Book Now

Katavi National Park

Found in the Western Tourism Circuit, and established in 1974, Katavi National Park is situated in the Katavi Region, on the southwestern side of Tanzania. It is located north of the ‘Rukwa Rift’, which is an extension of the Western Rift Valley.

This secluded and less frequently visited wildlife sanctuary, covers an area measuring approximately 4,471 sq. km (1,726 sq. mi) and is the third-largest national park in Tanzania.

The Katavi National Park is home to the Katuma River, Lake Chada floodplains, as well as the seasonal Lake Katavi.

It is a relatively an untouched wilderness which also boasts of being home to the largest herds of buffalo on earth.

In terms of habitats, the Katavi National Park is endowed with a wonderful variety. It boasts of flood plains of dense reeds and waterways in which crocodiles and hippos thrive. It also has forests, open grassland, woodlands as well as splendid seasonal lakes like Lake Katavi.

Since it is largely untampered by civilization, this secluded wildlife sanctuary is for those who seek serenity and seclusion surrounded by spectacular sights.

Brief History Of Katavi National Park

The Katavi National Park was first protected in 1911 during the time of the Germany occupation. It was subsequently renamed Rukwa Game Reserve by the British who now occupied the area until 1932. In 1974, it was declared a national park and officially opened to travellers in 1998.

Katavi is derived from the waBene spirit, a famous hunter called “Katabi”, who according to local tradition, dwells in the tamarind tree which is located close to Lake Katavi.

The locals still assert that Katabi still lives in that particular tamarind tree, as a result, the pay him homage by leaving offerings at the base of the tree in return for blessings such as good luck when they go hunting.


Katavi Region, about 40 km south of Mpanda town on Western Safari Circuit of Tanzania

Nearest City/ Town

Mpanda Town. The towns of Kigoma and Mbeya are approximately 382 and 503 km away from Katavi National Park.


The most convenient way to access this park is via a chartered flight from Arusha or Dar es Salaam.

It is a great deal of a challenge to reach Katavi National Park by road as the western circuit is too far from major cities and inaccessible due to its forest terrain.

The Western Tourism Circuit of Tanzania is primarily accessed from Arusha and Dar es Salaam via plane or boat.


There is a fair choice of accommodation facilities in the Katavi National Park. The types vary from luxury, midrange, to budget accommodation.

Some notable facilities are Palahala Luxury Camp, Mbali Mbali Katavi Lodge, Chada Special Campsite, Nomad Tented Camp, and Katuma Bush Lodge.

Best Period to Visit

Although there are some good activities throughout the year, the best time to visit Katavi National Park is during the dry season from June to December.

In the dry season, the vegetation is less dense making animal visibility relatively easier and the trails are comparatively less challenging.

The Katuma River during the dry season is one of the only water sources within the surrounding area as a result, it presents an ideal wildlife viewing place.

Wildlife Of Katavi National Park

The Katavi National Park is endowed with a wide variety of wildlife. It is home to large animal herds such as those of buffaloes, elands, elephants, giraffes, waterbucks, wildebeest and zebras.

Predators also prowl the park. These comprise the big cats; cheetahs, leopards and lions plus other predators such as hyenas and wild dogs. The wild dog, is a critically endangered species.

In addition, it is common to spot crocodiles and hippos along the Katuma River. During the dry season, mudholes can be crammed with hundreds of hippos covering themselves with mud to protect their skin again the sun.

The waterbodies, Chada, Katavi as well as the Katuma all become reduced to pools during the dry season and therefore are great spots for game viewing.

Primates also abound in the Katavi National Park.

Birdlife Of Katavi National Park

The Katavi National Park boasts of a rich diversity of bird species. It is home to over 450 bird species documented. This makes it a good destination for avian lovers.

During the month of November and through April, the birding safari in this park is even better as migratory birds are around.

Common among the many bird species spotted are African open bills, barbets, eagles and egrets, hornbills and heron, plovers and many more.

Activities In Katavi National Park

Other than the usual activities to be found in any national park, Katavi offers other great activities as well.

Walking safaris

Walking safaris in Katavi National Park involve treks with an armed ranger. The route is normally along the shores of Lake Katavi where hippos and crocodiles as well as some water birds can be spotted.

Other animal species can be viewed too, as they come to drink water and graze along the lake and seasonal floodplain.

Game Drives

Game drives are also available, especially for visitors who do not wish to walk long distances. These can be done throughout the day.


With over 400 bird species recorded, Katavi National Park is also a great destination for birdwatching.

Historical Sights Tours

The Katavi National Park has an interesting historical heritage and attractions.

The Kabora-Lyonga-slave route which used to pass through this area during the period of the slave trade, is one such historical attraction.

Tamarind Tree Visit

This is another activity to look out for.

There is also the renowned tamarind tree from which the park obtained its name according to local tradition. In the local folklore, the tree is the home of Katabi, the famous hunter. The locals pay homage to him by placing food by the tree. In return, they expect to be favoured during their hunting.

Why A Safari in Katavi National Park?

The Katavi National Park lies on the Western Tourism Circuit of Tanzania. It is alongside the Gombe Stream National Park, the Mahale Mountains National Park as well as the great Lake Tanganyika.

The western safari circuit that is rarely visited due to the high cost of travelling to this secluded part of the country. Nevertheless, this circuit is renowned for offering excellent wildlife viewing experiences in its untampered wilderness. It is also ideal for individuals who prefer serene and secluded places away from the crowds.

The Katavi National Park is managed by the Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA). The headquarters of the park are at Sitalike.

At Tanzania Offroad Trips, we like to tread
The routes that many dread.
And we are always geared,
To take on what many have long feared.

Share Your Experience