Katavi National Park safaris, tours & holiday packagesPristine bush in Tanzania's alluring 'wild west'
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Tanzania's most underrated safari destination, Katavi comes as close as any park to evoking Africa as it must have been 100 years ago.
Tanzania's third-largest national park, little-known Katavi extends across 4,470 square kilometres of the remote Rukwa Valley, an easterly extension of the Albertine Rift. Though dominated by dense Brachystegia woodland, its most important features in terms of game viewing are the seasonal Katuma and Kapapa Rivers and the open floodplains that flank them.
In the dry season, when the floodwaters retreat, these grassy plains support plenty of lions and elephants, a few thousand-strong buffalo herds and a diversity of other plains species such as zebra, giraffe, hartebeest, topi, impala, reedbuck and Defassa waterbuck.
Katavi brings back so many fabulous memories. I saw my first pangolin here, walking nonchalantly along the airstrip, and the hippo interaction is fascinating to watch. Nights can be magic too, whether they are filled with the sounds of elephants crashing around your tent or the roaring calls of three different prides of lions.
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A memorable feature of Katavi is the spectacular numbers of hippos that converge on any stretch of the river that is sufficiently deep to wallow in during the dry season. When the rivers dry up, usually in September or October, the hippos relocate to a series of natural groundwater springs where you could see 500-plus individuals in one muddy wallow, lying cheek to jowl.
Katavi is also a good but not great birding destination, with large water-associated birds and raptors being well represented. African fish-eagle, bateleur and white-backed vulture are prominent. But the park's biggest attraction is its remoteness and the scarcity of other tourists, which means that you have most sightings to yourself.
Katavi's location on Google Maps