Thousands of strong buffalo herds populate the plains of the exemplary Katavi National Park, one of Tanzania’s largest and most remote national parks in the western sector of the country.
Three diverse habitats provide shelter for cheetah, leopard, hyena, wild dogs, and various species of plains game. The 4,471 square kilometre park is home to the soupy marshlands of Lake Katavi, the Katuma River, and the floodplains of Lake Chada. Raised escarpments surround the Rukwa Rift Basin where Katavi National Park is located.
Katavi National Park is a game-rich destination with an extremely low density of annual visitors, making it a fantastic uncrowded destination for a safari. Huge herds of zebra, elephants, and giraffe thrive in this natural environment. Various lion families are found on the open plains, while pods of hippos enjoy the seasonal lakes that dot the varied landscape.
Although lesser-visited, Katavi National Park is extremely accessible. The closest international airport is in Dar es Salaam, which offers twice-weekly flights to various airstrips in Katavi National Park.
It is named after a Wabende spirit who apparently lives in a tamarind tree near Lake Katavi. He is supposed to bless locals who leave offerings at the foot of the tree.
Dry woodlands dominated the landscape where the Brachystegia species flourish.
Katavi National Park is known for its massive herds of buffalo, zebra, sable, roan, giraffe, and elephant. There is a high density of hippos and crocodiles, drawn to the area because of the Katumi River.
With such abundant herbivores in the area, it means ample prey sources for predators. Both leopard and lion are often spotted on Katavai’s traverse. Hyena, marabou storks, jackal, and vultures are also found regularly. Cheetah and wild dog are also prominent in the park, adding to the list of predator sightings in Katavi.
Several bird species are well-represented in the Katavi National Park. A few of the common residents include spoonbills, African openbills, bateleur, African fish eagles, vultures, lilac-breasted rollers and the attractive Pink-backed pelican. In total, there are more than 400 species of bird in Katavi National Park.
During the dry season, when water is scarce, predators move to the small pools to drink. Bloats of hippo huddle together in the scarce remaining pools of water, fighting for territory. The dry season is when the famous hippo showdowns happen. This dry season is peak game-viewing season, which is from June to November/December.
The wet season replenishes the previously dry landscape, providing scenes of glittering water and vivid green vegetation. March seems to be the perfect time for birding as this is when visitors witness incredible sightings of migratory species.
Katavi National Park covers expansive terrain, best explored in the comfort of an open-sided game viewer. Game drives introduce visitors to the thrill of spotting game in one of Tanzania’s most prehistoric regions. There are half-day and full-day game drives available, which normally departing during peak game viewing hours. Game drives cover plenty of ground and varied terrain, ideal for spotting a wealth of species.
Certain sectors within the park allow for guided walking safaris, which offers visitors an unbeatable way of exploring Tanzania. While on foot, visitors will be introduced to aspects often missed while in a vehicle.
Fly-camping is an adventurous activity recently introduced into Katavi National Park. Classic explorer style mobile camps are set-up in high-wildlife traffic areas. This activity is specifically designed for the wilderness adventurer.
There are no high-end lodges within the park. In Katavi, it’s all about the authentic safari experience. Remote tented camps, simple classic camps, and explorer-style lodges can be found dotted throughout the national park.
Most camps have been designed to take advantage of the surrounding views, which can include anything from waterholes to floodplains. In true tented camp style, all basic amenities are supplied, and the atmosphere is all about safaris. Visitors can enjoy campfire sessions, outdoor dining, bush breakfasts, and all safari activities.