Known for its diverse landscapes and abundance of game, Katavi National Park's drawcard is its remoteness. This has ensured that the area has remained completely unspoilt, with few visitors, allowing a safari guaranteed to make you feel like the only people on earth! With large populations of elephant, lion, hippo and more, game viewing is beyond spectacular, especially during the dry season when water sources are few.

Highlights
  • Remote location with refreshingly low numbers of annual visitors
  • Varied habitats from open grasslands to wooded areas to seasonal lakes and rivers
  • Wide array of large game, including impressive herds of thousand-strong buffalo
  • Densest populations of hippo and crocodile in Tanzania
  • Walking safaris are allowed at Katavi for a real bush experience
  • Incredible birdlife with over 400 species
  • A number of cultural and historical sites, including the legendary Katabi Tree

At just under 4,500 km², Katavi National Park is Tanzania's third largest park. Situated in the remote southwest of Tanzania, access to the park is not easy and there are few camps, ensuring that the park is not overrun with visitors and safari vehicles.

The park is named after the Wabende spirit, Katabi, who according to local legend lives in a tamarind tree near Lake Katavi. Locals looking for blessings from his spirit still leave offerings at the foot of the tree.

The area was first protected in 1911 during the German occupation and was later named Rukwa Game Reserve under British occupation until 1932. In 1974, an area of just over 2,200 km² was declared a National Park and the larger area was finally gazetted in 1996 and opened officially with the name Katavi National Park in 1998.

Located in the Rukwa Rift Basin, which forms part of the Central African Rift Valley, Katavi boasts steep highland cliffs and escarpments, floodplains, vast grasslands and seasonal lakes, interspersed with woodlands.

Game in the park is plentiful, with large populations of elephant, buffalo, zebra, a wide variety of antelope and giraffe. There are plenty of predators here, including lion, leopard, cheetah and wild dog. The main river through the park, the Katuma River, dries to a few muddy pools during the dry season and it is here where you can see huge numbers of hippo crammed into small pools, resulting in terrifying fights between the males.

Things to see and do in Katavi National Park

The main activity, of course, is game viewing, which can be done on both game drives and guided walking safaris. The bonus of game drives in Katavi National Park is that you're unlikely to come across any other humans. Walking safaris are an experience not to be missed to really get up close to the African bush, its sights, sounds and aromas.

Fly camping is offered. This is the definition of bush camping, where normal tents (don't expect luxury!) are set up in the bush at a temporary campsite. No fences, no flush toilets or showers. It's living in the wild; cooking food over a fire and spending evenings chatting around the campfire, staring up at the breathtaking African night sky and listening to the nocturnal calls of wild animals.

There are a number of places of cultural and historical interest in Katavi. These include Stone and Iron Age sites and sacred sites such as the Katabi Tree, where the Wabende spirit, Katabi, lives.

Best time to visit

Katavi National Park offers great game viewing all year around but reaches its peak during the dry season from June to November or December when the animals gather in their thousands around scarce water sources.

During the wet season, the floodplains turn to lakes and offer spectacular birdwatching opportunities.

Getting there

By car - Katavi is a two to three-day drive from Dar es Salaam and requires a definite level of adventure-seeking. The road from Arusha, even more so.

By air - By far the easiest way to get to Katavi National Park, twice-weekly scheduled flights are offered from Dar es Salaam. Chartered flights can also be arranged.

Katavi Wildlife Camp
Katavi Wildlife Camp - Katavi National Park - Tanzania

Katavi Wildlife Camp is one of a handful of camps in the remote Katavi National Park in Tanzania, offering an uncrowded and spectacular African safari. Unobtrusively built amongst the trees on the edge of the Katisunga floodplains, the small and simple yet stylish tented camp offers incredible views. During the wet season, the plain fills with water and the birdlife is spectacular. During the dry season, expansive herds of game can be seen making their way to the permanent water source nearby.

Chada Katavi

A classic tented safari camp for those looking to experience the expeditionary spirit of original colonial explorers.

Mbali Mbali Katavi Lodge

Remote tented safari camp overlooking Katisunga Plains.

Lake Katavi

Site of tamarind tree where, according to folklore, the spirit of the legendary hunter, Katabi, resides.

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Katavi Wildlife Camp - Katavi National Park - Tanzania
Katavi Wildlife Camp

Katavi Wildlife Camp is one of a handful of camps in the remote Katavi National Park in Tanzania, offering an uncrowded and spectacular African safari. Unobtrusively built amongst the trees on the edge of the Katisunga floodplains, the small and simple yet stylish tented camp offers incredible views. During the wet season, the plain fills with water and the birdlife is spectacular. During the dry season, expansive herds of game can be seen making their way to the permanent water source nearby.

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