Katavi national park is a genuine wilderness located on the western side of Tanzania, 40 kilometers south of the town of Mpanda, east of Lake Tanganyika, and in the Great Rift Valley, which extends into the shallow area of Lake Rukwa. Katavi national park is the third largest national park in Tanzania with an area of 4,471 square kilometers. The park’s territory consists of numerous plains, including Chada plain and Katsunga plain. Katavi national park is located 1062 kilometers away from Arusha, a significant tourist destination in Tanzania, 503 kilometers away from Mbeya, and 383 kilometers away from Kigoma.
Katsunga plain is a dominant feature located in the center of Katavi national park. It consists of a vast grassy expanse and bush tracts that attract roan and sable antelopes and covers an area of 425 square kilometers. Katavi national park is also dominated by areas of bush, wooded savannah, Miombo woodlands, and flood plains, which are home to the park’s animals. During the dry season, the flood plains are crowded with a large number of animals coming to drink water, making them the best place to observe these animals. Katavi national park consists of Lake Katavi, a seasonal lake that varies in size from 100 to 150 kilometers depending on the volume of water in the lake.
Katavi national park is home to some of the last remaining herds of buffalo on the African continent, as well as giraffes, topis, elands, zebras, waterbucks, hartebeests, impalas, topis, duikers, elephants, leopards, lions, hyenas, wild dogs, and many others. The majority of animals in Katavi national park inhabit the banks of the Katavi, Katuma, and Chada rivers, as well as the escarpments of Mlele and Lyamba lya Mfipa in the park’s northern and western regions. Crocodiles are also located in the park, in the riverbeds of Katuma River, Ndido Falls, Kapapa River, and the caves near Ikuu Bridge.Katavi national park is a recognized significant birding area in Tanzania that is home to more than 420 bird species, including water birds that roost on riverbanks, raptors, and migratory bird species present from November to April. Katavi national park is home to herons, plovers, spoonbills, yellow-billed and saddle-billed storks, fish eagle, bateleur eagle, white-backed vulture, African spoonbills, little bee-eaters, red-billed hornbills, crested barbets, yellow-throated sand grouses, and orange-breasted bush-shrikes, among others.
History of Katavi National park
The German colonialists in Tanzania established Katavi national park as a protected area in 1911. When the Germans were overthrown by the British in 1932, the park was renamed Rukwa Game Reserve. In 1998, the reserve’s name was changed to Katavi national park, and it was officially inaugurated as a national park. In 1974, the reserve’s area was 1,832 square kilometers; in 1997, the area was expanded to 4,471 square kilometers; and in 1998, the reserve’s name was changed to Katavi national park.
According to local legends, “Katabi” was a fabled hunter, and tamarind trees dotting the landscape of Katavi national park are believed to be inhabited by Katabi’s spirit. In honor of the Katabi spirit, locals visit the Tamarind trees and leave offerings at their base.
Tourist activities in Katavi national park
Katavi national park is home to a large number of animals with a wide range of species. During a game drive, animals such as roan antelopes, eland, sable antelopes, zebras, impalas, buffaloes, giraffes, lions, spotted hyenas, reedbucks, and many others can be observed. The best places to observe these animals are the flood plains, marshy lakes during the rainy season, the margins of the Katavi, Chada, and Katuma rivers, and the marshy lakes during the rainy season. Day game drives are conducted between 06:30 a.m. and 06:30 p.m., and night game drives are conducted during the dark hours of the night, providing views of predators such as lions, elephants, and spotted hyenas, among others. The best period for game viewing in Katavi national park is between June and October, during the dry season.
Katavi national park is a prominent bird watching destination in Tanzania offering sights of over 450 bird species, while on bird watching experience expect to enjoy sights of birds like yellow billed and saddle-billed stork, fish eagle, bateleur eagle, white-backed vulture, African spoonbills, little bee-eaters, red billed hornbills, crested barbets, yellow-throated sand grouses, orange breasted bush-shrikes and many more. The period from November to April, when migratory birds are present in Katavi national park, is the most rewarding for bird viewing.
Walking / hiking experience
The walking/hiking experience in Katavi national park is a very exciting one that allows visitors to see nearly every part of the park; it begins at the park’s headquarters and leads to Katavi seasonal lake. Short and long walking/hiking experiences are available on distinct trails, with the short walking/hiking experience occurring on the Sitalike walking trail, which is 1-9 kilometers long and takes approximately 3 hours to complete. The 17-kilometer Chorangwa trekking trail requires more than five hours to complete and requires a considerable amount of walking/hiking experience.
Camping in Katavi national park is an exciting activity that provides an authentic African wilderness experience; the park contains numerous campsites where visitors can enjoy camping. These campsites are classified as either special campsites, public campsites, or flying camping locations. A public campsite includes amenities such as restrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, dining areas, and water. Special campsites maximize privacy to a great extent, and fly camping is a prominent example of special camping with superior privacy and an intrepid spirit.
Where to stay while on a safari in Katavi national park
While on safari in Katavi national park, there are a variety of opulent, mid-range, and affordable lodging options to choose from. Luxury accommodations include Katavi wildlife camp and Nomad Tented camp. Midrange accommodations include Mbali Mbali Katavi lodge, Chada Katavi camp, and Palahala luxury camp.
How to get to Katavi national park
Katavi national park is accessible via three modes of transportation: air, road, and rail. Domestic flights are available by air from Dar es Salaam, Mwanza, and Arusha. Several airlines offer these domestic flights, including Zantas air, Safari air link, and Sitalike, which are located within Katavi national park and Mpanda airport, which is located in Mpanda town. Katavi national park is accessible by road from various Tanzanian landmarks. From Dar-es-Salaam, it is 1513 kilometers via Mbeya and 1392 kilometers from Tabora, 1015.7 kilometers via Tabora, and 741 kilometers via Tabora-Inyonga from Mwanza. By train, from Dar es Salaam to Tabora, then from Tabora to Sitalike via public transportation or motorcycle.