At 4471 square kilometres, this is Tanzania’s 3 rd largest wildlife preserve. The inaccessibility of Katavi National Park makes this prohibitively expensive for many people visiting this remarkable country. However, it is well worth the effort and expense once you get there. This is the park for the seasoned safari-goer and it never fails to fill visitors with wonder. It is one of the few places left in Africa that is literally off the beaten track and hence, one of Tanzania’s hidden gems. Due to the effort it takes to get this far west, people often combine it with seeing the chimps at Mahale Mountains.
The sheer number of game here is staggering. In particular, the elephant and buffalo herds are huge. Lion prides are plentiful and interactions between lion and buffalo can often be seen here. Enormous crocs and hippo pods can be found in the lakes. Whilst you can also be out for a day in parts of Selous and not meet another human soul, the same applies in Katavi ten-fold. It is a fact that concentrations of wildlife here surpass even the Ngorongoro crater but without a line up of cars next to a kill! The birdlife is also unsurprisingly good with plenty of storks from open-billed, saddlebilled to spoonbilled. Beautiful golden oriels and paradise flycatchers can also be found in abundance.
Safaris in Katavi tend to be by game drive vehicle although some camps like Nomad’s Chada Camp offer foot safaris and fly-camping too.
Best time to visit
Like Selous and Ruaha, Katavi’s peak time is the dry season from July through October. The drier the landscape, the more reliant the wildlife gets on more meagre water supplies and therefore they are easier to find congregating around whatever is remaining in the park. This is why the driest months are the peak season when game viewing gets seriously good with July, August & September being the very best months. You are likely to meet very few other guests but if you want to guarantee this, visit outside the 3 peak months and have the park to yourself.
How to get there
The best way to get to Katavi is on a schedule flight. These run just twice a week and link the park to Dar & Arusha. It takes a good 4 or 5 hours by light aircraft. The cost however is high. The upside? Once there, accommodation is relatively inexpensive and a high standard.