66 km in park
5 873 km trip to date
We arrived at Kasanka during midday and found it to be a true wilderness park. Miombo forest with lots of marsh areas and lakes.
The campsite (Pontoon 3) is beautiful under huge shade trees and palms with a view to the marsh with reeds from the reed shelter. The area had some rains and one could smell the forest.
The ablutions have no hot water, but there are flush toilets and a tap and we have three camp attendants assigned to us. They bring the hot water on request and fill the drums at roof level for the gravity-fed showers. The toilet water is also from a drum at roof level filled manually. They also make the campfire on request with wood supplied by the camp.
The park is not known for large quantities of wildlife, but for the millions of fruit bats visiting from the Congo and other areas between middle October and middle December every year.
Wildlife we saw:
Sitatunga – a few in the marshes
Puku – plenty
Warthog – plenty
Vervet Monkey – large group
Hippo – in the marshes
Kinda Baboon – a smaller subspecies of the Yellow Baboon – they slept in the high mahogany trees around our campsite
Blue Monkey – a very shy monkey grouped with the rare monkeys such as Samango, which we only saw from the BBC hide where they were moving in the treetops
Large birds we saw:
Pel’s Fishing Owl
The bat migration of Kasanka is beyond description!
It is an experience of a lifetime not to be missed!
Bats in your yard will not excite you, but the Kasanka bat population of 12 million will leave you speechless!
These are straw-coloured fruit bats with a wing span of up to 70 cm.
“It is believed to be the highest density of mammalian biomass on the planet, as well as the greatest known mammal migration. The arrival of the bats normally coincides with the start of the first rains and the ripening of many local fruit and berry species such as the masuku (wild loquat) and waterberry, on which the bats feed. It is estimated that 330,000 tonnes of fruits are consumed by the bats during the three months.
The origin of the various colonies that make up this ‘mega-colony’ has never been fully established, however it is known that bats travel from other parts of Africa including Congo. Studies indicate that the abundance of fruits during the season are the major reason for the migration. The bats arrival starts gradually during the first week of October, numbers peak in November and early December. Numbers start to decrease around the second week of December.
The high concentration of bats attracts an incredibly variety of predators and scavengers to the bat forest. Martial eagles, pythons, fish eagles, lesser-spotted and African hawk-eagles, kites, vultures and hobby falcons are amongst the raptors that concentrate on the roost for easy pickings, whereas leopard, water monitors and crocodiles make off with those bats unfortunate enough to drop to the forest floor.”
The bat forest is towards the south of the park and has a couple of hides and public look-out points. To visit the private hides, one has to pay USD20 per person per visit, and is accompanied by a guide. A pick-up from the campsite can be arranged at an additional fee of USD15 per person per visit. They collect the visitors at 04h00 in the morning and at 17h00 in the afternoon. At sunrise all the bats have already gone back to the trees, so we had to be there at least an hour before sunrise.
The public look-out points are open spaces on the ground behind the trees, and you cannot see where the bats come from. One can only see the bats when they are already starting to fly above in all directions. The paid private hides are within the forest and high above the tree canopy where one can see how and where the bats come from and to the center of the forest. Someone recommended that we budget for the hides and we can only confirm that it is absolutely worth the fee.
We went to the BBC hide on the first night after 17h00 to view the bats going out to forage for the night. The BBC hide is 13 meters high (more than 4 storeys) above the tree canopy with a view over the center of the forest towards the west (good afternoon light against the sky). The bats rest in a very small area of less than one hectare of marsh fig trees (not very high but very dense). At first one only sees the black clusters hanging on the trees in the middle where the trees are less dense. Then they start to move around, but go back as it is not dark enough. More and more of them start to disturb the others with their movement, and the milling around becomes more and more. Later, when there is less light in the sky, they start to fly higher, but still in large circles. After approx 30 minutes of flying around they start to go out in all directions. The sky above is filled with flying bats. The last count according to the guide was 12 million of them. We asked them how they count the bats – a group of researchers take photos within specific time frames and within a grid across the sky, and they count what is on the photos and estimate the total according to the grid and time portions captured.
There is a constant stream of bats coming out from the center of this bat forest climbing into the sky and moving off in all directions. Indescribable. This is continuing for another more than 30 minutes. One can understand that there actually are 12 million bats if you see the sheer quantity of bats in the sky 360 degrees around.
Photos and videos cannot capture this phenomena as it can capture only a tiny frame at a time while all around there is so much movement and noises from the bats.
Bats going out during late afternoon as seen from th BBC hide:
The next morning we went to Western Hide with a view towards the south and east. The hide was 9 meters high, also above the canopy of the marsh fig trees, but nearer to the center of the bat forest and with better morning light against the sky. We arrived when it was still dark and the eastern horizon was just becoming lighter at 04h30. Already there were bats coming in to the trees. We watched this for more than an hour until the last of them were still flying in. It was amazing. We were speechless.
Early morning – the last of the bats coming in as seen from the Western Hide:
The last evening we saw the millions of bats in the sky above our campsite on their way out. Not nearly as dense as at the bat forest (8 km away), but they covered the sky for as wide and far as we could see.