Kaingo Camp

Kaingo Camp: Our full report

Rooms
6 chalets
Traveller's rating
Excellent (96%) From 160 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 independent camps remaining in South Luangwa National Park. Derek, and his engaging wife Jules, live in Lusaka and are very involved in running the camp, visiting frequently and sometimes helping out with the guiding.

There are six brick-and-thatch chalets at Kaingo, five standard and one family chalet, 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 were renovated in 2017 and now have large stone verandas outside under a reed shade roof, with a day bed scattered with cushions, and a table and chairs. Decorated in light cream and blue tones, with locally designed Tribal Textiles fabrics, the chalets feature thatched roofs, stone floors with woven rugs, and sliding pale wood and mesh doors, providing plenty of light into the spacious rooms.

Furniture, from the large wooden shelving unit to the chunky headboards, is locally made, and the very comfortable beds – either twin or king-sized – are covered with cream and blue bedcovers, and surrounded by walk-in mosquito nets.

Solar-powered lamps are placed on dressing tables beside the beds, and in the cupboard you’ll find African-print dressing gowns, a wooden box to lock away your valuables plus mosquito repellant and insect spray for the room, plus a whistle, for attracting attention in case of an emergency. On the walls are framed black-and-white photos, taken by Jules, a keen wildlife photographer.

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.

The family chalet, also extensively updated in 2017, is set slightly further away from the main area, under a grove of towering Natal mahogany trees. Overlooking the river, the spacious master bedroom has an en-suite bathroom with indoor and outdoor showers and a separate bathtub. An inter-leading door connects the bedroom to the lounge and a separate cloakroom, which makes for either a roomy relaxation area for couples, or a children's bedroom - for family bookings, there is space for up to 4 single beds in this area, though we think it works best with just 3.
With it's own private butler, plus optional private dining and private vehicle access, it's designed to cater for either couples looking for a more exclusive experience or to families or a group of friends.

Towards the river are private shaded decks that overlook the river, one for each chalet. Comfortable chairs and a table make these a great spot to sit and watch the river activity during the afternoon siesta.

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 light-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 little curio shop.

Below the chitenge, built out over the river, is the lounge deck, a lovely, spacious 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 open-topped 4WD vehicles. Derek has also personally seen to grading the roads in their area, which makes for a smoother ride than usual on game drives. For keen photographers, Kaingo provides clamp stabilisers, beanbags 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, but the middle seat in each row is usually empty, and handy as a place to put 'kit'.)

The area around Kaingo Camp is fantastic for game, and on our most recent visit, in September 2017, we saw plenty of elephant, buffalo, puku, kudu, and lion (including the large 'Hollywood' pride, so called because they have been the focus of so many nature documentaries). Particular highlights included watching two leopards fighting over an impala kill, and three young lion cubs learning to plya fight with each other.

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. There is also the two-tier 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 Luangwa River. On our last visit, a further 'mobile hide' had been set up overlooking a natural waterhole just back from the main riverbed, where we watched white-fronted bee-eaters hawking for insects, and a huge breeding herd of elephants intimidating a mischievous group of baboons. 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 Platform, for exclusive use of Kaingo’s guests, is a wonderful viewing platform just next to a main elephant crossing point, though it can also be 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, 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.

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. The orphanage is now run in conjunction with Project Luangwa, a collaboration between several camps in the area, and visits to the projects are also an option from camp.

The Kaingo Camp team is very flexible about activities. 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 if you prefer, perhaps followed by a short rest.

In the late afternoon, tea and cakes are served on the lounge deck before a third activity, often 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.

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 at 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, most recently in September 2017, and each time their food has been very good. The kitchen is able to cater for vegetarian and vegan requests, as well as a range of dietary requirements. 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.

Breakfast, usually tea, coffee, fruit and freshly baked pancakes or muffins, is served around the campfire before the early-morning activity.

Brunch is served on your return, around 11.00am, and is generally served buffet style. As well as continental breakfast options, including French toast with home-made chocolate peanut butter, we were able to choose from a chickpea and date salad, chicken and vegetable skewers, pork sausages and grilled tomatoes, cherry tomato quiche and fish cakes with a herby dipping sauce.

Afternoon tea, with freshly baked cake or scones, and often a savoury option, along with a choice of tea, coffee or homemade iced rooibos tea, is served on the lounge deck, before heading out on your evening game activity.

In the evening, there are drinks at the leadwood bar before dinner at around 8.30pm. A refreshing chilled pea and mint soup to start with was ideal, given the heat of the day, and we followed this with jerk chicken breasts, served with crushed garlic potatoes and green beans. For dessert we enjoyed a brandy chocolate cake with fresh orange and crème fraîche.

Dining style: Group Meals

Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining

Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included

Drinks included: Filtered drinking water, soft and alcoholic drinks are included at Kaingo Camp.

Further dining info: Room service is not available.

Special interests

Birdwatching: The main deck at Kaingo and your private deck looking over the Luangwa River are great spots for birdwatching in Zambia. Between September and October, you can spot thousands of carmine bee-eaters from a special hide located below a nest site in the riverbank.

See more ideas for Birdwatching in Zambia

Photography holidays: With specialist hides for carmine bee-eaters, hippos, elephants and general wildlife, Kaingo is ideal for photography holidays in Zambia. Their vehicles have beanbags and dust covers, and the guides have been trained how to position vehicles with photographers in mind.

See more ideas for Photography holidays in Zambia

Wildlife safaris: Kaingo is in an area of South Luangwa National Park with high densities of more common species, as well as endemics such as Crawshay’s zebra, Cookson’s wildebeest and Thornicroft giraffe, making this an excellent spot for wildlife safaris in Zambia.

See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Zambia

Children

Attitude towards children: Kaingo is happy to consider children over the age of 10 who are sensible and well-behaved.. Families with children under 12 years are required to have their own private vehicle, and the under-12s are not permitted to join walking safaris.

Property’s age restrictions: Kaingo Camp prefers children over 10 years of age.

Special activities & services: Children receive a Kaingo Kids activity booklet on arrival.

Equipment: Kaingo has a dedicated family chalet, which can accommodate a family of up to six people.

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.

Infrastructure

Power supply: Solar Power

Power supply notes: Kaingo has a back-up generator on site. UK-style 3-pin sockets are located in each of the rooms for charging batteries.

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.

Water supply: Borehole

Water supply notes: Showers, baths and handbasins are plumbed in with hot and cold water available. There are flush toilets in each bathroom.

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 each bed in case of an emergency.

Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in the main area, kitchen, and behind each chalet. Fire hoses are also dotted around the site.

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: The camp is unable to take card payments. Payments for any extras may be made in cash; ideally in Zambian kwacha, but US dollars,UK pounds and euros are also accepted.

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