Covering an area of 4471 sq km, Katavi National Park is located about 40km from Mpanda town in southwest Tanzania, to the east of Lake Tanganyika, lying within a truncated arm of the Great Rift Valley that terminates in the shallow expanse of Lake Rukwa. A true wilderness and seldom visited, Katavi is famous for its undisturbed natural face compared to other parks in the country. The main vegetation of the park is Miombo woodland with scattered Acacia trees near Lake Chada. The main focus for game viewing within the park is the Katuma River and associated floodplains such as the seasonal Lakes Katavi and Chada.
During the rainy season, these lush, marshy lakes are a haven for myriad water birds, and they also support Tanzania’s densest concentrations of hippo and crocodile. During the dry season, when the flood waters retreat, Katuma River forms the only source of drinking water for miles around, and the flanking floodplains support game concentrations that defy belief. An estimated 4,000 elephants might converge on the area, together with several herds of 1,000- plus buffalo, while an abundance of giraffe, zebra, impala and reedbuck provide easy pickings for the numerous lion prides and spotted hyena clans whose territories converge on the floodplains. Also to be seen are elands and the rare sable and roan antelopes.