Expert Reviews – Kasanka NP

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A Blizzard of Bats
Overall rating

Kasanka is a tiny park in northern Zambia that few people have heard about and even fewer visit. It has some lush river scenery, reasonable general game and a few elephants, as well as excellent birding, but it’s real claim to fame is bats! I also rolled my eyes when I heard this for the first time, but having been to Kasanka during late October and November when around 8 million straw-coloured fruit bats frequent the park, I can honestly say that this is a wildlife spectacle to rival the Mara-Serengeti wildebeest migration. As their numbers swell, the bats pack themselves into a tiny patch of just 10ha of swamp forest, occupying every branch on every tree. And, each dawn and dusk for six weeks, the sky is obscured by millions of bats on the wing, heading off or returning from a night of feeding on the regions prolific fruiting trees. It is an experience that cannot easily be reduced into words, but if you’ve seen the Big Five and want a wildlife experience that will quite literally blow you away, then Kasanka during bat season is the answer.

Bats galore and a laidback atmosphere
Overall rating

If I could rate this park for uniqueness, I’d give it top marks. Kasanka is not a classic safari destination – you rarely see elephants, lions or other large, charismatic animals here. But every year, in November and December, one small patch of forest within the park hosts a fascinating natural phenomenon: the temporary residence of an enormous gathering of straw-colored fruit bats, numbering several million.

Watching clouds of bats leave the colony to feed at sunset is pretty impressive, but that’s nothing compared to the thrill of climbing into a treetop hide at dawn to see them return. To do this, you have to set off from your rudimentary accommodation while it’s still dark and trudge along muddy paths, but I think it’s well worth the trouble.

Visit Kasanka at other times of the year and there will be antelopes and birds to watch, but if you have any interest in small mammals you’ll find yourself wishing you’d come during the bat season.

Average Expert Rating

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

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