Reviews of Kaingo Camp
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
Excellent team at Kaingo
This is a superb camp, made excellent by the consistent top quality and enthusiam of all the staff - there just appeared to be no weak link. Derek and Jules have clearly put together a great team and show constant effort to go the extra mile with a number of nice small touches. We had some great game viewings with Gondwe and the potentially disruptive handover as managers from Brian & Michelle to Isabelle and Ian (which happened while we were there) was handled in a way that actually added to our experience....
The Shentons (at both Kaingo and Mwamba) have a different timetable from other camps we visited, with a quicker early morning start and an added midday activity. With their specialist hides, this normally works well. We particularly enjoyed the Carmine Bee-eater and Hippo hides (although strangely the highlight at the "Hippo hide" was an elephant amusingly "tobogganing" down the bank to the river....)
This is a lovely camp with a great feel which we'd very much like to return to.
Kaingo Camp review
We had an excellent time.
The guiding and the camp were both great. Carmine bee-eater hide was just fantastic, as was the walking safari at Kaingo and to Mwamba.
Guide Patrick's knowledge was just amazing and we really appreciated how much he spotted birds and animals and explained nature's wonders. Lunch on the new private decks overlooking the river was a real treat.
Just not enough hours in the day!
Kaingo Camp review
Spot on! So glad we had booked for 5 days, a visiting agent queried if that was too long but not at all, if we'd had longer we would have transferred to the bush camp for a couple of nights.
Derek and Jules are splendid hosts, Patrick is a guide par excellence, and all the staff did their best to make our stay memorable. The recent arrival of Izzy only added to the professionalism. Game was more than plentiful and the hides added another dimension to the day's activities. Derek was in his element when acting as a guide, much to our benefit.
Only one quibble, lunch was really superfluous!!
Kaingo Camp experience
Just the right combination of adventure & luxury for us.
Everyone very welcoming.
The perfect South Luangwa safari camp
Had a brilliant three day stay at Kaingo Camp. You are far enough into the park that the animals behave naturally for you to feel that you are part of the 'real' Africa.
Gondwe was an expert guide, along with Ben in the evenings, which enabled us to see the elusive leopard at very close range! So close that you felt you could hear her breathe as she walked past the vehicle! She was relaxed enough for us to watch her drinking and then stalking Impala.
Derek is very passionate about the area around Kaingo and has developed brilliant opportunities to see species at very close range in the hides that he has set up. The sound and smell of the Hippos is something we will never forget! We were lucky enough to have Derek accompany us on a visit to the Carmine bee-eater hide, paddling us across the Hippo filled river!
Michelle and Brian were excellent hosts in camp, even organising a private dinner on one evening and a surprise brunch in the Ebony Grove on another occasion. Food was also excellent, particularly Michelle's home made cakes! We really enjoyed the lunches served on our private deck with the Hippos laughing in the background.
There are so many fantastic memories, two of the highlights being the wonderful leopard sightings and a close encounter with the Hollywood pride of Lions as they set off on their evening hunt with the cubs in tow.
Kaingo Camp review
Very enjoyable.Read more about the whole safari
Kaingo Camp review
Especially loved the hippo hide, and the private balcony/terrace where lunch was servedRead more about the whole safari
Kaingo Camp review
This was the low part of the trip. Part of the staff was distinctly unpleasant. The first dinner everyone complained (there was a full house with a Canadian party, an American couple and an English couple), there was simply no wine on the table and we had to beg for getting served by the glass and the camp management was nowhere to be seen.The food was disappointing. I don't go to Zambia to eat a pizza/bruschetta as a starter and a vietnamese fish with French fries as a main.
The camp itself was OK, the idea of a private dinning area on the river for each bungalow is certainly very nice. We would have preferred "would and straw" rooms (as everywhere else) to concrete built ones whereas at the same time it is the only place where we had plumbing problems (the water taking ages to drain out of the shower).
The activities were disappointing, we were not allowed to go to the elephant crossing point on day 1 (apparently there were too many people wanting to get there) and this activity was simply canceled on day 2. Apart from lions, the night drives did not show anything, the staff was significantly and obviously less experienced that Remote Africa's, in fact on the second night the spotter was a room attendant.
When we stopped for a sundown drink, someone found a lower jaw of a crocodile (so distinctive) which was identified as .... maybe an hippo!!!. As far as their driving was concerned, it was absolutely clear that they were going far too fast to be successful in spotting wildlife.
Would we go back? no.
Expert Africa comments
We put these comments to Jules Shenton, the owner of Kaingo, who responded at length, including the following:
“As ever, we take this feedback very seriously. I’ve commented on the hosting/drinks issue in my comments to the feedback below (to Mr & Mrs C from Cheshire); these guests were at Kaingo at the same time. It’s important to note that this was an isolated issue, and I am sure that we have solved this for the future.
I was flummoxed by the meal reference; we have never served French fries! We have a 15-day rotating meal menu and that night was due to be: Cheese and Spinach puff pastry tart, Pan seared tilapia with salsa verde served on a bed of crushed potatoes with green beans and Lemon Merringue Pie.
However, on investigation I understand that on that night a group of 8 very health-conscious Canadians requested sweet potato wedges, so we happily slightly altered the normal menu. We asked if everyone liked sweet potatoes before serving and everyone said yes; I’m sorry if this caused a problem.
After these last two travellers’ feedbacks, we took a close look at the food at our camps. Both have two chefs: at Mwamba we serve 6 guests; at Kaingo we serve 12 guests. We decided that our Kaingo chefs were overworked, and so have hired a third chef to help. Additionally we hope to also have an international chef to oversee the kitchens for the 2011 season.
The elephant hide is not run as a normal activity at a specific time, but only when elephants are crossing. We then round up any interested guests to go to the hide. Sometimes these crossings coincide with the midday activity (as happened on the first day of these travelers’ visit.) On other days this visit results in a fourth activity for that particular day.
There are plenty of options for our midday activity and we don’t like to overcrowd any. The elephant hide is high in a tree; it’s just not safe for more than 7-8 people at a time. The second day that these travellers stayed, the elephants were not crossing around midday; hence we didn’t offer this as a suggestion. However, other options were offered – as our midday activity is NEVER cancelled; if there are guests who want to go out, then we’ll always go out.
With regards the spotter, I apologise for not explaining his position and role more clearly.
Spotters are not trained guides; they are normally either game scouts, or junior members of our team. Many do not speak much English. They are trained to spot animals with the light on night drives – and despite often having little formal education, they can be very good at this. In fact, spotting is often the first step on the ladder to guiding; if a spotter shows aptitude and interest then we’ll help to improve their English, train them to drive, and start them on the road to becoming a guide.
Some spotters, as in the case of our room attendant Nashon, have fantastic eyes. He has been spotting for us for nearly 10 years. However, his English is poor and his education is limited: like many people in this area, he is unable to read or write – something that ‘Project Luangwa’ is hoping to change. He certainly can’t study biology to the high level that is required to pass South Luangwa’s stringent guiding exams.
It is very likely Nashon did not understand the question, or pulled the wrong answer from his limited vocabulary of English. I’m very sorry that the question wasn’t directed to the guide.”
Service - poor - e.g. there were gazebo type constructions where visitors ate their lunch iprivately near their huts after it had been brought to them, and one day the previous day's empty beer bottle had not been removed and on one occasion the wine bottle in our lunch drinks container had only an inch or two of wine in it, presumably left over from another person's lunch.
When Margaret asked about this Brian the manager brushed the matter aside. Brian was unimpressive in dress and even more so in his management which was noticeable at times by its absence. We were half way through our second course at dinner one night (neither Brian nor Michelle were at the table) and no wine had been offered. When Russell complained a Zambian guide offered to bring him some wine and it was suggested he should bring it for the whole table. After the first glass we had to ask for another one because it was not offered. Brian's explanastion the next morning was that we should have helped ourselves. This might be the American way but it is not the British way, nor the South Luasngwa Valley way.
Food - poor - Food came quite frequently but was not in any way comparable with the Robin Pope expereince. For one thing it was already dished out onto our plates at dinner and there was not a great deal of it on the plates, and neither of us are big eaters. The standard of cooking was not high and on game drives at sundowners the nibbles were very poor and always the same.
Guiding - we had Ian, a newly qualified guide for some drives and he was excellent - knowledgeable and enthusiastic, and one drive with Gronwe who was also very good. Unfortunately most of our drives were with Derek Shenton who appeared to be completely disinterested in communicating his knowledge with his guests. In fact the first time we went out with him, with other guests in the vehicle, for the first 25 minutes after leaving camp he did not say a word to any of us. We always stopped for 5 minutes to watch the same hippo in a pool. On 2 occasions he had an old university friend in the passenger seat and the majority of the drive they spent chatting together, which obviously distracted him from guiding his visitors. It was as if we were an inconvenience although away from guiding he was very friendly and courteous.
We did have our best lion sighting at a kill while with him, but it had originally been found by another guide. After 2 days Russell suggested to Margaret that he try to move on to Nkwali because he was not enjoying the experience. There was a French couple often with us, Alain and Bridget, who live in Bedford and who booked through you who could confirm what we say. This was not a pleasant experience.
One plus point was that there were short wooden ladders for guests to use to get in and out of the vehicles, including when out on game drives, which was marvellous for ageing joints. This is something other camps could emulate.
Expert Africa comments
We have received the following response from Jules Shenton, the owner of Kaingo:
“Thanks for this feedback, which we have taken very seriously. It’s highlighted several issues which we’re addressing swiftly. For example: most of our Zambian guides don’t drink alcohol. On the evenings when they host dinner, they may not have been thinking about wine as much as they should have been! Topping up drinks is very important, and we have discussed this at length with our team to ensure this mistake is never repeated.
We make a point that our bar is always open; whilst of course we prefer to serve our guests when present, we want guests to feel at home and help themselves should they ever find the bar unattended. We have taken steps to ensure this is explained properly to people when they arrive.
Our beautiful decks over the river are new this year, and have added another dimension to Kaingo: serving individual lunches there gives our guests some space and down time in a hectic safari day. However, clearly the logistics of these lunches aren’t yet running perfectly, so we’ll work harder to get them right! I’m sorry if these travellers experienced hiccups in our service.
Several of these comments relate to Brian and Michelle – who have since left Kaingo. We’re delighted to have been able to replace them with Isabelle, who has 15 years experience in similar roles, and is already an impressive job and changing things for the better. We are also hiring a professional chef to replace Michelle for the 2011 season.
Over the years, we’re sometimes criticised for serving too much food. Let me explain …
Because we offer three activities per day, rather than the two, we offer three full meals a day. This is different from most camps, which only offer two activities, and two main meals per day.
Our days usually begin with morning tea and muffins/cookies, and an early start to catch the best light. There is another tea/coffee break, with home-made cookies, as part of the morning activity. Return to camp for a full continental / English breakfast. Then we follow the midday activity by a light lunch served on the guests’ individual decks. After a little down-time, afternoon tea is served. Then snacks are offered during the afternoon/evening activity, and finally some finger-food is available at the bar before dinner, which is always a three-course plated supper.
Derek’s guiding style is, like Derek, sensitive and quiet. He likes to encourage people to feel the bush, turning off the lights and engine and encouraging people to really listen to the sounds. He isn’t a ‘regurgitate the book’ style of guide. Given that these guests were such experienced safari goers, Derek felt they would enjoy that more than being told the same things over again.
The guides do communicate with one another. If Derek had ignored the call from Patrick, they would not have witnessed the kill. It’s not only finding the sighting, but how one follows it up: how one positions and repositions the vehicle to keep all the guests in the best position to view the action. As these guests have acknowledged it was the best lion sighting they have had and this was precisely owing to Derek’s handling of the experience.
The quality of our guiding is paramount to us, and in addition we also focus on photography. When people are taking videos – which one of these guests was at time, Derek is mindful that they might not want the guides chatting constantly over the wildlife action. Derek’s university friend did sit up front a couple of times so as not to crowd the other guests; Derek certainly did not mean to seem disinterested to his guests.
It seems perhaps that the nuances of his guiding style just weren’t a good fit with these guests; if so, we’re very sorry indeed about this.”
This was an excellent start to our Safari. It is a camp in a stunning location and gave us a very warm welcome. The whole area is one of great variety and is beautiful.
Michele and Bryan could not have done more to make our stay a real pleasure and the drive with Derek Shenton was excellent as he understands what photographers/videographers need by way of light and positioning. The guides, ours were Mayam and Gondwe , were very good and did all they could to help get us the best shots and video film. We especially enjoyed the night safaris and had some great Leopard and Lion sightings including some 16 Lions drinking togther at a water hole.
The much advertised hides are superb. We used both the Hippo and Bird hides to great effect especilly when two male Hippos had an almighty fight right in front of us. A relatively new feature is for each room to have its own deck overlooking the river and this was a superb way of relaxing after the morning drive and having lunch privately.
The accommodation is not new but very comfortable. The only down side is washing in safe, but brown water. At first it felt that daily life was organised round the food of which there was plenty (too much?) and not the wildlife ,but Michele responded to this and made changes.However we could not help but wonder if a buffet style of meal would be helpful in that tourists could choose how much they wanted and it might also mean that Michele and Bryan would have an undisturbed meal occiasionally instead of waiting on us.
The main problem I had was with being placed in a truck with what I call maching gun photographers. Video which is my main choice and makes no impact on photographers, but photographers can and did ruin video soundtrack by the noise of their shutter in burst mode. There is no easy answer to thus unless you have your own truck. Even if the camp has enough vehilces the cost is often prohibitive. I discussed this with derek Shenton who undertood the problem and changes of seating were made where possible but this issue is something which other camps might think about when deciding who goes on which truck. Equally I should ahve been more explicit in the planning.