Katavi National Park | Background Info

At 4471 square kilometres, Katavi National Park is Tanzania’s 3rd largest wildlife reserve. The inaccessibility of Katavi National Park makes this prohibitively expensive for many people visiting this remarkable country. However, it is well worth the effort and expense once you get there. This is the park for the seasoned safari-goer and it never fails to fill visitors with wonder. It is one of the few places left in Africa that is literally off the beaten track and hence, one of Tanzania’s hidden gems. Due to the effort it takes to get this far west, people often combine it with seeing the chimps at Mahale Mountains.

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The sheer number of game here is staggering. In particular, the elephant and buffalo herds are huge. Lion prides are plentiful and interactions between lion and buffalo can often be seen here. Enormous crocs and hippo pods can be found in the lakes. Whilst you can also be out for a day in parts of Selous and not meet another human soul, the same applies in Katavi ten-fold. It is a fact that concentrations of wildlife here surpass even the Ngorongoro crater but without a line up of cars next to a kill! The birdlife is also unsurprisingly good with plenty of storks from open-billed, saddlebilled to spoonbilled. Beautiful golden oriels and paradise flycatchers can also be found in abundance.

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.

What else...

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 and experience its sights, sounds and smells.

Fly camping is offered. This is the ultimate 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.

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 so few visitors around, a Katavi safari is guaranteed to make you feel like the only people on earth! With large populations of elephants, lions, hippos and more, game viewing is beyond spectacular, especially during the dry season when water sources dwindle.


Isolated, untrammeled and seldom visited, Katavi is a true wilderness, providing the few intrepid souls who make it there with a thrilling taste of Africa as if it must have been a century ago.

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

The bulk of Katavi supports a hypnotically featureless cover of tangled brachystegia woodland, home to substantial but elusive populations of the localised eland, sable and roan antelopes. Nevertheless the main focus for game viewing within the park is the Katuma River and associated floodplains such as the seasonal Lakes Katavi and Chada. During the rainy season, these lush, marshy lakes are a haven for myriad water birds, and they also support Tanzania’s densest concentrations of hippos and crocodiles.

katavi national park Roan antelopes seen at the woodlands of Katavi National Park