A safari to see the Kasanka bat migration in Zambia

The largest aggregation of mammals on the planet - a phenomenal annual wildlife spectacle in a pretty little-visited park with plenty to see and do

This spectacle knocks the socks off the wildebeest migration in terms of sheer numbers.  Probably a tad tricky to count, it is estimated that 5 to 10 million straw-coloured fruit bats converge on this remote Park in northern Zambia during November and December.  Their spectacular aerial displays against the setting sun as they head out to forage can be seen for miles. Wave upon wave of groups of these giant bats, flying up to 100-200m above the ground and travel as far as 59 kilometers from the roost in one night. During the day, you can wander amongst the trees and see the bats chattering, grooming and resting up.

For photographers and nature-enthusiasts, this is a real David Attenborough moment. Kasanka National Park has an impressive range of habitat within a relatively small size: swamp, river, plain, termitaria, wet and dry woodland and as such offers some of the finest birding in Africa and is probably the best place to observe the swamp-specialist Sitatunga Antelope. There may be the opportunity to walk (with an armed ranger), canoe (depending on water levels) or get out in a boat as well as game-drive and night-drive. While not particularly a "big five" National Park (elephant occur and are regularly seen, buffalo and leopard occur and are seldom seen, lion and rhino are locally extinct - for now) there is a good range of game to be seen and it is only about 90 minutes away from the Luangwa Valley by light aircaft - and the Bangweulu Swamps, where the dodo-like Shoebill Stork can be found, is only 20 minutes away by plane (or half a day by car - the roads are not up to much...).

While the fact that this area of Zambia is little visited is a good enough reason for some, it does mean that there are relatively few choices for accommodation and operators in the area. The annual bat-migration is probably the only time of year that this pretty little park is anything like busy and the fact that it occurs at the on-set of the rains, just as some of of Zambia's other notable attractions (particularly walking safaris) are closing-up for the season make this spectacle a more esoteric choice than it would be if it happened at another time of year - but that is not to say that it is not worth pursuing.

Posted by: Rod Tether

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