In my last post I had a chance to introduce you to Kaingo and South Luangwa, but I didn’t really get a chance to describe our experiences and the Safari.
Our arrival at Kaingo was like a dream of excitement, and comfort. We were escorted din by the owner/operator, met by the friendly staff and guides, and immediately taken care of. After just a brief introduction to the facility, we were brought to our chalets to explore and relax. Lunch was served on our porches, privately overlooking a beautiful bend in the Luangwa. Hippos, Herons, Stork, and the occasional bigger game visitor on the other side of the park was a perfect complement to a cool glass of white wine, a fantastic lunch, and comfortable viewing chairs with padded sedans.
After a shower with hot water and all the accoutrements, we were summoned by traditional drumming to return to the central pavilion. There we met with our fellow guests, had a bite of tea and cake (also delicious) and were re-introduced to our specific guide for the duration of our stay. Ba Kennedy was a locally born guide, who’d been working for most of his adult life in tracking/guiding. We socialized for a few moments more, and then were taken to our vehicle, another modified Toyota Land Cruiser, and off we went into the African bush.
Now because Zambia in particular has such a stark seasonal difference between rainy and dry season, the Kaingo park is only open during the drier portion of the year, and each season when the rains come, the roads and trails are all washed away, and the camps themselves need to be repaired and rebuilt. It’s up to Derek Shenton and his crews to haul their equipment and supplies back into the park and re-cut and grate the roads that allow all of the guests from many of the different lodges to experience that entire area of the park. What that means is that the roads and paths that Shenton makes each year are original and new, providing a new experience with every season, even more, his guides know every inch of the park, and have an innate connection to the game. Our guide Kennedy knew exactly what he was doing, where we were going, and where we could find the game that we wanted. But more than just experience and knowledge, the guides are exceptional across the board – we witnessed Kennedy on multiple occasions tracking game from the side of the moving vehicle. Now, how you can pick out animal tracks, determine how fresh they are, and the direction of the game from a moving vehicle is beyond me, but he managed to do it easily as if it were nothing. What I saw as a blur of sand and grass, he saw as Leopard, Lion, Kudu, Warthog, Cape Buffalo, Zebra, Girraffe, Sivet, and many others. When we asked him, he laughed, pulled the vehicle over and in a good natured way identified the tracks, the defining characteristics he was looking for, and the direction indicated. Absolutely spectacular. But tracking was only one of his many talents, the level of knowledge of species, and the pattern recognition he had that allowed him to spot animals so precisely was another shock. Even in the darkness, by watching the way the animals responded to our spotlight, he could identify the animal without question.
Having such an experienced and well versed tracker made all the difference in the world for our experience. No matter what questions we had, he knew, and more he’d later show us in the game books back at the camp what we’d seen.
Needless to say our first full day at the camp was spectacular – We woke early, and by 5:30 were assembled in a ring around a campfire on the river’s bank. They’d made special arrangements for me to provide a sandwich so that I could take my Malaria prophylaxis at my usual time of 6am, and after cookies and tea/coffee we boarded up with Kennedy again. an early morning drive followed by a fantastic breakfast, and followed up with a mid-day activity (we chose the hippo hide), and then private lunches on our porches, and the afternoon game drive including big cats, mongoose, and a group of five lion cubs playing in the evening sun, including one exceptionally playful young showman, who decided he’d do some rolling about and posing for us. As the sun sank into the African skyline, it was time for sundowners – a perfectly made generous glass of Jameson shared with Alex Berger, while mom and pop relaxed and we watched the sunset together as a family in Africa (awesome). Then we were back in the truck, on our night drive, reaching the camp a few hours after sunset, and greeted by popcorn and roasted peanuts, followed by a three course gourmet meal. It couldn’t have gotten much better – and then it did, we headed off to bed, and after a long day of amazing experiences we found our rooms made up for us, the nets properly set up, and as we snuggled down into the soft warm blankets, our toes encountered another treat – a warm water bottle, placed in just the right spot. Perfect.
The next day – we were back at it again! But I’ll have to write about that tomorrow – my poor little fingers are killing me!
You can find out more information about Kaingo camp at www.kaingo.com I’d highly recommend giving it a look!
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