Reviews of Kaingo Camp
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
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.
Kaingo Camp review
Another excellent camp, following on from our stay at Tena Tena. The accomodation is different from Tena Tena in that the rooms have solid walls and the bathroom/shower is also indoors. There is also an outdoor bath beside the small cottage if required. Again there was always plenty of hot water provided via the solar panels, certainly we never found any shortage of supply.
The new individual viewing decks sitting over the river where you can have lunch are a great place to relax and recharge the batteries after the early morning starts.
The food was of a very high standard and the team at the camp were very friendly and helpful. Ian, Michele, Brian and our guide Mayam went out of their way to make our stay as memorable as possible, down to having breakfast in the Ebony Grove one morning follwing the early morning game drive and then to a champange sundowner at the stork colony on our last evening.
Mayam's guiding was excellent, finding leopards on our first two nights and then finishing off with the Hollywood pride of lions on our last night. The hippo hide is another wonderful experience, getting really up close and personal with these huge beasts was quite daunting.
Can't wait to come back !!
Once again perfection at Kaingo
This was our third visit to Kaingo which in itself shows what we think of this camp.
It has very much a feel of a family and as such is very relaxing but with excellent guides. On this visit each chalet had its own river veranda which was a nice new touch although the chairs on them whilst very comfortable were not built for little people!!
We cannot recommend this camp too much.
Photographers delight at Kaingo Camp
One of us had previously visited South Luangwa Park during the green season staying at Mfuwe Lodge. This time we wanted to go deeper into the park and chose Kaingo Camp for two reasons.
One of us was an avid amateur photographer and we both hoped to have extended encounters with leopards, the only one of the "big 5" that neither of us had seen at length in the wild. Most past reviews had indicated that wildlife viewing was excellent in the area of this camp area and in particular leopards sightings were very common. In fact the camp boasts a 95% sighting success rating. In addition Kaingo Camp had an excellent reputation of catering to photographers of all levels to include the use of a number of superb photo blinds. Within an hour of our first drive we could be included in the 95% of people who saw leopard with an extended sighting of a mother and cub in the late afternoon. We had two additional extended encounters at night over the next three nights of our stay.
Combined with those superb photo blinds our experience was excellent. Our guide Patrick always was accommodating to our needs and as we were the only people in the vehicle he helped us to mold the experience to fit our interest with extended visits in the hides, a great walking safari and of course the previously noted leopard sightings.
Added to that was the friendly family feel of the camp as a whole. Kaingo operates inside the park in a beautiful location along the Luangwa River. Power at night was provided by solar power and kerosene lanterns giving the camp at pleasant unpretentious rustic feel. With no generator to interfere with the night sounds you felt you were in a private remote location deep in the bush. But all amenities were still provided for with excellent meals and comfortable lodging including a lovely outdoor bathtub overlooking the river outside our chalet.
Traveling in October we were advised it would be hot. The vehicles were open top (there was an option for a top but we preferred not to have the top to improve game viewing and photography) so one must use protection from the sun. While it was hot and dusty on the trail and the landscape rather barren it was never unpleasant and it made the game viewing that much better as the animals congregated near the water holes. It was still warm at night but we had no trouble sleeping because the active schedule made you ready for a good nights sleep! (I recommend a silk sleep sack which was all the cover I needed at night. I wonder if a solar powered ceiling fan is possible? It would be a nice addition to help with the heat).
In fact another plus at Kaingo was the willingness to conduct 3 activities a day rather than the usual two. You don't have to do three but this was perfect for us as we have never been big fans of the prolonged mid day down times at other safari camps we have stayed in. Instead we spent mid day in the "elephant hide", built up in the trees, each day and had one particularly exciting day when a herd of elephants walked directly beneath us in the hide on their way to the river. Even when it was relatively quiet the elephant hide and the new river deck are great locations to spend time during the day between the morning and evening safaris.
If we were to have one small quibble it would be with the solar panels which were scattered about camp collecting power during the day. They didn't cause us any problem but they did detract a bit from the overall appearance of the camp which was otherwise very pleasant.
Kaingo Camp review
Very nice camp with extraordinary location overlooking the Luangwa river.
A lot of great activities that make you explore very well the area and see a lot of game. I'd like to thank everybody for the warm welcome and company.
The food was absolutely delicious and indeed too much!
Kaingo Camp review
Kaingo is a fantastic camp in an amazing location. Derek and Jules Shenton are very involved with the running of the camp and it really shows. Tom and Ali kept us very well looked after. The guides, Patrick and Freya, were brilliant and we saw an amazing amount of game including several leopards.
The hippo and carmine bee eater hides are a great way to see them up close.
This is a camp for people who really like being on safari rather than lots of luxurious frills.
Fabulous camp overlooking the Luanga river and close to some beautiful ebony forest groves. The camp staff couldn't have been more accommodating - Tom did an outstanding job keeping everything ticking over, while Alison seemed omniprescent and was always attentive. Freya was an absolutely superlative guide, more than ably assisted by James, Meyem and Nashion, finding anything and everything, even taking a small group out after dinner one day to revisit an earlier buffalo kill
The hides (one of the key reasons we chose the camp) are a short drive away from the camp, and a visit makes up the "third" (midday) activity. This makes for a long day, with little opportunity for a midday siesta (we're not complaining!). The hippo hide and the elephant crossing hide in particular were superb, and we could have happily stayed in each all day. Nice "small" touches - bean bags and dust covers for the cameras (the Shenton camps were the only ones to provide these).
Being a photographer herself, Freya was very conscious of good positioning of the vehicle, optimising use of the available light. As our main interest was in photography, this helped enormously in ensuring great drives. Meals were excellent, although we felt sorry for the camp staff on several occassions when only a couple of us turned up for lunch. Derek and Jules were very welcoming, and we were delighted to have been in camp while Marianne Shenton was there - what a lady!
Highlights - the buffalo kill, the tree climbing lions, the leopard sightings, the hippo and elephant hides, the relaxed hyena, the buffalo "stampede", watching the tiny elephants trying to use their trunks, the porcupines and gennets, and the walk to Mwamba - this is a "must do". If there was a grade above "Excellent" Kaingo would receive it!
Kaingo - Loved The Hides
Again Really enjoyed our time at Kaingo. Compared to many other trips this camp would have compared excellently. Unfortunately in comparison to Kapamba and Tafica it was up against incredibly good competion!
Probably the most beatiful part of the Lower Luanga, but also the busiest area that we went to - 2/3 vehicles from Kaingo, plus Norman Carr Safaris (and others?).
Very disappointed with the antics of one of the Norman Carr vehicles which charged in whilst two of Shenton's vehicles were quietly watching a Leopard Hunting. It was made quite clear - lights off or with infrared when on, and warning indicators - that something was happening and the need to approach with care. In stead they charged in and the Leopard lost its prey having been just about to strike.
Excellent guiding from Patrick and Freya.