Katavi National Park was created in 1974 and is Tanzania’s third-largest national park. Located along the rift escarpment in western Tanzania, it is extremely remote and is less frequently visited than other Tanzanian National Parks. It is approximately 4 450 square kilometres in size, and encompasses the Katuma River and the seasonal Lake Katavi and Lake Chada floodplains. Katavi offers incredible scenery including immense wetlands, waterfalls and original miombo woodlands. Together with the neighbouring Rukwa, Lukwati and Luafi Game Reserves, this ecosystem of 25 000 km2 is the heart of one of the biggest and richest wildlife areas in Tanzania. The climate in Katavi is hot and remains this way year-round. Temperatures throughout the day typically sit at around 32°C, dropping to about 20°C in the evening. Katavi has one continuous wet season running from November through to April. The dry season is from May through to October.
Most of Katavi National Park lies inside the Rukwa Rift Basin, which is part of the Central African Rift System. The landscape is defined by the rift valley floor and the bordering rift valley shoulders, with adjacent highlands, mountains and plateaus east and west of the valley. The western shoulder is known as the Llyamba Iya Mfipa Escarpment and the eastern shoulder as the Mlele Escarpment. The valley floor comprises flat to slightly rolling wooded terrain which is split by vast floodplains, seasonal lakes, rivers and shallow drainage lines.
Seasons define much of Katavi’s ecohydrology. While Lake Chada and Lake Katavi are grassland during the dry season, they transform into shallow lakes with the onset of heavy rains. Katavi is at its best in the dry season, when the plains fill with thousands of zebra, topi and impala. During this time, the Katuma and Kapapa rivers are the only water for miles around. As the game files down to drink, hundreds of hippo congregate in the tiniest waterholes and enormous crocodiles sit out the heat on the river bank, making for a fascinating sight.
Sable, hartebees, giraffe and Defassa waterbuck are commonly seen, as well as large populations of elephant, and some impressive herds of buffalo. Predators include some of the most luxuriously-maned lions on the continent, in addition to leopard, hunting dog and cheetah. Additionally, Katavi hosts large flocks of Open-billed and Saddle-billed Storks, African Spoonbills, Crested Cranes and Pink-backed Pelicans. Raptors are plentiful and the woodlands of the national park are home to species as diverse as African Golden Orioles, Paradise Flycatchers and Pennant-winged Nightjars.
The climate in Katavi is hot and remains this way year-round, as it is close to the equator. Temperatures throughout the day typically sit at around 32°C dropping to approximately 20°C in the evening. Unlike the coast and parks to the north, Katavi has one continuous wet season which is experienced from November through to April. Typically, it does not rain all day long, but has daily afternoon thundershowers. The dry season is from May through to October, with October experiencing the highest temperatures of the year with occasional rain and the humidity gradually increasing.