Katavi & Ruaha

To the south of Tanzania are Ruaha and Katavi National Parks.  Both of these parks receive fewer visitors than other parks and reserves around East Africa and it would be unusual during a visit to either of these locations to come across any other tourists.

Ruaha may be the most dramatic national park in Tanzania for its combination of spectacular vistas and variety of wildlife. Intersected by more than one major river, home to the Mdonya Gorge, the forests of Miombi woodland and the Matopotopo Swamps, Ruaha’s backbone is an enormous watershed that generates the environment to support a vast range of wildlife. The Great Ruaha River provides a constant water source for wildlife and only dries up in years with extremely low rainfall.

Accessible only by plane, Ruaha is Tanzania’s largest national park, and with its remote location, it sees few tourists, providing a very exclusive safari experience. The main safari focus is morning and afternoon wildlife drives by open 4×4 vehicles, as well as nature and wildlife walks with rangers and trackers, bird watching with a knowledgeable guide, and romantic meals in the wilderness set up and served by your guides. The scenery stuns with rolling hills and kopjes, bubbling natural springs and a rift escarpment rising up more than 300 feet above a broad valley below.

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To the West of Ruaha is Katavi National Park, situated around a number of lakes including Lake Rukwa and Lake Katavi which is fed by the Katuma River.  The park also encompasses the huge Katisunga floodplains that can be almost completely dry except for a few mud pools at certain times of year.  As part of the Rift Valley, Katavi consists of central valley with its rivers and flood beds and the overlooking highlands and mountains of the Llyamba Iya Mfipa Escarpment to the west and the Mlele Escarpment to the east.

Both parks offer prolific game viewing with buffalo, zebra and various antelope aplenty.  Of course where there is game there are also predators and these parks offer some of the best predator sightings in the region.  Some of the rarer predator species such as the African Wild Dog and striped hyena also call areas of these parks home.  Ruaha boasts the largest population of elephants of any park in Tanzania with an average of 12,000 elephants migrating through the region each year.  While both parks have spectacular bird life, especially water birds and wader attracted to the various lakes and waterways, Ruaha has exceptional bird life with over 580 species sighted.  There are large populations of black-collared lovebirds and ashy starlings which visitors have a very good chance of spotting during their stay.

There is limited accommodation in each of these locations and the styles can vary dramatically from luxury lodges to fly camping.  All accommodations offer game drives but a number also offer out of vehicle experiences such as guided game walks.