Katavi National Park in Tanzania

This remote park is off the beaten path in Tanzania, and you may find yourself being one of the few who ventured there, but you will not be disappointed. In fact, much of Katavi’s appeal is that it is rarely (if ever) busy, which affords its few visitors exclusive viewings of the very reach wildlife and birds. Large roaming herds of elephant and buffalo, lions fighting over a kill or a leopard posing for the perfect picture – visited at the right time, Katavi offers an amazing African safari.

  • Best Time to Go

    June – September

  • Average Safari Cost

    $200-$600 pp/day

  • Highlights

    Large populations of lion, elephant, buffalo and hippo. Hippos gather in large pods from June to October. Lions could be seen making a kill around the waterholes. Over 400 species of birds.

Why Visit Katavi National Park

Dusty floodplains transform into shallow lakes and verdant marshes after the rains, turning the remote Katavi into a beautiful oasis. Although less spectacular, the dusty plains, grasslands and woodlands also offer better wonderful wildlife viewing opportunities.

Lions prowl along without a care, and once the river dries up, hippos fight for the limited space in the small pools. Buffalos roam in large herds and can often be seen with elephants and other large mammals, as they gather around Lake Katavi and Lake Chada.

Birdwatching is also exceptional in Katavi. There are over 400 recorded species, including many raptors such as the Fish Eagle and the White-backed Vulture. The dry season is not particularly good for spotting birds here, but many water-associated birds can be found along the rivers all-year round.

Pros and Cons

All adventures imply some reasonable challenges. We are here to help you choose the safari that’s right for you.
  • Wildlife viewing is great from June to October
  • Rare antelope species
  • Abundance of hippos can be seen during the dry season
  • Rarely crowded, even in the high season (July – October)
  • Over 400 recorded bird species
  • The park can only be reached by plane
  • Due to poor road conditions (muddy and flooded), many lodges and camps are closed from March to May.

Best Time to Go

Katavi has a year-long hot climate, with a continuous wet season from November to April, and a dry season from May to October.

The best time to visit Katavi is from June to September. While the park is open throughout the year, the dry season will be the best time to spot wildlife as vegetation will be thinner. It is also not a good idea to visit during November to April, as most camps will be closed due to bad road conditions.

For more information when to visit see our

Start your African Adventure

Wildlife and Birds

Katavi is not a popular wildlife viewing destination, because it is difficult to reach, and this means that you will likely have the vast populations of wildlife and birdlife all to yourself. With lions prowling around the waterholes hoping for an easy meal, and hippos fighting in the pools, you can expect quite the show. Bird watchers will not be disappointed as the birdlife is vibrant and abundant, with many water-associated species present at the waterholes and rivers all-year round.
List of Animals
  • Lion
  • Elephant
  • Cheetah
  • Leopard
  • Hippo
  • Buffalo
  • Hyena
  • Giraffe
  • Wildebeest
  • Wild Dog
  • Zebra
  • Crocodile

Lions are very common in Katavi and the vast numbers of buffalo and hippo are a spectacular and a very rare sight outside the park. During the dry season (June to September), the water sources dry up and large pods of hippos are forced to squeeze into small pools. While Katavi doesn’t have many rare or unusual animals, the sable antelope can occasionally be spotted in the miombo woodland, and the other wildlife all roam in large numbers.

Rare Animals

  • Wildebeest, cheetah, wild dog

Infrequently Seen Animals

  • Leopard, hyena, sable antelope

Frequently Seen Animals

  • Elephant, giraffe, hippo, buffalo, zebra, lion, impala, waterbuck, crocodile

With over 400 recorded species, bird watching is fantastic in Katavi. Raptors, herons, spoonbills and various subspecies of stork are commonly seen. The best time for bird watching is between November and April, when the migratory birds are present.

Endangered Birds

For a complete list of endangered birds in Tanzania see our Tanzania Safari - Complete Travel Guide.

Endemic and Near Endenic Birds

  • African Fish Eagle, African Golden Oriole, African Paradise Flycatcher, African Spoonbill, Bateleur, Black Cuckoo-Shrike, Lilac-breasted Roller, Little Bee-eater, Pink-backed Pelican, Red-billed Hornbill, Saddle-billed Stork, Sulphur-breasted Bush-Shrike, White-backed Vulture, Yellow-billed Stork, Yellow-throated Sandgrouse

Getting There and Safety

You will either enter the country through Kilimanjaro International Airport outside of Arusha, or Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam. Your entry point depends entirely on your itinerary.

A flight from Arusha is the best way to reach Katavi. Your best option would be to use Nomad Safaris, which runs a scheduled air service from Katavi or Mahale to Arusha. There are also bi-weekly scheduled flights with Safari Air Link, that flies between Mahale, Katavi and Ruaha.


For the flights to Tanzania, it is advised to check Skyscanner (for multiple destination flights), to see which airlines can take you there and compare various ticket prices.

If you are based in the UK and Europe, check out these flights to Tanzania.

If you are based in the USA and Canada, check out these flights to Tanzania.


For more information on visas see our Tanzania Safari - Complete Country Guide.

Vaccinations and Malaria

Speak to your doctor or travel clinic regarding malaria preventative medication appropriate for the region. Using a good insect repellent (30% DEET or more) and keeping your arms and legs covered at night, is a good defence against mosquitoes.

Check your local travel health authority for more information:

Travel Insurance

Going on a safari in Africa comes with obvious risks. We recommend you get travel insurance for all safaris in Tanzania. Make sure your insurance has full medical coverage, emergency air evacuation, repatriation and the standard travel insurance for cancellations, delays and luggage cover.

Check World Nomads’ travel insurance calculator to see the cost of your safari trip cover.

What to Pack


  • A good insect repellent is essential for Katavi.
  • Camera
  • Spare rechargeable batteries
  • Battery charger
  • Spare memory card for camera
  • General clothing
  • Trail shoes and hiking boots
  • Personal medication
  • Small backpack (for game drives)
  • Toiletries – female visitors may want to bring tampons/pads along, as Moremi is a remote park, and you might not be able to acquire any whilst there.

If you are visiting from November to April wet-weather gear is necessary:

  • Waterproof backpack
  • Waterproof rain jacket
  • Waterproof trousers
  • Waterproof hiking boots

If you are visiting in the dry season from May to October you will need:

  • Sunscreen
  • Wide-brimmed sunhat
  • Warm clothing – nights and early mornings are chilly

For more details on what to pack see our Safari Packing List.

Drinking Water
Katavi is a very remote park. As such, it might be best to stick to bottled water.
Parks and reserves generally have no crime, and Katavi is no exception. If, however, you will be exploring any of the cities in Tanzania, we recommend that you follow basic travelling safety precautions as petty theft is possible in busy markets, bus stations, etc.