Expert Reviews – Kasanka NP

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Off the beaten track park famous for sitatunga and the astonishing bat migration
Overall rating

This remote park won’t appeal for safari-goers expecting to see loads of plains game, but will certainly tick boxes for those seeking unusual species, good birding, and peaceful undisturbed bush. I really enjoyed a two-night stay here at rustic Wasa Lodge, where there were only another couple of guests and the friendly staff from the Kasanka Trust. Dinner was taken on the deck with views over the reed beds in a mosaic of watery channels, which quite delightfully proved to be great for spotting fish eagles, hippo, puku and sitatunga; the latter being a curious semi-aquatic antelope with a hunched back and splayed hooves, which I’ve rarely seen in other parks simply because of their normal shyness. Kasanka is also famous for its straw-coloured fruit bat migration – considered one of Africa’s largest mammal migrations. The density of millions is at its highest in November and December, but on my visit in early October I saw many hundreds of thousands starting to gather. Our guide led us up a rickety step ladder to a hide in the tree canopy, from where it was a marvellous sight watching these chirping creatures sweeping from the branches and across the vast orange sky at sunset.

Home of the world’s biggest mammal migration
Overall rating

Kasanka is one of the smallest parks in Zambia and if you’re in search of big game you are in the wrong place. While some staff at reception might try to tell you otherwise, my experience tells me you almost certainly won’t see any of the Big 5 here. You will, however, see some hippos, crocodiles and a few interesting antelope species, including the very rare and notoriously shy semi-aquatic situtunga.

The birdlife is more impressive, with more than 400 species found in the park. And it’s a pretty and tranquil park too, punctuated by swamplands, lagoons, rivers and dense forests. There are just 2 lodges in the park, and 3 basic but picturesque campsites, so you certainly won’t see a lot of traffic about the place.

But Kasanka’s primary draw card is the astonishing annual fruit bat migration that occurs roughly between late October and December. Somewhere between 5 and 10 million bats visit occupy a tiny 10 hectare area of the park and at sunrise and sunset you can watch them covering the skyline from one of the park’s tree hides. This is a truly strange and wonderful experience.

I visited the park in peak bat season and even then we shared the tree hide with just one other couple and had the campsite entirely to ourselves.

Wilderness Without the Crowds
Overall rating

Tiny Kasanka is one of Zambia’s least known parks; there are just two lodges and three basic campsites here and it receives few tourists. First things first, this isn’t the place to come for big game – you won’t find lion or buffalo here. What makes it special is the chance to experience the wilderness atmosphere with hardy another human being in sight.

Kasanka is famous for its swampland, and in particular for the situtanga, a shy, semi-aquatic antelope. Gliding down the forest-shrouded Luwombwa River in a canoe, you’ll see crocodile, hippo, otters and rare blue monkeys. If you’re lucky, you may spot one of the small number of elephant.

Birders love it here. There are more than 400 species, including a diverse and visible range of water birds, and in November and December five million fruit bats visit the area, blanketing the skies. It’s the largest such gathering anywhere in the world.

When I last went to Kasanka we were the only visitors in the park and had the rustic Pontoon campsite, overlooking hippo and crocodile filled lake, completely to ourselves. A highlight was getting up early in the morning to visit Fibwe Hide. A 20 metre climb up a ladder took me to a wooden platform at the top of an old mahogany tree from where I watched the endless swamps spread out below me come slowly to life with the dawn.

Average Expert Rating

  • 3.4/5
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

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