Jump to content

Sth Luangwa N.P. Kaingo camp & Mwamba camp.


Geoff
 Share

Recommended Posts

It had been almost 10 years since I had been to the South Luangwa N.P. and I enjoyed my time at Kaingo and Mwamba immensely. I would not hesitate to recommend these camps to a novice or experienced safari-goer.

 

Kaingo Camp - 4 nights 23rd to 26th of September

Mwamba Bush Camp - 4 nights 27th to 30th of September

 

After a long day of air transfers from the Busanga Plains I was glad to be free of the stuffy confines of aircraft and back in the fresh air cruising along the bitumen and immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of the villages on the way to the park entrance. Once the park entry formalities were over it was then a leisurely game drive to the camp.

 

The road transfer from Mfuwe airport is long, approx’ 2 – 2.5 hours (but it felt like 5 minutes to me) and night had fallen before we were a kilometre from Kaingo camp and lucky to be watching a large male leopard with his intent firmly fixed on a mixed herd of impala and puku.

 

General Information / Overall Impression.

 

To me the surprising thing about Kaingo Camp is its permanence in an area that is renowned for camps that are dismantled at the end of the season. The chalets are made from brick with a thatched roof and slate floors. The chitenge is a great central area to relax and read or socialize with other guests and staff. A deck jutting out over the river is a nice innovation where you can while away some time watching the birdlife and game.

 

In complete contrast Mwamba is a classic bush camp, made of reed and thatch and is shaded by magnificent ebony trees. I suspect some guests would dislike the earthen floors. I found it was very hot inside the chalet during the early afternoon and I preferred to spend the short amount of ‘downtime’ in a shady spot outdoors where there was usually a cooling breeze. The night sounds add to the ambience of this camp and I distinctly remember the calls of bats, small owls and hyenas.

 

Both camps use the same game viewing area. Lion camp which is also in the vicinity uses the same game viewing area too. I also saw vehicles from Norman Carr Safaris (probably from Kakuli camp) and a couple of self-drivers at sightings. I’m not used to so many vehicles and found it annoying at first (I would struggle in Kenya) but I soon forgot about them and concentrated on the game.

 

As well as the Luangwa River frontage the game viewing area consists of Lion plain, some particularly scenic dambos such as Fish Eagle lagoon and Tsetse lagoon and a magnificent ebony grove in close proximity to Kaingo camp. An area known to the guides as ‘the shelf’ (close to lion camp) is a prime grazing area for the herbivoures and hence an attraction to the predators. I believe there are other scenic attractions such as a baobab forest but we did not visit as the number of tsetse flies increased dramatically once we headed west of Mwamba camp.

 

The Hides.

 

Mwamba’s hide is a real bonus and whether we were watching lion attempt to ambush impala & bushbuck or little bee-eaters and Lillian’s lovebirds I thoroughly enjoyed the time spent in there. It is sited an extremely short distance past the last chalet and overlooks a small waterhole in a deeper part of the riverbed. I think (do not quote me) that water is artificially provided during the dry season.

 

Lioness attempting to ambush prey at Mwamba’s waterhole.

 

The Hippo hide is without doubt one of the best places to get good images of hippos in relative safety. This hide is probably moved from year to year depending on the changing course of the river and the site is selected where large numbers of hippos congregate. It was mainly used for an hour or so from midday and although the light is not perfect for photography you can still get great images.

 

Sleepy hippo with oxpecker.

 

The Carmine bee-eater hide was a low sided tin boat with reed thatch and is positioned once a nesting colony is established. Hence it is only used from circa late August onwards through September. Guests were given the option to incorporate time in the hide with a morning game-drive.

 

Carmine Bee-eaters at the nesting colony.

 

The Elephant hide is a wooden platform in trees sited above a game trail often used by elephant. I only took a look at the hide from the ground as there was no game in view when we were there. Apparently you can arrange a sleep-out which might provide a one in a lifetime experience.

 

The Guides.

 

Alison, Retief & Mila at Kaingo. Patrick at Mwamba. All the guides were excellent but Patrick is the standout.

 

Patrick – Has been with the Shenton’s operation since he received his guiding licence. He is easy going, articulate, modest and possesses a great sense of humour. During my stay he saved a guests life when they were charged by a buffalo during a walk. The buffalo actually horned the guest’s backpack which flew metres into the air before Patrick could position himself between the guest and cantankerous buff. A very courageous action. I’m still trying to figure out what the (relief) game scout was doing.

 

Alison - Yes a woman and I believe she is an expat Brit. Alison did a lot of work in a camp hostess /manageress role and doubles as a guide as well. Although it was only for one morning I enjoyed her company in the vehicle. Her reading of spoor was excellent and at morning tea she was fussing over the guests like a mother hen. I did note that she was very wary of elephant which at times is probably not a bad thing.

 

Retief - Was our guide for most of the Kaingo game drives. He was good fun and I was particularly appreciative of his acceptance to maneuver the vehicle to allow for a better photographic perspective. His eye sight is keen and in the hippo hide he was busy pointing out the game & birdlife that we would have missed as our attention was on the hippo pod.

 

Mila – Only guided me once whilst at Kaingo. He was an amiable character. My only issue I had with Mila was his decision to stop to watch a Lilac Breasted Roller loop the loop when a two minute drive away lions were suffocating a buffalo. I was about to point out to him which was the more important sighting when the roller flew off and we continued on to the lions and their victim.

 

Watching rollers loop the loop seems to be an affliction that many guides in the Sth Luangwa have caught. I can remember similar events from another trip to S.L.N.P.

 

Game viewing - General information.

 

As would be expected during late September the game viewing was quite good. That being said there were still some quiet game drives.

 

My one gripe would be the game drive leaving time. At Kaingo both the morning and afternoon drives could have easily started ½ an hour earlier but when the guests requested this to be done the staff was very reluctant to do so even though the guests were quite happy to return ½ hour earlier.

Yet when we requested this at Mwamba they immediately agreed.

 

The game viewing area is rich in herbivores and there are large numbers of impala, bushbuck, puku and kudu amongst the combetrum thickets along the river or standing in the shade of the magnificent Sausage trees.

 

Zebra were also seen on Lion Plain and grazing on ‘the shelf’ amongst mixed herds of antelope. Other species seen were waterbuck and a herd of +/- 40 Cookson’s wildebeest.

 

Giraffe were present and often seen in the vicinity of Fish Eagle lagoon.

 

Nice sized breeding herds of elephant were also on Lion Plain and coming to the river to drink. Smaller family groups came into camp at Mwamba and one elephant kept the guests in Kaingo’s chalet #4 from venturing out before being rescued by one of the guides.

 

Elephant at Tsetse lagoon.

 

We also had two memorable encounters when we turned the engine off and let them come to us. We then spent minutes surrounded by elephant which is always exhilarating.

 

Buffalo. There was a large herd of +/- 300 in number moving between the river and Lion plain.

I noticed this herd had many stragglers in poor condition which was probably due to the lateness of the dry season.

 

Small groups of dagga boys (or kakulis as they are called there) were about too. Lion were knocking off the kakuli on a regular basis. We saw one kakuli in a mud wallow and he struggled to his feet upon our approach. He had been severely mauled by lions and his condition was horrific.

 

Predators.

 

Lion.

 

Needless to say with so much food there is a healthy lion population. We saw lion on every day except for one. We often saw a pride of 11 members which I was told was a splinter group of the once huge Mwamba pride which split when it had grown to about 40 members.

 

We were fortunate to see these lion on 2 buffalo carcasses within 3 days.

 

These lions had also developed a fondness for the hippo hide and the hide’s roof required repairs a number of times after the wayward cats began falling through the roof. They also started leaving smelly deposits behind.

 

Other groups of lion seen were;

 

A pride of 4 (3 lioness and a male) who had killed a young hippo on the opposite side of the river.

 

Two lioness seen at Mwamba’s waterhole.

 

Three young males known as the Mwamba boys accompanied by a lioness. The lioness had swum the river to mate with them.

 

Another pride of 12 north of Lion camp which I was told was the Hollywood pride which had sneaked back into the area after being kicked out by the Mwamba pride earlier in the year.

 

 

Lioness stares from behind a buffalo carcass.

 

 

Lionesses greeting at a kill.

 

 

Leopard

 

I saw 3 different leopards in the eight days spent at Kaingo/Mwamba.

 

A magnificent male was only seen once and unfortunately this was a night sighting south of Kaingo camp.

 

A female with a male cub were also seen. Although you can get close to this leopard she had recently lost a female cub and was not happy with our presence. Leopards are the masters of concealment and do not like being spotted. When this female realized we had located her deep inside a combetrum thicket she gave an amazing display of aggression. Immediately she growled, snarled and spat at us. We had at least six sightings of her but on all occasions we left her be after a short period.

 

Leopardess with her male cub.

 

Highlights

 

The Mwamba pride on two buffalo kills within 3 days.

 

When we arrived at the first kill the buffalo was still alive and being suffocated by one of the sub adult males whilst other members of the pride had opened up the rear end. The bellowing of the dying buffalo would not be for the squeamish but I’m always in awe at those moments.

 

At the second kill a large male lion came close to the vehicle. Peter L. was in the front seat next to the guide and the lion was close enough that Peter could have reached out and patted him. Though if he had tried I suspect he would be missing an arm now. I had the 1st bench seat behind them to myself. Although the lion was closer to Peter he fixed his gaze on me. He then started scuffing the ground with his back paws whilst urinating. An obvious dominance display and I was not going to argue with him.

 

Lowlights.

 

Hearing a gunshot when having a morning cuppa near Deb’s Tree not far from Lion Camp.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest John Milbank

Thanks Geoff. Comprehensive but concise report...and some wonderful photos.

 

I can probably add that a visit to the baobab forest would be worthwhile (from a landscape photographer's point of view) if you could be guaranteed of good light. We went there one afternoon but were disappointed...the light was terrible. The afternoon was salvaged-- it's a fairly long and potentially very tedious drive-- by the sighting of leopard spoor on the return trip. Drag marks led us to a kill in the bushes, and we returned there after sundowners to see the leopard feeding.

 

Your report of the gunshot is interesting. A couple of years ago, after a poster who'd just been to SLNP reported on F-troop hearing gunshots from GMAs bordering the park, I said I would want a guarantee that I wouldn't hear any such thing before choosing to go to a place. A bit foolish, I guess. But I did investigate fairly thoroughly and decided to go to Kaingo/Mwamba after determining that I would be extremely unlikely to hear (hunters') gunshots there. The shot you heard may not have had anything to do with hunting...but if you'd gone before me and reported it, I probably would have had second thoughts about my choice of destination. The thought of habituated animals such as lions being hunted when they cross the park boundary into GMAs is particularly disturbing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Your report of the gunshot is interesting.

 

We heard the gunshot whilst having morning tea at Deb's Tree. I looked at Patrick and he said " Yes. That was a gunshot."

 

Interestingly, there was speculation that there was a lack of sexually mature male lions on the Tafika side of the river and that was the reason lionesses were swimming the Luangwa looking for males to mate with.

 

So much for game management!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for the report, I enjoyed it very much especially having the photos with it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nice report, thanks. I have not been to Kaingo, Mwamba, or Lion Camp, but spent a full day's game drive in that area while staying further south in SLNP. Also saw the 11-member splinter group from the Mwamba pride, including making an Impala kill (not much to go around for 11!). I remember driving through some really fabulous looking Leopard territory but, unfortunately, failing to see any Leopards... It is an area that I would like to return to.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Your report of the gunshot is interesting. A couple of years ago, after a poster who'd just been to SLNP reported on F-troop hearing gunshots from GMAs bordering the park...
I heard several gunshots during my last trip, but that was very close to the GMA in Nsefu Sector. But at Kaingo/Mwamba? I'm a little bit surprised too. Where exactly is Deb's Tree?

 

I also saw vehicles from Norman Carr Safaris (probably from Kakuli camp)...
Kakuli game drives usually don't go further north than Mwamba River. Mchenja shares the Lion Plain area with Shenton and Lion Camp.

 

Btw, I was quite surprised when seeing a Kakuli vehicle for sundowner in Nsefu Sector. My RPS guide told me that there're no restrictions. Good to know for next time.

 

Patrick could position himself between the guest and cantankerous buff. A very courageous action. I’m still trying to figure out what the (relief) game scout was doing.
Maybe he tried to remember the lessons from guiding school? ;)

I never feel very comfortable when looking at the rifles these guys have... you can't stop a buffalo with these.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What is the yearly hunting quota in the GMA for Lion? just curious.......

 

Geoff,

 

Some nice pics you have here...... thanks!!!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What is the yearly hunting quota in the GMA for Lion? just curious.......
I don't know, Hari. But I recently read that ZAWA has reduced Lion hunting quotas in several concessions for 2009.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Where exactly is Deb's Tree?

 

Nyama,

 

From memory it is North West of Lion Camp. Maybe a few kilometres from the camp. I could see the camp in the distance.

 

The tree stands on top of the ridge overlooking the area Patrick was calling 'the shelf'.

 

Apparently the sausage tree gets its name from a female guide who was nailed by one of the fruits... right on top of her head. You can imagine how much that would hurt.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks, Nyama. Good plan!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

From memory it is North West of Lion Camp. Maybe a few kilometres from the camp. I could see the camp in the distance.

The tree stands on top of the ridge overlooking the area Patrick was calling 'the shelf'.

Apparently the sausage tree gets its name from a female guide who was nailed by one of the fruits... right on top of her head. You can imagine how much that would hurt.

This could be a place where the GMA reaches the Luangwa again. Would be an explanation...

 

Debs is guiding the RPS bush camping in Nsefu. The sausage only hit her on the arm, but this was already more than enough. Camp fire stories...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

From memory it is North West of Lion Camp. Maybe a few kilometres from the camp. I could see the camp in the distance.

The tree stands on top of the ridge overlooking the area Patrick was calling 'the shelf'.

Apparently the sausage tree gets its name from a female guide who was nailed by one of the fruits... right on top of her head. You can imagine how much that would hurt.

This could be a place where the GMA reaches the Luangwa again. Would be an explanation...

 

Debs is guiding the RPS bush camping in Nsefu. The sausage only hit her on the arm, but this was already more than enough. Camp fire stories...

 

When I get some time I will try and find the tree and give you the coordinates.

 

Yeah. That's her. Amazing how these stories get embellishments.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Geoff,

 

Some nice pics you have here...... thanks!!!

 

Thanks Hari.

 

When I have time I will add images to the Linyanti & Busanga trip report posts.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks, Geoff.

 

I really enjoyed flicking through those images and your overall impression.

 

There is certainly a distinct lack of mature males on the Tafika side, considering how many hunting quotas are used as political tools. Such is life.......

 

Sounds like a good trip.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 10 months later...

Thanks for the interesting report and photos Geoff.

I was in Kaingo in August 2007 and heard a loud shot when walking from Kaingo to Mwamba.Derek Shenton said it was from some poacher's muzzle loader.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

Safaritalk uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By using Safaritalk you agree to our use of cookies. If you wish to refuse the setting of cookies you can change settings on your browser to clear and block cookies. However, by doing so, Safaritalk may not work properly and you may not be able to access all areas. If you are happy to accept cookies and haven't adjusted browser settings to refuse cookies, Safaritalk will issue cookies when you log on to our site. Please also take a moment to read the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy: Terms of Use l Privacy Policy