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Bats & birds; a safari to Kasanka

At a GlanceItineraryDetail

Bat migration, Kasanka

What is the biggest mammal migration in the world? Most of us would guess the Serengeti/Maasai Mara wildebeest migration in Kenya and Tanzania, or perhaps the Liuwa Plain blue wildebeest migration in Zambia. Not so! The largest movement of mammals on Earth is the annual migration of ‘Eidolon Helvum’, the African fruit bat, which takes place in Zambia.

We have launched this amazing new trip with a specialist bat guide to explain the phenomenon. There are also many predatory birds take advantage of an easy feast so we travel with a specialist birding guide as well: 2 guides for the price of one!  No visit to Zambia would be complete without a stopover in the stunning South Luangwa National Park and the serenity of Mutinondo Wilderness to watch some big game, making this safari a complete Zambian wildlife experience.

Kasanka bat migration

Malawi Zambia bat bird

Day 1: Arrive Lilongwe, Malawi.

We will meet any flight arriving into Lilongwe today and drive you to the overnight hotel in town. At 18:00 we’ll take you to a surprise venue: the Eidolon roost at a church in Lilongwe to see the bats leaving at dusk; here there’s a brief talk from the African Bat Conservation group and their bat tagging project. Proceed to the restaurant for dinner and a briefing about the forth-coming safari.

You can also join this safari via Lusaka, meeting the group on day 2. Please enquire for details.

Overnight at lodge in Lilongwe.

Bat migration Kasanka
Day 2: Luangwa Valley

Set off from Lilongwe; cross the border into Zambia and drive to the small town of Mfuwe on the edge of South Luangwa National Park. Picnic lunch en route. At 16:00, after tea and cake, the first game drive into this famous national park that will continue into the early evening, an excellent time to see game in action. Return to the lodge for dinner at 20:00. Overnight Thornicroft lodge on full board inclusive of game drives.

Day 3: Luangwa Valley

During the day your specialist bird guide, as well as the Luangwa Park guides, will pay particular attention to the bird species found in this mixed habitat area. This is the breeding season so many species are in full breeding plumage with lots of activity to attract mates and to build nests. This evening after dinner there will be a practical demonstration on mist netting and we will trap some bats – we will target insectivorous bats, and have a talk on the various species caught. Overnight Thornicroft Lodge, full board.

Kasanka Birds Bohm's Bee-eater

Kasanka Birds: Bohm’s Bee-eater

Day 4: Luangwa Valley

There is so much to see and learn about in this area that we’ll spend another day here, exploring slowly, slowly and becoming familiar with some Zambia local species as well as less-common visitors. Overnight Thornicroft Lodge, full board.

Day 5: Lusaka – Pioneer camp

Depart after breakfast and it’s a long but interesting drive to Lusaka. Arrive late afternoon. Pioneer Safari Lodge is a relaxing lodge on the outskirts of Lusaka. There are just 11 individual, thatched chalets all en suite set within our 25 acres of Miombo woodland. At the centre of Pioneer Camp is the open thatched bar/restaurant or ‘Chitenge’. This evening we overnight in a chalet, full board.

Day 6: Kasanka and Wasa Lodge

Drive through Lusaka and follow the great North Road to Kasanka Park. The drive is expected to take around 7 hrs. Kasanka National Park is one of the most picturesque parks in Zambia and contains a rich diversity of animal, bird and plant life. Several rare species are abundant in the park, including sitatunga, wattled crane, Ross’s Lourie and Blue Monkeys. Wasa Lodge lies on the edge of Lake Wasa in the eastern half of the park just 12 km from the park gate. The tree hide at ‘Fibwe’ is generally rated as Africa’s best vantage point for observing Sitatunga antelope as well as the perfect site for viewing the straw-coloured fruit bats that leave the adjacent forest to feed at night. This is one of Africa greatest migrations – MILLIONS of bats roost here and fly out at dusk to feed, a spectacle that is unique in Africa. Perched 18 meters high in a ‘Mululu’ African Mahogany tree, gives a panoramic view over the Kapabi swamp. Arrival in Kasanka will be mid-afternoon, with time to settle into your chalet before heading out to watch the bats. Return in the evening for dinner. Overnight Wasa Lodge on full board basis.

Ross's Turaco, Kasanka National Park

Ross’s Turaco, Kasanka National Park

Day 7: Kasanka – Wasa Lodge

Morning birding walk to the surrounding swamps, returning for lunch, then afternoon return once more to the bat roosting sites to see them take flight as it gets dark, returning to the lodge for dinner. Guests often see more than 20 sitatunga from the hide, these elusive antelope are less active during the hotter hours of the day and are best seen at dawn and dusk when they emerge to feed. Also seen are Crocodile, Bushbuck, Waterbuck , Buffalo and Elephant. Many species of birds, including Coucals, Mousebirds, Bohm’s bee-eaters, Ross’s and Schalow’s Louries. As the bats emerge at dusk you can witness the rarely seen bat hawks hunting. Overnight Wasa Lodge; full board.

Day 8: Mutinondo – Chalets

This morning we leave Kasanka and drive (3 hrs) to neighbouring Mutinondo Wilderness area. Mutinondo is ideal for people who love the bush combined with peace and tranquillity. Located in the middle of miles and miles of beautiful Africa, this seldom-visited wilderness is a great escape and refuge from the pressures of everyday life. Chalets with spectacular views are located on a ridge overlooking the valleys below. Riders can explore on horse-back and/or there are canoes available (both included). Arrive here before lunch with the afternoon available for a birding walk or other activity. Overnight chalets inclusive camp meals.

Fish Eagle spooking white-faced whistling ducks

Fish Eagle spooking white-faced whistling ducks

Day 9: Mutinondo – Chalets

Morning birding walks, or other activity; return for lunch and in the afternoon there are options to go horse riding, canoeing , take a birding walk, or to simply kick back and do nothing but reflect on the journey you have had. Overnight chalets; full board.

Day 10: Lusaka – Pioneer camp

Breakfast then it’s a 7 hr. drive back to Lusaka with a picnic lunch en route. Arrive late afternoon. Overnight Pioneer camp on dinner, bed and breakfast basis.

Day 11: Final day – Lusaka or Lilongwe

This morning we can either arrange a flight out of Lusaka, perhaps to Victoria Falls? Or we can organise a transfer for your international flight if it departs later in the day. Or we can arrange a 4X4 car hire if you fancy exploring some more independently? For those clients returning to Malawi, it’s a 10 hr. drive back to Lilongwe. Arrive Lilongwe mid-afternoon. A free drop off service is offered to any lodge in town, or the airport. End of safari.

Included in the price

Accommodation as per above schedule
All meals, snacks and picnic lunches as indicated
Game Park Fees (worth $105)
Activities as indicated
Services of Specialist bird & bat guide
Vehicle transport Lilongwe return & cross-border taxes.

Not included

Visas: Malawi $75 Single entry or $150 double entry; and Zambia $50
Flight Lusaka to Mfuwe: $320 (if required)
Drinks
Gratuities

The Guide: Jim Katengu

Jim is 44 years old and was born in Malawi. After school he was employed at Mvuu Camp as a trainee guide and worked his way up to a senior wildlife guide. During his time in Liwonde Park Jim developed a special interest, passion and tremendous knowledge of the birds in Malawi. He led a number of specialist birding trips around Malawi and cooperated with birding professionals like Ian Davidson & Richard Cruze. He has helped with the research the Aloe Vera plant distribution in Liwonde, which has tremendous medicinal properties, where he was interviewed by the local TV station and has participated in the Orchid Walk on Zomba Plateau. He participates in the annual bird count in Liwonde. Jim is currently compiling a species list for both Dzalanyama Forest and the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre and is training local guides in these 2 areas. Jim, is a well -known and respected leader in his field and one of Malawi’s foremost birders.

Our birding guide: Jim Katengu

Our birding guide: Jim Katengu

AFRICAN BAT CONSERVATION (ABC)

ABC conducts applied research, conservation and education to bring bats to the conservation agenda and conserve bat populations in Africa. ABC is based in Malawi and work in collaboration with various stakeholders in the region. ABC has a number of flagship research projects including the Human Bat Conflict Project which aims to assist communities experiencing conflict issues related to bats occupying property; the Urban Bat Project which aims to assess bat diversity and abundance in Lilongwe City; the Eidolon Project through which we are using GPS tags to assess the spatial and roosting behaviour of Straw-coloured Fruit Bats in Lilongwe. ABC is founded and directed by Dr Emma Stone. Emma has been conducting bat research in Africa (particularly Zambia, Malawi and South Africa) since 1998 and conducted her PhD research in the Bat Ecology and Bioacoustics Lab at the University of Bristol, England. If Emma is prevented from making the trip it will be one of her research fellows that will join this expedition as our bat expert.