Katavi National park

Katavi National Park in Tanzania was established in 1974 and is one of the most isolated national parks in the country. The national park spans over an area of approximately 4,471 square kilometers making it the third largest national park in Tanzania. It is located in Katavi Region in the western part of Tanzania.

Katavi national park was first a protected area in 1911 during the German colonial government. It was later named the Rukwa Game Reserve by the British colonial government in the following years leading up to 1932. When it was declared a national park in 1974, the park only covered 1,823 square kilometers of land. Later in 1997, the park was expanded to its present size. The park was officially named Katavi park in 1998.

Katavi National Park is managed by the Tanzania National Parks Authority. The park is less frequently visited as compared to other national parks in Tanzania. The national park encompasses the Katuma River and two seasonal lakes namely; Lake Katavi and Lake Chada.

The national park derives its name from Kabati, a famous and legendary hunter, whose spirit locals believe inhabited a tamarind tree near Lake Katavi. Offerings are left at the foot of this tree by locals seeking blessings from Katabi’s spirit. The park offers visitors un-spoilt wildlife viewing while on a guided game drive in the national park.

Places of Interest in Katavi National Park.

Wildlife in the park: Katavi park in Tanzania features a variety of wildlife species which include large wildlife animal herds like; Cape Buffaloes, Zebras, Wildebeest, giraffes, elephants, cheetahs, wild dogs, hyenas, leopards, lions, and even crocodiles and hippopotami which can be found long the Katuma River.

The Katavi plains are famous for their stunning wildlife numbers which can be best viewed during the dry season. During this period, wildlife in the park converge in large numbers near the water pools of lakes and rivers such as Katavi, Katuma and Chada.

These plains and park in general are excellent places for bird watching safaris, with a wide variety of bird species including the saddle-billed stork, yellow-billed stork, Herons, Plovers, and Black cuckoo-shrikes to mention but a few. Other interesting birding spots include the Chada Plains and the Katsunga plains.

Lake Katavi: Lake Katavi in Katavi national park is one of the best wildlife viewing spots in the national park. Visitors exploring the lake also have a chance to pay a visit to the renowned sacred tamarind tree, which is also known as ‘the tree of the spirit’ by the local Bende and Pimbwe communities. Lake Katavi is a seasonal lake which covers about 100 to150 kilometers depending on its water levels.

Katuma River: The Katuma River gives life to Katavi Park. The river plays a very important role in sustaining the wildlife living with in the national park. The river pours its waters into Lake Katavi and flows  through the Chada and Kavuu plains, which are home to a large number of wildlife species especially crocodiles and hippos.

katuma river

Katsunga Plains: The Katsunga Plains in Katavi national park are rich with an extensive wildlife base. The plains are one of the best wildlife viewing places in Tanzania after Serengeti national park. The plains feature scrub and savannah woodlands on its outskirts and a river that runs through it. The Katsunga plains encompasses various seasonal pools and lakes, with over 600 hippos that grace its river banks. The area is also ideal for sighting unique wildlife species such as the roan and sable antelopes during a game drive.

Other areas of interest in Katavi national park include the Chada plains.

What to do in Katavi National Park in Tanzania.

There are quite a variety of activities that visitors in Katavi  park can do such as;

Game Drives:

Visitors in Katavi park in Tanzania can embark on a guided game drive during a wildlife safari in the park. Game drives in the national park are best conducted around the Katuma River, Lakes Katavi and Chada, and in floodplains such as Chada and Katsunga. The national park is believed to have an estimated 4,000 elephants, over 1,000 buffaloes and up to 200 hippos in Lake Katavi alone. Other wildlife species that can be sighted in the national park include; giraffes, zebras, impalas, and reedbucks to mention but a few. The national park offers visitors both day and night game drives, although it no longer hires out 4×4 Wheel drive safari vehicles to tourists on a game drive. Morning game drives in the park start as early as 6:30am till 6:30pm, while the night game drive commence at 8pm till 11pm. The night game drives can take about 2 to 3 hours.


Birding safaris in Katavi  Park in Tanzania are one of the best activities carried out in the park. The national park has been blessed with over 400 bird species, and some of the bird species commonly sighted in the national park include; the African fishing eagle, Lilac breasted rollers, Paradise flycatchers and so many more.

Guided Nature Walks:

Katavi National Park in Tanzania offers guided nature walks to tourists visiting the national park. Visitors can embark on nature walks in the park accompanied by trained, knowledgeable and experienced park rangers. Guided nature walks in Katavi are the best way for visitors to explore the park on foot. The park offers both short and long guided nature walks, with long walks taking visitors on the Chorangwa hiking trail. The trail is about 17 kilometers long and offers visitors over five hours of walking/hiking expeditions with stunning views of Chorangwa, Lukima and Ndido waterfalls. Short nature walks in the park are conducted along the Sitalike hiking trail, which is about 9 kilometers long and takes about 3 hours of hiking.

Visit to Historical Sites in the park.

Katavi National Park has a rich cultural and historical past. The national park offers visitors tours to interesting historical sites that date back as far as the Stone Age period during the ninetieth century. Some of the interested historical sites frequently visited by tourists in the park include the Kabora-Iyonga slave trade route, and old towns.

Camping in Katavi National Park:

Camping in Katavi national park is an interesting activity to do while in the park. Camping in the park is ideal for visitors who love nature and it is a great activity for visitors looking to spend quality time with friends and family. Public camping sites in the national park are equipped with facilities like toilets, bathrooms, kitchen, and dining area.

Accommodation in Katavi National Park.

Accommodation in Katavi national park is available for visitors who wish to spend a night or more in the park. There are quite a number of good and budget friendly accommodation facilities located within the national park, and these include; Katavi Wildlife Camp, Nomad Tented Camp, Mbali Mbali Katavi Lodge, Chada Katavi Camp, Palahala Luxury Camp, and campsites like Ikuu Public Campsite, HQ Public Campsite, Katavi Picnic Site, Chada Special Campsite, Kapilula Special Campsite, Kapilula 1 Special Campsite and Kapimbye Special Campsite.

How to access Katavi National Park.

Katavi National Park in Tanzania can be accessed by either air, road or rail. Tourists travelling to the national park by air can charter a domestic flight from Dar es Salam, Mwanza or Arusha to Mpanda Airport which is located in Mpanda town 86 kilometers away from the national park, about a 1½ hours’ drive. Alternatively, visitors can also have air transfers to Sitalike and Ikuu airstrips which are located within the park.

Visitors can access the national park by road from Dar es Salam via Mbeya which is about 1513 kilometers or via Tabora which is approximately 1392 kilometers. Katavi National Park can also be accessed by road from Arusha via Tabora or Mwanza via the Tabora-Inyonga road.

Katavi National park can also be accessed by train from Dar es Salam via Tabora, and then drive to Sitalike where game drives can be arranged.

Katavi National Park in Tanzania being the least visited national park in the country has left most of the park pristine and unadulterated, thus offering visitors spectacular views of wildlife, birdlife and a rich cultural history to be explored.

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