The wild west of Tanzania
Katavi National Park. Remote. Wild. Unspoilt. Pure. Rarely visited. Remote. Spectacular scenery. Off-the-beaten track. Rugged. Remote. Isolated. Untouched. Abundant wildlife. Birding paradise. Did we mention it is quite remote? And difficult to get to? But stunning, and worth the effort, definitely worth the effort. One of our highlights among this year’s safaris.
Katavi NP is Tanzania’s third largest national park, with nearly 4,500km2 set aside for the animals in their different habitats. It gets a fraction of the visitors the rest of the country gets, especially when compared to the Serengeti and the other parks in the northern circuit. Katavi could be considered part of the southern circuit, but in reality even people venturing away from the popular and busy north, hardly ever visit Katavi NP. But they should, and we were mighty glad we did. It is located in the far west of Tanzania, not quite reaching Lake Tanganyika. It is a place we had wanted to visit ever since we arrived in Tanzania.
To get there we had to fly to Arusha first. The next morning we continued from Arusha with a small Cessna caravan via Kogatende, Seronera, Tabora, and Ruaha NP, to our final destination Katavi NP. Finally we were there.
We liked the day drives, but what we really loved were the night drives. As always we had brought our ay-ups, excellent mountain biking lights that pack enough punch for spotting. When driving around in the dark, we would shine our torches sideways, picking up a lot of the eyes. The main spotter was usually focused on the area in front of the car and we would pick up many of the smaller animals on the sides. And that’s the ones we were most interested to see.
Of course we were excited when we spotted a leopard, or the lioness eating a hippo with several enormous crocodiles laying right next to her, doggedly holding on to their part of the feast. But we were most interested in the civets, genets and other smaller creatures of the night. We spotted our first ever marsh mongoose, and then several more. Plenty of genets, and even a few African civets. This was our idea of heaven.
One night we left our tent in camp empty and spent it outside at the edge of the open plains. It was great to sleep outside under the stars again. We had our own bathroom, complete with toilet, washbasin and even a hot shower. Dinner was a romantic one by candlelight, just for us, and afterwards there were some more gin & tonics by the campfire. Magic. It was slightly unfortunate that crews had been working on the roads that day and most of the animals had disappeared into the distance, but the scenery alone made it worth camping under the stars.
We stayed at the Nomad camp called Chada. It is a luxury camp, with only six tents, but not over the top. A huge disappointment was the knowledge of our guide. We had specifically asked for a bird guide, but he knew nothing about birds. The manager ended up being our guide, as he was the only one in camp who had some knowledge about birds. It was great to work out what birds we saw with him, but when you pay this much for a camp, all guides should have an excellent knowledge of every animal, including birds.
Chada offers night drives, as well as walking safaris and even fly-camping. The night drives alone are worth the trip to Katavi NP.