Katavi National Park – the Pinnacle of the African Adventure
In 2001 the Serengeti had 100,000 visitors; in contrast the Katavi National Park in the remote and inaccessible west of Tanzania had only 83 guests. It is rumored that when a guest arrives at the park gates the wardens there are shocked and bewildered, so rare are tourists to this park. Here, in this park the only other people you will meet are other guests and the staff at the one [tented] lodge in the entire park. Here you have one million hectares to yourself.
I am sure you have heard and read many times about destinations being ‘off the beaten track’ - this park is the personification of overused term ‘well off the beaten track’. That is for the moment; with the tourists insatiable appetite for something new, somewhere not frequented by other tourists, in this ever shrinking world, one wonders how long this park will remain remote and secret.
To drive to this park is an endurance test in the extreme. Departing from Arusha, or Dar es Salaam, involves a three to five day, spine breaking drive in a robust 4 x 4. Alternatively to hire a charter flight is an easier option, if not equally more expensive. I say easier but this also involves a four hour flight in a light aircraft, with a refueling stop en-route.
If you dive with the intention to camp, you must be totally self sufficient. You will be driving into the true wilderness. When you think of campsite, think of a cleared piece of ground for the pitching of tents. Here you will be truly alone with nature. It is well worth the effort if you are up to the adventure.
The park is truly magnificent, covering over one million hectares of land. There are two lakes, Lake Katavi in the north and Lake Chada and the Katuma River in the south. Diverse woodland and acacia bush in the park is home to elephant and many types of antelope. The game here is said to be unrivaled in the rest of Africa, this park offering a exceptional opportunity to see Africa as it once was. Reputedly there are herds of buffalo in access of three/four thousand animals. The park is mostly high plains grassland - grassland in the dry season, and swampy wetland in the wet season. The best time to visit is in the dry season - June to October.
In the dry season all the animals in this park congregate around the lakes and along the river. Huge crocodiles line the rivers and share the lakes with a solid mass of hippo. If you like hippo this park is the place to see them en-mass. Some of the pools and the centre of Lake Chada can have three thousand hippo’ at any one time. There are also leopard and many lions in this park. The buffalo being the preferred meal for a lion means there are no shortages of lion in this park.
There are over four hundred species of birds, including - Angolan Pitta, Blackfaced Barbet and the Blue Swallow. A highlight of viewing the birds is to watch the Maribou Stock wading in the mud and feeding on the barbel [cat fish]. At times the mud boils with these fish and the stocks causally extract them form the soft mud for a quick and easy meal.
Now is the time to visit this park before more lodges open and the remoteness and matchless beauty are lost to the tourism.
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