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Katavi National Park

Katavi National Park is situated in the Katavi Region southwestern Tanzania. It is located north of the ‘Rukwa Rift’, an extension of the Western Rift Valley. With an area of roughly 4,471km², Katavi is the third-largest national park in Tanzania. The park is home to the Katuma River, Lake Chada floodplains, and the seasonal Lake Katavi. There are only 3 permanent camps inside the park, Mbali Mbali Katavi Lodge, Chada on the Chada Plain, and the Foxes on the Katuma Plain. Each camp has the capacity to host 12 visitors, a limit that adds to the sense of exclusivity. Katavi National Park is home to an abundance of wildlife, including wildebeest, giraffes, elephants, zebras, African buffaloes, lions, leopards, and cheetahs. Crocodiles and hippos are frequently spotted on the banks of the Katuma River. During the dry season, hippos relax in mud holes and cover themselves in mud sunscreen to protect their sensitive skin. Katavi is also a refuge for wild dogs, a critically endangered species


Where does Katavi fit in your self drive trip?

Katavi National Park lies on the western circuit, alongside Lake Tanganyika, the Mahale Mountains, and Gombe Stream National Park. The western circuit is rarely visited due to the high cost of traveling to this secluded location. However, the circuit is renowned for offering excellent wildlife viewing opportunities in its untarnished wilderness. The western circuit is primarily accessed from both Arusha and Dar es Salaam.

Driving to Katavi by car nonstop from Arusha is 22 hours and from Dar es Salaam may take you 2 to 3 days.


The best time to visit Katavi National Park is during the annual dry season from June to December. During the dry season, the Katuma River is one of the only water sources within the surrounding area, and you will have spectacular wildlife viewing opportunities around the river. Hundreds of hippos and crocodiles gather around the scarce waterholes, and thousands of topis, impalas, and zebras pass through the plains. Despite the increase in visitor numbers during the peak season, you will virtually have the park to yourself.

  •  Walking Safari;

Walking safari experiences involve treks with an armed ranger and bush camping. The walking safari route takes you along Lake Katavi, a seasonal floodplain where you can expect to see grazing hippos and crocodiles.

  • Birdwatching;

Katavi is also a great destination for birdwatching, and it is home to over 400 bird species. Entry fee is around $ 59 per person, and for a guided walking tour per group, it is $23.60 for a short work or $29.50 for a longer one.

  • Visit historical sights;

Katavi National Park has an interesting history. You can visit the Kabora-Lyonga-slave route which passed through this area during the slave trade. Visitors can also view the famous tamarind tree which gave the park its name according to local tradition. In Katavi customs, the tree is the home of the famous hunter, Katavi who, and locals offer food to its roots to gain luck when hunting. 

  • Chada Camp;

Operated by Nomad Tanzania, Chada Camp is located 50 km east of Lake Tanganyika. Chada Camp offers six safari tents which are surrounded by trees and offer sweeping views of the surrounding plains. The tents are dispersed to maximize your privacy, and the camping experience is suitable for children 12+. Each tent has a comfortable bed, a writing desk, and gauze windows which allow natural light to shine through. The accommodation is decorated with homely natural fabrics and palm matting. Each tent has an en-suite bathroom with a flush toilet.

Outside your tent, you will find a bucket shower. You can cool off after a day of activities whilst enjoying the scenic views, and you may even see a herd of elephants. There is a large communal tent where guests can relax, read, or watch the elephants, giraffes, and buffaloes wander past. Breakfast and lunch are served in the dining tent. Guests can choose between dining indoors and al fresco dining under the stars. Before dinner, guests gather at the campfire for snacks and drinks. Chada Camp offers safari activities, including 4WD game drives, picnics surrounded by animals, bird watching, and guided walking safaris.

  • Mbali Mbali Katavi Lodge;

Mbali Mbali Camp offers 8 comfortable tents, and it was completely refurbished in 2018, giving it a minimalist and contemporary design. The communal areas are two-tiered, open-sided structures that are built from wood and thatch. Each canvas tent is built on a raised wooden platform and covered by a thatched roof. Each room has a sofa, a veranda, and a traditional Zanzibar bed. The site offers one family room which has a conjoined double and twin tent on a shared platform.

The en-suite bathrooms are modern, and they have double sinks, flushing toilets, and glass showers. The camp offers a delicious menu of local dishes and Western favorites. You can have a bush breakfast on safari and dine with sweeping views of the park or enjoy a buffet breakfast on the campsite.