Kaingo Camp

Kaingo Camp: Our full report

Rooms
6 Chalets
Traveller's rating
Excellent (95%) From 111 reviews
Children
Best for 12+
Open
20 May to 31 Oct

The well-established Kaingo Camp overlooks the Luangwa River from beneath an old grove of ebony trees. Owned by Derek Shenton and his family, it’s one of the few owner-run camps remaining in South Luangwa National Park. Derek still heads up the team and is frequently in camp guiding, and his very engaging wife, Jules, is also involved,.There are six brick-and-thatch chalets at Kaingo, all of which have uninterrupted river views and their own private deck built over the river, where a light lunch is often served. The chalets are decorated in earthy tones, creams and African-print fabrics, and feature stone floors, stable doors, fly-wire windows (to keep mosquitoes and other insects out), solar-powered lamps, African-print dressing gowns and a wooden box to lock away your valuables. On the walls are framed black-and-white photos, taken by Jules, a keen wildlife photographer.

Furniture, from the large wardrobe to the chunky headboards, is locally made, and the very comfortable beds – either twin, queen- or king-sized – are covered with cream bedcovers, and surrounded by mosquito nets. A day bed, scattered with cushions, can be converted into a single bed at night.

Each chalet has an en-suite bathroom with a shower, flushing toilet and basin, with hot water available all day, while outside under shady trees is a secluded outdoor bath.

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. At its heart is an amazing bar crafted from the huge trunk of an ancient leadwood tree – which has been in the camp since we first visited in 1995. A sofa and cream-coloured directors’ chairs are arranged around a coffee table set with wildlife books and magazines, and to one side is a large wooden dining table, which is lit by lanterns at night. Just outside is the campfire, where tea and coffee are served in the early morning. A short distance behind the chitenge is a recently added 'charging room' with plenty of charging points for charging (daytime hours only), as well as a little curio shop.

Below the chitenge, built out over the river, is the lounge deck, a lovely spot with a number of comfortable chairs and sofas, several nature books, and a telescope for observing the birds and any animals along the riverbank.

Unlike most safari camps, Kaingo usually operates three activities per day. These include game drives (day and night) and walking safaris, all run by excellent guides.

There is a high density of game and birdlife in the Kaingo area, which you can enjoy from some of the most comfortable 4WD vehicles we’ve been in. Derek has also personally graded the roads in their area, which makes for a smoother ride than usual on game drives. For keen photographers, Kaingo provides bean bags and camera dust covers on the vehicles, and they never take more than two guests per row of seats – so you’re guaranteed a ‘window’ seat. (Their vehicles typically have three rows with three seats in each, the middle seat in each row is usually empty, and handy as a place to put ‘kit’.)

Expect to see plenty of elephants, as well as giraffe, waterbuck, bushbuck, buffalo, puku, impala, kudu, leopards and lions. (The main two lion prides are known at Kaingo as the ‘Hollywood’ pride, as they have been filmed so much, and the ‘Mwamba’ pride.) There is never a dull moment in this area of South Luangwa National Park!

Kaingo Camp also has a number of stunning photographic hides, which will form the basis of your third activity. These include the carmine bee-eater hide (best in September and October), which is normally a boat moored in front of a carmine colony – although on a previous visit in September 2012, the river was low enough for the hide to be set up on the sandy river floor. There is also the two-tiered hippo hide, built into the riverbank beside a deep hippo-filled pool, as well as the elephant hide, overlooking a spot where elephants often cross the river. On our most recent visit in June 2013, the 'mobile hide' had been set up overlooking a little lagoon and we spent a wonderful hour watching birds, in particular blue eared glossy starlings kicking up dust as they squabbled and tumbled about. These hides help to make Kaingo a really good choice for photographers. Indeed, we’re told that a BBC cameraman who spent ten days in their hippo hide said it was the best hide he’d ever used for filming.

The elephant hide is also used for sleep outs – a magical experience, and one we’ll never forget! From your bed up on a wooden platform high in a tree overlooking the Luangwa River, you’ll lie under your mosquito net, listening to the whooping hyena, chorus of cicadas and elephants munching. Then wake in the morning to ground hornbills ‘banging their drums’. Speak to us if you’d like to include this experience in your visit.

The Kaingo Camp team is very flexible about what activity you do. If there’s 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.

A day at Kaingo usually starts early with 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 couple of hours watching the wildlife. Then you’ll return to camp for lunch on your private deck, perhaps followed by a short rest.

In the late-afternoon, tea and cakes are served on the main deck before a third activity, usually a walking safari, or possibly a game drive followed by a night drive. You’ll return to camp for drinks and snacks, before a tasty three-course dinner.

Note that Kaingo combines naturally with its sister camp, Mwamba Bushcamp, which is only a morning's walk or game drive away.

Since 2007, Derek and Jules, have been working in collaboration with Mrs Hilda Hampondo on the Hanada Project, which helps orphans and vulnerable children in the Mfuwe area. Over the years, the project has resulted in the completion of a pre-school and a vegetable garden, which supplies the children with one good meal a day.

Our view

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. It’s a welcoming camp, very informal and with a very relaxed feel. We’ve found the service to be personal, the guides engaging and knowledgeable, and the game activities well organised and productive. We love having three activities a day, and the enthusiasm that goes into these, and the hides add an extra dimension to a safari here, especially for keen photographers.

Geographics

Location: South Luangwa National Park, Zambia

Ideal length of stay: We recommend a minimum of 3 nights, although 5–8 nights would be ideal for a combined stay of Kaingo and its sister camp Mwamba Bushcamp – and possibly a sleep-out night.

Directions: Fly to Mfuwe airport and transfer by road to camp. The drive, partly through villages and partly through the national park, takes approximately three hours.

Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer

Key personnel

Owner: Derek & Jules Shenton

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Full Board

Food quality: We’ve visited Kaingo Camp many times and each time their food has been very good. We particularly like the fact that they grow most of their own fruit and vegetables on their private property in Mfuwe, which means it is delivered fresh to the camp on a regular basis.

Mealtimes at Shenton Safaris’ camps operate a little differently to most camps in the Luangwa Valley, since both 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. Then, at around 10.00am, you’ll return to camp for a hearty breakfast. This is usually a choice of cereals, yoghurt and porridge. The hot breakfast that accompanies these changes on a daily basis and will vary between a 'Full English' , Eggs Benedict, French Toast or – as on our most recent stay – a potato frittata served with fried tomato and bacon.

After breakfast, you have the option of going to one of Kaingo’s renowned hides, then it’s back to camp for a light lunch, served al fresco on your own private deck. On our last visit, our lunch was delivered a little later than expected, because of an elephant blocking the path to our chalet. But when it did arrive, we had a spinach and sundried tomato roulade with a green salad and a bread roll lightly spiced with cinnamon – delicious and worth waiting for!

Afternoon tea, with freshly baked cake and a choice of tea, coffee or homemade iced rooibos tea, is served at 3.45pm on the main deck overlooking the river, before heading out on your evening game activity.

In the evening, there are drinks at the leadwood bar before dinner at around 8.30pm. We had a tasty starter of antipasto with flatbreads, followed by chicken and bacon filo parcels served with couscous and stir fried vegetables. For dessert there were profiteroles, which were so good that we managed to squeeze them in - just!

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 except for premium wines and spirits.

Further dining info: No.

Special interests

Birdwatching: The main deck, or your own private deck, both built over the Luangwa River, are great spots from which to view some of the many bird species found around Kaingo Camp. Also of particular interest here is the carmine bee-eater hide, located below a riverbank where these colourful birds nest in their thousands between September and October.

See more ideas for Birdwatching in Zambia

Walking safaris: The area surrounding Kaingo Camp is well-suited to safari walks and the guides here are some of the most experienced in the Luangwa Valley. Guests who combine a stay at Kaingo and its sister camp, Mwamba Bushcamp, can walk between the two.

See more ideas for Walking safaris in Zambia

Wildlife safaris: Kaingo Camp has a high density of game and birdlife in their area of South Luangwa National Park. As well as a variety of more common herbivores, the endemic Crawshay’s zebra, Cookson’s wildebeest and Thornicroft giraffe occur here. There is also a high number of predators, with two large lion prides and regular leopard sightings.

See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Zambia

Children

Attitude towards children: Kaingo is happy to take children over the age of 8 who are sensible and well-behaved, although 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. Children under 12 years are not permitted to join walking safaris.

Property’s age restrictions: Kaingo Camp prefers children over 8 years of age who are well-behaved.

Special activities & services: None.

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 they would be a squash for four.

Notes: Children will need to be constantly supervised by their parents as the camp is on the edge of the Luangwa River – often with steep drops – and is not fenced, so animals do roam through. (On previous visits we have had a leopard with a bushbuck kill in the tree outside our chalet!)

Infrastructure

Communications: This is a bush camp so you should consider yourself out of communication for the duration of your stay. There is no cellphone reception, but Kaingo has a phone and internet for office use, which can be used by guests in an emergency.

TV & radio: There are no radios or TV's here.

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: Yes

Medical care: The closest doctor is in Mfuwe (1¼ hours’ fast drive away). For emergencies Kaingo has links to a flying-doctor service.

Dangerous animals: High Risk

Security measures: Guests are not allowed to walk around alone after dark and are escorted to their chalets at night. There is a whistle next to the bed in case of an emergency.

Fire safety: There are two fire extinguishers in the main area, one in the kitchen, and one behind each chalet.

Extras

Disabled access: On Request

Laundry facilities: A complimentary laundry service is included, except for ladies’ underwear, for which washing powder is provided in the bathrooms.

Money: No exchange facilities are offered.

Accepted payment on location: Payments for any extras may be made only in cash, using US dollars or, since the currency regulations in Zambia changed, preferably kwacha which is the local currency.