This remote national park in western Tanzania is probably the wildest and most untouched reserve in the whole of Africa. It is the only remaining park in Africa that would best fit the description of Africa as it would have been 200 years ago, as described in the biographies of ancient white hunters and missionaries. It is the only remaining park in Africa where you are sure to have a million acres just to yourself. It just cannot get wilder!
Occupying an area of about 4,500sqkms- the 3rd largest in Tanzania, Katavi national park lies within the Rukwa rift, a shallow easterly extension of the main western rift valley that culminates in the extensive Lake Rukwa basin to the east of the national park. Katavi is characterized by the dense cover of brachystegia woodland, which are transected by the Katuma and Kapapa rivers. These 2 rivers then converge to become the Kavu river, which is a major effluent of Lake Rukwa. Both the Katuma and Kapapa rivers are seasonal and are flanked by open floodplains throughout their course. These rivers, however, in 3 places run through large, shallow depressions of tall, yellow grass and alluvial dust transforming them into lush marshes or shallow lakes during the height of the rainy season. These are Lake Katavi, Lake Chada and the Chemchem springs. These are the areas where wildlife converges during the dry season. And this is what makes katavi a perfect dry season reserve.
Concentration of Game
Katavi contains one of the highest concentration of wildlife amongst the Tanzanian parks. Thousands of buffalos, antelopes and elephants roaming the around the park provide ample feeding opportunity to the hundreds of prides of lions and other predators sharing the habitat. The park provides a good opportunity of viewing the rare species of cheetah and wild dogs. Other predators include leopards and hyenas. Prominent species include zebras, eland, topi, impala, hartebeest, waterbucks, giraffe, reedbuck and Defasssa.
Most spectacular of all, perhaps, are the huge numbers of hippos that converge on any stretch of the river, which is sufficiently deep to wallow in during the dry season. Katavi has one of the densest populations of hippos in Tanzania but during the dry season instead of occupying a wide deep river as in the Rufiji or Nile, they are squeezed into a shallow and muddy stream, flopped all over each other like seals at a breeding colony, providing one of the most remarkable viewing that will not be found anywhere else in the world. Also present at the rivers are crocodiles.
Bird life at Katavi is also quite interesting. Prominent species at the rivers include yellow-billed, open-billed and saddle-billed stork, pink-backed pelican, Africa spoonbill and numerous heron, egrets and plovers. Raptors include fish eagle, bateleur and white-backed vulture. Other species are found in the woodland and floodplain areas of the park.
Best time to visit
Katavi is definitely a dry season park. Best time to visit is between May and October. It is practically impossible to visit during the rainy season.
Activities mainly include game drives in open vehicles and walking safaris with armed rangers. Fly camping at the distant areas of the park is another recommended activity.
The most viable way of getting to Katavi is by flying. There are scheduled shared charters operating out of Arusha, Seronera, Ruaha and Kigoma. The other option would be driving but since the roads are in pretty bad condition and Katavi being quite far from other reserves, this option is quite difficult.
Since Katavi is such an interesting, wild and remote park containing a significant variety of wildlife and considering how expensive it is to visit we suggest you spend atleast 3 to 4 nights here. Anything less would be a sheer waste of money and time.
Our Recommendations on Katavi National Park
For us, in terms of untouched wilderness and amazing wildlife, Katavi is the best possible destination in Africa. It is the only place in the continent where you are likely to come across more lions than people ! If it is bush and wildlife just to yourself that you seek then Katavi is the place where you can have a million acres just to yourself. It is rough, tough, rugged but an experience that you will not get anywhere else in Africa. There is hardly anyone who comes out of Katavi not happy with the experience. For us this is the No. 1 destination in Africa.
We would suggest you visit Katavi after your northern and southern safari. This would work out well logistically.
Customized Itineraries are also available upon request.
Please contact us for a perfect, well-organized and affordable tour of this beautiful park.