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It is five years since I was last in the Kafue This year I planned to return to the Northern Sector of Kafue National park. I travelled with a small group arranged by Busanga Safaris. Tony McKeith of Busanga is my 'go to guy' for Zambia. Itinerary 19th October Pioneer Camp Lusaka 20th -22nd October Kaingu Lodge Kafue 22nd to 25th October The Plains Camp Kafue 25th to 28th October Musekese Camp Kafue Dubai at Dawn I flew in to Lusaka from the UK with Emirates and arrived mid afternoon. I was collected at the airport and taken by private transfer to Pioneer Camp (only a short hop from the airport - traffic permitting). Pioneer is an ideal spot to spend the night on arrival. It is very 'bush' like with well appointed chalets with open views and a main boma area for drinks and meals. It helps ease you into the feel of the bush in preparation for the safari ahead. I got myself settled in and then joined Tony and the others at the Boma for a drink and a meal. My travelling companions were 2 other women whom I had not met before. Over time as we got to know each other with the result that not only did we have a good safari but had a lot of fun and laughter along the way. After dinner and a restful night at Pioneer Camp we had an early breakfast and set off by road for Kaingu. Our transfer to Kafue NP was provide by Pioneer Camp. The familiar drive out of Lusaka is always interesting, seeing the bustling motor parts businesses and general market areas followed by increasingly rural areas and small towns and markets. We had one stop off (toilet break) at a community run shop,/cafe en route where we also purchased a few crisps and sweets. As we got closer the park boundaries, I learnt that during the intervening years since I last visited the GMA east of Kafue and south of the main road had been taken over by a series of settlements. The people who moved there had turned the area into an agricultural zone, growing crops in the dambos and chopping down trees for fuel. However these settlers had later been moved out again and the land was now returning to wilderness. Once in the park we rendezvoused with a safari vehicle from Kaingu. Our driver was Kaley and he would be guiding us during our stay at Kaingu. On the drive south we saw some wildlife duiker, hartebeest, and lots of very pregnant impala. To get to the camp our safari vehicle was parked up opposite the camp and a short boat ride across the Kafue took us to the camp. On arrival at camp we were met by Linda who made us very welcome and we sat down to a very welcome brunch by the river. Rik would join us later in the day and we would met Gil and Julia the following day as they were visiting the Busanga Plains when we arrived. The main boma area is open plan bar lounge with a walkway leading to the dining area which overlooks the river. To the side of this area is the boat dock. My accommodation was rather palatial as I was given the Finfoot family house....just for me! I assume the other tented chalets were in use. Finfoot comprises 2 bedrooms, a double and twin either side of a central lounge area with a kitchenette. The lounge opens on to large terrace overlooking the river with a table, comfortable chairs and a couple, of hammock seats.
2016 we did our first 'proper' (i.e. paying guests) Liuwa/Kaingu package. We ran two trips, both of which consisted of starting at Kaingu, then flying to Kalabo and having three nights in Liuwa and then flying back for a couple of nights at Kaingu. We obviously wanted to do a proper job on this one so the amount of gear that we took was staggering! We wanted it to be as comfortable an experience as possible without actually building anything (which obviously we are not allowed to!). Five staff, an open game viewer and our private vehicle and a trailer. Myself & Julia (sous chef, solar and mechanical tech, shower water carrier and room attendants), Wina the Chef, Benny the front of house star and field guide Kaley. We also engaged an African Parks scout for the local knowledge. Things have been so dry (as in not much rain at the beginning of the year) that the pools were almost empty and the wildebeest were not really grouped in the huge concentrations yet. Despite this the sightings were great. Consistent cheetahs and hyena. Its such a special place. I am not going to talk much more, rather just show some pictures. As always I like to show a bit behind the scenes. For sure we can just show nice glossy pictures of wildlife, but speaking personally I am always interested in 'behind the scenes' a bit and how things work. untitled shoot-10718.jpg by G Dickson, on Flickr Note even the Lozi stools on the game viewer for bedside tables and fireside drinks! Oh and the ramps on the hand drawn ferry were kaput on one side, so the ferry had to be turned mid-stream and then I had to reverse off with a trailer in thick sand. Fortunately I didn't mess up as there was a big audience! Benny went mad in the new Mongu Shoprite. To be honest we were all wandering around slack-jawed. It is amazing. untitled shoot-10737.jpg by G Dickson, on Flickr Typical Liuwa landscape. Overnighting in the brilliant Liseli Lodge in Mongu. We stayed in and watched TV (a rare treat), while Wina (who is a big lad) went into town and a bit mad. he claims 30 castle beers. I believe him. That was his tips blown in advance....! untitled shoot-10758.jpg by G Dickson, on Flickr More landscapes. Chef Wina in front of his kitchen untitled shoot-10772.jpg by G Dickson, on Flickr Julia's amenity assembly. untitled shoot-10777-HDR.jpg by G Dickson, on Flickr Guest tents for the first group. Being in Zambia we of course totally over estimated our Nshima requirements and so lugged 20kgs of maize meal around Western Zambia.... Better safe than sorry! untitled shoot-10802.jpg by G Dickson, on Flickr We even put brand new tyres on GV1 to take it to Liuwa. You need decent tyres here. Not in terms of grip, but in terms of a tyre that can be deflated (to deal with the sand) and not give problems. BF Goodrich. The best! Okay, enough about tyres. untitled shoot-10852.jpg by G Dickson, on Flickr Hyenas are famous for trying to eat tyres. Not these ones though. Too small and cute! untitled shoot-10869.jpg by G Dickson, on Flickr Your 'typical' Liuwa water hole life. This is the tent you get if you are called Zarius and are a pilot. Luckily he is quite small. untitled shoot-10905.jpg by G Dickson, on Flickr Kaley looking very worried. Benny looking for wildebeests. He took great delight in telling Kaley that "the guide is rubbish and as a guest he won't even be tipping one Kwacha". Kaley took equal delight in pointing out that this was a staff drive and when the guests arrive he Kaley will sit around the fire with them and Benny will have to serve him! untitled shoot-10942.jpg by G Dickson, on Flickr Wildebeest!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Okay, now we need another 8000 please. untitled shoot-10945.jpg by G Dickson, on Flickr 7,999 to go. Keep using the binos Benny. Benny and Wina upset the campsite boss man by moving his table so it could be a drying rack beside the kitchen. The guy went off his trolley, banging on about 'regulations are everywhere'. Fortunately we got into his good books by using a compressor to blast out a choked shower drain. After that we were all friends again. So much so that at the end of the trips he got left the 15kgs of maize meal that we couldn't finish plus dregs of wine boxes. Oh, and we paid his wife to do the washing up. Tent interior. Please do note the carpet. untitled shoot-11005.jpg by G Dickson, on Flickr Zebras. At sunset. untitled shoot-11030-Edit.jpg by G Dickson, on Flickr Discussions about the day. untitled shoot-11045.jpg by G Dickson, on Flickr "Our" dining room. untitled shoot-11067.jpg by G Dickson, on Flickr Short tailed eagle in the trees by our campsite. untitled shoot-11142.jpg by G Dickson, on Flickr Guest tents. We kept numbers to a maximum of 6 per group. untitled shoot-11193.jpg by G Dickson, on Flickr I always say that I would go to Liuwa JUST for the landscapes. And it is true. Yes, we did bring ponchos. untitled shoot-11220.jpg by G Dickson, on Flickr Julia dressed for dinner. I was well impressed. untitled shoot-11279.jpg by G Dickson, on Flickr For the second group we were up at Katoyana and there were a lot of reedbuck around. The guests saw cheetah trying (and failing) to hunt them at the pools 1km from the campsite. We went out mid-afternoon to try and find the cheetah. For some reason Benny found Johan's photo technique funny. Luckily Johan lives in Lusaka and comes to Kaingu a lot so is tolerant. We don't expose 'normal' guests to ridicule by our staff, but there is nothing normal about Johan. Back in July he chased Nyambanza through the kitchen while wearing a gorilla mask. Hmmmm. untitled shoot-11326.jpg by G Dickson, on Flickr Katoyana also yielded a lot more wildebeest. untitled shoot-11358.jpg by G Dickson, on Flickr untitled shoot-11381.jpg by G Dickson, on Flickr There really is nowhere else in Zambia like Liuwa. untitled shoot-11419.jpg by G Dickson, on Flickr With the wildebeest birthing there are lots of side striped jackal around. untitled shoot-11386.jpg by G Dickson, on Flickr Liuwa is also a fantastic place to see Oribi. untitled shoot-11619.jpg by G Dickson, on Flickr More Oribi. untitled shoot-11507.jpg by G Dickson, on Flickr Lilac breasted roller at mid day. untitled shoot-11668.jpg by G Dickson, on Flickr Martial eagle making the Oribi nervous! untitled shoot-11710.jpg by G Dickson, on Flickr The Katoyana lounge and dining room. Changeover day = staff drive. Packed up and done and dusted. untitled shoot-11459.jpg by G Dickson, on Flickr untitled shoot-11714.jpg by G Dickson, on Flickr Guest comments: With the Kaingu team we also did a 3 days bush camp safari at Liuwa Plains. Magnificent horizons, lots of Wilderbeasts and zebra's, many birds. The camp site was beautyful and tents and beds were as clean as possible. Very cosy dinners in the candle light at night. I certainly recommend to do the combination (if you visit in November) of Kaingu Lodge and Liuwa Plains (6 days). Just thought to forwadr you the feedback of XXXX x2. They are not so with emails etc so she called me and we chat for an hour. They LOVED it!! Liuwa Plains they found really fantastic , it was a ‘little Serengeti’ experience they said. The endless plain and of course less animals in numbers but they have seen plenty. They saw the herds of wildebeast growing day by day due to the birth of many calves. Jackhals, hyena’s, vultures and they even saw a cheetah with a cub! De tents were just fine, neatly kept with camp beds with ironed linen, excellent food and good guiding and friendly, helpfull staff. And a small video we made: https://vimeo.com/193321129
A Safari’s beginning happens at home with the planning, the booking and then the anticipation but if all things go well and according to plan the Safari only really starts to happen when you set foot in Africa, inhale the air and start absorbing the sights, sounds and smells of Africa. 2016 was not initially going to be a safari year for me – rather it was a year to return to England and see the family and catch up with friends from my childhood and teens. In my youth I took the long haul flights in my stride. Nowadays I avoid them if I can and I avoided the long flight over by a One World Alliance Circle Trip Explorer using a mix of Qantas, Qatar Airways and BA and having 2 night stopovers at both Singapore and Doha and 3 nights at Stockholm before reaching London. Then after 3 weeks in England what better than a stopover in Africa in early September on the way back with stays at my favourite camps of KaingU and Nanzhila in Kafue and Waterberry in Livingstone. The evening BA flight from London to Joburg was smooth and comfortable arriving at 7.00am. We joined the queue at International Transfers and just as it was my turn the largish African Immigration Officer called out to someone arriving at the rear “Are you a diplomat?” There was apparently no response so she nodded to me and I walked up saying “Good morning I’m heading to Livingstone Zambia but I’m not a diplomat”. Her face lit up with a beaming smile and she said “Yes you are – I’m making you a diplomat. You’re my diplomat for the day”. I laughed taking my passport back and saying “Thank you very much. I look forward to diplomatic privileges in your airport”. John who was next in line was not made a diplomat! We whiled away the time in the airport watching the place wake up, wandering around to stretch our legs, browsing some shops when they opened with particular attention to the African selection in Exclusive Books and then caught our flight to Livingstone. We were standing in the queue for Tourist Visas when I see a sign with my name and before we know it Sebastian from ProFlight has ushered us out of the queue and quickly organised us thru’ visas, collected our luggage and escorted us to the domestic terminal where we paid domestic departure tax and waited for our pilot. This preferential treatment was both welcome and unexpected. We met pilots Zarius and Julian and walked out onto the tarmac where our plane awaited. Wild Dog Air Charters is a new venture by 4 Kafue Lodges including Kaingu and I booked the flight thru’ Lynda at Kaingu when booking our accommodation. The flight from Livingstone to the Chunga airstrip was smooth and took about 1hr 20mins. We were met and welcomed at Chunga by Gil who took photos of the plane (I think we were the first guests at KaingU to use it). It was great to see Gil again and we caught up with news as he drove us down the spinal road to the lodge’s car park. From the car park we were taken in the boat down river to the lodge on the opposite bank. The Kafue in this sector is a stunningly beautiful river as it courses its way quite swiftly and clearly past majestic granite boulders and around numerous islands that dot the river. The following photos don’t do it justice but might give you an idea.
Kaingu Safari Lodge – Kafue NP (Note: the photos with a black border are mine. The ones without a border are from the Kaingu Safari Lodge website, probably taken by @@KaingU Lodge .) It has been almost 20 years since I last visited Zambia. There is no particular reason why it has taken me so long to get back there but a return visit was certainly overdue. Even so, this trip came about due to a combination of circumstances: I was visiting Hwange NP in Zimbabwe; I had planned to continue to Mana Pools but, because I'd left it pretty late, I could not find space; and I was flying Kenya Airways, which routed me into Livingstone rather than Victoria Falls. Why is it that when I spend so much time making sure other people's travel arrangements are meticulously organised that my own are always last minute? The opportunity to visit Kafue NP was too good to miss, particularly as for some time I had wanted to get to Kaingu Safari Lodge. I'd heard so many good things about it and wanted to see for myself. I got in touch and was delighted when Lynda replied to say that they would have space for me. I flew up from Livingstone to Lusaka where I was met and transferred to Pioneer Lodge. The transfer took about 25 minutes as Pioneer is on the same side of Lusaka as the airport. I arrived at Pioneer after dark and left again the following morning when it was barely light so my first impressions were of little more than the bar – which was welcoming. I'd be staying at Pioneer Lodge again before flying out of Lusaka so I'd get the chance to see it properly then. Kaingu SL had arranged for me to be collected from Pioneer and transferred by road to the Lodge in Kafue. The two topics of conversation at the bar the previous night had been of the power shedding which was plunging the country into darkness for 8 hours each day and the dreadful Lusaka traffic and how avoiding it necessitated setting out before 6am. My pick-up was scheduled for 7am and as that time came and went with no sign of my driver I knew that the traffic was the most likely culprit. Sure enough Stephen arrived at 7:25 and apologised for being delayed by the traffic. Despite Stephen's best efforts at finding alternative routes around the congestion it took us almost 1.5 hours to get across Lusaka. There is no proper ring road and to cross from one side of the city to the other means driving through the CBD and the heart of the industrial area. Monday morning was not the smartest time to be doing this. Stephen was a wonderful travelling companion, intelligent and articulate, and even though the journey took over 5 hours it was never boring. Once we entered the National Park I was on high alert for wildlife but the drive in was surprisingly quiet. From the main road to the 'car park' where I would transfer across the river to Kaingu Lodge took just over an hour and apart from a few puku we saw no animals at all. I really hoped that this was no a sign of things to come. Kafue is a huge park and the animals have abundant water throughout the year so there are not the concentrations of animals found in parks like Hwange and Chobe. As I looked at the green all around me I couldn't help think how much those animals in drought stricken Hwange would love to be here. I was met at the 'car park' by John D who was to be my guide for the next few days. He led me down to the river for the short boat ride to camp. As John D navigated us around the rocks and through the narrow channels I was taking in the gorgeous views. I knew what I'd be doing this afternoon. After a whole morning in Stephen's Land Cruiser I would be spending this afternoon out on the river. Hosts Lynda and Rick were waiting at the jetty to meet us and after some form filling I was shown to my chalet overlooking the river. Wow! Lunch was taken on the deck. Another Wow! Kaingu Safari Lodge Kaingu can accommodate 16 people. Set on raised individual private wooden decks, each overlooking the Kafue River, KaingU Safari Lodge comprises 6 double Meru-style tents with en-suite bathrooms, indoor showers and an open-air shower. The “Honeymoon-tent” has an additional outside bath. Every tent is additionally roofed with thatch to provide additional cooling and further blend into nature. Our Finfoot family house consists of 2 bedrooms (one queen, one twin), 2 en-suite bathrooms plus outside shower and a central living area opening onto a private deck overlooking the river. It’s a perfect spot for a couple with children, or a small group of friends. In addition to the chalets Kaingu also caters for self drivers with 3 lovely camping sites beside the river. Separate to the lodge but within walking distance are three beautifully appointed grassy campsites by the rapids. Each site has its own ablution block with cold and hot running water, a kitchen sink, fire pits for cooking and a thatched sheltered area which provides protection against sun and rain. Before departing for my afternoon activity I also got to meet Gil (Safaritalk's own @@KaingU Lodge ) and his partner Julia. Sadly I didn't see very much of Gil during my stay as he was constantly on the move. Very remiss of me, but I didn't even get a photo. As John D and I set out on our afternoon boat safari I was still marvelling at the greenery all around me. I'm not an avid birder, but I love boats and rivers and I really relish the challenge photographing birds presents. I was not disappointed with what we saw, only my inability to do it justice. The stretch of river upstream from Kaingu Safari Lodge can only be described as stunning. Although in other places the Kafue is just a wide African river, around Kaingu rocks and small islands make for much more interesting scenery and also provide habitats for a wide variety of bird and animal life. white breasted cormorant African darter Egyptian goose African jacana African Openbill (Open Billed Stork) Pied kingfisher Puku Red necked spurfowl African wattled lapwing White fronted bee eater Water thick knee
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