The Hides at Kasanka
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A number of hides have been built to view the five million or so bats that migrate to Kasanka each November. Some were constructed to film the bats for the BBC Africa documentary. Fibwe Hide is a viewing platform 15 metres up in a mahogany tree overlooking the Kapabi Swamps. It’s one of the best places to see sitatunga. The hides are very basic, but offer a glimpse of an amazing wildlife spectacle.
How we rate the hides at Kasanka
Kasanka National Park
This 390 square kilometer park is on the edge of the Congo Basin in northern Zambia. It comprises swamp forest, dry evergreen forest and grassy dambos. It has an array of species including sitatunga, lechwe and excellent birds.
Kasanka bat migration
Every year millions of straw-coloured fruit bats converge on the Mushitu forests of Kasanka National Park in northern Zambia, creating a spectacle that is absolutely awe-inspiring. They take to the air at sunset each evening and may be viewed from a series of high platform hides in the forest. And if that is not enough, this is the best place in Africa to view the shy sitatunga.
When to visit
The best time to see the Kasanka bats is in late November and into December when the Mushitu forests are in fruit.
Where to stay
There are two lodges in Kasanka—Wasa has nine chalets and a separate dining area, while Luwombwa is more rustic with guest cottages beside the river. The tourist facilities including the hides are pretty basic. The camp also offers add-ons to Bangweulu Swamps, which is famous for its rare shoebill storks and giant herds of endemic black lechwe.
The best way to get to Kasanka is a charter from Lusaka or South Luangwa National Park. Or it can be reached via road. Rates vary from $150 to $500 per person per night, depending on whether you self-cater or join an organized safari. The camp combines very well with Bangweulu as well as North Luangwa National Park.
Why we loved it
Visiting the Kasanka hides is an adventure. The facilities are basic, but seeing the bat migration is well worth it.
Photographers need to know
The accommodation and catering is basic, and so are the organized activities. It’s best to go with your own guide and spend at least three nights to ensure that you can get the best of the hides and sunset opportunities. Wear long trousers and shirts when in the forest and boots in the rainy season as it’s pretty sludgy underfoot. The hides are somewhat rickety and getting into them involves some climbing.
The good news
Without the efforts of the Kasanka Trust, there would be no conservation in this park, and it would suffer from considerable exploitation and threats from populations bordering the park.