After roughly 30 hours of travelling from Cape Town, and only 3 hours of sleep I arrived at the Ikuu Airstrip in the Katavi National Park. I was met by
our friendly guide, Chris who has been a guide for over 10 years. A pride of lion lay in the shade of the trees that lined our road to Chada Camp from
the airstrip. What a lovely welcome. We headed straight to camp after our encounter, for a delicious fish cake & salad lunch, before a much needed
Later that afternoon we embarked on our first afternoon drive. Sure enough the lion pride was exactly where we had left them, enjoying the reprieve of the hot African sun under the trees. One young male even made his way up a tree to escape the flies. It's was so funny to see a lion in a tree as it's not common. He looked so uncomfortable compared to the leopards I have seen in trees before.
Chris then took us to the bridge over the Katuma River, which was filled with pods of hippo and scaly crocodiles. Making our way along the river bed we spotted a majestic young female leopard perched up a chestnut tree. How lucky! I thoroughly enjoyed watching her as she slept soundly, before we heading off to our sundowner spot further down the road. There is something so magic about an African sunset.
That evening I enjoyed a bucket shower under the night sky and fell asleep to the noises of the bush. I was woken up to a bull elephant feeding on whatever he could get us trunk on just meters away from my tent in the night, but the excitement was overwhelming.
I couldn't wait to see what Katavi had in store for us when the sun came up.
Did you know that the Katavi National Park is the 3rd largest National Park in Tanzania? Our first sighting was a herd of over 500 buffalo not far from camp. As buffalo don't have the best eye sight they curiously advanced to the vehicle to investigate who we were. It wasn’t long before the wind blew our scent towards them and they moved off for a while, before returning to us again. We spent the morning in awe of the vast open plains and the windy Katuma Seasonal River (we were told it would dry up in the next two weeks), passing impala, water buck, elephants and many other animals before we stopped for breakfast overlooking the Katsunga Plain. Breakfast was a delicious selection of cereals, French toast (possibly the best I've ever had), pancakes, bacon, sausage and fruit. We then made our way back to camp in time for lunch.
After our siesta we headed to the other side of the Chada Plain, where our fly camp awaited us. Before we reached camp, we stepped out of the vehicle for a short walking safari. On our walk we got within meters of another 500+ herd of buffalo. It was incredible to be on the same level as one of Africa’s Big Five. We continued our walk with Chris pointing out smaller details of nature that you don't get to experience on a vehicle. Then just before we got to camp we came across a lone bull elephant chewing on the ilala palm leaves. As we reached camp, I was speechless. Two sky tents were setup just for us in the middle of nowhere. It was incredible to think that that's where we were going to spend the night, under the stars. After a sun downer and delicious meal we climbed into bed and I fell asleep to the sound of nothing but the wind blowing in the trees, and was woken up the next morning to a gentleman pouring water into our basin next to our tents so we could wash our faces - just magic! After breakfast we made our way through the bush back to camp in time for lunch and a siesta.
That afternoon we decided to go on a night drive instead of an afternoon safari. So we headed out around 5 o'clock for a sundowner before we started our night drive. Our first encounter were two giant eagle owls in the middle of the road feeding on a stripped jennet cat. I was sad to see this yet, I know it’s party of nature and how the eagle owls feed. We did get to see two jennets later on our drive, as well as a white tailed mongoose. To end off our drive we found a female lioness walking along the road. What an ending! We followed her until she finally decided to walk off the road into the bush. I decided to skip dinner and head straight to bed. It wasn't long before I had a herd of elephants surround my tent, enjoying their dinner.
As I awoke on day 3, I couldn't believe it was my last morning at Chada Camp - I didn't want to leave! We opted for a late breakfast (if you can call 8 o'clock late) in camp. Boy, oh boy, was that the best decision - just had I had finished my pancakes & fruit I looked up at the herd of buffalo (the same herd we saw on our first morning drive) and spotted the pride of 9 lion walking in the long grass while the stalked their prey. We sat watching and debating what the lion where thinking, until sadly it was time for us to leave for the airstrip. On our way to the airstrip I felt as though all the animals showed themselves to say goodbye as we drove past zebras, giraffe, warthog, buffalo, hippos, and crocodile and more - I think you get the picture…
Read part 2 of Sam's Western Tanzania adventure HERE, as she visits the chimps at Greystoke Mahale