Kasanka National Park
A valuable conservation area protecting Zambian wildlife such as the sitatunga, many species of birds and the millions of migratory fruit bats. Kasanka National Park supports an enormous diversity in habitats including rainforest, papyrus swamp, wet grassland, plains, forested rivers and miombo woodland. The park is in Central Province, south of the Bangweulu Wetlands. The park is under the private management of Kasanka Trust registered in Zambia in 1987 and in the United Kingdom in 1989.
National parks and Sanctuaries in Serenje, Zambia
- Tree hide at Fibwe perched 18 meters high in an African mahogany tree
- Great opportunities for education and research
- Prime birding destination with many aquatic and migratory birds
Kasanka Trust can organise tours to Kasanka, Bangweulu, Shiwa Ng’andu, North and South Luangwa and beyond. The hide gives a panoramic view over the swamp.
Ecology and habitats
As the area is part of the Congo Basin, it is ecologically in between the dryer well-known safari destinations in eastern and southern Africa and the rainforests of central Africa. A large area of this game park is well wooded with a variety of habitats, including a small lake, swamps and many small rivers, riverine forest, dambos and plains of grassland all within an area of 450 square kilometres.
Kasanka has a wide variety of habitats, each hosting their own associated wildlife:
- Brachystegia woodland, known as Miombo, covers the largest area
- Small clumps of evergreen thicket
- Mushitu swamp forest and remnant Mateshe dry evergreen
- The largest piece of Mushitu forest near Fibwe hide (pictured) is the seasonal roost for the visiting straw-coloured fruit bats
- Lake Basin Chipya woodland and open grassy dambos
- Rivers and lakes lined with more than 100 kilometres of riparian fringe forest
- Unique papyrus swamp areas
Miombo wodland is home to roan and sable antelope, hartebeest, warthog, bush pig, common duiker and yellow baboon. It is also habitat for many of the unusual bird species found in Kasanka. The evergreen thickets are popular with blue monkeys, bushbuck, leopard and bush pig. The drainage channels support waterbuck and reedbuck. Puku are the dominant animals in Kasanka National Park, depending on the rich grasses near water, especially along the Kasanka River and Wasa Lakes.
The rivers and lakes are habitat for hippos, crocodiles, otters and monitor lizards not to mention fish. They are rich in birdlife and a favourite place for blue and vervet monkeys. The papyrus swamp areas, kown as Kasanka’s crown jewels (pictured here in a winter morning mist) are home to the world’s densest and most visible population of sitatunga. Roaming across all these habitats are the small but growing population of African elephants. Side-striped jackal, civet, genet, porcupine and several species of mongoose are amongst the nocturnal species.
Frequently observed species include wattled crane, pel’s fishing owl, African fin foot, ross’s and schawlow’s turaco, anchieta’s sunbird and böhm’s bee-eater.
The bat migration
National Park is best known for the bat migration. In late October each year large numbers of gigantic straw-coloured fruit bats gather in a small area of Kasanka National Park Mushitu swamp forest near the confluence of the Musola and Kasanka Rivers. The number of fruit bats in this gathering can be as many as 10 million and they migrate to Kasanka from all over central Africa. At twilight bats fill the sky in all directions for twenty solid minutes as they leave their roost to feed though the night on abundant seasonal fruit of the miombo woodlands. This event is one of Africa’s most amazing and unusual wildlife spectacles – never forgotten by those lucky enough to witness it. This bat migration has been the subject of intense interest from scientists. The bats remain in the area for only six weeks to feast on mangoes that ripen at this time of the year.
Things to do
The elusive sitatunga antelope are best seen at dawn and dusk when they emerge to feed. You can see crocodile, bushbuck, waterbuck, buffalo and elephant from the platform and many species of birds, including caucal, mouse birds, böhm’s bee-eaters, ross’s and schawlow’s Lories are seen here. The hide is also a perfect site for viewing the straw-coloured fruit bats as they leave the adjacent forest to feed at night.
Canoeing and boating with guides on the Luwombwa River is great for spectacular bird watching, fishing and wildlife viewing. Sightings include monitor lizards, crocodiles, otters, vervet monkeys and the rare blue monkey. Varied species of raptors, kingfishers, bee-eaters, herons and sunbirds abound along the river. For fishermen, the river offers some excellent angling. The fierce tiger fish, several tilapia species and barbel catfish are likely catches.
Game drives are always a popular way to see the park and usually reveal a variety of wildlife. Drives are conducted by guides and are arranged according to the requirements of each group rather than at set times and programs.
Getting out on foot on a walking safari is perhaps the best way to appreciate all aspects of a wilderness like Kasanka National Park. You must be accompanied by an armed scout for safety and also to glean local knowledge. Due to the relative scarcity of dangerous animals it is possible for visitors to explore the park by bicycle using the network of roads and paths, but again you must be escorted by a guide or scout.
How to get there
It takes approximately six hours from Lusaka or the Copperbelt to get to Kasanka National Park. The roads are all tarred up to the park entrance and currently in excellent condition.
- From Lusaka, take the Great North Road passing through Kabwe on to Kapiri Mposhi. Pass through Kapiri, and then turn right after about four kilometres towards Mpika and Tanzania.
- From the Copperbelt, turn left four kilometres before Kapiri town towards Mpika and Tanzania.
- Then continue 200 kilometres untill you reach the Serenje turn off. Continue on the main road for 36 kilometres until you turn left on Mansa Road. Continue for 55 kilometres at which point you will see a large sign to Kasanka and the park gate on your left side.
- If coming from Luapula Province, the Kasanka National Park turning is on the right hand side about 72 kilometres after the Luapula Bridge.
- From Northern Province or East Africa, turn right towards Mansa 200 kilometres south of Mpika. The park gate is 55 kilometres along on the left hand side and clearly marked.
- Most visitors coming from overseas choose to fly directly into Kasanka National Park by private charter as there is a well maintained airstrip in the park.
- Beit Trust
- British High Commission
- Conservation Foundation (Zambia)
- Danish Embassy
- Dutch Embassy
- FIDES in Holland
- Finish Embassy
- German Development
- German Embassy in Lusaka
- IUCN Netherlands
- States of Guernsey
- Zambezian miombo woodlands
- Riverine forest
- Dambos and plains of grassland
- Mushitu swamp forest
- Mateshe dry evergreen
- Lake bsin chipya woodland
- African fin foot
- Anchieta’s sunbird
- Böhm’s bee-eater
- Pel’s fishing owl
- Ross’s turaco
- Schawlow’s turaco
- Wattled crane
Where to stay
- Wasa Lodge
- Luwombwa Lodge
- Three camping sites
- Roan antelope
- African elephants
- Blue monkeys
- Bush pig
- Common duiker
- Monitor lizards
- Roan antelope
- Sable antelope
- Side-striped jackal
- Vervet monkeys
- Yellow baboon