Office Africa May 2014
Welcome to our 2014 safari season! We are so excited to all be back here at Kaingo Camp which we opened on May 20th. We are looking forward to a wonderful season in beautiful South Luangwa.
Derek and Johan first came to camp at the end of April, with a convoy of trucks, game drive vehicles and tractors, along with a large team of staff and camp builders. Work has been intense since to get Kaingo Camp ready, grade the roads and start working on Mwamba Bush Camp, which will open on June 1st.
During that time Yvonne and I made their way to Durban for the annual travel show INDABA which took place on May 10, 11 and 12. As always it was a great pleasure to catch up with many of our preferred agents as well as our fellow camp operators from Zambia.
A few days after that, it was time for the big move to the Valley – a road trip also known as the “chicken run”. I’ll explain why further down.
At this time I would rather introduce you to our new team members. First I’m delighted to say that both Yvonne and Johan are back this season fully energized! Johan remains our Back of House manager, supervising all maintenance operations. Yvonne is now our Front of House manager, relieving me from operational duties so I can focus on reservations and marketing – such as collecting images and writing the newsletters!
Our full team of guides are also back: Patrick, Meyam, Sly, Andrew, Yorum and Vickson. As well as our general staff.
New to the team are Skye Pelchen, Matt Armstrong and Charlie Howell.
Skye is our new Kitchen Manager and will be based at Kaingo Camp. He is in charge of all food-related operations as well as ordering and checking the progress of our vegetable garden at the Shenton Plot. With his parents running a restaurant and catering business in Lusaka, Skye started cooking at an early age and went on to study culinary arts in Cape Town. Although fully skilled when it comes to kitchen matters, it will be Skye’s first experience in the bush which I’m sure will reserve him some surprises!
Matt and Charlie will be our hosts at Mwamba Bush Camp. A few years ago, Matt gave up his pro footballer career in the UK to fill his passion for wilderness – after passing his FGSA guiding license in South Africa he led several self-drive trips around Southern Africa, and convinced Charlie to leave her real estate job to join him to Tanzania where they managed a lodge together. They’ll both be wonderful hosts at our bush camp where Matt can also sharpen his guiding skills learning more about the specifics of South Luangwa. Oh, they also got recently engaged!
Heartfelt welcome to you three!
So now that Kaingo is open, I know what you are dying to hear! What have we seen so far? Well I’m more than happy to say that on May 11th, Meyam, Sly, Matt and Charlie came across some lions and recognized the Mwamba-Kapanda pride. The one pride who lost 6 cubs last year, leaving them with a single little female cub. The great news is that she has survived the rains and seems in great health.
After many months with mom and aunties as sole playing partners, she seemed very eager to discover new things and our game drive vehicle (along with Charlie’s legs) seemed to be the perfect distraction!
On Pat’s second drive of the season, he found the Hollywood pride, all young cubs from last season are well, along with a new little one! It is wonderful to see this pride growing!
The mystery remains for the 3rd pride, the Mwamba-Kaingo pride, which has yet to be seen. If you recall, by the end of last season the pride included 9 females and 10 cubs and sub-adults. With the 2 males covering both this pride and the Mwamba-Kapanda pride. Some of us believe the pride is much further inland, while others believe they have moved across the river, on the Nsefu Sector. One thing we know is that the males are patrolling the area between Kaingo and Mwamba, we have heard them and seen tracks, with the most recent only 2 days old. But they have remained elusive so far.
Leopards on the other hand are out and about, one of them really putting on a show for our guests, not far from Kaingo. We’ve also seen buffalos, elephants and everything else that so nicely populates this part of the park.
Let’s cover some travel news before moving on to more pictures.
A reminder to all our upcoming guests that Proflight has increased its luggage allowance to 23kg (checked-in) and this is now valid on all tourist routes: Mfuwe, Livingstone and Lower Zambezi. The hand luggage is still 5kg.
The Zambian government has cancelled the statutory instrument taken last year which limited any legal tender to Zambian Kwacha (ZMW). It is therefore possible to use US dollars again, and some local businesses have chosen to go back to USD. Our camps are all is inclusive and the only extras you may have are purchases at the curio shop or gratuities should you chose to leave some for the staff. Those can be paid cash in USD or in ZMW.
Finally we would also like to remind all our guests that it is illegal to take any wildlife product or trophy outside of Zambia, so think twice before picking up bones, feathers, horns etc when on a bush walk! The Zambian Wildlife Authority has produced this poster to remind all visitors.
Onto our “chicken run”! You would not imagine all the equipment and supplies necessary to open not one but two camps in a remote area of a national park. The obvious ones are trucks, tractors, bamboo grass, paint, plumbing equipment etc. Then come the food and beverage supplies. But also fabrics, hardwood, batteries, cables, and so on. Although Derek is able to store much of that in Mfuwe from one season to the next, much more needs to be added or replaced and several road trips are usually necessary between Lusaka and Mfuwe. The last of this road trip is called the “chicken run” because it is with that last vehicle that 70 laying hens are brought to our plot in Mfuwe to provide our kitchen with daily fresh eggs.
This year, the chicken run took place on May 15th, with Derek at the wheel, Yvonne, Skye and myself as passenger of our new dual cab transfer Hilux – fully packed, trailer and the chicken in tow! It’s not exactly a walk in the park, but the drive through the hills and country side of Zambia makes up for the long day (at least I thought so, I’m not sure the chicken did).
It normally takes about 7 hours to drive from Lusaka to Chipata, and now that the new road is fully tarred, it is another 2 hours to Mfuwe (final stop for the hens), and then 2 more hours to Kaingo. With our load, we were rather on the slow side, plus we added many stops to the trip (fuel, sightseeing at the Luangwa Bridge, lunch, stocking on more supplies and batteries, some administrative calls to local offices); so it was a good 15 hour journey by the time we reached Kaingo Camp that evening. In any case, it is good to be back!
Dropping the hens at our plot in Mfuwe also allowed for our new Kitchen Manager Skye to meet our gardeners and be shown around the vegetable garden. I was really impressed by Skye’s knowledge of all the produce, and it’s exciting to think that he will get the best use out of everything that is growing there.
I think all visitors to Kaingo remember the pleasant afternoon teas taken on our main deck, low on the Luangwa River. The deck is such a peaceful place to linger, watching birds, feeling the breeze, reading a magazine. The deck however is probably the most labor-intense job in the whole process of camp building, intense and risky.
The Luangwa River is fairly high this year, and the floor of the river is getting deeper just on our side of the river. These pictures give a full respect for the work involved and I want to say a big thank you to the staff for their commitment. The deck looks once again beautiful, and if you come and visit this year, we look forward to sharing tea there with you!
Before I can gather more wildlife pictures for this season, I thought of sharing a few pictures taken by our guide Meyam during the rains. Good to know Meyam kept up the good work!
All right, I think this is it for our first newsletter of the season. As always, let’s be in touch, if you have any question or if you now feel the irresistible need to come and see us soon – we would love to welcome you!
I’ll be back late June with more news and pictures.