Katavi, immortalizing a legendary hunter Katabi, whose sprit is believed to possess a tamarind tree ringed with offerings from locals begging his blessing, is Tanzania’s third largest national park and is dominated by dry Miombo woodland, cut through by a number of big rivers. In places, these rivers open out into vast floodplains for which Katavi is renowned.
The park is truly magnificent, covering over one million hectares of land. There are two lakes, Lake Katavi in the north and Lake Chada and the Katuma River in the south. Diverse woodland and acacia bush in the park is home to elephant and many types of antelope. The game here is said to be unrivaled from the rest of Africa, this park offering an exceptional opportunity to see Africa as it once was. The park is mostly high plains grassland - grassland in the dry season, and swampy wetland in the wet season. The best time to visit is in the dry season - June to October.
It is during the dry season, when the floodwaters retreat, that Katavi truly becomes itself. The Katuma, reduced to a shallow, muddy trickle, forms the only source of drinking water for miles around. All the animals in this park congregate around the lakes and along the river. Huge crocodiles line the rivers and share the lakes with a solid mass of hippo. If you like hippos this park is the place to see them en-mass. Some of the pools and the centre of Lake Chada can have three thousand hippos at any one time. Reputedly there are herds of buffalo in access of three to four thousand animals. Katavi’s lion and leopard have no shortage of prey: impala, eland, topi, zebra and herds of up to 1,600 buffalo wandering the short grass plains. With a bit of luck you can also see sable and roan antelopes.
A kaleidoscope of more than 400 species of birds, including - Angolan Pitta, Blackfaced Barbet and the Blue Swallow flits across the acacia, the riverbanks, the swamps and palm groves while flotillas of pelican cruise the lakes. A highlight of viewing the birds is to watch the Maribou Stock wading in the mud and feeding on the barbel. At times the mud boils with these fish and the stocks causally extract them form the soft mud for a quick and easy meal.