferring all the bookings into the big register so we know who is coming when.

  • Start planning, trying and refining various new recipes into a cohesive flow that works together.

  • Check the credit card machine is still working else it might get a bit embarrasing when the first guests want to pay.

  • Realise that our service provider has accidentally down-graded our VSAT internet and that is why our connection is suddenly like 1995…

  • Drive up to the airfield, meet the guests and then drive and boat them into camp. Season 2016 is offically open!

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Student Sponsorship. By Linda Doughty

My love affair with Zambia started with my first safari there in 1997. Over the years, I have gained immeasurable joy and inspiration from the landscapes, wildlife and people. I’ve always been very conscious that there is a great deal of poverty and felt privileged to be seeing the best of the country through my trips.

In 2013, I visited KaingU for the first time and joined a trip to the local, lodge supported primary school. The day was very special for me – a window into everyday life in a remote Zambian village. Apart from the obvious lack of school resources, three things really made me think:

  • that, in their remote location, without the support of KaingU Lodge and their clients, these 250 children would not have been able to go to school
  • in the first grade, classes are split 50 / 50 girls and boys, by grade 7 there are very few girls as many stay at home to help take care of their families
  • how appreciative the children are of so little. We took stickers and a few balloons for the younger children to play with. I couldn’t believe the excitement and joy that such simple things created.

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For me, having been born in the UK, the experience brought home how much I have to be thankful for and take for granted. I believe that education relieves poverty – especially educating girls – and I wanted to do something to help. In some small way to pay back Zambians for the joy they give me.

Lynda and Rick from Kaingu and their friend Allyson and I talked about ways of getting more supplies to the school. We also discussed the value of girls getting a full education. Only a few village families would be supportive of their daughters going to secondary school and even less could afford for them to do so. I wondered if I could help. Maybe, if I could enable one girl to go to secondary school, something positive would come from her experience.

So began a complex journey – my new friends at KaingU working to find a girl who would be willing and able to continue her education outside of her village, away from her family and friends. We agreed that I would sponsor Evony and she started school in Itezhi-Tezhi in 2014.

Evony

The school she attends does not include boarding. She stays at a local boarding house and initially struggled with homesickness and academically. Having settled in and made friends, her second year has been much happier and she has just retaken her exams which we hope she has passed.

As sponsoring Evony has cost relatively little and with the objective of making a real difference to more lives, we decided to look for another girl to sponsor. Lynda and Rick visited the new Itezhi-Tezhi Boarding School and found two girls in need of sponsorship to finish their secondary education – Euphemia and Ebbiness. I met them during my recent visit to KaingU. They are bright, enthusiastic and articulate young ladies who both want to be doctors. They have worked hard at school and achieved great results despite really difficult backgrounds. I think they are an inspiration!

I couldn’t decide which to sponsor and so, having looked at the numbers, have made the commitment to sponsor both of them to the end of their secondary education – two years. As far as I’m concerned, my investment is great value – schooling, boarding, uniforms and personal items come in at approx $500 a year. I have already had an email from them thanking me for supporting them and am looking forward to hearing how they are doing each term.

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Whatever the the three girls make of their futures, I know they will do us proud. I get to repay a fraction of the joy that Zambia gives me, and, who knows, maybe the contribution that Evony, Euphemia and Ebbiness make to Zambia in the future will be extraordinary!

This sponsorship makes me feel that I am doing something positive and gives me a special connection to a country I love. In addition, I have a great reason to return to see my KaingU friends in their incredible environment every year which can’t be bad!

Linda Doughty

December 2015

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November Newsletter

We have written a lot previously about why in many ways November is our favourite safari month, so I will not repeat all that!

November saw the start of (the sporadic) rains, but remarkably little has fallen to date. Looks like the predictions of low rains this year may well be correct. Anyway, we wrote loads last month, this month we are just going to do our usual and claim that a picture tells a thousand words. Except they don’t always! So we have added a few short descriptions…

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The onset of the rains brings some interest to the sky (finally). For many many months there is hardly a cloud. I never thought I would say it, but constant blue skies actually gets a bit boring!

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With the rains being so sporadic and the river still dropping we talked last month about contemplating dynamite! Well, instead we have Bo, Mike, Handson and some cables and hilt jacks. We actually managed to move the large and troublesome rock in the “funnel” between the car park and the lodge. Quite a heroic (according to Gil & Mike) feat that Mike and myself are very proud of! With little rain though, November saw the river hardly rising at all. Normally by the end of November we are seeing a fairly steady rise.

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A French photography group share our sentiments about November…. We were delighted to host a very charming group led by Eric Le Go. Professional photographer (and East African lodge owner) Tony Crocetta was also along to give tips and tuition. I had some serious gear envy when Eric broke out his top of the line drone, Sony A7RII, Nikon 600mm F4 and D4s, etc etc. Wow. I was dreading capsizing the boat and sending $30K worth of gear to the bottom of the Kafue!

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The group inspired a bit of creative photography from our side

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And then talking of being creative we attended the Zambia Art & Design Show. This is one of the highlights of the Lusaka social scene – it is great. We shared the stand with Game Rangers International and promoted various products (and the lodge of course!). Julia’s seeds and beeds jewellery, local handcrafts and Polly from GRI brought a lot of baskets and bags from the Mukambi Women’s Group that they are supporting and helping. All in all it was a great few days and certainly worthwhile. We raised some money for the school, for GRI and were next to the most amazing bread stand. Awesome. Not to mention the chilli pickle stand, the honey stand, the other bread stand, the clothes………………..

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Just after we were doing this, Kaley (pictured above) was loading up one of the game drive vehicles and heading to Liuwa Plain National Park. Great stuff. Kaley’s first ever mobile safari (on land that is!). It went very, very well, although he reports that Liuwa is also very dry. It is great that Kaley got to see a a new (for him) park and we are looking forward to doing more of these next year.

And then of course we come to the sightings. A good month, in fact if I look at the sightings book the month was probably beaten only by October. So we leave you with some sightings, sunsets, skies and some flowers from walking around Mantobo island. Interestingly on the island we found some shards of pottery. I would love to know the story behind that. How old is it and what were the people doing on Mantobo? Interesting.

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Oh, and before we forget, we also finally got to meet Saysha our web designer. She flew up from Durban and stayed with us for almost a week. She went home inspired and already updating and tweaking the website. We hope you like the changes.