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Katavi National Park

Katavi is said to have the highest biodensity of any national park in Africa.

Katavi National Park lies in Mpanda district in the west of Tanzania. With an area of 4471 km², it is Tanzania’s third largest park. Together with the neighbouring Rukwa, Lukwati and Luafi Game Reserves and numerous forest reserves, this ecosystem of 25 000 km² is the heart of one of the biggest and richest wildlife areas in Tanzania. Katavi National Park got its name from the spirit Katabi (from the Wabende tribe). Legend says that it lives near Lake Katavi in a twin pair of trees (Tamarindus indica and Faidherbia albida).

Weather and seasons
Seasons define much of the park’s ecohydrology: while Lake Chada and Lake Katavi are grasslands during the dry season, they transform into shallow lakes with the onset of heavy rains during the rainy season (October to April). The average rainfall is approximately 930 mm and follows a bimodal pattern with short rains in slight low in February.

Water & Wetlands
All rivers in Katavi National Park but one drain towards Lake Rukwa, a slightly saline lake without an outlet (“end lake”) in the South of the Rukwa Rift Valley (approximately 2 300 km²). Only the seasonal river Nkamba in the northwest drains towards the west into Lake Tanganyika.

The vital lifeline of the Park is the Katuma river which feeds Lake Katavi in the north and Lake Chada in the center as well as the huge Katisunga floodplain (425 km²). In recent years, this river as well as the Kapapa and Ngolima rivers, which feed lake Chada, tend to dry out earlier due to illegal damming upstream outside the national park. Only a few very small muddy pools remain in the river beds in the dry season. Obviously this is a significant threat to the entire ecosystem.

Most of Katavi National Park lies inside the Rukwa Rift Basin, which is part of the Central African Rift System. This huge tectonic basin (360 km long and 40 to 60 km wide) is a parallel arm of the Tanganyika Rift Valley; Lake Rukwa is its lowest south-eastern point (Delvaux 1998).

Two major landscape units (“land regions”, Rukwa Development Atlas RDA 1984) can be found in the area of Katavi National Park: the rift valley floor and the bordering rift valley shoulders on both sides with the adjacent highlands, mountains and plateaus east and west of the valley. The western “shoulder” is the Llyamba lya Mfipa Escarpment and the eastern “shoulder” is the Mlele Escarpment.

The valley floor consists of flat to slightly undulated wooded terrain which is split by vast floodplains, seasonal lakes, rivers and shallow drainage lines. The altitude in these areas ranges from 820 m to 960 m.

Much of the Mlele Escarpment resembles a continuous cliff, steep and carved by perennial and seasonal streams with many waterfalls (Chorangwa, Lukima and Ndido Falls). In the Kapapa area in the northeastern part of Katavi National Park the escarpment is broken and various outliers are present: Igongwe, Kapimbye, and Kapapa Hills, which might be considered as inselbergs (RDA 1984). The southeast of the Mlele Escarpment is not as distinctly steep and high, because it is split into two steps in the Lukima and Rungwa areas.

The Llyamba lya Mfipa Escarpment is heavily dissected with various high mountains and steep slopes. Its highest mountain reaches 1560 m.

Feedback from customers consistently backs up our opinion. This is a very cool place to safari, very remote and very wild ... a throwback to nineteenth century Africa.