Katavi National Park is a Tanzanian national park inaugurated in 1974 and it’s found in the Katavi region, west of Tanzania.
Covering roughly 4,471 square kilometers, it definitely makes this Park the third largest in Tanzania. It is a very remote and untouched park and unlike the other Parks in the country, mainly those in the northern circuit like Serengeti, Katavi is less frequently visited.
The park encompasses the Katuma River and the seasonal Lake Katavi and Lake Chada floodplains.
How to reach the Park
Accessing Katavi National Park by road transport can really be tiresome as it takes you more hours, in fact days, on the way driving.
The town of Mbeya is 550 kilometers (340 miles) distant and is described as a “…tough but spectacular…” drive; Google Maps indicate that Mbeya is 838 kilometers from Dar es Salaam, making the total distance approximately 1,400 kilometers (870 miles), requiring 20-plus hours driving.
The most direct route to Dar es Salaam is roughly 1250 kilometers (800 miles), over 16 hours of driving. Arusha too is similarly distant like 1000-plus kilometers, over 13 and half hours’ driving.
The percentage of transit on unpaved surfaces is unknown though, but parts of all of these routes will definitely be on dirt roads.
Since all of the above times from Google Maps assume an average transit speed of 80 km (50 mph), all these indicated travel times should be considered to be optimistic.
Therefore, the easiest and presumably the most convenient way to access Katavi National Park is by air.
Getting to Katavi for visitors will likely be arranged by the hosting camp, with one of the available charter flight services being the Mbali Mbali Shared Charter (operated by Zantas Air Services) or Safari Air Link.
On the other hand, Auric Air operates scheduled flights into Katavi National Park. All flights will require landing on a dirt airstrip; the Ikuu airstrip (near the Ikuu Rangerpost) has minimal services.
It is very approximately a three-hour flight from Katavi to Dar es Salaam and two hours’ flight to Mwanza via a small, bush-compatible light aircraft. A flight to Arusha is similarly approximately 3 hours distant.
What to see and do in Katavi National Park
Despite its remote location, Katavi is undoubtedly one of the most alluring national parks in Tanzania and of course your visit to the Park is worthwhile.
Wildlife features include large animal herds, particularly of Cape Buffaloes, zebras, wildebeests, giraffes, and elephants plus, along the Katuma river, crocodiles and hippos which upon annual dry seasons results in mud-holes that can be packed with hundreds of hippos.
Carnivorous animals that roam this park are cheetahs, wild dogs, hyenas, leopards, and lions. Some sources claim a very high biodiversity in the park, although there are also reports of wildlife decline due to illegal hunting and poaching, presumably ‘bush meat’ sustenance.
Accommodations in Katavi National Park
Foxes – Katavi Wildlife Camp
Katavi Wildlife Camp is set amongst the trees that fringe the Katisunga plains. From your vantage point either on your tents veranda or from the upper viewing lounge you can join the predators watching the plains game during the day.
Then anticipate the excitement of the predators hunting their dinner as the game move back to the trees in the evenings.
Katavi consists of 6 large Meru-style tents, overlooking the plain; each built on a raised wooden platform, and sheltered from the midday sun by a traditionally thatched roof. Each tent is en-suite, and has its own large veranda with hammock and chairs.
There are four double tents and two twin tents, and all have a safe. After dark, guests are escorted to and from their tent by Askari.
The camp is located where the Katuma River drains the Katisunga plain and the two-storey main banda is perfectly located to maximize viewing of the daily movements of game between grazing and drinking from the Katuma River.
Downstairs consists of a bar, a few sitting areas with comfortable armchairs, and a cozy dining area at the front of banda, overlooking the Katisunga plains.
Upstairs is a sitting area where guests can relax in the heat of the day, with stunning and far-reaching views overlooking the plains of Katisunga.
There is a small selection of books and magazines to browse. Just out the front is the fire-pit, where guests can have a pre-dinner drink and swap stories from the day’s safari.
Mbali Mbali Katavi Lodge
In the center of Katavi National Park lies Mbali Mbali Katavi, offering an exciting bush experience with breathtaking views over the vast plains of Katisunga. Mbali Mbali has untapped this national secret and created a highly exclusive experience at the heart of the Park.
Mbali Mbali Katavi is ideal for the traveler looking for a truly remote experience away from regular tourist routes.
In this park, you will find animals curious and unfamiliar to human contact. The flotillas of pelican are a special sight. Game drives are offered twice a day with an optional night game drive.
The lodge comprises of 11 safari tents and it is open to all ages. The lodge rate includes; daily meals, local beers, selection of spirits and house wines, soft drinks and water, laundry, Concession fees, two daily game drives or a full day game drive on a shared basis, transfer to and from Ikuu Airstrip.
Katuma Bush Lodge
In the centre of Katavi National park lies Katuma, a charming Bush Lodge that offers a riveting bush experience with breathtaking views over the vast plains of Katisunga. Katuma Bush Lodge has been designed to blend in with its surroundings to avoid distraction from the beauty of Katavi.
The Lodge retains an African simplicity and is an idyllic base for exploring the spectacular wildlife of this remote and wild Park.
The Mess area consists of a comfortable guest lounge, a spacious dining facility and spectacular viewing and swimming pool deck. The central fireplace on the main deck creates a warm and inviting ambience.
Meals are freshly flavored, aromatic and accompanied with tropical fruits and juices. When barbecues are served, guests are seated under the shade of tamarind trees whilst watching the sun setting over the plains.
Katuma Bush Lodge consists of spacious and comfortably furnished safari tents on raised wooden platforms, each with a writing desk, lamps, fine linen and en-suite facilities offering step-in showers with a full range of amenities. Each tent has a private, furnished balcony allowing for excellent views over the plains.