Kaingo Camp

Kaingo Camp: Our full report

6 Chalets
Traveller's rating
Excellent (96%) From 147 reviews
Best for 12+
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 very 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 deluxe, 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.

The sixth chalet was updated in 2017, and is now a deluxe, or family, chalet. ‘Kaingo House’ 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, 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, though we think it works best with just 3.
With it’s own private butler, 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.

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 plug sockets for recharging your equipment (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 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 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, 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 October 2014, 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 a leopard eating a puku up a tree, and a pack of wild dog running past our vehicle in the early morning.

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 in a shady forested area where we watched white-fronted bee-eaters hawking for insects, and a warthog and her young taking a mudbath. 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 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.

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, 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.


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 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 rosti with bacon, fried egg and homemade baked beans.

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, in October 2014, lunch was chilli con carne, served with a freshly baked cheese scone and a crisp salad.

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. For our dinner we had beef steak and lamb chops cooked on a barbecue outside. This was served with a variety of Zambian side dishes, including a very tasty vegetable stew, and baked potatoes. For dessert we had meringue with poached pears and almond cream.

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 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


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!)


Power supply: Solar Power

Power supply notes: There is a charging room next to the main area where batteries can be charged during the day. There are no sockets for charging in any of the rooms.

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 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.


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, ideally in Zambian kwacha, but US dollars may be accepted.

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