Katavi National Park is located in Katavi Region, Tanzania. It is a very remote park that is less visited than other national parks. The park is approximately 4,471 square kilometres in area, which makes it the third-largest national park in Tanzania. The park encompasses the Katuma River and the seasonal Lake Katavi and Lake Chada floodplains.
Wildlife includes large herds of Cape Buffaloes, zebras, giraffes, and elephants. Along the Katuma river, crocodiles and hippos which upon annual dry seasons results in mud holes that can be packed with hundreds. Carnivorous include cheetahs, wild dogs, hyenas, leopards, and lions. Some sources claim very high biodiversity in the park, although there are also reports of wildlife decline due to illegal hunting and poaching. Katavi has fewer human visitors and jeeps conducting game drives than other parks in Tanzania.
The number of visitors to the park is extremely low, in comparison to better-known parks. 1,500 foreign visitors out of a total 900,000 registered in the whole Tanzania National Parks system during 2012/13. A survey of the actual rooms sold by the available ‘Safari’ style accommodations might reveal the number, but based on total room count and season length, an upper limit can also be estimated. Public campsites are only three permitted to operate at Katavi, the Mbali Mbali Katavi Lodge, and the Foxes on the Katuma and the Chada on the Chada Plain. These camps each have a visitor capacity limit of approximately one dozen each.
Getting to Katavi for visitors will likely be arranged by the hosting camp, with one of the available charter flight services being the Mbali Mbali Shared Charter or Safari Air Link. All flights will require landing on a dirt airstrip; the Ikuu airstrip (near the Ikuu Rangerpost) is very approximately a three-hour flight from Katavi to Dar es Salaam and a two-hours flight to Mwanza via a small, bush-compatible light aircraft. A flight to Arusha is similarly ~3 hours distant and operates on limited service usually only twice a week on Mondays & Thursdays.
Access to Katavi via ground transportation: estimates vary widely; it is generally discussed not in hours but in days. The town of Mbeya is (550 km/340 miles) distant and is described as a “…tough but spectacular drive. The most direct route to Dar es Salaam is approx. 1250 km (~800 miles) and requiring 16+ hours. From Arusha is similarly distant: 1000+km /13.5 hours. The percentage of transit on unpaved surfaces is unknown, but parts of all of these routes will definitely be on dirt roads. Since all of the above times from Google Maps assume an average transit speed of 80 km (50 mph), all these indicated travel times should be considered to be optimistic.