It’s Monday 21st December 2009 and the Kasanka Bat Safari

Only three days to our Christmas Carols in the Bush. The choir has continued to practice twice a week and boy do we have it well rehearsed. There are certain phrases that the Zambians are finding hard to get (not surprising – carols mostly have a very strange rhythm and they tend to be in difficult ye’olde English). So imagine 20 of us standing in the bush repeating two lines again and again. And again. Trust me – we are ready!!

itchy elephantsSlit snoozing with his ladies

Before I give you the promised “Kasanka Bat Safari” story I wanted to add a few more photos from Alison and Peter Williams.

“We are sending a photo of another baby elly who first watched its mother dealing with an itch and then promptly copied her. One of Slit (the lion), who after days of searching for his main pride when he’d been roaming around and visiting other ladies – was found finally snuggling up once more to the main team! And lastly one of lunching out on ribs – hyena style!

lunching on ribsthe Luangwa River snaking over the valley floor

A few weeks ago the two Davids, David R and David B, were here photographing everything that moved and even didn’t move.

After their time in the valley they flew off to Kasanka in search of the bats. Well that is not the right phrase. You cannot miss the bats as there are an estimated 10 million of them (I do wonder how these numbers come about!). David B shot 670 photos in one hour on the bat platform. He got some great shots. He called himself a tail gunner, as he followed a bat with his camera firing off. David R (professional photographer who leads our Photographic Workshops every March and May) thinks that some of his bat shots are award winning material. He is clearly a very fast learner! He arrived, as you may remember, saying he only likes to photograph the big animals.

flying to Kasanka National Park takes 50 minutesWasa Camp with a great view over the lake

Kasanka has a fairly basic style lodge in terms of its services, but its all about the bats and the hides. This is the sort of experience where you would stay in a tent and have a primus, said David B after watching 10 million of them take to the skies one evening. Kasanka does have amazing hides. The 18-metre fibwe hide overlooks the swamps and is probably the best place in the world to see the rare and shy sitatunga. The Davids were up in the hide at 5.00 for every sunrise and saw four or five sitatunga below them. There are three new hides in the forest, specifically for bat viewing, that were built by the BBC for the filming of the Life sequence. These make for great viewing. Thank you BBC!

One large “straw coloured fruit bat”taking off at sunset

David R, who as a professional photographer has been all over Africa, ranks the bat viewing as one of the top wildlife experiences in the world – along with the Mara migration and sitting with gorillas.

The bats migrate from the Democratic Republic of Congo to feed on masuku fruits. There is a short time period of around six weeks when they are there. They rise in waves from the branches during the day. You can hear the branches break under their weight. And then as the sun sets, like clockwork every day, they fly off into the colouring skies to feed in the forests, only to return again the following morning.

estimated to be 10 million batsdripping off the trees as they roost during the day

The safari also included a fly in day trip to the Bangweulu Swamps. They saw tens of thousands of black lechwe with their magnificent black fronts and good herds of tsessebe. The plains were wonderfully green with fireball lilies dotted about everywhere. The swamp water level was still very low after the dry season so there were no shoebill to be found as they are deep in the swamps at this time of year. But the birding, as always, was fantastic.

the flowers are out during the early rainsthe endemic black lechwe at Bangweulu Swamps

male black lechwe doing what all males doa family of tsessebe at Bangweulu Swamps

So countdown to Christmas…..all at RPS hope you have a most wonderful week, with friends, family, lots of love and joy! Speak to you after and probably a good few pounds heavier!

PS all the photos for the 2009 Photographtic Competition are uploaded onto the website. Take a look! Winners to be announced next week.

the magnificent black lechwe

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