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Home » Tanzania National Parks » Katavi National Park Tanzania

Katavi National Park Tanzania

Katavi National Park is found in Tanzania which is located in the eastern region of the African continent along geographical co-ordinates of 06o50’S 31o15’E. Katavi National Park is located in the western side of Tanzania and it is bordered by luafi game reserve and in the north lies lake Katavi. Created in 1974, Katavi National Park extends to cover about 4471sqkm or 1726sqmi and is drained by rivers like ikuu, Katuma, then also seasonal lake Katavi in the north and lake chada flood plains in the south.

Katavi National Park Tanzania map
Katavi National Park Tanzania map

Katavi National Park features a wide range of bio diversity and these include cape buffaloes, zebras, wildebeest, giraffes, elephants, crocodiles, hippos. Predators in Katavi national park include cheetahs, wild dogs, wild dogs, hyenas, leopards, and lions. Katavi national park is home to over 400 birds and these include yellow throated sandgrouse, little bee eater, black cuckoo-shrike, bateleur, African spoonbill, African paradise flycatcher, crested barbet, orange breasted bush shrike, red billed hornbill.

Katavi National Park is generally a hot place throughout the year which experiences one wet season and one long dry season. The wet season comes around from November- late April or early may, during this season, Katavi experiences temperatures rise to a minimum of about 210c or 70of at night and during day the humidity gets high and temperatures reach 32oc or 90of and rain comes usually in the afternoon and at night. The dry season comes around from mid may or late may and it lasts until October, during this time, the chances of rain are slim almost to none with temperatures being at a minimum of 17oc or 63of to a maximum 31oc or 88of

Attractions in Katavi National Park in Tanzania

Katavi National Park has numerous attractions which include cape buffaloes, zebras, wildebeest, giraffes, elephants, crocodiles, hippos. Predators in Katavi national park include cheetahs, wild dogs, wild dogs, hyenas, leopards, and lions. Katavi national park is home to over 400 birds and these include yellow throated sandgrouse, little bee eater, black cuckoo-shrike, bateleur, African spoonbill, African paradise flycatcher, crested barbet, orange breasted bush shrike, red billed hornbill.

African bush elephants; African elephants are the largest land mammals in the world with a male elephant weighing in at 4,700-6,048kg or 10,362-13,334Ib and a shoulder height of 3.2-4.0m or 10.5-13.1ft while their female counterparts weigh in at 2,160-3,232kg or 4,762-7,125Ib and a shoulder height of 2.2-2.6m or 7.2-8.5ft. these land giants have 24 teeth in their mouths and usually lose their teeth 4-6 times in their life time which lies between 60-70 years. What sets these land giants apart from the rest of crowd is their elongated tusks which are in fact their second set of incisors. This means that the tusks are very strong as they are used to up root trees and also as weapons they use while fighting. The tusks weigh between 23-45 kg or 55-99Ib with a length of 1.5-2.4m or 5-8 ft. elephants usually live in groups called families which comprise of 10 or more closely related females with their calves and each of these families is led by an older female called a matriarch. Elephants have the ability to distinguish and communicate with each other using low frequency infrasonic calls.  With a body mass that is compared to nothing else on land, African elephants have to feed on an average of 450 kg or 992Ib of foliage to sustain their huge bodies and also drink to over 50 liters of water per day. In fact, these elephants have the ability to smell water to up to 20 km or 12miles away. Elephants have an exposed skin so in order to control over heating of their body, they flap their big ears so as to carry away the heat or bathe in water ponds. It is believed that when an elephant flaps its ears, it can lose about 10oF of heat hence always staying cool even in the hottest temperatures. They also employ their elongated trunk to carry water and pour it over their ears to try and cool themselves. These land giants have very thin hairs around body parts such as eyes and noses and these are mainly for ensuring that germs and other bacteria don’t find it easy to enter the elephant’s body through these parts. The elephant trunk is a master piece of creation as it is equipped with 40000 muscles which is way more than an entire human body has at only 639 muscles. This makes the trunks a very strong and agile part of the elephant that can do many things. The elephant trunk is also used for breathing, snorkeling and also as an extended arm for holding, lifting or pushing anything they want to carry.  A female elephant reaches sexual maturity at the age of 10-12 years and can reproduce after every 3-6 years throughout its lifetime. All elephants have a very poor metabolism and that’s why they eat a lot of food but ¾ of it will come out of the elephants undigested as dung. Due to the poor metabolic system, elephant calves have been recorded doing something bizarre and that is eating dung that has been passed out by their mothers but this is all because elephant calves can’t process raw grass hence, they have to resort to eating pre-processed food that has been passed out as dung. They have a gestation period of up to 22 months being the longest in all land mammals. Just like humans and apes, elephants are also highly intelligent species with a brain that weighs about 5kg or 11Ib which about 4 times heavier than that of human making it the heaviest brain of any land mammal. With such a brain, these land giants are believed to exhibit character traits like grief, learning, sense of humor, compassion, self-awareness, a very strong and vivid memory, play and use of tools and possibly a language.

Lions; These can be easily seen in Katavi National Park. Lions are part of the big cate family and are muscular, deep chested with rounded heads. Most of the African lion males can distinguished from their females by the presence of a mane around the necks and heads of male African lions which is clearly absent in females but there quite many cases in Africa where the males also don’t have a mane or have a very short and thin one. The male lions are usually bigger than the females but their sizes vary according to location. In east Africa, adult female lions have a body length of 160-184cm or 63-72in weighing in at 119.5kg or 263Ib on average while the adult males have a body length of 184-208cm or 72-82in weighing in at 174.9kg or 386Ib on average. Lions are social animals who live in groups called prides. A pride is always led by a dominant male and their highly territorial animals controlling vast expanses that are strategic with a lot of prey and water. Male dominant lions are responsible for protecting the pride and they will fight off other male invaders, in case the dominant male is defeated by the invading lions, the victor lions will kill off all the cubs that are off springs to the defeated dominant male as a way of ending its blood lineage.  Lions are carnivores and are at the top of the food chain feeding on almost all browsers and grazers within their domain due to their ability to hunt as a pride and carry out well coordinated and planned attacks which enables them to take down prey that can even be between 2-4 times bigger than them such as zebras, elephants and buffaloes. Lions usually hunt at night because of their well-developed sense of sight especially at night where their vision is almost 6 times better than that of humans due to the presence of white patches around their eyes which enable them to absorb even the smallest amount of light available during the cover of darkness. Hunting among lions is an affair carried out by female lions mostly and juvenile males and when a kill has been made by the lionesses in a pride, it’s always the dominant male lion who will eat first up to his fill then the rest of the pride will feed on what has remained after the he has finished eating. They have a gestation period of 97 days and a life span of about 10-14 years.

Hippopotami; Hippos in Katavi National Park can easily be sighted in the seasonal rivers of ikuu, seasonal katavi lake and lake chada flood plain. Hippos are large animals only behind the African elephant that can weigh anywhere between 1300-1500kg or 2870-3310ib for both sexes. The hippos are semi aquatic as they both live on land and in water. Hippos are herbivores animals can come on land in the evening to graze, they can be easily identified basing on barrel shaped body, short legs and long muzzles or mouths, their body is hairless with a purplish gray to blue black color which is also thick about 2in or 6cm. due to lack of body hairs, hippos secret an element that is reddish orange to brown to act as a protective layer both from the scotching sun and bacterial infection. This phenomenon is referred to as “blood sweating” hippos have a very powerful jaw which can open as wide as 180o and its filled with monstrous teeth with their incisors growing up to 40cm or 1ft4in and canines growing up to 50cm or 1ft8in. despite their short legs and big sizes hippos can burst to 30km/hr in short distances. Hippos are highly territorial while in water but not on land, they have a gestation period of 243days and can live up to 40-50 years.

Giraffe; Masai giraffe can be distinguished from other giraffe sub species from their star-like stamped patches which are irregular and become darker especially in males as they age. The Masai giraffe is generally brown in colour with several shades of colour which can range from dried oak to orange and cream. The lower parts of their limbs are sticky like or very skinny but the upper parts of these limbs are study so as to support their massive weight. The giraffes have a unique walking pattern where as they have the ability to move both the front and hind limbs of one side of the body at once and then counter balance it by moving their long neck in the opposite direction. The adult male giraffe has an average height of 4.3-5.7m or 14.1-18.7ft and weighs in at 1192kg or 2628ib while an adult female weighs in at 828kg or 1825ib hence showing sexual dimorphism amongst giraffes. The giraffe also has a long tongue that is measured at an average of 45cm or 18in and it has a purplish black color which is believed to protect it from sunburns. The massai giraffes have the longest tail among all land mammals which measures up to 3.3ft long. Due to their big body mass giraffes also have a massive heart that weighs up to 5ibs so as to pump 60 litres of blood needed to move around the giraffe’s body in just one minute.  Giraffes also have the ability to sleep while standing and even when they lie down, they will put their long neck on their hip. The Masai giraffe are completely herbivores and spend their biggest part of the day about 16-20 hours feeding so as to satisfy their big appetites. The giraffe has a gestation period of 14-15 months and the birth period is between 1-6 hours after which a single calf is born and the mother will give birth while standing hence the calf will have to be ready for a rough landing when it comes out. The calves are born almost ready to walk because it takes a calf between 20 minutes – 1 hour to start walking. Masai giraffes have a life span of up to 25 years in their natural habitat.

Cheetahs; Cheetahs are the world’s fastest animals with the ability to accelerate up to 100-120km/hr in short circuits of about 100m or 330ft and this is all possible because the cheetah has its body built for speed in the following ways: the cheetah has a slender body, small rounded head which makes it perfectly aero dynamic with low air resistance, and long thin legs to give it big and quick strides and long flexible tail for stability during high speed chase. The cheetah is the smallest of all big cats and its usually confused with the leopards but here are some striking and distinctive features that separate the 2 cats from one another; the cheetah has small solid black spots on its body unlike the leopard which has large rosettes, the cheetah has black eye streaks or tear marks on its face but the leopard lacks these features on its face. The leopard has a body length 112-150cm or 44-59in with an average shoulder height of 70-90cm or 22-28in and an average body weight of 21-72kg or 46-159Ib. This therefore makes a cheetah taller and heavier than a leopard in terms of body size. The cheetah has its coat colored in a yellowish or rufous greyish white with nearly 2000 solid black spots. The leopards can be distinctively identified using the pattern of their black spots which is unique to each cheetah just like finger prints are in humans. Cheetahs have a set of 8 teeth with mostly canines which makes them a perfect predator for crushing the wind pipes of their prey which usually consists of animals like gazelles, Uganda kobs, kiplisingers and impalas. The cheetahs have a gestation period of about 95days and a life span of 10-12 years in their natural habitat.

Hyenas; Hyenas feature in many of our savannah plains national parks and Ruaha National Park is no exception to this canine hunter. Hyenas are closely related to canines in terms of behavior and body structure as both hyenas and other canines kill most of their prey using their teeth than their claws. They have a wolf like body structure with their fore limbs being longer than the hind limbs and the entire hind quarters are visibly lower and the back slopes downwards towards their rumps. There are two different species of hyenas i.e. spotted hyenas and striped hyenas. Hyenas can be identified from their body structure that is they have large ears, they have thick fur that is coarse and sparse and poorly developed on their underbelly. Spotted hyena exhibits sexual dimorphism with males being large than females while striped hyenas exhibit reversed sexual dimorphism with females being larger than males. Spotted hyenas are more of hunters while striped hyenas like to scavenge from kills made by other predators. Even though in human society, hyenas are depicted as cowardly animals, this isn’t entirely true as these animals have been widely documented chasing off big and fierce predators like lions and leopards from their kills and have the kill for themselves, this doesn’t strike as an act of cowardice by any means. Usually hyenas are nocturnal animals but they have can also be seen in the morning hours doing their hunting and stocking rounds. Hyenas have a set of 9 teeth comprising of mainly canines.

African wild dog; An African wild dog is also called the painted hunting dog or painted wolf or African hunting dog. The African wild dog belongs to the canids group and it is the largest member of this group in Africa has been named as part of Africa’s big 7 game due to their super predatory instincts. African wild dogs are animals that are highly social animals and they live in groups. The wild dogs are the heaviest of the African canids group animals, they have a coat that has bristle hairs with no underfur, their coat is predominantly black with small yellow and white patches. The African dogs have a black muzzle that turns brown on the cheeks, they have a white color pattern on their fore region of the legs. The tail is white at the tip, black in the middle and brown at the base. These African dogs have a shoulder height of 60-75cm or 24-30in, a body length of 71-112cm or 28-44in and a tail that measures 29-41cm or 11-16in. these dogs have an average body weight of 20-25kg or 44-55ib but these dogs exhibit sexual dimorphism were the females are slightly smaller than their male counter parts 3-7%. The African dogs are highly social animals that live and hunt in packs that ranges from 4-30 individuals. Both male and female wild dog have separate social dominance hierarchies.  The male hierarchy is usually led by the oldest male but it may also be overthrown by younger males. Unlike in other mammal species where the males leave the natal group after attaining sexual maturity, amongst the wild dogs, it’s the other way round as the females are the ones which leave the natal group after attaining sexual maturity and will at times chase away the other females they find in the new groups they have joined. The wild dogs are carnivores and entirely feed on flesh. These dogs are formidable super athletes which can run a marathon as they have the stamina to chase their prey at a constant speed of about 66 km per hour or 41miles/hour for over 10-60minutes which always tires out the prey hence being caught after a chase for about 2km. The wild dogs exhibit a rare character after catching their prey, where they might not kill it before eating it but rather start eating it while it’s still alive until the prey succumbs to its injuries inflicted by these dogs. These dogs surprisingly have a higher kill rate success compared to formidable hunters such as lions and leopards. These dogs can hunt from small antelopes to larger ones like wildebeests. Small prey takes wild dogs a short time to kill normally 3-5 minutes as they use a strategy of blocking their escape routes before ambushing them, large prey is hunted by these dogs by creating panic to the group or herd of prey they then isolate one individual prey and chase it until it gets tired. Wild dogs have a gestation period of about 69-73days after which they can give birth to a litter of 6-12 puppies. Since they give birth to so many puppies which makes feeding them by the group difficult, it’s only the dominant females in a group that have to give birth hence when other females in a group give birth, the dominant female is likely to kill their puppies. The puppies will join the hunting party when aged 8-10 weeks old.

Leopards; Leopards are some of the big cat family predators that roam the plains of Ruaha national park and they are at the top of the food chain together. Leopards are usually taken to be the same with cheetahs but they are completely different as cheetahs have tear marks on their faces small round spots while leopards have no this distinctive mark on their faces and have larger rosettes on their body. The skin color of leopards’ ranges from pale yellow to golden or yellowish brown with rosettes and this enables these super predators to camouflage so that they can stalk their prey without ever being noticed. Male leopards are muscular with short limbs and a broad head, the males have an average shoulder height of 60-70cm or 24-28in and weigh in at 37-90kg while the females have an average shoulder height of57-64cm or 22-25in and weigh in between26-60kg. the cheetah has a very long tail that’s white tipped with a length of 60-100cm or 24-39in and this enables the leopards make quick sharp turns at high speed while on a chase. Leopards can sometimes have black color and this is caused by melanism which is a recessive gene in these animals and when a leopard is having this phenomenon, it turns from being called a leopard to a black panther. Leopards are usually solitary animals and they have a gestation period of 90-105 days and can live in their natural habitat for 12-17 years.

Birds in Katavi National Park in Tanzania

Katavi national park has about 400 bird species and these include include yellow throated sandgrouse, little bee eater, black cuckoo-shrike, bateleur, African spoonbill, African paradise flycatcher, crested barbet, orange breasted bush shrike, red billed hornbill.

Orange breasted bush shrike; The male orange breasted bush shrike has its fore head, fore crown and supercilliary stripe in a bright yellow color, its lores are black. It has a yellow breast but its under parts are colored yellow as well as its throat. It has a black beak and eyes. This bird has a body length of 17-19cm weighing 24-34g in males and females weigh 23-32g. they feed on small insects, bees, wasps, caterpillars and beetles.

African spoonbill; The African spoonbill can be easily distinctively identified given its is all white plumage with strikingly pink red legs. This bird also has a pink black long spoon like bill which is big at the end, slim in the middle and large at the base. This bird has a white eye ring around its eyes. The African spoonbill has a body length of 90-91cm and an average of about 1790g or close to 2kg. this bird habituates in the acquatic areas such as lakes swamps and mashes. It feeds mainly on fish and other aquatic invertabrates like frogs

Black cuckoo-shrike; This bird is also referred to as the African black cuckoo shrike. The male bird has an all black glossed greenish blue, the female on the other habd are usually grey-brown with some yellow-black flight feathers and also yellow tail faethers. Both male and females have black beaks and legs. These birds have a body length of 19-22cm and a body weight of 27-40g on average. They make a high pitched penetrating insect like trill of kreee sound.

Red billed hornbill; This bird has a curved bright red bill, they have a dark black patch around their eyes. Their face, throat, neck, breast and belly are colored white, the upper body parts are black with many small and big white spots. These birds have long tail feathers that are colored black on the upper side and white on the interior, their legs are grey black. They a body length of 42-48cm and n average body weight of 200g. they make a sound call of a series of loud accelerating clucking notes that are similar to those of T. erythrorhynchus.

Little bee eaters; These are rich brightly coloured slender birds. They have green upperparts yellow throats, black gargets, rich brown upper breasts fading to buffish ocre on the belly. The wings of these birds are green and brown and their beaks ar black. They hve a body length of 15-17cm hence being the smallest bee eaters on the African continent. Both males and females are similar. They feed majorly on insects such as bees wasps and hornets.

Crested barbet; This is very colorful barbet as its plumage is heavily colored. It has a yellow head while its face is speckled with red and yellow colors and has a black crest. Its belly, breast area is mainly yellow with red speckles though it has a distinctive broad black band around its neck area. Its upper body parts and wings are black with white feathers and it has red markings at the end of its body. The exterior tail feathers are colored black with markings and a white tip. The crested barbets have a body length of 22-23cm and an average body weight of 57-85g. their sound call is distinctive with a “trilling di-di-di” song with 10-17 notes. They mainly feed on fruits and seeds such as guavas fig and berries, sometimes they also feed on insects such as grasshoppers and locusts beetles and wasps.

African paradise fly catcher; The adult male African paradise fly catcher has a black head, neck, and under parts while its wings and tail are chestnut in colour. It has a prominent white wing bar. The female has a browner tint to the underparts and lacks the wingbar and its tail streamers. The male African paradise fly catcher has a body length of 17m but its tail streamers are double this length.

Activities in Katavi National Park in Tanzania

Game drivesKatavi national park is home to a variety of wild animals and these include cape buffaloes, zebras, wildebeest, giraffes, elephants, crocodiles, hippos. Predators in Katavi national park include cheetahs, wild dogs, wild dogs, hyenas, leopards, and lions. All these and more await you as you take a safari ride in the wilderness of Katavi national park.

Birding ; With over 400 bird species in the skies above and the plains in Katavi national park, this presents an exciting opportunity to birding enthusiasts to come here a have themselves spoilt in a birding frenzy as there are so many birds to see while here.

Nature walks; Nature walks are an exciting way to view the diverse wildlife in Katavi national park from the numerous pods filled with hippos, crocodiles, wild mammals like buffaloes, elephants, gazelles, wild dogs, hyenas and leopards. The nature walks also help you to explore the bird species here.

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Accessing Katavi National Park in Tanzania

Katavi national park can be accessed by both road and air transport

Road transport

The road trip to Katavi national park is not a journey counted in hours but rather days. The nearest town to Katavi national park is Mbeya and it lies about 500km in the south of Katavi national park close to ruaha national park. Mbeya is about 838km away from dar es salaam in the west according to google maps and this leads you a total mileage of about 1400km or 870miles and this would require you days to cover. This road trip can be shortened by making stop overs in ruaha national park then proceed to Katavi national park. Most of this road trip will be carried out on dirt or bumpy murram roads

Air transport

Air transport is the only fastest way of accessing Katavi nationL park as it only rquires to fly for about 3 hours and get to katavi national park from Arusha or dar es salaam. There are 2 weekly flights to Katavi national park passing via ruaha and mahale that is operated by safari air link. This flight will land you at either ikuu airstrip near ikuu ranger post.

Accommodations/ safari lodges/ hotels in Katavi national park in Tanzania

mbali mbali lodge; located in sitalike  4.64miles from Katavi national park. 11 guestrooms that come in double and family occupancy. all rooms come with a private shower and writing desks. restaurant, lounge area, fire place, dry cleaning services

chada Katavi, nomad tanzania ; located inside Katavi national park. 6 fully furnished tents in double occupancy. all rooms come with a private shower and writing desk. restaurant, lounge area, fire place

Katavi wildlife camp; located inside Katavi national park. numerous tents that are well furnished with double occupancy. all tents come with a private bathroom and writing desk. restaurant, lounge area, fire place

palahala luxury camp; located inside Katavi . 8 spacious tents that come in double occupancy. all tents come with king size beds and have private bathrooms and a large veranda. restaurant, lounge area, room service

katuma bush lodge; located in katavi national park. numerous spacious and luxury tents in double and family occupancy. all tents come with writing desk and en suite facilities. restaurant, lounge area, room service, free wi-fii

fly catchers camp; located in katavi national park. numerous comfortable tents that come in double and family occupancy. all tents come with en suite facilities with a private verandah. restaurant, lounge area, room service

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