Katavi National Park, Tanzania’s third largest national park (4471 km²), is the heart of one of the biggest and richest wildlife areas in Tanzania. Located along the rift escarpment in western Tanzania, it offers incredible scenery including immense wetlands, roaring waterfalls and original miombo woodlands, where the Sable antelopes often hide. During the dry season, huge herds of buffalo, zebras and impalas gather with elephants, waterbucks and duikers around the drying water reserves of Lake Katavi and Lake Chada.
You can also observe many animals along the remaining pools of the Katuma river which are bursting with hippos and crocodiles. Here, at these remaining water sources, the lions, leopards and wild dogs can be found searching for their prey, watched by patiently waiting vultures which share the trees with fish eagles, storks and vervet monkeys. As soon as the first rains start, Katavi transforms again into a flowering paradise with enormous swamps, lakes, rivers and waterfalls, attracting an incredible diversity of bird life.
- High habitat and species diversity with high concentrations of large mammals
- Extensive wetlands and important water catchments areas
- Wilderness character: The Katavi-Rukwa-Lukwati protected area complex still retains a distinct wilderness character.
- Interesting vegetation mosaic ranging from wetlands and lakes to riverine vegetation and various types of woodlands and shrublands (e.g. the woodlands of the inselbergs of Kapimbye, Kapapa and Igongwe)
- Home to some endangered and unusual species: wild dog, chetaahs (mostly seen in Mbuga ya Duma) roan and sable antelopes (e.g. in the woods of Ilumbi), eland (often encountered at lake Katavi, Kaselami Mbuga, the northern Chada plain, Kataukasi and Kakonje Mbugas)
- Historical and cultural resources: The Karema-Inyonga-Tabora slave route passed through the protected area complex. Stone age and iron age sites, sites of 19th century towns, Wamweru Hills and Katabi tree (14 km from the airstrip)
- Scenic diversity with escarpments, rugged hills, flat alluvial plains, marshes, lakes and rivers. Scenic spots are: hot springs, waterfalls Ndido, Chorangwa, Lukima, Iloba, and beautiful views from the top of the escarpment down into the Rukwa valley (e.g. the view of the steep Mlele escarpment close to Mpunga Mbuga).
Large herds of animals at Magogo Pools, Lake Katavi, Ilyandi sandridge, Katisunga Mbuga and Kasima Springs, Lake Chada. Katuma valley, Paradise springs in dry season
Hippo schools at Ikuu springs, Ikuu bridge and Sitalike. Crocodiles are found in large numbers in the Katuma riverbed and at the Ikuu bridge in caves as well as in Kapapa River, Rungwa River and Ndido falls.
Charter flights from Dar or Arusha.
A tough but spectacular day's drive from Mbeya (550 km/340 miles), or in the dry season only from Kigoma (390 km/240 miles). It is possible to reach Mpanda by rail from Dar via Tabora, then to catch public transport to Sitalike, where game drives can be arranged. If travelling overland, allow plenty of time to get there and back.
What to do
Walking, driving and camping safaris.
Near Lake Katavi, visit the tamarind tree inhabited by the spirit of the legendary hunter Katabi (for whom the park is named) - offerings are still left here by locals seeking the spirit’s blessing.
When to go
The dry season (May-October).
Roads within the park are often flooded during the rainy season but may be passable from mid-December to February.