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Katavi National Park is Tanzania’s third-largest national park and one of its most pristine wilderness areas, home to an incredible abundance of diverse wildlife. Sprawling across 4,500 square kilometres along the rift escarpment, Katavi is packed with wildlife and offers world-class game viewing.
Yet the park remains undiscovered on the main safari circuit, with fewer visitors in a year than Serengeti National Park receives in a day. However, the isolated atmosphere only adds to the experience, and adventurous travellers will relish the opportunity to observe Tanzania’s fascinating wildlife without the crowds.
Get off the beaten track to find an isolated park stretching across vast grasslands, rolling hills, lush marshland, dense forests, and winding lakes and rivers. Together with the surrounding game reserves of Rukwa, Luafi and Lukwati, the whole conservation area covers around 25,000 square kilometres.
Katavi is known for its staggering number of animals, with scores of zebra, topi and impala, and large populations of buffalo, waterbuck, hartebeest and giraffe. There are over 4,000 elephants in the greater area, and you’ll have a great chance of spotting hyena and lion. More elusive species such as cheetah, leopard and African wild dog can also be found.
During the dry season, hippos and crocodiles take centre stage, with enormous populations crowding into the receding waterholes, gathering in such large numbers that they completely fill them. Nowhere else in Africa will you see such astonishing entanglements of grunting, fighting hippos, or snapping crocodiles tunnelling caves into the riverbanks.
The classic day game drives are thrilling, and you can also venture out on night game drives to spot nocturnal creatures such as genets and civet, and guided walking safaris with an armed game scout, where you can spot grazing hippos and lurking lions in the distance.
The best time to visit Katavi National Park is during the dry season from May to October, when the rivers recede, and animals are forced to congregate in large numbers around the few remaining water sources. July to October is peak season for Katavi, due to the prime game-viewing and dry weather conditions, yet the park rarely gets crowded.
The wet season runs from November to April, and as the rains come, the wildlife retreat into the woodland, making game-viewing more difficult. The weather is hot and humid, and the heavy rains can make roads inaccessible and many lodges close, particularly around April and May. The wet season is best for birdwatching, with the return of migratory birds, while photographers will be inspired the lush green scenery.
The Katavi National Park features on our Luxury Western Tanzania Safari, with four nights spent exploring the vast grasslands dotted with lions and zebra, and rivers heaving with hippos and crocodiles. As tailor made holiday providers, Wayfairer can include Katavi National Park on any bespoke Tanzania tour, or extend your time here according to your preferences.
Our favourite place to stay in Katavi National Park is Chada Katavi Camp. This incredibly remote camp is set deep within a game-rich area, and you’ll enjoy plenty of excellent wildlife sightings. With just six bush tents on elevated wooden platforms, surrounded by stunning bushland, you’ll relish the intimacy and isolation of the camp.