During November and December each year, largely unnoticed by the wider world, one of southern Africa’s greatest mammal migrations takes place. Whilst many visitors to Africa may have been fortunate enough to have witnessed the vast herds of Blue Wildebeest that circle the Serengeti plains each year, or to have watched lines of African Elephants on their annual march between the parched Kalahari and the life-giving waters of the Okavango, most will be unaware of another, equally spectacular migration that takes place in a quiet, little-visited corner of northern Zambia. Here, in Kasanka National Park, at the end of the year, the skies fill with an incredible 5 million Strawcoloured Fruit Bats which migrate into the park from further north and then congregate during the day within a single hectare of forest! Each evening, as the sun sets and the sky turns red, the bats leave their day-time roost en masse, filling the skies with a blizzard of wings and creating one of Africa’s most spectacular natural sights! This tour will take you into the very heart of this spectacle with a 3-night stay in Kasanka National Park; it also includes a 5-night stay in the South Luangwa National Park — Zambia’s foremost wildlife reserve — and ends with two nights in Livingstone and the opportunity to enjoy another of Africa’s natural wonders, the Victoria Falls.
Our tour begins with a flight to Lusaka, Zambia’s bustling capital, from where we make the short hop to Mfuwe, the gateway to the South Luangwa National Park. On arrival there we transfer to Kapani Lodge, a small, comfortable lodge with nine rooms, located on the edge of the park beside an oxbow lake. Bounded by the Mchinga Escarpment to the west and the Luangwa River to the east, the South Luangwa National Park covers over 9,000 square kilometres and supports a concentration of wildlife unsurpassed in southern Africa. The sweeping turns of the Luangwa River, full of Hippos and Nile Crocodiles, and its complex, ever-changing pans and still waters, provide the backdrop for Lion, Elephant, Cape Buffalo, Thornicroft’s Giraffe, Greater Kudu, Eland, Puku, Bushbuck and a multitude of other animals. However, the park is most famous for its large number of Leopards, which we will hope to see on evening spotlighting drives. It also hosts a wealth of waterbirds and other bird species, amongst them Martial Eagle, Southern Ground Hornbill, Saddle-billed Stork, Verreaux’s Eagle Owl, Pennant-winged Nightjar, Giant Kingfisher, Racket-tailed Roller, African Paradise Flycatcher, the vocal African Fish Eagle and colonies of exquisite Southern Carmine Bee-eaters.
Moving on, we will take a flight in a light aircraft over the seemingly endless African bush to Kasanka National Park, one of Zambia’s smallest but most diverse wildlife reserves. Located on the southern fringe of the Bangweulu Basin, Kasanka protects an impressive variety of habitats, ranging from evergreen swamp forest and extensive papyrus marshes, to large tracts of miombo woodland intersected by complex river systems which we will explore by boat and in 4-wheel drive vehicles from our comfortable base at Wasa Camp. Although the evening visits to watch the exodus of Straw-coloured Fruit Bats will be the undoubted highlight of our 3-night stay here, Kasanka has much to offer during daylight hours too. Blue Monkey, a local rarity, and the elusive Yellow-backed Duiker are found here, together with the shy, swamp-dwelling Sitatunga which probably occurs in greater concentrations in Kasanka than anywhere else in Africa. We should also find Elephant, Lichtenstein’s Hartebeest, Common Reedbuck, Common Waterbuck, Sable Antelope, Black-backed Jackal, Yellow Baboon, Spotted Hyena and Plains (Crawshay’s) Zebra. Birds, too, are abundant, some of which go unrecorded in the rest of the country, such as Red and Blue Sunbird, Green-headed Sunbird and Black-backed, Anchieta’s and Whyte’s Barbets. Other species to look out for include Ross’s Turaco, White-fronted Beeeater, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Pel’s Fishing Owl and the rare Wattled Crane.
Our tour ends with a flight to Lusaka and onwards to Livingstone for a 2-night stay at a comfortable lodge on the banks of the Zambezi River and the opportunity to visit the spectacular Victoria Falls, known locally as ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’ (The Smoke that Thunders). As well as visiting the Falls themselves — which are twice the height of the Niagara Falls — we will spend time birdwatching in the woodlands that line the river’s edge, which are home to such species as Trumpeter Hornbill, Collared Palm-thrush, Golden Weaver and the beautiful Schalow’s Turaco. There will also be time for an afternoon cruise on the Zambezi River, and our final African sunset, before we must return to Livingstone Airport to begin our journey home.