Katavi National Park - Tanzania Wildlife Tours

Katavi National Park in Southern Tanzania in Katavi region was created in 1974. It is a very remote park that is less frequently visited with approximately 4,471 square kilometres in area, which makes it the third-largest national park in Tanzania. Katavi encompasses the Katuma River and the seasonal Lake Katavi and Lake Chada floodplains.

Wildlife in Katavi National Park

Wildlife features in Katavi include large herds of Cape Buffaloes, zebras, giraffes, and elephants along the Katuma river, crocodiles, and hippopotami which upon annual dry seasons result in mudholes that can be packed with hundreds of hippos. Carnivores include cheetahs, wild dogs, hyenas, leopards, and lions. Some sources claim a very high biodiversity in the park, although there are also reports of wildlife decline due to illegal hunting and poaching, presumably ‘bushmeat’ sustenance. Katavi National has fewer human visitors and jeeps conducting game drives than other Tanzania parks.


The number of visitors to the park on an annual basis is extremely low, in comparison to better-known parks, with just above 1,500 foreign visitors out of a total of 900,000 registered in a year. A survey of the actual rooms sold by the available ‘Safari’ style accommodations might reveal the number, but based on total room count and season length, an upper limit can also be estimated. Mbali Mbali Katavi Lodge and the Foxes on the Katuma Plain and the Chada on the Chada Plain. These camps each have a visitor capacity limit of approximately one dozen each.

Access to the park

Getting to Katavi for visitors will likely be arranged by the hosting camp, with one of the available charter flight services being the Mbali Mbali Shared Charter (operated by Zantas Air Services) or Safari Air Link. All flights will require landing on a dirt airstrip; the Ikuu airstrip (near the Ikuu Ranger post) has minimal services. It is very approximately a three-hour flight from Katavi to Dar es Salaam and a two-hour flight to Mwanza via a small, bush-compatible light aircraft. A flight to Arusha is similarly 3 hours distant and operates on limited service usually only twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays.

Access to Katavi with ground transportation is generally not in hours but in days. Mbeya town is from Katavi 550 km distant and is described as tough but with spectacular drive. Mbeya town is 838 km from Dar es Salaam, making the total distance approximately 1,400 km and requiring 20+ hours of driving. The most direct route to Dar es Salaam as per Google Maps is approx. 1250 km and requiring 16+ hours. Arusha is similarly distant from Katavi with almost, 1011km over a 13.5 hrs drive. The percentage of transit on unpaved surfaces is unknown, but parts of all of these routes will be on dirt roads. Since all of the above times from Google Maps assume an average transit speed of 80 km (50 mph), all these indicated travel times should be considered to be optimistic.