Katavi National Park is one of Africa’s last great wildernesses. The landscape practically pulses with wildlife. Any seeker of a genuine, raw African safari will surely be awed by what Katavi can offer.
Located in the west towards Lake Tanganyika, Katavi was once described as “isolated and unloved, and in need of support”. It was in tatters following rampant poaching and a chronic lack of funding. But over the past two decades Katavi has staged an incredible revival to become the best-kept secret when it comes to Tanzania safaris.
A Katavi safari is really off the beaten track and is perfect for the explorer who wants to get into the wilds of Africa.
One of Tanzania’s most exclusive camps can be found here. The Chada Katavi Camp overlooks the Chada floodplains, and is the sister camp to the Greystoke Mahale camp, in nearby Mahale Mountains National Park. These two parks are linked by plane on a Tanzania flying safari and many people also combine Katavi with a visit to the mighty Selous Game Reserve.
The park is situated in the shallow Rukwa Rift valley in Tanzania’s secret south-west, about 35km southwest of Mpanda. Katavi’s massive expanses of open grassland and miombo woodlands are penetrated by two major rivers, whose seasonal fluctuations form huge floodplains. The park’s landscape, like the quality of its game viewing, changes dramatically with the seasons.
In the dry season (May to October) you’ll see any number of the park’s 4 000 elephant, large herds of buffalo, pods of hippo piled on top of one another in the thin streams, zebra, giraffe, and there are probably more lions than people in the park! It’s a great time for game viewing as animals congregate in vast numbers at the banks of the rivers, which are now little more than muddy trickles.
In the rainy season (November to April) water is plentiful. The pans become shallow lakes, the rivers flood and the game disperses to all parts of the reserve. The combination of the heat, flooded roads and mosquitoes means that Katavi is perhaps best visited in the more benign dry season.
Katavi is also an excellent birding destination with over 400 bird species, with some notable ‘specials’ like the Angolan pitta, black-faced barbet and blue swallow.
For the independent-minded traveller, there are also several basic camps in the park but visitors will need to bring all their own supplies including sleeping bags, food and water. Just outside the park gate, the only accommodation to be found is the Katavi Hippo Garden Hotel in the village of Sitalike.