Kasanka National Park

Serenje, Zambia

 

From October to December, nearly 10 million straw-colored fruit bats descend on the mushitu swamp forest in Kasanka National Park to gorge themselves on seasonal fruit. Nature lovers trek to a far-flung corner of northern Zambia to watch the spectacle, and viewers of David Attenborough's BBC Africa series were able to catch a glimpse from home. It's one of the planet's greatest migrations. 

During the rest of the year, Kasanka's plains and woodlands are quiet, the wanderings of reedbuck, warthogs and Kinda baboons undisturbed by safari vehicles. Guests who stay in the small thatched huts on the edge of Lake Wasa spy rare birds and fall asleep to a low, rumbling soundtrack of hippos. Kasanka is a special place that feels simultaneously forgotten and undiscovered. Wildlife sightings here come with a surge of adrenaline, because there is no mistaking it: This is the wild.

Thirty years ago, however, there wasn't much to see. When David Lloyd, a hunter-turned-conservationist, visited the ailing park in 1985, he heard poachers' gunshots. He decided to save Kasanka and set up a trust, establishing the first privately managed national park in Zambia. Animal populations are steadily recovering and diversifying. The elephants returned. Puku antelope, once almost decimated, now number more than 5,000.  

Tourism funds conservation efforts, including the ongoing battle against poaching, community education, and the annual campaign to set preventative fire breaks. One of the Kasanka's best on-the-ground allies noticed the park was missing a ripe opportunity to raise money through a fee-based volunteer program. I helped him develop a business proposal to launch a formal voluntourism initiative at Kasanka designed to generate income without requiring a startup budget. Together we refined a high-level timeline, audience analysis, marketing strategy, income review, and job description for a commission-based volunteer coordinator. The board of directors approved the project proposal.

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