Kasanka National Park Safari Guide
Kasanka NP is the only privately managed national park in the country. It is run by a charity, the Kasanka Trust, and all proceeds go back into conservation and the surrounding communities. The park is not a classic wildlife destination, but highly rewarding for people interested in birds. Part of the park’s habitat is swamp, and the shy and elusive sitatunga antelope is easily seen.
Pros & Cons
All park proceeds go back into conservation and the community
Great birding destination with many Zambian specials
Wildlife hide overlooking a swamp gives excellent opportunities to see sitatunga
Little-visited, off-the-beaten-track destination
Walks, game drives, canoe and motorboat trips offered
Fishing in the Luwombwa River
A chance to see 10 million fruit bats from October to December
Low wildlife densities and limited variety of flagship species
Fishing villages take away some of the wilderness appeal
Getting to the park is expensive and difficult
Wildlife & Animals
A visit to Kasanka is more a wilderness experience than a classic safari. Kasanka is one of the best places in Africa to see the elusive sitatunga antelope. There is also a small population of elephant, which are sometimes seen. Other flagship species such as buffalo, leopard and lion are present but rarely spotted. More prominent are several antelope species, including puku, Lichtenstein's hartebeest and sable.
An amazing wildlife spectacle can be witnessed every year, from November to December, when millions of straw-coloured fruit bats assemble here to roost in the mahogany swamp forest. This is one of the largest mammal concentrations in the world. At dusk, they fill the sky for a solid 20 minutes before they disperse to feed in the nearby miombo woodland. During the daytime, large crocodiles wander underneath the colony, scavenging dead bats, along with vultures and other small predators.
Kasanka is a great birding destination, with just over 400 species recorded in a small area. The park is home to a few species at the edge of their range, more commonly associated with Central Africa. The beautiful Ross’s turaco and Böhm's bee-eater are two of the more conspicuous birds in that category. The large variety of habitats, including papyrus swamp, several rivers and lakes, and overall high rainfall contribute to a great birding environment. It’s best explored by vehicle, on foot or by boat.
Best Time to Visit
From the middle of the Dry season until the end (July to October) is the ideal time for wildlife viewing in Kasanka NP. During these months, water sources in the bush have dried out through lack of rainfall, and the animals tend to hang around the surviving rivers and watercourses.
May to October – Dry Season
Wildlife viewing is at its best this time of year
Sunny weather and it rarely rains
There are few mosquitos, and the risk of malaria is minimal
The sky is very hazy, and the bush looks parched
October is very hot
Mornings are chilly and warm clothing is advisable for morning game drives
November to April – Wet Season
The scenery is green and fresh – the ‘emerald season’
Best birding time as migrants are present
There are many newborn animals
November and December is the time to see the roosting fruit bats
Wildlife viewing is better in the Dry season
Roads and airstrips can become bad after heavy rain
Hot and humid
Malaria is a bigger concern than in the Dry season
Weather & Climate
Kasanka has a distinct Wet and Dry season and a hot climate. Located in Africa’s tropical zone, the average temperature doesn’t change much from month to month – although in October temperatures do increase before the rains. Nights are generally cooler, especially in the Dry season, from May to August.
Dry Season – May to October
There is almost no rain in the Dry season. This is the best time for wildlife viewing, and it gets better as the season progresses. It is warm during the day, but cold at night and in the early morning. Warm clothing is essential for early morning game drives.
May – At the start of the Dry season, the bush is still thick, and there’s plenty of water around, but rainfall has become negligible.
June & July – Rainfall has ceased, and the bush is drying out. With daytime temperatures of around 24°C/75°F, the coolest months have arrived. Cold nights can be expected with temperatures averaging a paltry 9°C/48°F.
August & September – The lack of rainfall continues into these months. The vegetation is starting to wilt. The heat is increasing – September has an average daytime temperature of 29°C/84°F. Mornings are fairly mild at 13°C/55°F on average.
October – Rising temperatures average 31°C/88°F. Peak temperatures can be much higher, and the heat can become oppressive during the day. Mornings are mild with temperatures around 16°C/61°F. The first rainfall is normally experienced during October, and temperatures drop after the rain.
Wet Season – November to April
This time of year is warm and wet. It rains a lot and thunderstorms are often dramatic spectacles. The bush is lush, and when it’s not raining, there are clear skies.
November – If rain hasn’t begun in late October, it usually comes in November. The bush is tinder dry, so the rain is a relief. The average daytime temperature is 29°C/84°F. Rainfall mostly comes in the form of afternoon thunderstorms.
December & January, February, March – These are the wettest months, and it rains a lot, but there is often sunshine during the day as well. Daytime temperatures average 27°C/81°F, while night and early morning temperatures average 17°C/63°F.
April – This is a lovely month as the rain is winding down, but the landscape is lush and green.
Kasanka is located 520km/323mi northwest of Lusaka, the capital of Zambia.
The easiest way to get to the park is by chartered plane. Mulembo airstrip is conveniently located near Wasa lodge.
It is possible to drive to the park, and some specialized operators can set up a mobile trip for you.
When arriving in Zambia, visitors can fly to the main airport – Kenneth Kaunda International Airport (LUN), located 14km/9mi from Lusaka. Alternatively, if visiting Victoria Falls, you can fly in or out of Livingstone Airport (LVI) (Harry Mwanga Nkumbula International Airport), just outside of Livingstone and close to the falls.