katavi national park

Katavi National Park

(Tanzania)
Katavi National Park

Background

Katavi is pure wilderness. This classic Dry-season park is completely off the beaten track, but teeming with wildlife. Four of the Big Five are present. Lion, buffalo and elephant are all very common but leopard sightings are more hit-and-miss. Rhino is absent. There might not be the widest variety of wildlife on the average drive, but sightings tend to be spectacular, and you'll mostly have them to yourself. While lion are very common, the more remarkable sightings are buffalo herds that number in the thousands and the hippo, which are pushed into small pools as the river dries up. Pods of them share too small a place, and fights are a common sight. The habitat is mainly grassland savannah and brachystegia (miombo) woodland on the east of the park. After the rains, the place transforms to lush marshes and shallow lakes, leaving behind dusty floodplains of the Dry season.

Katavi National Park

Wildlife Experience

Katavi isn't particularly known for unusual animals, but it is the numbers of them that are staggering. Buffalo herds numbering thousands can be seen. Hippo burst out of the remaining puddles of the seasonal rivers at the end of the Dry season. Beautiful sable antelope can sometimes be found in the miombo woodland. During the Dry season, the Katuma River is packed with hippo, and crocodile can be seen in caves in the river banks. Huge herds of buffalo, zebra and impala gather with elephant and defassa waterbuck around the drying water reserves of Lake Katavi and Lake Chada. Opportunistic lion are never far from the remaining water sources, waiting for their prey to come to them. Katavi's vast ecosystem means that the lush floodplains attract a very large biomass and huge herds of wildlife. It is not uncommon to see herds of over 1000 buffalo at a time, along with large herds of topi and zebra, all grazing the plains during the day when they are less vulnerable to predators, while they prefer to return to the relative safety of the woodland at night. The abundance of prey means that predators are a planty. Katavi is home to lion, leopard, spotted hyena, cheetah, wild dog, wild cat, serval and caracal. There are over 400 bird species, giving it equal credit to bird-watchers too.

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Katavi National Park | Birdlife

Katavi is mainly visited in the Dry season, which isn't the best time for birding, but the rivers harbor a large concentration of water-associated birds throughout the year. Particularly common are herons, plovers, spoonbills, African openbills and groups of stork including yellow-billed and saddle-billed stork. Raptors are well represented, with the fish eagle, bateleur and white-backed vulture being very common. Over 400 species have been recorded, and migratory birds are present from November to April. The birdlife in Katavi is good year-round, but at its best from November to April when the migratory birds from Europe and northern Africa are present. At this time, many resident bird species are nesting and are in breeding plumage. The rains usually arrive in November and last until early June. For birding specifically, November to March is the best time. The problem, however, is that many roads become hard to travel after continuous rain. As a result, most camps are closed from March to May. For wildlife viewing, the middle and end of the Dry season (June-October) is considerably better.

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