Kasanka + Kundalila: to see the greatest migration on earth
I've lived in Zambia for over two years and have heard of the crowds of people who travel from all over the world to experience the greatest mammal migration on earth, right in our backyard. Okay not quite backyard, but really, just down the street in our neighborhood, is one of the primary trees these bats call home during the migration season. And the famous national park, Kasanka, is about 4 hours drive.
So 4 of us decided to adventure to see the bats and the national park on a camping trip. Plus when there is such a beautiful waterfall nearby, we couldn't help be stop, camp and hike there first. Here all all the details I collected from my experience. The trip itinerary, menu and shopping list are photos that you can download if you're interested in using. I hope it helps you if you are considering a similar trip!
Kundalila Waterfall is about 4.5 hours driving from Ndola. The road is 32km from the Serenje checkpoint. Once you see the sign to Kundalila falls it’s about another 12km on a dirt road. Even though it had rained, it was not muddy and it is mostly well graded.
If you get there during the day, there will most likely be a park ranger to help you out. $15 for foreign visitors and k30 for locals or anyone with residency/work permits. There’s a small camping fee on top of that. For 4 of us working/residents, they charged us k150 total. Staying here one night saved money and we enjoyed the different scenery and experience.
It is full on Bush camping. No showers, no kitchen, and the toilets were locked. There is a water tank but we couldn’t access any running water. So definitely bring some extra drinking and camping water for dishes, etc. There are two covered areas but no picnic tables or braii (barbeque) stands.
If you were to get there late and leave early, they might not know you’re there as we almost left before seeing anyone.
There’s a viewing from the top where you can see down and not too much of the waterfall itself. If it’s clear, there’s an incredible view from up top. If it’s cloudy and foggy, you would have no idea what’s in the distance. Under both circumstances, it’s majestic.
The hike down is very steep but not too long. Total from the campsite it’s about 20 min. From the part where it gets steep, it’s about 10 min walking straight down.
The waterfall is swimable, it’s just finding a time of year that is warm enough to go and when the falls aren't too full. In June it was dry and still, but cold. At end of November/beginning of December, it was cold and wet. The water is clear and shallow with more than one pool formed by the rocks. The falls were a little fuller in June but not too different from November/December.In March the falls transform from a serene stream to an aggressive roar. (See difference between photos below.)
KASANKA NATIONAL PARK
We stayed at KCC campsite and thoroughly enjoyed it. They have showers and a kitchen with a refrigerator and stove. We were enjoying the campfire experience so we didn’t use the kitchen but we were oh, so, grateful for the warm showers! There is a lovely small museum on the property and very helpful staff. KCC is just 1km from the entrance and you are not required to pay the park entrance fee to camp there. The other campsite is a little more expensive and is by the reception area, about 30 minute drive into the park. We were told that the campsite inside the park has no showers or kitchen, so you would be paying more for the location and view of being by the reception, bar, restaurant and more wildlife. As a side note, if you aren’t interested in camping, there are chalet options but they are $140 or $170 per person.
To our surprise, there is more to do in Kasanaka National Park than just the bat viewing. There are a variety of excursions such as seeing elephants, games drives, boat cruise and renting canoes and then of course the viewing of the bats. The main bar and restaurant area have a great view including visible hippos, antelope, birds, monkeys. The excursions are spaced through out the park, being an average 30 min to an hour drive. Therefore, we decided to just have a relaxing afternoon by the restaurant bar watching wildlife and soaking up the scenery. We did go sit on a canoe bench up close to the monkeys. There is also a small museum on the KCC campsite full of history and artefacts from the park.
The Famous Bat Migration
When it comes to the bat experience, we were only told about $35 or $20 bat tours. We didn’t book anything in advance as we were told it wasn’t necessary. When we arrived we found out the $35 is for them to drive the vehicle and the $20 is if using your own vehicle. This is $20 or $35 per person, not per vehicle. When we asked if there were any other options, they showed us the map with all the different hideouts, including a public viewing area for free! The only difference between the public viewing and the $20/35 per person, is the height. When you pay, there is a platform that you climb up around 10m high. Public viewing is from the ground, but overall it’s all the same bats filling the sky. You just are a little closer up with the bats in the paid experience.
We found the public viewing fascinating. Yes we see tons of bats at sunset from within Ndola, but this is such a different experience. Completely open sky, out in the Bush, and filled 1,000 more times than the sky fills in Ndola. This is the biggest mammal migration on earth. The park is very remote and was not very busy with tourists.
The bat experience
Hiking the waterfall
Cooking by the campfire
Drinks watching the hippos and scenery
Take an extra hour to go see the David Livingstone memorial
Bring salt and pepper
Bring more warm clothing for Kundalila camping