While the mass migration of wildebeest has always been a major attraction on the African continent, it seems that Zambia holds a strong trump card in the battle for safari supremacy. Zambia hides a secret, airborne, wildlife spectacle that forms arguably, the largest animal concentration in the world.
Every year between October and December five to fifteen million, straw-coloured fruit bats flock to the skies of one of Zambia's smallest National Parks, Kasanka. They arrive almost overnight from the Congo, where they gorge themselves on forest fruits from dusk until dawn. The fantastical flight of millions of graceful trapeze artists, as they dive in and out of the forest's towering trees, chattering and squealing loudly is phenomenal. As the sun begins to rise the bats return to roost in the forest swamp. Competition for a suitable spot in an area equivalent in size to several football pitches, is extremely high. The colony itself has a combined weight of 2,500 tonnes and the trees literally swarm with wriggling bats all trying to squeeze into the forest dormitory for a snooze. They will wake ravenous just before twilight, and as the sun sets they will take off in their millions in search of more of the fruit delicacies that draw them here, year after year.
Kasanka means “place where people come to harvest” and with an abundant supply of fruit bat delicacies, it seems these gastro tourists with their humungous appetites, can’t help but feel, that from October to December, the forest is theirs to strip bare. By the time the bats leave in late December, more than a billion fruits will have been devoured.
While Kasanka may be small, what it lacks in size it makes up in biodiversity with a vast array of different habitats. The bats are not Kasanka’s only wildlife attraction. Among an abundance of antelope species is the shy sitatunga. The park also has growing numbers of monkeys, baboons, jackals, hyenas, civets, genets, hippo and elephant. Bird watching here is outstanding with 458 bird species counted locally, including Pel's Fishing Owl, African Finfoot, Brown Headed Apalis and a large number of eagles.
This little-known wildlife spectacle that takes place on our doorstep is well worth seeing. Why not combine a trip to see the wonderful bats of Kasanka with other Northern treasures of Zambia including Bangweulu, Shiwa Ng’andu and Kapisha Hot Springs.
If you are interested in learning more about Kasanka please visit their website.
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