BATS!! Kasanka National Park, Zambia


Wow, those are really…. BATS!!


These first two are the “scouts,” flying ahead to make sure the way is safe for the five million bats that will be following over the next 25 minutes.  Five millions bats is a lot of bats.  They say it’s the Largest Mammal Migration in the World.


And we are here in Zambia to see it!  As campers in Kasanka National Park, we saw the bats twice each day.  Once at around 5pm as they were flying out for the night, and again at around 5am as they returned to their roosts.  We were a raucous group viewing the bats in the evening, 12 kids and 12 adults, half of whom were more interested in playing leapfrog, plucking cattails out of the marsh, and taking pictures of each other with their parent’s cell phones.


They are pretty cute.  Jake likes the girls.


The sunset bats were definitely the most beautiful, flying like shadows against the pink clouds.  The rain made for a wet night, but without the clouds I don’t believe it would have been as memorable.


It definitely wouldn’t have been as memorable for these people, without 12 kids running around oblivious to what was probably a once-in-a-lifetime dream for them…. Sorry, people with awesome cameras!


In the dark blackness of early morning, around 4am, some of us left our warm sleeping bags to see the bats fly home.  We climbed up a wooden ladder into “the hide,” nicknamed the “BBC Hide,” because it was featured on a BBC special a few years ago.


You needed a sense of balance for this one.  No fear of heights allowed.


This gentleman was our escort into the hide.  Note the large gun.  No fear of animals allowed either.  He looks a bit bored, doesn’t he?  (“Why are all these crazy people making me get up at 3am to go see a bunch of bats??”)


Here they come!


Millions of bats!!  Scourging the trees!!  The branches are devoured and broken, beneath the tremendous weight of bat!!


Seriously, it was pretty weird.  The sky was saturated with crazy hungry/tired/I don’t know what creatures, flapping their wings and going in all directions at once.  I understand the meaning now behind “bats!#t crazy.”  These fruit bats come down from Democratic Republic of Congo to feed, and contrary to the stereotype are not actually blind.  But they are crazy!


While I enjoy playing with my ultra-zoom lens, it was very clear that I have no idea how to take good pictures in the pseudo-dark.  My early shots of the bats coming home didn’t look so good.  I guess I need some classes.


By 5am, the bats settled, and the sun was coming up over the African trees.  Already hot, and destined to be hotter still.


Later today, we’ll take a hike through the Bush to see zebras, monkeys, and impala, but now they are sleeping in the tall grass where the leopards and cheetahs won’t find them.


Back at the campsite we start a fire and make breakfast… fritattas, banana muffins, and Corn Pops.  And Thanksgiving Dinner is next!


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