This peaceful sanctuary, situated on the south western edge of the Lake Bangweulu basin, is one of Zambia’s smallest national parks. It’s 450 km2 however, are so well endowed with rivers, lakes, wetlands, forests, lagoons, meadows and dambos that it supports a uniquely wide range of animals and abundant birds and fish. Do not expect to see large herds of animals round every corner, but it is surely one of the most picturesque parks in Zambia with superb birdlife. Kasanka’s situation is interesting as it is the first of Zambia’s national parks to be privately managed. The privately funded Kasanka Trust Ltd has taken on all management responsibilities, in partnership with the Zambian Wildlife Authority, and has been in operation since 1986. The Trust operates 2 Lodges and 2 campsites in Kasanka
An impressive 108 mammal species have been recorded in the park. Although severely depleted in the past, due to effective anti-poaching measures, game populations in Kasanka are recovering well. Puku are the most plentiful antelope and graze on the grassy floodplains and dambo’s throughout the Park. Common Duiker, Bushbuck, Warthog, Vervet Monkey and Kinda Baboon (a race of the yellow baboon) are common throughout the park and Hippo can frequently be encountered in Kasanka’s rivers and lakes, including in Lake Wasa, opposite the main Lodge. Kasanka is perhaps the best place in the world to spot the shy and reclusive Sitatunga, of which the park holds an estimated 500-1,000 animals, and offers great opportunities for sightings of the rare Blue Monkey.
Elephant are faring increasingly well and several breeding herds and bachelor bulls traverse the park and the surrounding Game Management Area. Several of the plains like Chikufwe are home to Common Reedbuck, Buffalo, Sable Antelope and Lichtenstein’s Hartebeest, which are often encountered in the dry season. A small population of Plains Zebra can be found close to the airstrip at New Mulembo. The largest resident predator in the park is the Leopard. Lion and Hyena are no longer resident but wanderers do still move through the park. Side-striped Jackal are common and often spotted in the early mornings. A range of smaller carnivores occur, of which Water Mongoose, White-tailed Mongoose, African Civet and Large Spotted Genet are commonly encountered at night and Slender, Banded and Dwarf Mongoose can often be seen crossing pathways during the day. Caracal, Serval, Honey Badger and the rare Meller’s Mongoose occur but are very seldom sighted. Two species of Otter live in Kasanka’s rivers, marshes and lakes.
The first of Kasanka’s famous straw-coloured fruit bats start arriving towards the middle of October each year. By mid-November the roost has reached its highest density and numbers are estimated to be around eight million! It is believed to be the highest density of mammalian biomass on the planet, as well as the greatest mammal migration known to man. 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. The bat roost is centred on one of the largest remaining patches of Mushitu (indigenous forest) in Kasanka along the Musola River. The edge of the forest is accessible to tourists wanting to see the bats up close (there are 2 hides that are using for viewing of the bats)and trips are arranged at dusk and dawn. The high concentration of food items attracts an incredibly variety of predators and scavengers to the bat forest. Martial eagles, 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.
Kasanka holds undoubtedly some of the finest birding in Africa’ according to Dr Ian Sinclair, one of Africa’s leading ornithologists. With over 450 species recorded in this relatively small area without altitudinal variation, one will find it difficult to argue with this statement. Kasanka is blessed with a wide variety of habitats, each hosting its own community of bird species, many of which are rare or uncommon elsewhere.