how to get to katavi National Park

How to get to Katavi National Park | Dar-es-salaam Airport  to Katavi National Park  | Flights | Safari Vehicles | Tranfsers | Lodges | Tented Camps

How to get to Katavi National Park

The easiest way to get to Katavi National Park is via one of two scheduled flights that run weekly from the town of Arusha or the capital city of Dar es Salaam. This flight can take anywhere between 4-5 hours and is operated by Safari Air Link. 

From Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA), Arusha is a 46 kilometres (29 miles) drive. Usually, a driver will be arranged as part of your safari package. The only option to travel to Katavi National Park via vehicle involves an incredibly arduous three day 4×4 mission, which can be especially daunting in the wet season as many roads become inaccessible.

The scheduled flights to Katavi National Park are quite costly (anywhere from US$350 each way), so travellers usually combine this with a trip to the Mahale Mountains National Park – one of the best places in the world to encounter chimpanzees. 

With their ‘way out West’ locations in Tanzania, getting to both parks is part of the challenge and makes reaching the destination all the more satisfying. 

3 ways to go to Katavi National Park





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Katavi National Park FAQ's

A safari to Katavi National Park costs about $750 per person for a budget Tanzanian safari to $1750 per person for a mid-range to luxurious Tanzanian safari. These costs take other factors like accommodation, meals, transportation and sight-seeing activities into account.

For specialised activities like game drives or walking safaris in Katavi, you can expect to pay between $40-$60 per person as an additional cost. 

Because Katavi is relatively small, most tourists also like arranging combined safari tours starting in Arusha to neighbouring parks like Ugalla and Mahale. 

Katavi National Park is special for a number of reasons. A trip here reveals a wilderness so untouched and remote, that it almost takes you back in time. As the third largest of the Tanzania national parks, Katavi is comprised of approximately 4,471 square kilometres of everything from open grasslands and forests to floodplains and seasonal lakes. 

If you’re lucky enough to be one of the few hundred people who visit Katavi each year, you’re likely to encounter more wildlife than people on your trip. The park offers an unspoilt wildlife experience that cannot be likened to anything of its time, but rather how Africa must have existed centuries ago – before human interference. 

The best time to visit Katavi National Park is undoubtedly during the dry season (June-October) in Tanzania. This is because there is less rain and sparser vegetation, which means that tourists can spot more of the wildlife. However, if you are an avid bird lover, visiting Katavi during the wet season (November-April) will be better because of the diverse migratory bird population in the park during this time. 

As you might’ve already guessed, seasons in Tanzania are split into two periods: the dry season and the wet season. Below is a complete breakdown of these seasons and the weather in Tanzania: 

Dry Season (June-October) – Best Wildlife Sightings and More

Renowned as a dry-season safari park, Katavi offers everything from its best weather to its prime wildlife sightings from June-October. 

As the park’s water sources dwindle and the floodplains retreat in the dry season, animals gather around the scattered pools of water that remain. Katavi’s wildlife population comes alive in the dry season and the iconic hippo pools, herds of buffalo and predator sightings are at their peak. 

During this time the grasslands are also thin and make wild spotting easier. A major bonus of the dry season is also the lowered risk of catching malaria due to fewer mosquitos.

Wet season (November-April) – Best Time for Bird Watching 

Generally, I wouldn’t recommend visiting the Katavi in the wet season. There are, however, some advantages of travelling to the park during this time of year. 

The wet season offers bird-watchers the chance to witness migratory species which make Katavi their seasonal home. There is also the benefit of off-season rates and the chance to stay at camps many could have otherwise not been able to afford. An added bonus is that the scenery is spectacularly lush. 

Travelling to the already remote Katavi becomes increasingly difficult during the wet season, however, and some roads become inaccessible. Certain camps also close during the peak of the wet season (April-May). 

Another disadvantage to consider is that instead of gathering around pools of water, most wildlife is dispersed during the wet season. Malaria precautions should also be taken during this time as there are more mosquitos. 

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.

For travellers who cannot walk long distances, game drives can be organised through your accommodation.

Katavi is also a great destination for birdwatching, and it is home to over 400 bird species. Prices are around $59 per person at the time of writing, and there is an additional guided walking fee per group which is $23.60 for a short work or $29.50 for a longer one.

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, Kataviwhom, 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 maximise 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 the 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 which 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 sofaa verandaand a traditional Zanzibari 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 favourites. You can have a bush breakfast on safari and dine with sweeping views of the park or enjoy a buffet breakfast on the campsite.

A three-course meal is served for dinner and there are bi-weekly outdoor BBQ buffets

The lodge offers a range of activities, including 4WD safaris and birdwatching.

Once in Katavi, Tanzania’s third largest national park won’t disappoint you. Two enormous plains of knee-high golden grass – Chada and Katasunga – dominate the park, surrounded by varied woodlands and an unusually abundant amount of game.

Katavi’s animals

Katavi National Park is at its best in the dry season, when the plains fill with thousands of zebra, topi and impala. Hartebeest, giraffe, and Defassa waterbuck are also very common, there’s a large population of resident elephants, and some impressive herds of buffalo. Katavi is a great park for watching lion-buffalo interactions. Spotted hyena are frequently seen, whilst leopard appear on the woodland fringes, but are more elusive. Wild dog do live here, but tend to stick to the escarpment and are rarely seen on the plains.

During the dry season, the Katuma and Kapapa rivers are the only water for miles. As the game files down to drink, hundreds of hippo congregate in the tiniest waterhole and enormous crocodiles sit out the heat in river-bank mud-holes.


Katavi hosts large flocks of open-billed and saddlebilled storks, spoonbills, crested cranes and pink-backed pelicans. Raptors are plentiful whilst the woodlands of the national park are home to species as diverse as African golden orioles, paradise fly-catchers and pennant-winged nightjars.

Vegetation in Katavi

Katavi is situated on the northern side of the ‘Rukwa Rift’, an extension of the Western Rift Valley. Katavi’s dry woodlands are dominated by brachystegia species, which are mostly native to tropical Africa and dotted very densely around this area.

The far west of Tanzania gives home to two of Tanzania’s lesser known national parks: Katavi National Park and Mahale Mountains National Park. This western circuit is extremely remote, tricky to access and pretty costly to visit. As a result few people make the effort to come here and so it has remained an untouched, unique experience, and absolutely worth visiting.

Katavi National Park is a name to conjure with. It is one of the best parks in Africa and many safari operations would love to start camps here. However, the logistics and costs are so difficult, that there are only a couple of small, permanent safari camps sharing this 4,500km² of wilderness. You sometimes run across more prides of lion than other people on a game drive.

Distance: 1321 Time: 22HR

Katavi National Park

Katavi National Park is one of the most pristine and rugged nature reserves in Tanzania. The enormous grass landscape with thousands of buffalo and antelopes are a true highlight. In the beautiful forests and around the lakes you find many hippos, crocodiles and birds.

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Lodges and Tented Camps in Katavi National Park

Katavi National Park

Katavi NP, in the Rukwa Rift, was extended to its existing size of 4470km2 in 1998 making it the third largest park in Tanzania. Katavi’s landscape is dominated by 3 large floodplains strung together by the Katuma River which boasts one of the largest population of Hippo and Croc and provides a habitat for an abundance of water fowl. The savanna plains fill with huge herds during the day time and the equally impressive selection of predators wait patiently for their return to the woodland towards the end of the day.

Katavi has similar wildlife to Ruaha, with an enviable selection of antelope including Topi, Roan and Sable often found in large herds. Predators include some of the most luxuriously maned lions to be found, leopard, and hunting dog. As the river dries up the hippo fight for space in the limited pools and the croc caves become visible along the bank, a fascinating sight. The greater Katavi area has 373 recorded species of bird.  The green season months will have additional migratory species.

Katavi is ancient Africa as one might imagine from days gone by; mountain ranges provide a backdrop to the low-lying seasonal lakes (Katisunga, Chada and Katavi), each one encircled by the evocative palms and scrub. The lakes, in reality open plains in the dry season and boggy marsh in the wet, are connected by the Katuma River , which support a refreshing belt of green, winding through the landscapes, and providing contrast to the drier areas around.

There is, unfortunately, no escaping the heat in Katavi with temperatures around 20°C (68°F) at night and around 32°C (90°) during the day. The most notable change in the park’s climate takes place during the wet and dry seasons. 

Wet season (November-April): The unrelenting heat of Katavi is accompanied by the park’s unforgiving humidity. It generally doesn’t rain throughout the day, but thundershowers can be expected most days. 

Dry season (June-October): The month of May usually signifies the end of the rainy season with occasional showers. From June onwards rain is very rare. The temperature at night dips slightly during this time, but only to about 17°C (63°F). October marks the gradual return of humidity and occasional rainfall can start to be expected again. 

There are only a handful of places to stay in Katavi National Park, and they will all impact the cost of your safari here. With that said, there are a few popular options:

  • Chada Camp, also known as the Chada Katavi Camp. Set on the edge of the Chada Plain with the backdrop of the Katavi woodlands, this camp offers an immersive wilderness experience. Staying at the Chada Camp also comes with the unique opportunity to book a fly-camping trip – a unique experience that combines a remote overnight experience with a guided walk.
  • The Mbali Mbali Katavi (previously known as the Katuma Lodge), located in the centre of the park. With its spectacular views of the Katisunga Plains, this tented camp offers a truly remote safari experience. 
  • Katavi Wildlife Camp, also set with the backdrop of the Katisunga Plains and provides one of the best views in the parkThis camp is close to one of the main airstrips and is esteemed for the personal feel it provides.
  • Palahala Luxury Camp, another popular option that provides eight spacious tents on wooden platforms. While the camp provides the old-fashioned safari experience, it also takes glamping to new heights with its unique touch of luxury.

There are lots of animals to see in Katavi National Park. As water levels dwindle with the dry season months (June-October) and floodplains retreat, Katavi truly comes to life. 

Animal-viewing generally centres around the lifeline of the park – the Katuma River, with Lake Katavi and Lake Chada being seasonal floodplains only.

As the mighty river is reduced to a string of muddy pools, animals are drawn by the hundreds to the only remaining drinking water of the park.

Hippopotamus Spectacle

The dense, marshy floodplains of the park are home to Tanzania’s densest concentration of crocodiles and hippos. As these floodplains retreat during the dry season, the sight of hippos by their hundreds cramming into dwindling pools is truly a spectacle to witness.

Few sundowner locations can compete with the view of watching up to 600 hippos gather in a dense formation, with the added excitement of witnessing untamed territorial battles break out. Large crocodiles are also easily spotted basking in the sun or lazing around in the muddy pools.

Other Great Wildlife Sightings

Katavi offers safari-goers the chance to spot four of the Big Five, namely elephants, buffalo, lions and leopards. Most animals are spotted in what is described as the heart of the park – the Katisunga Plain. 

The fascinating size of the mammals in the park is only outmatched by the sheer number that they gather in. The plains of Katavi are home to some of the planet’s biggest concentrations of everything from buffalo, elephants and giraffes, to predators like lions, hyenas and cheetahs

It is not unusual to see a super-herd of up 1,000 buffalo roam the Katavi plains in search of water. The park also boasts a healthy population of over 3,000 elephants. With an abundance of antelope to choose from, predators like lions and spotted hyenas can often be spotted lurking across the grasslands in search of their next meal. Cheetah and leopards are harder to spot and generally shy away from safari vehicles. 


The Katavi National Park is home to more than 400 species of birds. With the Katavi being a classic dry season park, most travellers who come during this time miss the peak of bird season. 

Fortunately, the Katuma River attracts water-associated birds all year round. Common sightings include the African fish eagle, African openbill, Lilac-breasted roller, Pink-backed pelican and yellow-billed stork.

During the rainy season (November-April), migratory birds from Europe and Northern Africa arrive. While this is considered the ideal time for birdwatching, access to Katavi becomes increasingly difficult and many camps close during the rainy season.