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Kaingu Safari Lodge - Kafue NP

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Soukous

Kaingu Safari Lodge – Kafue NP

 

(Note: the photos with a black border are mine. The ones without a border are from the Kaingu Safari Lodge website, probably taken by @@KaingU Lodge .)

 

It has been almost 20 years since I last visited Zambia. There is no particular reason why it has taken me so long to get back there but a return visit was certainly overdue.

Even so, this trip came about due to a combination of circumstances: I was visiting Hwange NP in Zimbabwe; I had planned to continue to Mana Pools but, because I'd left it pretty late, I could not find space; and I was flying Kenya Airways, which routed me into Livingstone rather than Victoria Falls.

 

Why is it that when I spend so much time making sure other people's travel arrangements are meticulously organised that my own are always last minute?

 

The opportunity to visit Kafue NP was too good to miss, particularly as for some time I had wanted to get to Kaingu Safari Lodge. I'd heard so many good things about it and wanted to see for myself.

I got in touch and was delighted when Lynda replied to say that they would have space for me.

 

I flew up from Livingstone to Lusaka where I was met and transferred to Pioneer Lodge.

The transfer took about 25 minutes as Pioneer is on the same side of Lusaka as the airport.

I arrived at Pioneer after dark and left again the following morning when it was barely light so my first impressions were of little more than the bar – which was welcoming. I'd be staying at Pioneer Lodge again before flying out of Lusaka so I'd get the chance to see it properly then.

 

Kaingu SL had arranged for me to be collected from Pioneer and transferred by road to the Lodge in Kafue.

The two topics of conversation at the bar the previous night had been of the power shedding which was plunging the country into darkness for 8 hours each day and the dreadful Lusaka traffic and how avoiding it necessitated setting out before 6am.

My pick-up was scheduled for 7am and as that time came and went with no sign of my driver I knew that the traffic was the most likely culprit.

Sure enough Stephen arrived at 7:25 and apologised for being delayed by the traffic.

 

Despite Stephen's best efforts at finding alternative routes around the congestion it took us almost 1.5 hours to get across Lusaka. There is no proper ring road and to cross from one side of the city to the other means driving through the CBD and the heart of the industrial area. Monday morning was not the smartest time to be doing this.

 

Stephen was a wonderful travelling companion, intelligent and articulate, and even though the journey took over 5 hours it was never boring.

 

Once we entered the National Park I was on high alert for wildlife but the drive in was surprisingly quiet. From the main road to the 'car park' where I would transfer across the river to Kaingu Lodge took just over an hour and apart from a few puku we saw no animals at all.

I really hoped that this was no a sign of things to come. Kafue is a huge park and the animals have abundant water throughout the year so there are not the concentrations of animals found in parks like Hwange and Chobe.

 

As I looked at the green all around me I couldn't help think how much those animals in drought stricken Hwange would love to be here.

 

I was met at the 'car park' by John D who was to be my guide for the next few days.

 

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He led me down to the river for the short boat ride to camp.

 

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As John D navigated us around the rocks and through the narrow channels I was taking in the gorgeous views. I knew what I'd be doing this afternoon. After a whole morning in Stephen's Land Cruiser I would be spending this afternoon out on the river.

 

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Hosts Lynda and Rick were waiting at the jetty to meet us and after some form filling I was shown to my chalet overlooking the river. Wow!

 

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Lunch was taken on the deck. Another Wow!

 

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Kaingu Safari Lodge

 

Kaingu can accommodate 16 people.

Set on raised individual private wooden decks, each overlooking the Kafue River, KaingU Safari Lodge comprises 6 double Meru-style tents with en-suite bathrooms, indoor showers and an open-air shower. The “Honeymoon-tent” has an additional outside bath. Every tent is additionally roofed with thatch to provide additional cooling and further blend into nature.

 

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Our Finfoot family house consists of 2 bedrooms (one queen, one twin), 2 en-suite bathrooms plus outside shower and a central living area opening onto a private deck overlooking the river. It’s a perfect spot for a couple with children, or a small group of friends.

 

In addition to the chalets Kaingu also caters for self drivers with 3 lovely camping sites beside the river.

 

Separate to the lodge but within walking distance are three beautifully appointed grassy campsites by the rapids.

 

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Each site has its own ablution block with cold and hot running water, a kitchen sink, fire pits for cooking and a thatched sheltered area which provides protection against sun and rain.

 

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Before departing for my afternoon activity I also got to meet Gil (Safaritalk's own @@KaingU Lodge ) and his partner Julia. Sadly I didn't see very much of Gil during my stay as he was constantly on the move. Very remiss of me, but I didn't even get a photo.

 

As John D and I set out on our afternoon boat safari I was still marvelling at the greenery all around me.

 

I'm not an avid birder, but I love boats and rivers and I really relish the challenge photographing birds presents.

I was not disappointed with what we saw, only my inability to do it justice.

 

The stretch of river upstream from Kaingu Safari Lodge can only be described as stunning.

 

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Although in other places the Kafue is just a wide African river, around Kaingu rocks and small islands make for much more interesting scenery and also provide habitats for a wide variety of bird and animal life.

 

white breasted cormorant

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African darter

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Egyptian goose

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African jacana

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African Openbill (Open Billed Stork)

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Pied kingfisher

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Puku

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Red necked spurfowl

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African wattled lapwing

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White fronted bee eater

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Water thick knee

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Edited by Soukous

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Caracal

Loving the start of this report @Soukous - agree with the "stunning" and "wows" re the river and Kaingu - and much looking forward to your further report and finding out how the wildlife sightings are faring this year particularly on the loops off the spinal road.

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Soukous

With 2 full days of game viewing to look forward to at Kaingu, Lynda was keen to make sure I made the most of my visit and outlined to me the various options available.

 

There are 2 main game drive circuits, or loops, accessible from Kaingu; the Pools Loop and the Shashamba Loop.

 

In addition to the game drives, Kaingu offers walking, boat safaris and canoeing.

As I was particularly keen to see Sable and Roan Antelope, I decided that I would try the Pools Loop, which was a bit closer to the camp.

 

Before beginning our game drive proper, however, there was one stop I needed to make.

 

Parrot Hide

John D had observed a large flock of Meyer's Parrots making a daily visit to a small waterhole and Gil had constructed a small hide where guests could sit and watch.

 

We set off early, so that we had time to reach the hide and conceal the game vehicle before the parrots made their entrance.

We had not been in the hide for long before we started to hear the sounds of the Meyer's parrots in the trees above us. For about 20 minutes they flew back and forth, checking out the puddle to make sure the coast was clear. Occasionally one would land and we would hope that this was a sign for the rest to follow but it wasn't, and these lone birds flew off again.

Gradually the forward parties grew in numbers until finally they decided it was safe to land and drink. Even then, they would drink for a few seconds and then something would spook them and they'd all fly up into the trees.

 

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This went on for about half an hour until we noticed that the numbers dwindling and then they were gone.

 

When John D had first spotted these parrots the pool had been a lot larger and around 200 parrots congregated every morning. The pool had shrunk considerably since then and today we counted almost 60 parrots.

In amongst the Meyer's parrots were 3 Grey Headed Parrots and a couple of Green pigeons.

 

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John told me that the parrots were actually eating the mud at the edge of the pool – it must contain some nutrient or mineral that they liked.

 

It was a great start to the day. The only slight negative was that – almost as if they knew I was sitting in the hide trying to take photographs – the parrots congregated at the far side of the puddle, behind a large rock.

 

In search of Antelope

 

Our morning drive was lovely, with decent sightings of Lichtenstein's Hartebeest and Greater Kudu as well as some young Sable bulls.

 

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But one of the coolest sightings of the morning was a slender mongoose on a dead tree quite close to the car.

 

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As the heat started to build up so did the number of Tsetse flies. To combat this, John D collected dry elephant dung which he burned in a specially designed container on the back of the game vehicle. Very effective indeed.

 

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Encouraged by what we'd seen this morning, I decided that I would come back out and drive the same circuit this afternoon, in the hope of catching antelope moving to and from the river.

 

One of the great things about Kaingu Safari Lodge is that even when the game drive is finished, there is still the boat ride back to camp and another opportunity to photograph the aquatic birds.

 

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and some that are not aquatic

 

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After the vast numbers of elephants I'd seen in Hwange I was still adjusting to how different Kafue was. Here there was abundant food and water but we saw very few elephants.

 

The bird life continued to delight me though

 

Little Bee Eater

 

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The highlight of our afternoon drive was the sighting of a herd of Sable antelope, sadly not very close and not in the mood to pose for photos.

 

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Then, when the light was almost gone we spotted a lone sable bull, the first one we had seen that was actually black.

 

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Once again he was a bit camera shy and kept his distance. I had to crank up the ISO to 5000 and hope that I could hold the camera steady enough. The resulting image is a bit noisy and is cropped down to about 25% of the original frame.

 

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By the time we got to the river the sun had well and truly set and it was dark. We set out for camp with John using his torch to spot hippo lurking in the water.

I'm not a nervous person and have no problem being in a boat or canoe with hippo around me. But I found trying to avoid hippo in the dark much more scary than any lion encounter.

I was very relieved when we were safely past them.

 

AND, we saw a Pels Fishing Owl. It had been sitting/standing by the riverside and took off as we approached. I only saw it from the rear but it was the first time I've seen one in flight and they have a very impressive wingspan.

Edited by Soukous

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KaingU Lodge

I should point out that after dark boating is something we don't usually do.... But JohnD had the bit between his teeth as I had told him this would all end up on ST!!!

 

He likes his picture BTW Martin.

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Soukous

No worries. I am sure we'd have been back in camp much earlier if I hadn't kept making him stop for photos. :rolleyes:

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Marks

I'm not an avid birder, but I love boats and rivers and I really relish the challenge photographing birds presents.

I was not disappointed with what we saw, only my inability to do it justice.

 

Not only have you done the birds justice, you've really showcased their beauty and variety - love the bee-eaters.

 

I believe this is my first exposure to this area and lodge - everything looks stunning.

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Zaikolover

You do justice to the marvellous wildlife of the area.It tells me that the next time I visit Kaingu I need a bigger lens on my camera. Stunning pictures of one of Africa's most beautiful places.

 

Cheers

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Soukous

You do justice to the marvellous wildlife of the area.It tells me that the next time I visit Kaingu I need a bigger lens on my camera. Stunning pictures of one of Africa's most beautiful places.

 

Cheers

 

@@Zaikolover yes, you'll need a long lens. Some of the bird photos are seriously cropped. The Little Bee Eater shots, for example, are about 20% of the original frame.

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xelas

@@Soukous

 

Nice to read about one of more affordable lodges in that part of Africa. Great photography; what was the lens you have used on Bee-eaters?

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Soukous

@@Soukous

 

Nice to read about one of more affordable lodges in that part of Africa. Great photography; what was the lens you have used on Bee-eaters?

 

@@xelas

300mm lens plus a 1.4x tele converter (taking it to 420mm)

and significant cropping.

 

I have tried longer lenses but they are heavy and not as easy to hold steady in a game vehicle. I prefer to use a lens I can hold firm and then crop. Of course I'd like it even better if I could get closer.

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Peter de Vere Moss

Superb photographs - a wonderful reflection of what Kafue National Park is all about! M/tks

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TonyQ

@@Soukous

Great photos - Kafue looks beautiful

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xelas

@@Soukous

 

Still both photos have retained its clarity and (good enough) sharpness; at long distances primes always wins over zooms! What is the camera body?

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Soukous

@@Soukous

 

Still both photos have retained its clarity and (good enough) sharpness; at long distances primes always wins over zooms! What is the camera body?

@@xelas Nikon D7100

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Soukous

Sitting on the deck that night we heard a crashing in the bushes on the opposite river bank.

By torch light we watched as a young bull elephant crashed his way through the trees to the river's edge. He drank a while then retreated back into the trees.

 

John D told me, “We won't have to start so early tomorrow. We had to start early today because of the parrots.”

 

Any thoughts of a lie-in were soon dispelled though. “5:30 wake up, we'll leave at 6”

Oh goody, an extra half hour in bed.

 

The Shashamba Loop

Today we were going to venture a bit further from camp and spend a full day exploring the Shashamba Loop.

 

We had barely started our dive when John D noticed fresh lion tracks on the road. We turned around and followed them for a while but didn't find the cat that made them. During our search we saw leopard and serval spoor as well but we didn't see them either.

A short while further up the road John pointed out the spot where the lion had lain on the road earlier that morning.

 

Any disappointment I might have felt at not seeing the lion was short lived when John pointed out a Racket Tailed Roller bobbing in a tree by the roadside. I grabbed a quick photo but the light was poor. I've not seen many Racket Tailed Rollers and was keen to get a decent photo of one.

A few minutes later I saw a flash of blue on our left and shouted for John to stop and reverse. There was another Racket Tailed Roller - it may even have been the same bird – sitting in a tree close to the road, and this time the light was much better. It stayed there just long enough for me to grab a shot. What a beautiful bird!

 

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Like any park which has plenty of water, Kafue is home to a lot of African Fish Eagles. With their distinctive plumage and preference for perches on the outside of the foliage, rather than hidden within it, they are not hard to spot. The problem is that they are almost always perched high in a tree or on the far side of the river.

I got lucky this morning and saw one much lower and closer.

 

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I was probably quite an unusual guest for John D to guide in Kafue. I wasn't really fussed about seeing elephants as I'd just come from Hwange where I'd seen squillions of them. I also wasn't too bothered about seeing lions either. What I was after were the animals that I would not see elsewhere; primarily Sable and Roan.

Of course if a pack of painted dogs strolled out of the trees I would wet myself but what I was really enjoying in Kafue was the bird life.

As I said to John, if you can hear me taking photographs then you know I'm happy.

 

We did see lions though.

A pair of good looking males relaxing after a heavy meal.

 

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They didn't do much: rolled over, got up and had a drink, moved to a different piece of shade.

They were not very interested in us and because all they wanted to do was sleep we didn't hang around for long.

 

The birds were terrific though. We saw kingfishers,

 

Brown Hooded Kingfisher

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bee eaters (lots of Bohm's Bee Eaters but never close enough to capture),

 

eagles,

 

Martial Eagle

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African Crowned Eagle

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cropped so you can see what it is

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vultures

 

Lappet Faced Vulture

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Hooded Vulture

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what I think is a Marsh Sandpiper - I am sure that @@inyathi will set me straight

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a Marabou Stork

 

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and wattled cranes

This was a lovely sighting

 

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We didn't see any Sable or Roan, but we did see lots of Puku.

 

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and a neat little Slender Mongoose

 

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Plant Life

The midday heat drove most of the animals in search of shade so we started looking at the plant life.

 

The bright yellow of the Long Pods Cassias really stood out. (some books call it Sena abbreviata, others Cassia abbreviata)

 

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as did the morning glories (ipomea carnea) poking their heads up in search of sunlight.

 

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Where they appeared on bare ground the flowers clung close to the soil but where they were growing in long grass the flowers were on stalks to raise them up above the grass.

 

And then there was the Saphrotex forest.

 

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Although they look like ground hugging plants the saphrotex is actually more like an underground tree. In areas where there are frequent fires or where elephants munch away the growth, these trees do their growing underground, showing just a small amount of green foliage above ground.

 

After a fabulous morning, the afternoon was not so productive.

We drove the relatively new Forest Loop which instead of being cut in the more productive area close to the river, was cut some distance from the river; not touching it at any point. We didn't see much and so I suggested to John that we cut short the drive and took to the river for an hour or so before sunset instead.

 

John D

If I haven't made it plain enough yet, John D is a wonderful guide: knowledgeable, authoritative and great company too. He's someone who has great confidence in his own abilities but someone who doesn't pretend to know it all.

His knowledge of birds was terrific but on one or two occasions, when the bird was quite distant and his identification was less than 100% certain, I would take a photograph and compare it with the bird guide. Then we'd go through the ID points together until we both agreed on what we'd seen. It was a great learning experience for me.

 

Traffic control

My respect for John increased even more as we drove back towards the river and he did something I've never witnessed before.

We were pootling along when a vehicle appeared coming in the other direction. It was travelling at high speed and dragging behind it a massive cloud of dust.

John slowed down and parked his vehicle diagonally across the road, forcing the other car to come to a halt. As soon as they had stopped, he started moving slowly past them, saying thank you as we passed.

 

Obviously a group of self drivers had just packed up at one of the camping areas because we encountered 3 more of these high speed dust generators, all sealed up inside their air-conditioned cabins. Each time John did the same thing.

It was marvellous lesson in road manners.

 

The decision to take to the water was the right one. The river upstream from Kaingu Lodge is just stunning (I probably said that already) and made for a very relaxing end to the day.

 

We had an unusual sighting of a Bateleur picking at a catfish

 

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and I got my first sighting of a Finfoot.

It was swimming across in front of us and John told me it would start running on the water. I had my camera poised to capture the moment but the Finfoot showed such an incredible turn of speed that I was completely unprepared.

 

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Apparently they don't like to fly and will sprint across the water instead.

Next time I'll get it right.

Edited by Soukous

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offshorebirder

Wow @@Soukous - Pel's Fishing-Owl, African Finfoot and a Crowned Eagle your first two days? Kaingu Lodge sounds like a birder's paradise.

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Peter de Vere Moss

More superb photographs - what a wonderful advertisement for Kafue National Park and Kaingu Lodge! Thank you :mellow:

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Zaikolover

How are you finding the superb hospitality of your hosts? What do you think of the quite diverse diet? Thanks again for the photographs,my wife loves them.

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Marks

Amazing bird photos, especially the various eagles.

Also really like the lion with the leaf over its eye.

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KaingU Lodge

Great stuff Martin - superb photography. Really great. Thanks you also for the words about JohnD (in a strange case of coincidence he was the first guide ever to guide Julia and myself when we first came to Zambia as tourists...)

 

Lodge photography thoughts....

Most of the actual lodge photography on our site was done by a friend and pro photographer. I think from the shots you posted from our site one is mine. Although I am a photography nut, I know that there is a huge difference between doing it for a living day, being trained in the discipline like yourself or doing it as a hobby...

 

Martin has posted pictures of John, so here is Julia and myself (with visiting family)

 

Left to right: JohnD, Julia, My brother in law and nephew, myself and then my sister.

 

Kaingu1-1024x683.jpg

Edited by KaingU Lodge

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KaingU Lodge

And then here are Rick and Lynda our business partners:

(Lynda has completely forbidden me to post the picture I took 10 seconds later.......... ;) )

 

 

RL-1024x683.jpg

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xelas

After our last trip to KTP I am impressed by the cropping ability of D7100 if teamed with a prime long lens. So much I have bought a TC-E 17II for next trip.

 

@@KaingU Lodge

Someone get wet?!

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Marks

 

(Lynda has completely forbidden me to post the picture I took 10 seconds later.......... ;) )

 

That's quite a tease, haha.

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Soukous

 

 

(Lynda has completely forbidden me to post the picture I took 10 seconds later.......... ;) )

 

That's quite a tease, haha.

 

 

Oh go on.. does Lynda ever look at Safaritalk?

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Earthian

After our last trip to KTP I am impressed by the cropping ability of D7100 if teamed with a prime long lens. So much I have bought a TC-E 17II for next trip.

 

@@KaingU Lodge

Someone get wet?!

@@xelas

Could you share which prime lens you use the TC1.7 II with? and are you happy with the results?

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