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Bat Migration at Kasanka National Park














The annual bat migration at Kasanka National Park is starting soon, and it is one of the most amazing sights in Southern Africa. While becoming more popular every year, it is still considered one of the "secrets" of the safari world.


Each year towards the end of October, one of the greatest mammalian migrations in the world takes place at Kasanka National Park. This little known migration is of approximately ten million straw-coloured fruit bats (Eidolon helvum). For several weeks starting around Zambia’s October 24th Independence Day, thousands of colonies of these herbivorous bats start making the park their home. More and more bats continue to come until the numbers reach their zenith towards the middle of November. It is believed that the majority of these bats come from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and some also come from Uganda and elsewhere around Africa. Each night just as the sun is setting, the multitude of bats begins to take off into the night in search of food. The area around Kasanka National Park is full of indigenous and exotic fruits. In November, the main fruits that are ripe are mangoes, waterberries, and mpundu. Each night, the bats go out (up to 100 kilometers!) to feast on fruits and return in the early morning hours.


During the migration, Kasanka offers special bat walks. These bat walks are an opportunity to get a little bit closer to the bats and see them while they roost. Due to the sensitive nature of the colony, this tour is only available for small groups, and you must be accompanied by a scout and a guide. There are several vantage points to see the bats take off on their nightly excursion. Near Fibwe Hide there are a few benches and a smaller hide that faces the main roost. You can also go down near the stream, but there is no seating here. Similar to the bat walk, you can hire a scout and a guide to get a little closer with two new hides located in the forest. The guides are well informed about the bats, and can answer any questions you have.


The straw-coloured fruit bat is the most widely spread fruit bat species in Africa. These bats are huge, with wingspans of up to one meter, which makes them easy to see even from long distances. The average weight of these bats is usually about eight to twelve ounces and the body grows to 5.7 to 9 inches in length. They get their name from their yellowish colour. These bats serve an important role in the ecological system as both pollinators and seed dispersers.


The straw-coloured fruit bats at Kasanka National Park have been the focus several international media outlets, including the BBC and National Geographic. For the video produced by the BBC, visit their website at http://www.bbc.co.uk...it_Bat#p004vb0b. This video has lots of great information about the bats, and some great video as well.

Lodging is available during the bat season at both Wasa and Luwombwa Lodges. There are also two campsites within the park, as well as lodging at the Mulaushi Community, Research, and Conservation Centre. For more information on lodging at the park, visit www.kasanka.com or email wasa@kasanka.com.


Kasanka National Park is also home to a number of mammals and birds. I believe the most recent tally of bird species spotted at the park is over 460. In addition, elephants, hippos, crocs, and lots of different antelope species can be spotted. Kasanka is well known for the large population of sitatunga that can usually be seen. These slightly akward antelope are swamp dwellers and can be seen at several places in the park, including the Fibwe Hide and along the Kasanka River. Other attractions near Kasanka include the David Livingstone Memorial, which marks the spot where David Livingstone died in 1873, Kundalila Falls, Lake Waka Waka, and the Bangweulu Wetlands. For more information about these other attractions and accomodation, visit nsoberoute.wordpress.com or http://www.openafric...o-Tourism-Route.


To get to Kasanka National Park, continue on the Great North Road past Serenje for about forty kilometers to the Mukando Junction. There is a small worn sign for Kasanka National Park, but the best landmark for this turnoff is the giant Apple Max sign. Kasanka is another fifty-five kilometers to the north. There is a big sign on the left side of the road indicating you have reached the park. Both tarmac roads were repaved about six months ago and are still in good shape.

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