Katavi National Park
The far west of Tanzania gives home to two of Tanzania’s lesser
known national parks: Katavi National Park and Mahale Mountains National
Park. This western circuit is extremely remote, tricky to access and
pretty costly to visit. As a result few people make the effort to come
here and so it has remained an untouched, unique experience, and
absolutely worth visiting.
Katavi National Park is a name to
conjure with. It is one of the best parks in Africa and many safari
operations would love to start camps here. However, the logistics and
costs are so difficult, that there are only a couple of small, permanent
safari camps sharing this 4,500km² of wilderness. You sometimes run
across more prides of lion than other people on a game drive.
Flora & Fauna of Katavi National ParkOnce
in Katavi, Tanzania's third largest national park won't disappoint you.
Two enormous plains of knee-high golden grass – Chada and Katasunga –
dominate the park, surrounded by varied woodlands and a usually abundant
amount of game.
Katavi’s animalsKatavi National Park is at
its best in the dry season, when the plains fill with thousands of
zebra, topi and impala. Hartebeest, giraffe, and Defassa waterbuck are
also very common, there's a large population of resident elephants, and
some impressive herds of buffalo. Katavi is a great park for watching
lion-buffalo interactions. Spotted hyena are frequently seen, whilst
leopard appear on the woodland fringes, but are more elusive. Wild dog
do live here, but tend to stick to the escarpment and are rarely seen on
During the dry season, the Katuma and Kapapa rivers
are the only water for miles. As the game files down to drink, hundreds
of hippo congregate in the tiniest waterhole and enormous crocodiles sit
out the heat in river-bank mud-holes.
large flocks of open-billed and saddlebilled storks, spoonbills, crested
cranes and pink-backed pelicans. Raptors are plentiful whilst the
woodlands of the national park are home to species as diverse as African
golden orioles, paradise fly-catchers and pennant-winged nightjars.
Vegetation in KataviKatavi
is situated on the northern aside of the ‘Rukwa Rift’, an extension of
the Western Rift Valley. Katavi’s dry woodlands are dominated by brachystegia species, which are mostly native to tropical Africa and dotted very densely around this area.
Getting to Katavi National ParkKatavi's
isolation has helped it to remain untouched and largely unvisited; by
light aircraft it takes four or five hours to reach here from Dar or
Arusha. However, the result is that whilst the Serengeti National Park
sees around 120,000 visitors per annum, Katavi has only a few hundred
visitors per year!
The least expensive way to get to Katavi (and
Mahale Mountains, which is relatively nearby) is by using twice-weekly
scheduled flights which link these parks with Arusha, in northern
Tanzania. Operating on Mondays and Thursdays, their relatively high cost
helps to make these parks two of Tanzania's most expensive
There are also flights routing Dar-Selous-Ruaha to
Katavi/Mahale, and back. These also run on Mondays and Thursdays. Sadly,
the costs for these are similar to the costs of chartering; certainly
no lower than the schedule flights from Arusha.