Katavi National park is the third-largest park in Tanzania. It is also by far one of the least visited in the country, making it a truly untouched wildlife paradise. It is located in the west of Tanzania and is quite hard to access by road, so the easiest way to and out is by charter flights.
The park is primarily fed by the Katuma River which in the rainy season – April and May – transforms the park into a wetland. Lake Chada and Lake Katavi are both seasonal lakes that are situated within the park boundaries. In terms of vegetation, the park hosts a varied mix of bushland, Miombo forests, riverine forests as well as grasslands.
For those lucky enough to visit Katavi, the dry season – June to October – is by far the best time to see animals. The Katuma River is one of the few sources of water in the dry season and is the lifeline for creatures both large and small when they congregate along the river to drink and bath. Then, when the last lakes and swamps are drying, up to a thousand hippos at times would huddle together for that last bit of water. Large crocodiles can be seen basking in the sun or in the remaining mud pools.
Katavi’s dramatic scenery is as varied as it is pristine. Flood plains of thick reeds and dense waterways are home to a huge population of hippo and varied birdlife. In the woodlands to the west, forest canopies shroud herds of buffaloes and elephants. Seasonal lakes fill with dirty colored water after the rains and animals from all corners of the park descend in them to drink. The park is also home to the rare roan and sable antelope species, and it is a must-see for visitors intending to explore the wilds of the continent.
Isolated, untrammeled, and seldom visited, Katavi is a true wilderness, providing the few intrepid souls who make it there with a thrilling taste of Africa as if it must have been a century ago.
Tanzania’s third-largest national park; lies in the remote area southwest of the country, within a truncated arm of the Rift Valley that terminates in the shallow, brooding expanse of Lake Rukwa.
The bulk of Katavi supports a hypnotically featureless cover of tangled Brachystegia woodland, home to substantial but elusive populations of the localized eland, sable, and roan antelopes. Nevertheless, the main focus for game viewing within the park is the Katuma River and associated floodplains such as the seasonal Lakes Katavi and Chada. During the rainy season, these lush, marshy lakes are a haven for myriad waterbirds, and they also support Tanzania’s densest concentrations of hippos and crocodiles.
It is during the dry season, when the floodwaters retreat, that Katavi truly comes into life. The Katuma, reduced to a shallow muddy trickle, forms the only source of drinking water for miles around, and the flanking floodplains support game concentrations that defy belief. An estimated 4,000 elephants might converge on the area, together with several herds of 1,000-plus buffalo, while an abundance of giraffes, zebras, impalas, and reedbucks provide easy pickings for the numerous lion pride and spotted hyena clans whose territories converge on the floodplains.
The Katisunga plains in the heart of the park attract large numbers of wildlife, and it is one of the few parks where visitors can catch a glimpse of both the roan and sable antelope in the same place. Other animals grazing here is zebra, hartebeest, eland, giraffe, and defassa waterbuck. Katavi is also one of the last parks that boast massive herds of buffalo; some herds easily reaching a thousand animals or more. A healthy population of roughly 3000 elephants also resides in the park. Predators such as cheetahs, hyenas, jackals, and servals are also present in the area and the resident’s feelings of pride of lions are always around looking for their next meal. Leopards also call Katavi home.
With over 400 species of birds, Katavi is a great place for birdwatchers. Large flocks of storks like saddle bills, open-billed, and spoonbills as well as African fish eagles, Bateleurs, lilac-breasted rollers, crested barbets, and paradise flycatchers are but a few on the long list of birds in Katavi.
Guests can enjoy game watching and bird watching on game drives. Lodges in the park also offer walking safaris and night game drives, so you will be able to experience a larger variety of animals and plants more intimately.