A hop skip and a jump, from Mansa to South Luangwa:
Alright then! So, After our spectacular evening and morning in at Lake Bengweulu in Samfya district, we got back in our vehicle and drove to Mansa. It was an exciting day, we’d gotten everything prepared, and after returning the vehicle we picked up some lunch in a local Mansa hole in the wall and cooked a great dinner. Rested, excited about the next step of our journey and a bit nervous, we made our way to Mansa Airport, paid our departure taxes, and boarded our chartered flight to Mfue in Eastern Province. It was two hours of scattered glimpses of the dry season African bush, windows opening up through the clouds of dark smoke and condensation. Burning season had unofficially started, and as a result, the air quality was pretty rough to say the least. Our pilot brought us up over the smoke, and we rode safely across Zambia. We definitely enjoyed the ride, and I couldn’t help but be ecstatic that we were flying not taking the 18-22 hour bus trip with transfers and frustrations that would have been required to get to Chipata from Mansa, and then across to Mfue. Upon landing at the Mfue international airport (a landing strip and two buildings) we were picked up by our host for the next week. Derek Shenton and his young daughter.
After getting settled in a Toyota Land Cruiser and getting settled in the seats mounted on the cutoff rear of the vehicle we were off. It was about 20 minutes to the park entrance, and from there another hour and a half +- to the Kaingo Safari Camp. We made a small pit stop at the Shenton’s camp in Mfue, checking in with the gardeners and staff there and inquiring about the food stuffs to be hauled up to the camp. Then we were off again, on a marvelous adventure. Before we had even entered the park, we saw a series of elephants, hippo, impala, and puku! Then we were through the gates and on the rough gravel roads. The drive in to the camp is the first game drive of the experience, and it doesn’t disappoint. More Elephants, Hippo, Cape Buffalo, Zebra, Impala, Puku, Kudu, Water Buck, Bush Buck, Eagles and Lilac Breasted Rollers, Love Birds, Honey guides, all within the first hour. As if that weren’t enough, arrival at the camp itself is an experience. The staff is assembled to greet you with a hearty welcoming smile and a cheerful introduction. They’re a little informal, but that’s exactly the kind of experience you’d expect and want, it makes you feel comfortable and at ease with the staff – you’re a part of the camp for the duration of the stay.
There are only a few safari camps up that far in the park, and Derek Shenton is well situated to say the least. Kaingo is tucked back into a beautiful forest, parked right alongside the Luangwa river. The Chalets themselves are well built, sturdy, and extremely comfortable. Every detail is looked after, including provision of a wonderful insect repellant lotion, and all the basic toiletries. The Mosquito nets are left off the beds during the day, and upon your return from the evening game drive and dinner, the chalets have been made up, the nets put over the beds, and a warm water bottle placed at the foot of your covers to make it absolutely exceptional. The porches over look the river with a bamboo and steel sitting area that is unobtrusive, the porches allow guests to sit out and enjoy the beauty of the area, including the pre-dawn activity on the river, private lunches surrounded only by the exceptional wildlife and terrain, and post dinner evening rest.
To top it off Shenton has built a series of blinds around his camp – these are hidden areas to observe wildlife without being intrusive. There’s the Ellie Blind (hide), a raised structure which serves dual purposes – it’s both an observation deck, and can be made up with mosquito net and bedding for overnight, more private open air camping. It’s the perfect observation perch for the elephant river crossings that happen about once a day. Then he’s put together a mobile hide and the Hippo hide, the Hippo hide is cut into the side of the bank, and allows guests to come down to the waters edge, and get a fantastic view of the animals in their natural habitat without upsetting them, and providing a safe, but very close vantage point!
The Mobile hide is probably the most fantastic of all – it’s a hide that the Shenton camp moves throughout the park depending on what’s going on. While we were visiting it was situated comfortably on a drying up water point – perfectly poised to observe birds, and all sorts of animals coming in throughout the day for water.
Kaingo is also much more private – there are far fewer trucks and guests in the park that come so deep, meaning that you’ll only encounter one or two other vehicles in a day, and have uninterrupted viewing of Africa’s South Luangwa wildlife.
I’ll talk more about Kaingo in my next post – but I wanted to introduce you to it as soon as possible!