What to see & do
During the dry season Kasanka's roads are generally good, and accessible with a high-clearance 2WD. There is a manually operated pontoon (GPS: PONTOO) for crossing the Kasanka River in the centre of the park, with staff stationed nearby who can assist. (There are plans to build a bridge here in late 2004.)
Activities organised by the Kasanka Trust include escorted walks, game drives (including night drives), canoeing, motorboat trips and fishing (bream and tigerfish). I can highly recommend the excellent canoe trips from Luwombwa.
There's also the chance to see some of the workings of Kasanka's community-based conservation projects, and meet their participants. One such project was initiated in the Kafinda area in 1997, aiming to raise awareness of the importance of conservation, and to provide alternatives to poaching for the community. Requested in advance, it is often possible for visitors to see some aspects of this project.
Alternatively driving yourself around is easy, though it's a shame to go by yourself when good guides are available and their community relies on their income. A few places within the park are worth specific mentions:
Machan Sitatunga Hide
A magnificent mululu tree (Khaya nyasica
), near to the Fibwe Guard Post (GPS: FIBWE), can be climbed, using a basic ladder, to reach two platforms almost 18m above the ground. The views over a section of the Kapabi Swamp are excellent, and if you reach this in the early morning and climb quietly then your chances of seeing sitatunga are excellent.
However, more leisurely risers should take heart: I have seen a number of sitatunga from here as late as midday. In short, this is probably the best place for seeing sitatunga in the wild anywhere in Africa – and so certainly one of the best tree-hides on the continent!
Meanwhile, when you're not searching for sitatunga, it's also a particularly productive birding spot with specials such as Ross's and Schalow's turaco, Boehm's bee-eater, black-backed barbet, speckled mousebirds and various sunbirds often visible in the nearby forest.
Shoebills have been spotted here at a quiet place on the southern side of the park. A small bench on an old termite mound affords good views over the lake, which has a resident population of sitatunga and some excellent birdlife.
This lies between the Kasanka River crossing and the Fibwe Hide. A game-viewing road winds through the open plain with palm clumps and plentiful puku. Another (new) road runs along the western side of the Kasanka, going downstream from the crossing. There are often large herds of puku here, and you'll frequently spot bushbuck and warthog.
The Chikufwe Plain (GPS: CHIFUN) is a large open area of seasonally flooded grassland, which is a favourite place to spot sable, hartebeest and reedbuck. There is a good grass airstrip here, and a loop road around the southern side of the plain.
Fishing is allowed within the park (get a permit in advance from Wasa), and the best waters are normally the Luwombwa River, so head for Luwombwa Camp if you want to fish. The camp's cooks will prepare your catch for dinner, if you wish. The main species found here are vundu catfish and large-mouth, small-mouth and yellow-belly bream. There are strict rules that allow only large fish to be removed for eating.