Katavi truly is pristine wilderness and represents the essence of adventure. It is isolated, untrammelled and seldom visited, providing the intrepid soul with a thrilling taste of Africa from a bygone era.
It is Tanzania’s third largest national park and lies in the remote southwest of the country, within a truncated arm of the Rift Valley that ends in the shallow expanse of Lake Rukwa.
Katavi’s signature is its tangled brachystegia woodland, home to beautiful and elusive eland, sable and roan antelopes, but the main focus for game viewing within the park is along the Katuma River and associated floodplains such as the seasonal Lake Katavi and Lake Chada. During the rainy season, these lush, marshy lakes are a haven for innumerable water birds as well as Tanzania’s densest concentrations of hippo and crocodile.
Throughout the dry season, when the floodwaters retreat Katavi truly comes into its own. Lake Katuma, reduces to a shallow, muddy trickle and forms the only source of drinking water for miles around, and the flanking floodplains support game concentrations that defy belief. Large groups of elephants converge on the area, together with several herds of a 1,000-plus African buffalo, while an abundance of giraffe, zebra, impala and reedbuck provide easy pickings for the numerous lion prides and spotted hyena.
Katavi’s most singular wildlife spectacle is its hippos. Towards the end of the dry season, up to 200 individuals slump together at a time, in any riverine pool of sufficient depth; and as more hippos gather, male rivalry heats up into bloody territorial fights on a daily basis.
About Katavi National Park
Size: 4,471 sq km (1,727 sq miles).
Location: Southwest Tanzania, east of Lake Tanganyika.
The headquarters at Sitalikelie 40km (25 miles) south of Mpanda town.
Scheduled and especially charter flights are available from Dar or Arusha.
It is a tough but spectacular day’s drive from Mbeya (550 km/340 miles.
What to do
Enjoy walking, driving and camping safaris. Near Lake Katavi, visit the tamarind tree inhabited by the spirit of the legendary hunter Katabi (for whom the park is named) – offerings are still left here by locals seeking the spirit’s blessing.
When to go
Ideally during the Dry season (May-October).
Roads within the park are often flooded during the rainy season but may be passable from mid-December to February.
There are two seasonal luxury tented camps overlooking Lake Chada. A resthouse at Sitalike and campsites, are available inside the park.