Crossing into Tanzania was not to arduous, after which I stopped at Utengule Coffee House. It is situated, as you may have guessed, on a coffee plantation. Could there be a better place for me? Me thinks not. After weeks of instant coffee this was my bliss! I cannot wait to visit it again on my way back to SA and fill the car with wonderful coffee beans. And that is the best thing I have to say about the route to Katavi NP. We’ll leave the sketchy places out.
Katavi is on the western aspect of Tanzania, often overlooked for the east and The Serengeti, Ngorongoro etc. etc. But nonetheless a great park around Lake Katavi and Lake Chada. Mahale NP is another overlooked park but is strictly fly-in fly-out. Out of my budget for sure but that’s were the golden monkey’s and chimps are. At Katavi I managed to get a banda which is like a little cabin in the park. No real camping sites that I could find so this will do. Not bad, nice to have a bed every once in a while, but no real place to cook.
A quick trip around Lake Katavi, before sunset, was wonderful. Huge herds of Cape Buffalo as far as the eye could see and of course Southern Ground Horn Bills. Couldn’t be in a NP without them. But also a few new birds like the Palm-nut Vulture and an oldie, the Verreux’s Giant Eagle owl. The following day was going to be a rather full day, driving the length of the park to reach Chada Lake and then hopefully to Paradise plains.
I had an early start the following day and was reintroduced to the Tse-tse fly. I thought I fared well the day before until I noted a modest cluster of bites on my muffin top where the seatbelt left me exposed. Dang it! I really really hate these things. I was extra vigilant and do not think I suffered any additional bites the following day. But the carcass load increased in the vehicle.
The drive to Lake Chada was scenic with plentiful Eland and Roan antelope and Impalas.The Hippo pools were teeming with hippos at least 60+ in the small bodies of water.
I had turned to go to Paradise Plains when I spotted this Crocodile in his cave. He backed up out of sight rather quickly for one so large.
Set to continue on to Paradise Plains I spotted that the vultures started to circle. Not the typical circling when they ride thermals but the “I found something yummy” circling. I changed course accordingly and headed back to the main road.
Katavi is split by a main highway. So you can technically enter the park without paying if you stay on that road. Turning past the hippo pools and only a few meters north there was a large hippo carcass with trees full of vultures. I pulled over noting the unpleasant scent of rotting death and started to take photos of the vultures. I assumed the hippo either died by being hit by a vehicle etc or starved to death. I was occupied by the vultures for a good 5 or so minutes. I heard occasional leaf rustling and thought well that’s the vultures leaving their mark.
But the rustling became more distinct. I was parked on one side of this almost two lane dirt road and looked past the heap of dirt on the other side to see the real cause behind the death of the hippo. Lol! You know you love birds when you note them before the pride of lions.
Turns out there were two males, not quite full adults as their mohawks revealed with 2 females. I could see one male doing what lions do best, sleep and the other panting. It was a sweltering day. I sat their with the car off so no AC being inundated with flies off the carcass. They don’t bite but man are they annoying. And the smell, oh the smell, the wind would change from time to time and the mound of maggots seeped over to reveal a new layer of putrefaction. I’ll spare you all that image.
The one brother became enraged after one of the females, one with suckle marks, tried to feed and marched down for a bite himself. Probably for the best he looks rather skinny.
I had just finished remarking to myself that one of the females, Lady one, had suckle marks when this happened.
Yay, cubs! These two little rascals didn’t wait long to get riled up. From trying to eat the hippo to pouncing on everyone and all the trees. Too cute and how amazing?! I spent many hours with this pride and the shenanigans are great. So turns out Lady one is Mom and Lady two is Auntie. Eventually the Safari Vehicles showed up and I bowed out having had my private showing. It was time to go plus I had at least an hour drive back to camp with the sun getting ready to bid the day adieu.
The cost of the hippo supper became evident and the reason for Brother one looking so lazy and sleepy. Hope he recovers from his wound, it looks bad to me. Can’t tell how bad it is as he never moved more than rolling from side to side. At least the meat is close by to help him keep his energy up as he heals.
Here’s one to give you an idea of how close I was able to get. It took a little patience but ultimately they didn’t care that I was there. They chilled, ate, and slept as if I was a fly on the hippo. Once the safari vehicles showed up they became a bit more testy, can’t blame them.
Katavi was amazing. I ventured further north to Kigoma and Jakobsen Beach for a day of swimming in Lake Tanganyika and oh the views, and a quick wave at the Congo. Rested I headed for the Ugandan border the following morning.
And prepare yourselves because Uganda = Gorillas!