Overlooking the Luangwa River, deep within the richest game-viewing area of the South Luangwa National Park, Kaingo’s 6 riverbank chalets lie in a grove of ebony trees and are placed discreetly apart, designed with the sole purpose of transporting you safely into the world of the Luangwa without a single distraction. Built and run by Derek Shenton, Kaingo Camp is open from the end of May until the end of October.
Kaingo is well known for its exceptional leopard and lion sightings, as well as for its high quality photographic safaris. Kaingo’s personal style and relaxed, friendly atmosphere is matched with exceptionally abundant and accessible game-viewing from its solitary setting in the depths of the park. There are no other camps or safari vehicles in the immediate game-viewing area, and the absence of human settlement means that wildlife is able to follow its natural migrations, undisturbed by fishing or hunting by humans. A selection of exclusive hides close to camp provide rare close up birding, wildlife and photographic experiences.
Experts have dubbed South Luangwa one of the greatest wildlife sanctuaries in the world. The Luangwa River and its oxbow lagoons is the best-preserved major river system in Africa, and is the lifeblood of this 9 050km2 park, making the concentration of game among the most intense in Africa.
Seasonal highlights include a carmine bee-eater colony, fishing parties, and quelea displays, and it is not uncommon to tick off over a hundred species of birds in a few days at Kaingo. The areas surrounding the camp are incredibly rich in wildlife, and you are likely to see abundant antelope, two large lion prides, numerous leopard and impressive herds of elephant, buffalo, zebra and hippo.
The vast volume of species, including Crawshay’s zebra, the endemic Thornicroft’s giraffe and Cookson’s wildebeest, attracts many predators, and ten different leopards have been identified around the camp. As unpredictable as leopards can be, an incredible 95% of guests get to see these stunning cats. There are two very strong lion prides in the area, named the Mwamba Pride and the Hollywood pride; the latter being so named due to the vast amount of time documentary filmmakers have spent following them. The river has an extraordinarily high number of Nile crocodile and the forests here are magical.
From each thatched chalet, large fly-wired windows provide stunning views of the river, and a tree-shaded outdoor bathtub offers views of a pod of hippos. A special feature is the private deck built out over the river, perfect for viewing game coming down to drink, basking hippos, aquatic birds, crocodiles, and daily elephant crossings. The use of solar power throughout the camp means the complete absence of generator noise - only the pure natural sounds of Africa.
The Shenton influence ranges from the camp’s stylish design and practical layout to the local farm produce. A tasty 3-course dinner is served each evening in the open-sided dining/lounge area or chitenge. The large centrally located main area also includes a library, a small curio shop, and a thousand-year-old leadwood bar.
The outdoor fire pit is a favourite gathering place, and the viewing deck extends over the river, complete with a telescope for wildlife viewing. Guests may choose to miss out on one or more of the three optional daily activities and relax in camp on the sun chairs, hammocks or viewing deck, watching game on the opposite banks of the river and elephants crossing nearby.
At Kaingo you will be offered 3 separate game-viewing activities each day, which may include walking safaris, game drives, or time spent at a hide or blind (normally during midday).
Game drives and walks from Kaingo provide exciting photographic opportunities, with the action often starting just outside camp. A network of carefully planned low impact roads provides excellent coverage of this game-rich terrain. Safari guides know the area intimately and are skilled in finding leopards on game drives.
Night drives are a highlight, not only for the chance of seeing a leopard, but for the many interesting animals that are active only at night. Commonly seen are foraging hippos, honey badger, lion, genets, civets, servals, hyenas, bush-babies, porcupines and white-tailed mongoose, as well as owls, particularly the giant eagle, scops, pearl spotted and Pel’s.
‘Walking safaris’ originated in Luangwa, and are still one of the finest ways to experience this pristine wilderness. The varied terrain around camp with its waterholes and dambos is ideal walking safari country, and is the best area for finding leopards, under the watchful escort of an armed scout and guide. Guided walks also take in the picturesque Fish Eagle lagoon, the spectacular Lion Plain, and one of the largest ebony forests in the park – all photographic nirvana.
Viewing wildlife from specially designed photographic hides or blinds is one of the most satisfying bush experiences. Close to camp is an elephant hide in the treetops (great for sleep-outs) and a hippo hide in the riverbank, both of which offer great birding highlights. These experiences are exciting, safe, and allow for excellent angles for photography while remaining unobtrusive to the wildlife.