KASANKA NATIONAL park
Kasanka National Park is a park located in the Chitambo District of Zambia’s Central Province. At roughly 390 km2 (150 square miles), Kasanka is one of Zambia’s smallest national parks. Kasanka was the first of Zambia’s national parks to be managed by a private-public partnership. The privately funded Kasanka Trust Ltd has been in operation since 1986 and undertakes all management responsibilities, in partnership with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW – previously ZAWA). The park has an average elevation between 1,160 m (3,810 feets) and 1,290 m (4,230 feets) above mean sea level. It has a number permanent shallow lakes and water bodies with the largest being Wasa. There are five perennial rivers in the park, with the largest being the Luwombwa River. The Luwombwa is the only river that drains the NP, which flows out in the northwestern corner. It is a tributary of the Luapula, which further upstream also drains the Bangweulu Swamp and forms the main source of the Congo River. Although Kasanka NP is part of the Greater Bangweulu Ecosystem, there is no direct hydrological connection between the park and the Bangweulu Wetlands.
A total of 114 mammal species have been recorded in the park including elephant, hippopotamus and sitatunga. A number of species have been reintroduced in the park by Kasanka Trust – the most successful of which are zebra and buffalo. Close to ten million Eidolon helvum (African straw-colored fruit bat) migrate to the Mushitu swamp evergreen forest in the park for three months during October to December, making it the largest mammal migration in the world. Over 471 bird species have been identified in the park. An airfield lies there
A total of 114 mammal species have been recorded in the park. Although severely depleted in the past, due to an ongoing anti-poaching presence, game populations in Kasanka have recovered. Puku are the most plentiful antelope and graze on the grassy floodplains and dambos throughout the Park. Common duiker, bushbuck, warthog, vervet monkey and Kinda baboon (related to the yellow baboon are common throughout the park and hippo can frequently be encountered in Kasanka’s rivers and lakes, including in Lake Wasa, opposite the main lodge. Kasanka is perhaps the best place in the world to spot the shy and reclusive sitatunga, of which the park holds an estimated 500-1,000 animals, and offers great opportunities for sightings of the rare blue monkey
Elephant are faring increasingly well and several breeding herds and bachelor bulls traverse the park and the surrounding game management area. Several of the plains like Chikufwe are home to common reedbuck, buffalo, sable antelope and Lichtenstein’s hartebeest, which are often encountered in the dry season. A small population of plains zebra occurs in the park. Roan antelope, defassa waterbuck and Sharpe’s grysbok occur but are rare and seldom seen, whereas warthog numbers are increasing and they are commonly sighted. Yellow-backed duiker and Maloney’s monkey, which are poached elsewhere, have also got a steady increase in the population in the park.
The largest resident predator in the park is the leopard, Lions and hyenas are no longer resident but hyenas are seasonal visitors. Side-striped jackal is common and often spotted in the early mornings. A range of smaller carnivores occur, of which water mongoose, white-tailed mongoose, African civet and large spotted genet are commonly encountered at night and slender, banded and dwarf mongoose can often be seen crossing pathways during the day. Caracal, serval, honey badger and the rare Meller’s mongoose occur but are very seldom sighted. Two species of otter live in Kasanka’s rivers, marshes and lakes
Kasanka holds undoubtedly some of the finest birding in Africa’ according to Doctor Ian Sinclair, one of Africa’s leading ornithologists. With over 330 species recorded in this relatively small area without altitudinal variation, one will find it difficult to argue with this statement. Kasanka is blessed with a wide variety of habitats, each hosting its own community of bird species, many of which are rare or uncommon.
A boat-trip along the Luwomwba River, or any other major river in the park may reveal Pel’s fishing owl, African fin foot, half-collared kingfisher, Ross’ turaco and Bohm’s bee-eater. The vast wetlands of Kasanka support some species not easily seen elsewhere such as rufous-bellied heron, lesser jacana and African pygmy goose. The shoebill was confirmed for the first time in 20 years at the end of 2010 and a breeding pair of wattled cranes and their offspring are often encountered. Marsh Tchagra, coppery-tailed Coucal, Fuelleborn’s long claw, locust finch, pale-crowned, croaking and short-winged cisticola, chestnut-headed and streaky-breasted flufftail, harlequin and blue quail, black-rumped buttonquail and fawn-breasted waxbill are amongst the other specials on the wetland fringes and in the large dambos.
The Mushitu is host to a wide range of other species, the sought-after Narina trogon can often be heard and seen in the small patches of forest close to Pontoon and Fibwe. A range of other species occur such as blue-mantled crested flycatcher, Schawlow’ turaco, brown-headed apalis, black-backed barbet, grey waxbill, Bocage’s robin, West African (olive) thrush, dark-backed weaver, red throated twin spot, green twin spot, red-backed manikin, green-headed sunbird, yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, scaly-throated honeyguide, pallid honeyguide, purple-throated cuckoo shrike, black-throated wattle-eye, yellow-throated leaf love and little, grey-olive, yellow-bellied and Cabanis’s greenbul
However, perhaps the richest birding areas of Kasanka are the extensive tracts of Miombo woodland. A variety of specialist species occur here, many of which are not found outside the sub-region, these include black-collared and green-capped eremomelas, racket-tailed roller, rufous-bellied and Miombo grey tits, grey penduline tit, woodland and bushveld pipit, spotted creeper, white-tailed blue flycatcher, Boehm’s flycatcher, yellow-bellied hyliota, red-capped crombec, Cabanis’s bunting, Richard’s and black-eared seedeater, Miombo scrub robin, Miombo rock thrush, thick-billed cuckoo, Anchieta’s sunbird, and Ancheta’s, Whyte’s and Miombo pied barbets
Later in the day, while the ‘menfolk’, big and small, were doing whatever it is that menfolk do when left to their own devices, us two ‘ladies’ went for a cycle. It was hot, and probably not the best time for a cycle, but I have a terrible fear of missing out and didn’t want to waste the opportunity to see the park in a way I hadn’t done on any of my previous visits. Fortunately, my riding companion was stoic and far too polite to complain as we cycled through the dust and the heat for about an hour and a half. We weren’t alone, but were accompanied by a guide and an armed scout, just in case we got lost, or perhaps attacked by some wild creature whose siesta we might disturb. As it was midday we actually didn’t see much in the way of wildlife which would sensibly have been resting in the shade and not madly peddling around in the midday heat like us! Our guide did tell us that multi-day cycling/camping trips through the park are planned within Kasanka, and I wouldn’t mind signing up for one of those in the future. With 18km under our belts, we arrived back at camp in time for a cold drink and a well-earned nap!
WHERE TO STAY AT KASANKA NATIONAL PARK
Kasanka National Park comprises of two lodges and that’s Wasa and Luwombwa, a seasonal self-catering tented camp at Kapabi, four Campsites within the park and those are, Pontoon 1,2,3, and Kabwe, as well as dormitories and Guestrooms with shared facilities at the Kasanka Conservation Centre. Kasanka’s tourism business operates as a social enterprise, so every Kwacha earned in the revenue is reinvested back into the national park. By visiting this national park, you are making a direct contribution to the conservation of this wonderful landscape.