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.
About Katavi National Park
Formerly a game reserve, the park was established in 1974. The park is located Southwest Tanzania, east of Lake Tanganyika. The headquarters at Sitalike lie 40km (25 miles) south of Mpanda town. being Tanzania’s third largest national After Ruaha and Serengeti. park it covers an area of 4,471 square km(1,727 sq miles).
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 Park
Once 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 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 the plains.
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.
Katavi hosts 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 Katavi
Katavi 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.
How to get there
By Air: Kuwahuru Tanzania Adventure will arrange charter flight from Dar es Salam, Mwanza or Arusha cities to either Mpanda airport which is located in Mpanda town or to Sitalike and Ikuu airstrips inside the park.
By Road: From either Dar es Salaam via Mbeya (1513Km), Arusha via Tabora (1015.7km) or Mwanza via Mpanda (741 km). From Kigoma (390 km/240 miles) only in Dry season
By Rail: It is also possible to reach Mpanda by train from Dar es Salaam via Tabora then catch a public transport to Sitalike, where game drives can be arranged.
Best time to visit
May to October and mid December.
Two seasonal luxury tented camps overlooking Lake Chada. A rest house at Sitalike and campsites inside the park. Basic but clean hotels at Mpanda Several lodges and hotels at the village of Sitalike and Mpanda town, Outside the park: