Kasanka National Park

The staggering 10 million straw-coloured fruit bats, each with a two-and–a-half-foot wingspan, that congregate in Kasanka's Fibwe Forest every year are thought to constitute the largest mammal migration on earth and are what Kasanka is best known for, but there is a huge amount besides the bats.

At only 400 square kilometres Kasanka is a tiny park by Zambian standards but is extraordinary in its diversity. It never has, and probably never will be, on any mainstream safari-circuit but for anyone seeking out the unusual it is a wonderful place to go. Lakes, rivers, marsh, plain, wet and dry woodland are all here and within each ecosystem a different group of animals filling the niche.

Predators are particularly thin on the ground so walking is uncommonly relaxed, although the presence of elephant, hippo and buffalo means that it is not necessarily entirely adrenalin-free. Sable, Roan, Oribi and Blue Monkey are among some of the other 114 mammal species that you could encounter.

Sitatunga, a swamp dwelling antelope that is famously hard to see are uncommonly obliging here and you will be near-guaranteed a sighting assuming you are prepared to defy vertigo and climb 60 feet up a rickety wooden ladder to a viewing platform overlooking a papyrus marsh. This being just one of the unconventional game-viewing methods in this altogether unconventional park. Run by The Kasanka Trust a non-profit organisation there is a pleasing amateurishness to the tourism facilities, everything works – just, but there is no absolutely danger of running in to an infinity pool or bumping in to a butler here.

Fairly well known within the birding fraternity (and yes it is largely male) for its ridiculously long bird list which currently stands 477 species (that is the 3rd longest in the country only behind the Kafue NP and South Luangwa and longer than several areas ten-times its size) and the realistic chance to see some of the regional specials while comfortably cruising to a daily total of over 200 – you do not need to be a twitcher to enjoy some of the prizes on offer here, notably Pel's Fishing Owl, African Finfoot, Böhm's Bee-eater as well as a myriad of other colourful feathered critters.

Kasanka can be visited at any time of year, getting out and and about is more limited in the wet season and it is understandably busiest in the bat season (mid October to the end of December). At most other times it has the feeling of a private estate to be explored on foot, by vehicle and in a boat. The trip down the Luwombwa River (a headwater of the Congo) should not be missed and is unlike anything else anywhere else.

As with anywhere off-piste it can be quite expensive in either time or cash to get to but Kasanka combines particularly well with the Bangweulu Swamps and is not as far from Lusaka or the South Luangwa by light-aircraft charter than it may first appear.

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