Reviews of Kaingo Camp
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
This was my second visit to Kaingo, and I was worried that returning just a year after a wonderful trip I might be disappointed.
I needn't have worried: the camp itself was a friendly and comfortable as ever (and the food was excellent), and the game viewing in late August/early September was unforgettable, thanks to excellent guiding by Meyam (and his scout, Maxwell). I suspect my third day there will probably never be bettered...
Incredible luxury and sensational game drives
Moving to Kaingo for the second half of our trip was absolutely the right decision - going further into the park and away from the busier areas near the main gate - despite losing the flexibility provided by a camp on mains electricity. After dragging my 12-year old away from the swimming pool at Flatdogs I was delighted that he loved Kaingo even more. We appreciated the quieter drives, the stunning ebony grove and the incredible standard of food accommodation achieved in such a remote place.
The staff were very kind and really looked after us. I was conscious that my son was the only child guest at that time, but he was made to feel very grown up and welcome (actually incredibly spoiled). We were thrilled with our walking safari and the range of wildlife we saw. Our hope of a good sighting of a honey badger was rewarded!
As usual, the guides were excellent, with encyclopedic knowledge and an ability to gauge the varying interests of the guests.
Entering the luxurious category?
Would rather have filled in 'Trip as a Whole First. Overall, with 7 previous trips to Zambia and others to Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, Namibia, and many to SA over past 30 years, this trip was sensational and stunningly good. Any critisisms are minor and almost immaterial. The comparions prescibed by the nature of this form are against the other camps visited here, and not against previous experiences. 'Good' means slightly less than faultless (excellent).
We pick Shenton camps for their position in the park, their concentration on walking, supurb guiding. Derek & Jules Shenton was not at camp during our time there, which would put extra administrative strain on the staff present, but Izzy & Evonne coped excellently. The food was much more stylish than 10-20yrs ago.
Izzy was a competent hard working and welcoming manager, but Evonne as well as being dedicated and efficient was engagingly personable.
The guiding led by Patrick who also has a remarkable personailty and understanding of our ways given his background,i s first class.
We immediately expressed our interest in walking, but could not be accommodated on first morning-- hence slight downgrade on activities. This was rectified at Mwamba.
Amazing African Experience
Kaingo was amazing. On our drive from the airport we saw so much (including a leopard eating an impala in a tree, with a hyena sitting below waiting for scraps!). Our guide, Yorum, who was our guide for our time at Kaingo and Mwamba was excellent. As well as helping us to spot animals he told us so much, and helped us to track animals by recognising their footprints and dung! The safari drives were brilliant. Yorum listened to what we wanted to see, and tried his hardest to find it.
The food is fantastic - lots of it and an excellent quality. Izzy and Yvonne made us very welcome, and we really enjoyed everything about the camp. Although there was the need to mix over dinner and breakfast, having lunch on our decks was a welcome break - and a time to just be the four of us.
Kaingo Camp review
Kaingo located in the SLNP is an established camp know to wildlife photographers for there location and animal hids. National Geographic has been know to do filming there, especially their lion prides.
Massive amounts of hippos can be seen all along the river. For an up close view the hippo the hides can't be beat.
Prides of Lions are easily seen, especially the "Hollywood" pride know for all the filing that has been done on them.
I believe we were not adequately warned by our tour company concerning the nature of the camp which is set up for the true photographer and not for the amateur point and shoot merchants like myself. This said Kaingo matched us up with a couple with the same attitude to photography and hence on most drives we were not affected by the photographer who must have a particular kind of shot whatever and obstructed viewing due to a large camera and their owners standing up to operate them.
That said we really enjoyed ourselves as the food, guiding and accommodation was excellent. Visits from the elephants whilst on our veranda overlooking the river was one of the highlights.
Having to put up with a diet low in sugar I usually have to forgo the sweets. However Kaingo were very pro-active and made up some very tasty fruit salads for myself. Many thanks.
Kaingo Camp review
Our stay was lovely, but we found the evening drive possibly a little to long 4 hours then only 10-15 minutes before dinner.
Personally 3-31/2 hours with time to relax before dinner with a drink at the lovely bar would have been nice.
All staff very friendly & attentive, food very good. Breakfast in the Ebony forest was great.
Kaingo Camp - disappointing
Kaingo was the only disappointing place we stayed during our three week safari in Zambia. We felt a bit like it was a place run for the convenience of the managers rather than the pleasure of the guests. At no time were we asked what we wanted to see and what our interests were - we were just told which jeep we were in and off we went. The only time we got to choose our activities was in the middle of the day when we got to pick which hide we wanted to visit.
Both guides had a severe case of what I call "Big Cat-itis" where they focus on lions/leopards to the exclusion of everything else. This is such a shame as you miss so much on a game drive by ignoring the smaller things. It also contrasted badly to the two previous camps we were in - Mwamba and Takifa.
We kept being taken back to the same group of lions on every game drive. However, most of the time they were asleep - and lions lazing under a tree get a bit dull after a while. I'd much rather watch a group of baboons for an hour than a group of lions. However, I wasn't given the choice. We just sped straight past things like baboons.
The night drives here were also disappointing compared to the other camps that we visited. All the animals we saw were much further away and more skittish.
The hides were also a bit of a disappointment. We went to the hippo hide twice, but the hippos were a considerable distance from the hide so you don't get an up close and personal view like I was hoping for. The elephant hide was nicely positioned up in a tree at a point where the elephants cross the river. However, on the day we were due to go to the elephant hide we had been told to meet in reception at 12:30 which we did. We waited around for about 15 minutes for someone to appear and eventually they did and we were asked "Why aren't you at the hide?". Apparently the elephants had crossed early and the other guests had gone over at 12:00 but no-one came to get us so we didn't know. By the time we got to the hide the elephants were half way across the river and travelling away from us (so not great for the photos). It would have been lovely had we seen the whole thing but the best bits happened before we got there - which was frustrating. Once the elephants had finished crossing we were told "that's it - we're going now" without being given any option to stay longer - despite only having been there for about 20 minutes. At no stage was there any apology for messing us around.
It wasn't all bad. We saw lions, hyenas, a leopard up a tree with a kill (actually very close to Mwamba bushcamp and found by Patrick - the Mwamba guide), it just wasn't as good as it could have been, which was deeply frustrating. There are very tame bushbucks and vervet monkeys in the surrounding bush. We were nearly joined by a vervet monkey in the bath on one day.
The rooms are ok - although they don't let much breeze in so they get VERY hot. The outside bathtub is a nice touch and lovely in the hot weather. The food is mostly average - although we did get the occasional really nice dish. But there is no choice - you just get what you are given.
Expert Africa comments
We were very disturbed by these travellers comments and we forwarded them to Kaingos owners, Derek and Jules Shenton. (We discovered that most of these comments, as well as a response from the camp, were already on TripAdvisor!)
Derek and Jules have clearly taken these comments seriously and have already acted on some of the points raised.
Looking at all the travellers comments below, we don't believe that generally Kaingo is a place run for the convenience of the managers rather than the pleasure of the guests. That said, we don't doubt that this was the experience that these travellers had at the end of October 2012.
( We do note that they stayed just a few days before the camp closed for the year, which shouldn't make a difference at all but we wouldn't be surprised if the team were tired at the end of a long season. )
Firstly, this feedback reminds us to re-emphasize to all of our travellers that if they ever experience problems whilst in a camp, then its really important to voice these very clearly at the time, as theres a good chance that they can be rectified there and then. We are powerless to help travellers after they have left the camp, as are the camps owners and managers.
Investigating the specifics, were told by Jules that one of the guides who guided these travellers was released at the end of last season; he is no longer working at Kaingo. We are sorry that these travellers experienced him.
We also understand that the camp has taken seriously the confusion about the visit to the Elephant Hide; clearly it shouldn't have happened, and measures are now in place to try to avoid it happening again. For 2013, Kaingo have also replaced their safari manager, which we hope will help the activities to run as well in the future as weve always been used to them running in the past.
So whilst we are really glad that the rest of the trip that these travellers had was enjoyable, and were sorry that they had such a negative experience of Kaingo, which our travellers normally find to be a very good camp.
Balcony on the Luangwa
We had 3 great nights at Kaingo before moving on to Mwamba, its sister bushcamp. The chalets are attractive and cosy, boasting an XL outdoor bathtub, and we loved having lunch on our private deck overlooking the Luangwa river. The setting is really picturesque, between the river and an ebony forest.
The 3 hides (hippo, elephant and carmine bee eater) are a fantastic idea and very cleverly designed - all safari camps should have them! Whether you are into photography or not, you can easily spend a few hours there, it is fascinating being able to watch the wildlife so closely and be right in the middle of the action!
Great guiding, great service, can't fault anything.
This camp is primarily a photographer's dream but also perfect for all wild life lovers.
Delightful camp, great guiding at Kaingo
The 6 chalets are strung out along the river with each having its own private, shaded terrace on the riverside where you can while away an hour or so before lunch is delivered to you. We also had a hammock which was surely worth the gymnastics required for me to get into it! The outside bath is a nice touch, bring your own bubbles. I liked the fact that the lights in the chalets are solar powered and that there was no generator noise to detract from absorbing the natural sounds of the day and night. There is a charging hut in the centre of the camp where you charge your camera batteries etc. Laundry is washed and returned each day – this means you really can pack light.
The Shenton camps have their own plot near the airport which keeps the kitchen well stocked with fresh veg and provides local jobs. We particularly wanted a Zambian owned camp, small and in a quiet part of the park also it was important to me that the owners were fully engaged with and supportive of the local communities, economy and environment. All that came through to me very clearly here and I feel we made the right choice.
There is an abundantly clear commitment at Kaingo to ensuring that guests are well looked after in every respect from the comfort of the chalets, through delicious and well prepared food to having a good number of simply exceptional guides and spotters many of whom have been there for years. This combination ensured we had a fabulous safari filled with adventure and other amazing experiences which will always be with us. The driving loops are really well maintained and well positioned. Really enjoyed the night time drives which followed the sundowners which were taken at a different place each evening. You will find bean bags and dust sheets for cameras in the jeeps - much appreciated.
The landscape is fantastic and very varied. The range of wildlife in front of you is amazing and you can learn so much from the guides – who are not only superbly skilled with a huge amount of knowledge that they are keen to share but are adept at positioning the vehicles and understanding the light to give you a chance to get great photos. The 3 activities per day certainly resulted in a really satisfying experience, the hides are such a great for getting up close. We also stayed overnight in the elephant hide – a really special and unique experience.