Only a few hundred privileged and seasoned African safari enthusiasts can visit Katavi National Park each year. Arguably the most remote and unspoiled wildlife haven in Tanzania, at 4471 square kilometers (1727 square miles) in extent, this is the third largest wilderness area dedicated to the conservation of spectacular concentrations of indigenous mammals, including thousands of Cape buffalo, various antelopes, zebras, elephants, hippos, crocodiles and predators such as leopards, lions, cheetahs, hyenas and jackals. The endangered African wild dogs are also found here as well as many smaller felines, including the golden and wild cats, servals, caracals and civets. Smaller mammals include mongooses, hyrax, nocturnal bush babies and armored pangolins, as well as a rich diversity of lizards, snakes and frogs. Accessible only with great difficulty by road from Arusha, a journey of over 15-18 hours spanning over two days of driving, or conveniently by air from Arusha, a three-hour trip in a light charter aircraft, only the most determined and intrepid explorers make it to this last remnant of East Africa as it was known to our ancestors hundreds and thousands of years ago. At the end of an arm of the Great African Rift Valley, Katavi consists of linked flood plains of the meandering Katuma River and its fragile network of seasonal lakes and streams, contained within a tangled barrier of brachystegia miombo and acacia thorn trees to the east of Lake Tanganyika.
A dramatic change in conditions from the wet season to dry results in the disappearance of lakes and marshes, and the gathering of water-dependent wildlife close to vanishing water sources. The ecosystem that in the early rains is lush and gentle, rich with flowers, birds, insects, reptiles and graceful ungulates, gradually changes to a harsh, raw battleground where tiny streams, that are all that remain of the wide-spread waters, heave with pods of hundreds of grunting hippo and nests of slithering crocodiles up to five meters in length, all competing viciously for a cool dip in the life-giving wallows. In the heat of the midday sun, mud encrusted elephant step between boulders like tumbles of dormant prehistoric behemoths while lionesses sprawl on the cracked earth as if dropped from a great height. In the early morning and late evening, vast herds of grazing animals trek from their day-time forage grounds to brave waiting predators in a death-defying bid to find a sip of water to sustain them, making for spectacular photo safari opportunities as the daily drama unfolds. Because it is so remote, many more activities are permitted on an adventurous trip to Katavi than in other national parks in Tanzania. Off–road game driving, night drives, guided walks and fly-camping are all distinct ways to explore this fantastic, timeless Tanzanian dream tour destination.