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Katavi National Park

Remote and isolated, this park is regarded by many as the ultimate safari park. It’s remote location guarantees an exclusive experience and the quality of big game viewing is staggering.

Fast Facts

Major Attractions
  • Spectacular waterfalls
  • Lake Katavi
  • Miomba woodland
  • Isolated, untrammeled and seldom visited
  • 400+ species of bird
  • Highest mammal biomass of any Tanzanian park
  • Large Hippo pods during the dry season
Activities
  • Walking safari
  • Game drive
  • Bird watching
  • Aerial safari
  • Bush dinners
Size
  • 4,471 sq km(1,727 sq miles)
Location
  • Located along the Rift escarpment in south-west Tanzania, east of Lake Tanganyika. The headquarters at Sitalike lie 40kms(25 miles) south of Mpanda town. Katavi National Park forms part of the western circuit of Tanzania.

ABOUT

Katavi National Park is the 3rd largest National Park in Tanzania. Katavi has one of the highest mammal biomass figures(estimated in excess of 23,000kgs per sq km) than all other protected areas in Tanzania excepting that of Lake Manyara National Park.

Katavi is remote and isolated but you will be richly rewarded with a visit to this amazing park. The park is regarded by many as the ultimate safari park. It’s remote location guarantees an exclusive experience and the quality of big game viewing is staggering. Massive buffalo herds duel with huge lion prides whilst pods of hippo congregate in their hundreds and vast elephant herds pound the plains. This is one of the most rewarding parks in Africa for an incredible game experience.

The captivating feature of this national park is the Katuma River and its floodplain. During the rainy season, these lush, marshy lakes are a haven for a myriad  of water birds, they also support Tanzania’s densest concentrations of hippo and crocodile. It is during the dry season, when the floodplains retreat that Katavi truly comes into its own. The Katuma is reduced to a shallow, muddy trickle and forms the only source of drinking water for miles around. The flanking floodplains support game concentrations that defy belief.   There are vast herds of buffalo, zebra, hippo, waterbuck and impala.

You can also observe many animals along the remaining pools of the Katuma river which are bursting with hippos and crocodiles. Here, at these remaining water sources, the lions, leopards and wild dogs can be found searching for their prey, watched by patiently waiting vultures which share the trees with fish eagles, storks and vervet monkeys. As soon as the first rains start, Katavi transforms again into a flowering paradise with enormous swamps, lakes, rivers and waterfalls, attracting an incredible diversity of bird life

It is worth mentioning that certain animal habits in Katavi are unique. Crocodiles mass together in nests of 15, while hippo pods can be between 200 and 500 strong at the end of the dry season. Nowhere else in Africa does either species come together in such large groups.

Katavi offer it’s visitors incredible scenery including immense wetlands, roaring waterfalls and original miombo woodlands, where the Sable antelopes often hide. Due to the parks remoteness there are fewer visitors to Katavi, this is what makes it special. It is the ultimate safari experience of remoteness, isolation, and of being at one with nature. Katavi really gives you a feel for raw and wild Africa.

WILDLIFE 

With one of the highest animal biomasses of any Tanzanian park, Katavi will astound you with its sheer volume of animals.

During the dry season an estimated 4,000 elephants might converge on the flood plains together with several herds of 1000+  buffalo, while an abundance of giraffe, zebra, impala, roan and sable antelope, eland and reedbuck provide easy pickings for the numerous lion prides and spotted hyena clans whose territories converge as they move towards the last remaining water sources.

Towards the end of the dry season, up to 500 hippos might flop together in any riverine pool of sufficient depth. As more hippo’s gather in one place, the male rivalry heats up and bloody territorial fights are an everyday occurrence, while the vanquished male is forced to lurk hapless on the open plains until it gathers sufficient confidence to mount another challenge.

Katavi is also home to some endangered and unusual species including wild dog, cheetah(mostly seen in Mbuga ya Duma), roan and sable antelope(seen in the woods of Ilumbi), eland(often encountered at Lake Katavi, Kaselami Mbuga, the northern Chada plain, Kataukasi and Kakonje Mbugas).

Bird watching is best practised around the swamps and lakes as these areas provide the safest breeding ground for the birds such as pelicans, water fowl and open billed stork.

GEOGRAPHY

Most of Katavi National Park lies inside the Rukwa Rift Basin, which is part of the Central African Rift System. This huge tectonic basin (360 km long and 40 to 60 km wide) is a parallel arm of the Tanganyika Rift Valley and Lake Rukwa is its lowest south-eastern point.

Two major landscape units can be found in the area of Katavi National Park. The first is the Rift valley floor and the bordering Rift valley shoulders on both sides with their adjacent highlands, the second are the mountains and plateaus east and west of the valley. The western “shoulder” is the Llyamba lya Mfipa Escarpment and the eastern “shoulder” is the Mlele Escarpment.

The valley floor consists of flat to slightly undulated wooded terrain which is split by vast floodplains, seasonal lakes, rivers and shallow drainage lines. The vegetation is a colourful mosaic with closed to open woodlands, shrublands, grasslands, swamps, seasonal lakes and riverine vegetation. A huge variety of grasses, herbs and flowers (many flowering in wet season)and shrubs and trees (226 different tree species recorded) can be found.

CLIMATE

Rainfall varies with the Rukwa Rift Valley floor  receiving between 800 and 900mm. On the other hand, rainfall on the higher ground increases with most of the park receiving between 900 and 1000 per annum. The peaks are in November and December and again in March. October is the hottest month with average temperatures in excess of 30 degrees celsius. However, as the elevation increases there is a corresponding drop in temperature. June is the coolest month in Katavi  with an average temperature of below 24 degrees celsius.

WHEN TO VISIT

Katavi is most impressive in the dry season, when the lakes and rivers are almost dry. Many animals including 4000 elephant then concentrate at the few water holes. One of Katavi’s most spectacular animal experience are the hippos. Toward the end of the dry season you might see up to 500 hippos in a river pool. With a pod of this size the rivalry between the competing males escalates dramatically.

May to October is the best time to visit. Roads within the park may be flooded during the rainy season but may be passable from mid December to February.

Accommodation at Katavi National Park

Chada Katavi, Tanzania Safari, SafariHQ

Chada Katavi

Chada Camp only accommodates up to 12 people. This ensures its exclusivity, privacy and the feeling of remoteness that gives this camp its character.

katavi wildlife camp, Katavi National Park, Tanzania Safari, SafariHQ

Katavi Wildlife Camp

This camp has prime position at the mouth of the Katuma River. Every day, during the dry season, a whole host of game can be seen wandering into what is the only water source for miles around.

Katuma Bush Lodge 01

Katuma Bush Lodge

The lodge has been designed to blend in with its surroundings to avoid distracting from the beauty of Katavi and the herds of animals that can be seen right from your tent.

Optional Activities in Katavi National Park