Katavi National Park 163

Katavi National Park is vast at about 5000 square and is teeming with wildlife, which is unmatched anywhere else in Africa. Katavi National Park is the Tanzania's third largest national park, Lying in the remote southwest section of the country, it is a truncated arm of the Rift Valley which gradually diminishes as it advances into the shallow, brooding expanses of Lake Rukwa.

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. The main focus within the park is the Katuma River and its floodplains which include the seasonal Lake Katavi and Chada. These are excellent for game viewing. During the rainy season, the lush, marshy lakes are populated with myriad water birds. Furthermore, and they also support Tanzania’s densest concentrations of hippo and crocodile.

It is during the dry season, when the floodwaters retreat, that Katavi truly comes on its own. The Katuma which gets reduced to a muddy, shallow trickle during the dry season remains the only source of drinking water for miles around. The floodplains that flank Katuma support game concentration that is unimaginable. Close to 4,000 elephants converge the area along with 1,000 buffalos, giraffes, zebras, impalas, and reedbucks. The abundance of game animals attract predators like lion, spotted hyenas etc.

Attractions
Katavi’s hippos provide most singular wildlife spectacle. As the dry season nears completion, upwards of 200 individuals might congregate on any given day at any riverine pool. More male hippos at one place means more territorial rivalry. Bloody fights involving two or more hippos are an everyday occurrence with the defeated ones forced to lurk in the open plains outside of the pool until they gather enough confidence to enter the riverine pool again. The springs and pools get packed sardine-like with hippos, crocodiles and elephants.

There are two or three major pools where the hippos are packed in very tightly in a very small area. The main pool at the ranger post sometimes contains as many as 3200 hippos, whilst a similar number will be in a nearby pool. Sharing these shrinking pools of water during the dry season are some good sized crocodiles and maribou storks, which pull the wriggling catfish out of the mud too.

Access
The park can be accessed through Charter flights from Dar or Arusha. By road a tough but spectacular day's drive from Mbeya (550 km/340 miles), or in the dry season only from Kigoma (390 km/240 miles).From Dar Es Salaam, it is possible to reach Mpanda by train via Tabora. From there, any public transport will take you to Sitalike where game drives are arranged. However, if you’re travelling overland, set aside ample amount of time to get there and back.

Tourist’s activities

  • Nature walks, game driving and camping safaris.
  • Near Lake Katavi, you’ll get to visit a giant tamarind tree which, as per local folklore, is inhabited by the spirit of legendary hunter Katabi after whom this park is named. Locals leave their offerings at the tree seeking blessing and good fortune from the spirit.

Accommodation
The park has limited Facilities, with just one camp in the park. One seasonal luxury tented camp overlooking Lake Chada, a rest house at Sitalike and campsites inside the park. Basic but clean hotels at Mpanda.

Safaris