Kasanka National Park, Zambia


Bats_RPS_max1100x600This is one of the few Zambian national parks under private management and, as a result, is entirely dependent on tourists and donations. It is a valuable conservation area protecting species such as the sitatunga and many species of bird, as well as the huge flocks of straw-coloured fruit bats, which fly out at dusk during November and December.

This movement of up to 10 million of them is the greatest-known migration of mammals on earth. The bats set out at sunset (as indeed they do on Ngamba Island in Uganda) and return at dawn. So many fill the sky, it’s difficult to know which direction to look in. To read more about our bat migration safari, click here www.zambezi.com/safari/bat_migration_safari_kasanka_np

Being part of the Congo Basin, the area ecologically is in between the dryer, well-known safari destinations in eastern and southern Africa and the rainforests of central Africa. There is an enormous diversity in habitat, including rainforest, papyrus swamp, wet grassland, plains, forested rivers and miombo woodland. Puku occur in big numbers and the park has the densest and most visible population of sitatunga. Elephant, sable, hartebeest, black lechwe and a wide range of other mammals are often seen, too, in smaller numbers.

With 440 bird species spotted so far, the park is a prime bird-watching destination. Frequently observed species include the wattled crane, Pel’s fishing owl, African finfoot, Ross’s and Schalow’s turaco, Anchieta’s sunbird and Böhm’s bee-eater. Activities take place on canoe, motorboat, on foot, by vehicle or by bicycle.

The Fibwe Hide is perched 18m off the ground, in a huge red mahogany tree, so it needs agile visitors to get up to it, but once on the platform it gives a panoramic view of the Kapabi Swamps. The record sighting of sitatunga from the platform is 94. Several other tree hides are present in the bat-roosting area in the mysterious mushitu rainforest, an amazing place even when the bats are not present.

A visit to this park is highly recommended during any time of the year. Outside bat season, there are very few visitors, which makes a visit an exclusive experience. You are guaranteed to see sitatunga and several other mammal species, as well as an enormous variety of birds and other animals. Livingstone’s Grave is easily reachable from Kasanka and could also be included in a safari to this area. Similarly, visits to the amazing Bangweulu Swamps and Lavushi Manda National Park can easily be arranged.

Bangweulu is one of the biggest marsh areas of Africa and a true paradise. Kasanka Trust runs Shoebill Camp here. The rare shoebill is seen almost daily from March to August, when most of the area is flooded but less frequently the rest of the year. There are more than a hundred thousand of the endemic black lechwe and thousands of tsessebe; and zebra, oribi and buffalo graze the plains, stalked by hyena at night. Hundreds of wattled cranes and an enormous diversity of water birds can be spotted along river channels dotted with water lilies and metres-tall papyrus.

Lavushi Manda is a vast wilderness, where a dramatic 40km-long rock formation is surrounded by endless miombo woodland and wet dambo plains. Kasanka Trust recently started restoring the area and it is hoped that the depleted animal populations will soon recover. The area is ideal for bush camping and exploration on foot.


John and Trish Berry loved travelling around their native Zambezi Valley so much they started Zambezi Safari and Travel. Nearly 21 years later the company prides itself on its specialist knowledge of the region’s national parks. To read their personal advice and to find out more about Kasanka National Park, click here www.zambezi.com/location/kasanka_national_park

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