Join wildlife photographer Nick Garbutt to witness the extraordinary annual event of millions of fruit bats roosting in Kasanka National Park, coupled with a stay in South Luangwa, quite rightly regarded as the jewel of Zambia's extensive national parks network.
The world's largest mammal migration – that of the straw-coloured fruit bat – takes place each November when some ten million or more bats congregate in a two-hectare patch of mushitu (swamp) forest. Each day, as day turn to dusk, columns of bats come pouring out of the forest and disappear in great clouds across the sky to feed on fruit trees some 60 kilometres away. Each morning they return in the same gigantic waves to roost for the day in the swamp forest. Seeing this extraordinary event is to witness one of the world's greatest (and largely unsung) wildlife spectacles.
This tour combines time in Kasanka with an extended stay in South Luangwa National Park. Towards the end of the dry season and beginning of the 'green' season this region offers an unrivalled safari experience, with a wealth of wildlife including elephant, buffalo, lion and leopard, and a spectacular array of birdlife.
November is a particularly exciting period to be in South Luangwa. By then, the first rains have arrived and the park takes on a fresh flush of green and feeling of renewal predominates. Dust is washed from the atmosphere, clearing the air and often producing dramatic light for photography.
Day1: Depart UK
Day2: Arrive Lusaka, fly to Mfuwe & transfer to South Luangwa National Park
On arrival in Lusaka, connect to a short domestic flight to Mfuwe and transfer to our accommodation in nearby South Luangwa National Park. Depending on our arrival time, there may be an opportunity for a short vehicle safari. In the evening Nick will deliver an introductory presentation with an outline of the programme for the days ahead.
Days3-6: Safaris & photography in South Luangwa National Park
We have three full days to explore this spectacular wildlife area. Wildlife viewing activities will concentrate on early mornings and late afternoon/early evening when the natural light is often sublime and wildlife sightings are at their best. Afternoon drives often continue for an hour or so after dark, when the likelihood of seeing active leopard increases, and there is also a chance of seeing nocturnal animals such as porcupines, civets, genets and very occasionally an aardvark.
Between these activities and in the evenings, Nick will use the time to run tutorials and workshops.
Day7: Transfer to Mfuwe & fly to Kasanka National Park
Transfer back to Mfuwe to pick up a chartered light aircraft for the short flight to Mulembo in Kasanka National Park, where we will be met and transferred directly to our simple accommodation, just a short drive away. Before dusk falls, there will be a foray into the forest to watch the spectacle of the bats leaving their daytime roost.
Each day at Kasanka starts with a pre-dawn wake-up call and a quick cup of tea or coffee, before heading off to the bat forest before first light. After breakfast back at camp, there is still time to head out again for either a drive or a walk to look for shy sitatunga – which are relatively numerous in Kasanka – Lichtenstein’s hartebeest and other mammals. The park’s birdlife is impressive and includes the rare Pel’s fishing owl, wattled crane and Ross’s turaco.
After a short siesta, afternoon tea and cake is served, followed by another relaxed walk or drive to the evening bat-watching location in time to see the dusk mass exodus. Once the sun has gone down, head back to camp for sundowners and dinner.
Day10: Fly to Lusaka & depart
There may be time for one final morning drive or walk before transferring to ulembo airstrip for a chartered light aircraft back to Lusaka and onward flights back to the UK.
Day11: Arrive UK
Duration and price including flights from/to UK: 11 daysfrom £5,195 pp
Duration and price excluding international flights: 9 daysfrom £4,295 pp
Single supplement: From £225
Group size: 8
When to go: Nov
Departures: Please contact us for departure date details.
Included in the price/package:
Domestic flight from Lusaka to Mfuwe
Charter flights Mfuwe to Kasanka and Kasanka to Lusaka
5 nights ensuite tented camp in South Luangwa (twin-share)
3 nights ensuite lodge in Kasanka (twin-share)
All National Park Fees
Local naturalist guide
Excursions at lodges, camps in parks and reserves
An award-winning photographer and author, with a background in zoology, Nick has forged a career by combining these skills with leading tours and lecturing.
Nick has written and photographed several critically acclaimed books, including: ‘100 Animals to See Before They Die’, ‘Mammals of Madagascar: A Complete Guide’, ‘Wild Borneo’, and ‘Chameleons’. He is a regular contributor to international magazines such as National Geographic, BBC Wildlife, Africa Geographic and Geographical.
Nick has twice been a winner in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition. In 2000, he won the prestigious Gerald Durrell Award for Endangered Wildlife. His photographs appear widely in books, calendars and other publications worldwide. He is a Special Lecturer on the MSc course in the Wildlife Photography and Imaging at Nottingham University, where he studied.
Comprising some 9,050 square kilometres of unspoilt African wilderness, South Luangwa is undoubtedly the jewel of Zambia’s national parks and a magnet to outstanding wildlife, particularly leopard. Its eastern boundary is the meandering Luangwa River whose regular changes in course leave scenic oxbow lagoons.
Excellent for: Walking safaris, Wildlife photography, Photography tours with Nick Garbutt, Vehicle safaris, Walking with wildlife, Just Conservation
It might be one of Zambia's smallest parks, but Kasanka is packed full of different habitats with miombo woodland, riverine forest and papyrus swamps being just a few. Picturesque and peaceful, the birdlife here is exceptional and each year the park plays host to the migration of over ten million bats.
Where: Central Province
Ideal for viewing: blue monkey, sitatunga, straw-coloured fruit bat, Lichtenstein’s hartebeest, wattled crane
Excellent for: Walking safaris, Wildlife photography, Photography tours with Nick Garbutt, Vehicle safaris, River safaris, Birdwatching
Nestled under an ancient ebony grove, the intimate and exclusive Luangwa River Camp is made up of just five bush suites. The surrounding oxbow lagoon and plains of the Luangwa Valley hold vast concentrations of wildlife, including elephant, leopard, lion, hippo and puku, as well as over 400 bird species.
Wasa Lodge is a well-maintained, rustic but comfortable camp, overlooking the blue waters of Lake Wasa in the eastern part of Kasanka National Park. It is close to a sitatunga hide and swamp forest and offers excellent walking trails, as well as safaris by canoe and four-wheel drive.