Katavi National Park

Katavi offers unspoilt wildlife-viewing in the country’s third-largest national park. It lies in a remote location far off the beaten track. This national park is Africa at its most wild—unadulterated bush settings, spectacular views, and rich wildlife. The wilderness that is Katavi National Park, located in the remote south-west of Tanzania, is one of the most untouched areas in the entire country.

Katavi’s dramatic scenery is as varied as it is pristine. Floodplains with thick reeds and dense waterways are home to a huge population of hippo and varied birdlife. In the woodlands to the west, forest canopies shroud herds of buffalo and elephant. Seasonal lakes fill with dirty-coloured water after the rains and animals from all corners of the park descend to drink from them. The park is a must-see for visitors intending to explore the wilds of the continent. Isolated, untrammeled and seldom visited, Katavi is a true wilderness, providing the few intrepid souls who make it there with a thrilling taste of Africa as it must have been a century ago.

Much of Katavi supports a cover of tangled brachystegia woodland, home to substantial but elusive populations of the localised eland, and the rare sable and roan antelopes. Nevertheless the main focus for game-viewing within the park is the Katuma River and the seasonal Lakes Katavi and Chada. During the rainy season, these lush, marshy lakes are a haven for myriad water birds, and they also support Tanzania’s densest concentrations of hippos and crocodiles.

It is during the dry season, when the floodwaters retreat, that Katavi truly comes to life. The Katuma, reduced to a shallow muddy trickle, forms the only source of drinking water for miles around, and the flanking floodplains support concentrations of game that defy belief. An estimated 4,000 elephants might converge on the area, together with several herds of 1,000-plus buffalo, while an abundance of giraffes, zebras, impalas and reedbucks provide easy pickings for the numerous lion prides and spotted hyena clans whose territories converge on the floodplains.

Katavi’s most singular wildlife spectacle is provided by its hippos. Towards the end of the dry season, up to 200 hippos might be found together in any riverine pool of sufficient depth. And as more hippos gather in one place, male rivalry heats up. Bloody territorial fights are an everydayoccurrence, with the vanquished male forced to lurk hapless on the open plains until it gathers sufficient confidence to mount another challenge.