Katavi National Park Tanzania is pure wilderness. This classic Dry-season park is completely off the beaten track, but teeming with wildlife. Four of the Big Five are present. Lion, buffalo, and elephant are all very common but leopard sightings are more hit-and-miss. Rhino is absent.
There might not be the widest variety of wildlife on the average driver, but sightings tend to be spectacular, and you’ll mostly have them to yourself. While the lion is very common, the more remarkable sightings are buffalo herds that number in the thousands and the hippo, which are pushed into small pools as the river dries up. Pods of them share too small a place, and fights are a common sight. Katavi National Park Tanzania
During the Dry season, the Katuma River is packed with hippo, and crocodile can be seen in caves in the river banks. Huge herds of buffalo, zebra, and impala gather with elephant and defassa waterbuck around the drying water reserves of Lake Katavi and Lake Chada. An opportunistic lion is never far from the remaining water sources, waiting for their prey to come to them.
Katavi isn’t particularly known for unusual animals, but it is the number of them that are staggering. Buffalo herds numbering thousands can be seen. Hippo burst out of the remaining puddles of the seasonal rivers at the end of the Dry season. Beautiful sable antelope can sometimes be found in the miombo woodland.
Katavi is a classic Dry-season park. Wildlife viewing is best in the middle and end of the Dry season, from June to October. Wildlife is easier to spot because the vegetation is thinner and animals gather around predictable water sources. The park is open throughout the year, but most roads become very bad in the Wet season, and most camps close.
Katavi is mainly visited in the Dry season, which isn’t the best time for birding, but the rivers harbor a large concentration of water-associated birds throughout the year. Particularly common are herons, plovers, spoonbills, African open bills, and groups of stork including yellow-billed and saddle-billed stork. Raptors are well represented, with the fish eagle, bateleur, and white-backed vulture being very common. Over 400 species recorded, and migratory birds are present from November to April.
The birdlife in Katavi is good year-round, but at its best from November to April when the migratory birds from Europe and northern Africa are present. At this time, many resident bird species are nesting and are in breeding plumage. The rains usually arrive in November and last until early June. For birding specifically, November to March is the best time. The problem, however, is that many roads become hard to travel after continuous rain. As a result, most camps are closed from March to May. For wildlife viewing, the middle and end of the Dry season (June-October) is considerably better.
Visit Katavi is a classic dry-country reserve. During the Wet season, from November to April, the wildlife disperses into the woodland and wildlife viewing becomes a challenge. The heat and humidity is oppressive in the Wet season. During the Dry season, the Katuma River is reduced to a narrow stream, and the floodplains become a magnet for wildlife. Katavi National Park Tanzania
The habitat is mainly grassland savannah and Brachystegia (miombo) woodland on the east of the park. After the rains, the place transforms to lush marshes and shallow lakes, leaving behind dusty floodplains of the Dry season.
Katavi is a hot place in the Dry season (May to October), except for the evenings when the temperature sinks along with the sun. Not by much, though – nights average a warm 17°C/63°F. The Wet season (November to April) is when things get really uncomfortable, with high levels of heat, plus humidity thanks to the brewing rain.
The climate in Katavi is hot throughout the year. Katavi’s nights are pleasant (around 20°C/68°F). Temperatures during the day are around 32°C/90°. Katavi National Park Tanzania
Katavi has one continuous Wet season (from November to April). It tends not to rain all day long but afternoon thundershowers expected. The Dry season is from May to October.
May – This is the end of the Wet season. It still rains occasionally during this month.
June, July, August & September – Afternoon temperatures are usually around 31°C/88°F. Most days are sunny and clear. Rain would be very rare at this time. June to August have the coldest nights but are still moderate with minimum temperatures of about 17°C/63°F on average. Katavi National Park Tanzania
October – This is the end of the Dry season. October has the highest temperatures of the year, differing only slightly from other months. Rain can be expected on some days and humidity will gradually increase.
November, December, January, February, March & April – The humidity is high, and it can feel incredibly hot. Afternoon temperatures are usually around 32°C/90°F and night temperatures are around 21°C/70°F. Thunderstorms in the afternoon are probable – and it will rain almost every day – but rarely all day long.
The best way to get to Katavi is by flights from Arusha. The only public, a scheduled flight is the twice-weekly service between Ruaha, Katavi, and Mahale. Zantasair works with its sister company Mbali Mbali lodges, to offer twice-weekly shared charter flights between northern Tanzania and western Tanzania, incorporating Katavi and Mahale National Parks
Depending on your itinerary, your entry point to the country will either be Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO), about 46km/29mi from Arusha, or Julius Nyerere International Airport (DAR) in Dar es Salaam. In most cases, Our Company will pick you up from the airport and make going arrangements, including the charter flight to the park’s airstrip.
Katavi National Park is a very safe destination in our opinion. There is virtually no crime in Tanzania’s parks and reserves. Some crime occurs in urban centers, so normal precautions should be taken when visiting cities and towns during your trip (see ‘Cities & Other Urban Areas: Safety Precautions’ below). The vast majority of people don’t have any crime-related issues on their safari.
Several vaccinations are recommended for Tanzania – consult your travel clinic or local doctor before your trip to Africa. Guarding yourself against malaria in Katavi is also important. Antimalarial drugs and the use of a mosquito repellent (those including DEET are the most effective) are advisable, as well as covering up bare skin in the evenings.