The beauty and charm of this remarkable park is its remoteness, resulting in fewer visits in comparison to other parks in Tanzania. Yet, it is Tanzania’s third largest park, with an ecosystem stretching into numerous forest and game reserves, it totals 25,000Km2 of rich wildlife.
The Katavi National Park is open from June to February; it enjoys two distinct seasons. From June to October it is the dry season, where the animals are concentrated around the seasonal rivers and lakes, which are rapidly drying. This forces the wildlife into becoming more condensed, especially the hippo population, which have become forced to share the ever shrinking pools of water. The hippos forego their territories and pile up next to one another in an attempt to find some relief from the burning sun. The crocodiles go into hibernation inside caves excavated from the riverbank mud walls. Large herds of elephant and buffalo stay near the rivers to ensure they have enough to drink. The grass becomes a high dusty vision of gold all across the plains, a great place for the lions, hyenas and other predators to skulk knowing their prey is at a big disadvantage. This is truly Africa in the raw.
Then the rains usually from mid November to the beginning of June, The grass becomes green and lush almost as soon as the first drops of moisture hits the earth. New grass shoots appear as if by magic and the game spreads throughout the park enjoying the new life injected into the invigorated land. The bird population increases with migrants flocking to take advantage of this abundance of water and food. It is a beautiful time to visit, especially for birders. From the end of February until June the camps close as the rain becomes heavier and the black cotton soil makes the roads impassable.
Best time to visit Katavi
It’s best to visit Katavi in the Dry season (May to October). Unlike during the wetter months, you won’t get cooked by the temperature, savaged by mosquitoes, or have to negotiate boggy tracks. Most importantly, the drier months are when animals congregate on the floodplains to get a drink, and the thin vegetation won’t shield them from your view.
Weather and climate in Katavi
Katavi is a hot place in the Dry season (May to October), except for the evenings when the temperature sinks along with the sun. Not by much, though – nights average a warm 17°C/63°F. The Wet season (November to April) is when things get really uncomfortable, with high levels of heat, plus humidity thanks to the brewing rain.
How to get to Katavi
Katavi’s isolation has helped it to remain untouched and largely unvisited; by light aircraft it takes four or five hours to reach here from Dar or Arusha. However, the result is that whilst the Serengeti National Park sees around 120,000 visitors per annum, Katavi has only a few hundred visitors per year!
The least expensive way to get to Katavi (and Mahale Mountains, which is relatively nearby) is by using twice-weekly scheduled flights which link these parks with Arusha, in northern Tanzania. Operating on Mondays and Thursdays, their relatively high cost helps to make these parks two of Tanzania’s most expensive destinations!
There are also flights routing Dar-Selous-Ruaha to Katavi/Mahale, and back. These also run on Mondays and Thursdays. Sadly, the costs for these are similar to the costs of chartering; certainly no lower than the schedule flights from Arusha.