Reviews of Kaingo Camp
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
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.
Great Safaris at Kaingo
The location of Kaingo was absolutely fabulous and the accommodation and facilities were brilliant. The safaris with Sylvester and Noel were outstanding although the lack of leopards was a little disappointing.
Issy was the perfect host and the staff were always happy and helpful.
The only criticisms we had were :-
That, although adequate, the food was not of the quality we expected from a five star camp.
The absence of fans in the bedroom made sleeping somewhat uncomfortable although we do appreciate the
limits of electrical power in the camp.
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.
Kaingo Camp review
Enjoyed all aspects of this place the view over the river
The drives were excellent viewing guide full of knowledge.the walk was excellent and I still learnt new things
Everyone was friendly kind and helpful
Good for animals
The management where strangely absent and the person in charge was under strain which resulted in just a little too much regimentation.
More time should have been given to prepare for meal after evening activity. Guides where first class.
Best drummer at Kaingo camp
We had a fabulous wildlife experience here.The Shentons have gone to a great deal of trouble to ensure that there are as many ways and means of experiencing the natural beauty of the place.The game drives are a pleasure because a great deal of work has been put into maintaining the 'road' surfaces.The hide facilities are an excellent way of studying and filming nature.Added to this is the bonus of having your lunch privately on your own jetty looking over the river.
We had the pleasure of being guided by Mayem,whose knowledge and expertease never failed to amaze us.In all our trips to Africa we have never met a more proficient guide!
Unfortunately,my wife suffered a severe illness here,which prolonged our stay.However,she was treated and cared for by all the staff in such a fashion that we will remember the experience for all the right reasons.Although ill,Gillian refused to miss the opportunity of sleeping in the Elephant Hide.With a recent lion kill only yards away,excited hyena cackled and laughed and lions roared in the distance.We will definitely return and do it again.
I spent five days here and it still wasn't long enough.
Thank you Noel for all your help and kind advice!
Great friendly camp with lots of activities to keep one occupied from dawn to after dusk. Really good service and comfortable accommodation. We particularly liked the private deck in front of our chalet where we sat and had lunch and watched the hippos, crocodiles and Bee Eaters. The staff could not have been more helpful. Food was very good and far too plentiful.
Lots of photographic opportunities, especially in the hides at mid-day where one could get close to hippos and towards the end of our stay, to Carmine Bee Eaters where we were the first occupants of the season.
The night game drives were particularly good as there was a driver and a spotter - an extra pair of trained eyes made a huge difference in spotting game. We were lucky to see a lioness and her two small cubs in the dark and then later that evening glimpses of a male and female leopard.
We could have stayed longer at Kaingo.
Kaingo Camp review
The location of Kaingo on the river (with your own terrace and lookout) and with the hides and a backcountry with lots of predators was exceptional. We saw 2 groups of lions, leopards and lots of hippos and crocs. The food was OK but not exceptional. The catering for a diabetic had lapses. A surprise brunch in the bush (where Derek Shenton was married) was a highlight.Read more about the whole safari
Comfortable camp overlooking the Luangwa
Unusual camp in that the rooms are solid walled with mesh windows. They are very comfortable, our only gripes are lack of power and the time it takes for hot water to get to the taps, minor issues given where we were.
We particularly enjoyed the private deck overhanging the river edge on which lunch is served.
Game drives were very good with especially good sun-downers. Our only reservation is that they tend to put all the guests on one vehicle if possible, albeit only two abreast. That being said, we did see a successful lion hunt and plenty of other game.
Staff were very pleasant and the owners were about although we didn't see much of them.
One negative is the disclaimer we were asked to sign on arrival. It seemed to absolve the camp of any responsibility whatsoever for anything at all. We've seen nothing like this at any other camp, although they didn't mind us crossing out parts we particularly didn't agree with.
Food was very good and the hippo and elephant hides excellent spots for an hour or two at midday.