Katavi National Park

Katavi National Park in western Tanzania is remote and wild, a destination for the true safari enthusiast. The park is home to the rare roan and sable antelope species.

Despite being Tanzania’s third-largest park, Katavi National Park sees relatively few visitors; meaning that those guests who arrive here can look forward to having this huge untouched wilderness to themselves. The park’s main features are the watery grass plains to the north; the palm-fringed Lake Chada in the southeast, and the Katuma River.

Katavi boasts Tanzania’s greatest populations of both crocodiles and hippopotamus. Lion and leopard find prey among the huge populations of herbivores at Katavi; impala, eland, topi, zebra, and herds of up to 1,600 buffalo wander the short grass plains. The rare, honey-colored puku antelope is one of the park’s best wildlife viewing rewards. A kaleidoscope of birds flit across the riverbanks, swamps, and palm groves; while flotillas of pelican cruise the lakes and elephant graze waist-deep in the marshlands.

This is a real off-the-beaten-track safari. Travel back in time and experience an excellent Tanzania safari without the crowds of people in the more well-known parks.

Best time to visit Katavi National Park

Katavi is best visited in the dry season; between July and October; when the floodwaters retreat, and the area truly comes to life. The Katuma River, 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’s and spotted hyena clans; whose territories converge on the floodplains.

Katavi hippo
Katavi hippo

Katavi’s most singular wildlife spectacle is provided by its hippos. Towards the end of the dry season; up to 200 individuals might flop together in any riverine pool of sufficient depth. And as more hippos gather in one place, so does male rivalry heat up; bloody territorial fights are an everyday incident; with the defeated male forced to lurk on the open plains until it gathers sufficient confidence to mount another challenge.