Originally, Katavi National Park was a game reserve covering only 1,823 square kilometres. It was officially named a National Park in 1974 and later expanded to cover 4,471 square kilometres. Since 1997 it is, after Ruaha and Serengeti, the third largest national park in Tanzania.
The park is located 40km south of Mpanda town of West Tanzania and encompasses River Katuma, lake Katavi, lake Chada and its flood plains. In Katavi, you will find animals like cape buffalos, zebras, wildebeest, giraffes, cheetahs, lions, leopards, hyenas, elephants and much more. The Katuma River also harbours crocodiles, hippos, a great diversity that is constantly declining due to illegal hunting.
Katavi is one of the least visited National parks in the country, making it a truly untouched wildlife gem. The park’s major water source is the Katuma River which transforms the park into a wetland during the wet season. Lake Chada and Lake Katavi are both seasonal lakes which also provide water for the wildlife. The vegetation is made up of a varied mix of bush land, miombo forests, riverine forests, and grasslands. During the wet season, animals like hippos, crocodiles move along the river to drink and bath.
Species and diversity:
The park is one of the few places where the roan and sable antelope can be seen in the same place. Other animals include zebra, hartebeest, eland, giraffe and defassa waterbuck. Katavi has some of the largest herds of buffalos some reaching 1000 plus, elephants 3000 plus among Predators like lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, jackals, and serval cats. Over 400 bird species such as saddle bills, open-billed and spoon bills as well as African fish eagles, Bateleurs, lilac breasted rollers, crested barbets and paradise flycatchers also reside in Katavi.
Size and accessibility:
Covering over 4,471 square kilometres, Katavi National park is the third largest national park in the country.
Katavi National Park is one of the most remote National parks in the country but can still be accessed by both road and air.
Accessing Katavi by car is possible but will take some time to reach. via ground transportation (road) is also possible but varies depending on where one is.
From Mbeya town approximately 6-7 hours for 550 km
From Dar es Salaam approximately 20+ hours for 1,400 km
From Arusha approximately 13-14 hours for 1,000 plus km
Charter flight services are available, being offered by Zanta Air Services or Safari Air linked to the Ikuu airstrip. This is approximately 3 hours flight from Dar es Salaam and 2 hours flight from Mwanza using a small, bush-compatible light aircraft.
A flight from Arusha is approximately 3 hours and operates on limited service usually only twice a week (Mondays and Thursdays).
It is also possible to travel by train from Dar es Salaam to Kigoma from there with a ferry and taxi to the national park. This journey takes about 3 1/2 days.