Mbali Mbali Katavi: Our full report
Seated in the centre of Katavi National Park, with sweeping views over the Katisunga Plains, Mbali Mbali ...... Katavi started as a very simple tented camp, but has gradually developed into a high end operation. The lodge was previously known as Katuma Bush Lodge, until Mbali Mbali took over the operations in 2018.
Mbali Mbali Katavi’s communal areas are housed in a spacious, two tier, open-sided structure built from wood and thatch. The whole camp was completely refurbished in 2018 and this main area leaves a striking, and rather imposing, first impression. In fact, it is such large structure it can be spotted from some distance across the plains.
The lounge area has a relaxed aesthetic and there are a few seating areas dotted around, as well as a large central dining area. The expansive deck to the front has wonderful views looking out over the plains; it is a popular spot to serve meals throughout the day, as well as gathering around the mobile fit pit for pre-dinner drinks.
Previously the lodge had a swimming pool on this decked area, but the current owners decided to remove this. Given how hot and dry Katavi can be, the pool provided welcome respite for guests, but we did question the ecological sensitivity by having a pool where water can be so scarce in the dry season. We understand that there are now plans to build an additional, lower deck that will have a brand new swimming pool there. This is expected to be completed in 2019 – a bonus for guests but a bit of a blow to the lodge’s environmental sustainability credentials.
There are currently 8 tented rooms at the lodge, which includes one family room made from a conjoined double and twin tent on a shared platform. The rooms are all canvas tents raised up on spacious wooden platforms and erected under a thatched roof. The rooms are fairly dark inside, with intricately carved Zanzibari beds and dark, polished wooden floors, but they're spacious and well equipped. The overall aesthetic is rather minimalist and quite contemporary, despite the traditional beds. The en-suite bathrooms at the rear of the tents are to hotel standards, with a proper glass shower, flushing toilet and double sinks. Out the front of each room, a small verandah has a comfortable sofa.
Activities at Mbali Mbali Katavi centre around safari game drives to see the fantastic wildlife Katavi National Park has to offer. It is the desire of the current management to bring the guiding level up to their very high standards, having come from a high end management background in their native South Africa. We anticipate more guides and further activities being brought in as the seasons progress.
Overall, our views of Mbali Mbali Katavi were a little mixed. It was certainly a spacious and comfortable camp, in a really beautiful location. But it felt a bit sterile and lacking in personality – something which could admittedly improve as it settles in over time. Visitors are attracted to Katavi for its ‘off the beaten track’ nature, and this lodge offers probably the most traditionally comfortable way to enjoy the park.
- Katavi National Park, Tanzania
- Ideal length of stay
- There are two flights a week to Katavi (Mondays and Thursdays), so you can stay here for either three or four nights.
- The camp is a 20- to 30-minute drive from Ikuu airstrip depending on the season; when there has been rain, they have to go a slightly longer way around.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- Food quality
- Unfortunately we only had time to sample one meal here, but we were impressed with the quality. The managers told us what we could expect in general though:
Breakfast at Katuma is quite often a small breakfast box taken with you on your morning game drive – the guide will stop somewhere scenic for you to enjoy your food. For those staying in camp, there is a buffet choice of cereals, toast and juice, followed by a hot cooked breakfast – with your choice of eggs, bacon, sausage, tomato and beans.
Lunch is usually taken in the camp (although a packed lunch can be easily arranged) and served to guested seated at individual tables. On our last visit, in June 2013, we enjoyed pilau chicken (a local dish) served with rice, and a tomato-and onion-salad that was flavoursome and light. However, the slightly grainy chocolate mousse served as dessert wasn’t quite as good.
Sadly, we didn’t get a chance to sample dinner, but we’re told that it is a plated three-course meal and that twice a week they host an outdoor BBQ buffet.
- Attitude towards children
- The camp welcomes families with older children.
- Property’s age restrictions
- Special activities & services
- Generally recommended for children
- Katavi is a very wild national park and so we wouldn’t recommend bringing young children here at all. It’s a good option for families with older children, though, and they have one family tent available.
- This is a wild bush camp and children should be supervised at all times.
- Power supply notes
- Tents have power 24 hours a day, and you can charge cellphones and batteries in the tents too.
- There is free WiFi for guests.
- TV & radio
- Only the new Presidential Suite will have a TV.
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- The camp has first-aid kits on site for minor injuries. For more serious situations, the camp is part of a larger company which has its own plane based in Kigoma which they could use to evacuate guests.
- Dangerous animals
- High Risk
- Security measures
- The camp has guards to escort guests to and from their tents once it gets dark.
- Fire safety
- There are fire extinguishers in the rooms.
- Disabled access
- Not Possible
- Laundry facilities
- A basic laundry service is included, but like most camps in Tanzania women’s underwear is not accepted. Furthermore, when the camp is full they allow a maximum of two items per person per day.
- The main office has a safe where guests can store valuables.
- Accepted payment on location
- Extras can only be paid for in cash. They accept US dollars, British pounds, euros and Tanzanian shillings.
Other lodges in Katavi National Park
Alternative places to stay in this same area.