Kaingo Camp has 6 charming chalets.
Kaingo Camp: Our full report
Kaingo Camp overlooks the Luangwa River from beneath an old grove of ebony trees. It’s been owned by Derek Shenton and his family for years, and Derek still heads up the team and is frequently in camp guiding. His very engaging wife, Jules, is also involved, making this one of the few owner-run camps remaining in South Luangwa National Park. If there is a ‘cookie-cutter template’ for a safari camp, Derek and Jules have always ignored it; Kaingo operates with a style of its own – which we find a refreshing change.
There are six brick and thatch chalets at Kaingo, all of which have uninterrupted river views and are decorated in earthy tones, creams and African print fabrics.
The chalets have stone floors, stable doors, fly-wire windows (to keep the mosquitoes and insects out) solar power lamps, African print dressing gowns and a wooden box to lock away your valuables. Each chalet has very comfortable beds – either twin, queen or king sized, covered with cream bedcovers, and surrounded by mosquito nets. The furniture in each room is locally made, from the large wardrobe to the chunky headboards. A day bed, covered in cushions, can be converted into a single bed at night. Black and white framed photos, taken by Jules, a keen wildlife photographer, are on the walls. Each chalet has an en-suite bathroom with a shower, flushing toilet and basin. Hot water is available all day. They also have an outdoor bath under shady trees and a private deck overlooking the river. A light lunch is often served on your deck.
Kaingo’s lounge and dining area, locally known as a chitenge, has a thatched roof and open sides with an airy and cool feel to it. There’s an amazing bar made from the huge trunk of an ancient leadwood tree – which has been in the camp since we first visited it, in 1995. Pre-dinner drinks are served here whilst guests discuss their sightings of the day. There is a small lounge area with a sofa and cream coloured directors chairs around a coffee table with some wildlife books and magazines. The dining area is to the side of the lounge and is lit by lanterns at night. Meals are often taken here around the large wooden dining table.
To the one side of the chitenge is the campfire where tea and coffee is served before heading out on the early morning activity. Below the chitenge, built out over the river, is the lounge deck with a number of comfortable chairs and sofas. This is a lovely spot to sit and watch the river or to browse through some of the nature books found here. There's also a telescope for a closer look at the birds and any animals on the opposite bank of the Luangwa River. Afternoon tea is usually served here and on our last visit we were served freshly baked cake and a choice of tea, coffee or homemade iced rooibos tea.
Activities at Kaingo Camp include game drives (day and night) and walking safaris, all run by excellent guides. Not only is there a high density of game and bird life in the Kaingo area, you can enjoy the wildlife in comfort as Shenton Safaris has some of the most comfortable 4WD vehicles we’ve been in. Derek has also personally graded the roads in their area, so they’re in a very good condition which makes for a smoother ride than usual on game drives. As extra touches, Kaingo provides bean bags and camera dust covers on the vehicles for keen photographers and they never take more than 2 guests per row of seats – maximum 6 guests per vehicle; so you’re guaranteed a “window" seat.
Expect to see loads of elephants, giraffe, waterbuck, bushbuck, leopards, lions (the Hollywood or Mwamba pride) buffalo, puku, impala and kudu. There is never a dull moment in this area of South Luangwa National Park!
Kaingo Camp also has quite a number of stunning photographic hides including the carmine hide (best in September & October), which is a boat moored off a carmine colony – although on our last visit (September 2012) the river was low enough for the hide to be built on the sandy river floor. This is ideal for looking straight at the carmine colony built into the river bank and can be moved if the colony moves. There is also the hippo hide, which is a two tiered hide built into the riverbank beside a deep hippo-filled pool, as well as the elephant hide, which is a platform up a tall, riverside tree – overlooking a spot where elephants often cross the river. These hides help to make Kaingo a really good choice for photographers.
The BBC spent the last 10 days of the 2007 season in their hippo hide – and we’re told that the cameraman said it was the best hide he’d ever used in all his filming.
The elephant hide is also used for sleep outs. A magical experience – and one we’ll never forget! It’s a wooden platform high in the trees overlooking the Luangwa River. Lie in bed, under your mosquito net, listening to the whooping hyena, chorus of cicadas and elephants munching. Then wake in the morning to the ground hornbills “banging their drums." Speak to us if you’d like to include this experience in your visit.
Unlike most other safari camps, Kaingo usually operates on the basis of three activities per day. A day at Kaingo usually starts by waking early for tea/coffee and biscuits around the campfire, before setting off on an early-morning 4WD or walking safari. You return to camp for a large breakfast, eaten at leisure.
After this, around midday, there’s the opportunity to head out on a ‘hide’ activity – and spend a few hours watching the wildlife. Then you return to camp for lunch on your private deck overlooking the river, perhaps followed by a short rest.
In the late-afternoon tea and cakes are served on the main deck, before an afternoon/evening activity; this is usually a walking safari - or possibly a 4WD safari followed by a night drive. Pre-dinner drinks and snacks are then served at the bar, before enjoying a tasty three course dinner.
The Kaingo Camp team is very flexible about what activity you do. When, and if, you have a particular hide that you want to visit, or activity that you want to do, then it is important that you make this clear to the managers when you arrive … and chat with them about when this can be arranged.
Note that Kaingo combines naturally with its sister-camp, Mwamba Bushcamp, which is only a morning's walk or game drive away.
Since 2007, the owners of Kaingo, Derek and Jules, have been working in collaboration with Mrs Hilda Hampondo on the Hanada Project. This helps orphans and vulnerable children in the Mfuwe area and has resulted in the completion of a pre-school and a vegetable garden which supplies the children with one good meal a day. More recently in 2009, Kaingo banded together with other like minded lodges to form Project Luangwa. This aims to ensure that the people of the Luangwa Valley gain the full benefit from tourism, by investing in education and business development. Project Luangwa is funded by a conservation and community levy charged by the participating lodges, and oversees various community projects including Hanada. Since its inception Project Luangwa has contributed massively to the local community.
(Read more about the Hanada Project & Project Luangwa…)
Our viewKaingo is a very informal, welcoming camp with a very relaxed feel. When we last visited, the service was personal, the guides engaging and knowledgeable, and the game activities were well organized and productive. We love the fact that there are three activities a day rather than two; the enthusiasm that goes into these; and the hides – which add an extra dimension to a safari here, especially for keen photographers.
Directions: Fly to Mfuwe and transfer by road to camp. It's an approximate 3-hour drive from Mfuwe airport to Kaingo (partly through villages, partly through the Park).
Owner: Derek & Jules Shenton
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: We’ve visited Kaingo Camp many times and each time their meals could not be faulted. We particularly liked the fact that they grow most of their own food on their private property in Mfuwe, which means it is delivered fresh to the camp on a regular basis.
Meal times with Shenton Safaris operate a little differently to most camps in the Luangwa Valley. Kaingo and Mwamba focus a lot of time on their hide visits which are usually done between breakfast and lunch.
Tea, coffee and biscuits are served around the campfire before the early morning activity.
After your morning game drive or walk, usually around 10:00, return to camp for a hearty breakfast. This is usually a choice of cereals, yoghurt and porridge. They’ll also take your order for a full cooked English breakfast of bacon, eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes etc.
After breakfast you have the option of going to one of Kaingo’s renowned hides; usually between 12:00 – 13:30. Then it’s back to camp for a light lunch served alfresco on your own private deck. We had a chicken caesar salad with salad and freshly baked tomato bread when we last visited.
Afternoon tea & cake are served at 15:45 on the river deck before heading out on your evening game activity. Stay out for sundowner drinks & snacks then continue on a night drive using a spotlight to find the nocturnal animals.
Pre-dinner drinks are served at the leadwood bar then dinner is served at around 20:30. During our recent stay here we had a potato and chorizo frittata starter, followed by chili con carne with rice, served with tomato and onion relish, homemade guacamole and a very tasty bean dip. Desert was chocolate mousse – which was so good, we managed to squeeze it in!
Dining style: Group Meals
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Drinks are included at Kaingo Camp.
Attitude towards children: Kaingo are happy to take children over the age of 8 who are sensible and well-behaved. Children will need to be constantly supervised by their parents as the camp is not fenced in and game wanders freely throughout. In addition, families with children aged 9 or 10 years will be required to book their own private vehicle. This can make Kaingo Camp an expensive option for a family of just three or four.
Equipment: Each room has a day bed which can be converted into a single bed for a child. This makes the rooms suitable for a family of three but will be a squash for four.
Generally recommended for children: No – this is a wild camp that is better suited to older children.
Notes: The camp is on the edge of the Luangwa River and is not fenced in; so animals do roam freely through the camp. (On previous visits we have had a leopard with a bushbuck kill in the tree outside our chalet!)
Communications: Kaingo has a phone and the internet for office use only, but this can be used by guests in an emergency. There is no cell phone reception here. This is a bush camp so you should consider yourself out of communication for the duration of your stay.
TV & radio: There are no radios or TV's here.
Health & safety
Malarial area: Yes
Medical care: The closest doctor is in Mfuwe (1¼ hours fast drive away). For emergencies Kaingo have links to flying doctors.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Guests are escorted to their chalets at night, and are not allowed to walk around alone after dark.
Fire safety: There are two fire extinguishers in the main area and one in the kitchen. There is also one behind each room.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: A complimentary laundry service is included, except for ladies underwear. Washing powder is provided in the bathrooms.
Money: No exchange facilities offered.