The Joint mass of Tsavo West and Tsavo East National Parks forms one of the largest National parks in the world and covers a massive 4% of Kenya’s total land area. Tsavo East the larger of the two, lies to the east of the Nairobi – Mombasa road, equidistant between Nairobi and Mombasa, and offers a vast and untapped arena of arid bush which is washed by azure and emerald meandering of Galana River. Guarded by the limitless lava reaches of Yatta plateau and patrolled by some of the largest elephant herds in Kenya.
This fine national park covers a huge variety of landscapes, from swamps and natural springs to rocky peaks, extinct volcanic cones and rolling plains. It’s easily the more beautiful of the two parks, but wildlife can be hard to spot. Birds are very common and there are large populations of elephants, zebras, hippos and leopards. Lions are present, but they tend to stay hidden.
The focus is Mzima Springs, the source of most of Mombasa’s fresh water, where you can walk down to a large pool that is a favorite haunt of hippos and crocodiles. There’s an underwater viewing chamber which unfortunately just gives a view of thousands of primeval-looking fish. Be careful-both hippos and crocs are dangerous.
Chaimu crater and the Roaring rocks view point are other highlights, just southeast of Kilaguni Serena Lodge, and can be climbed in about 15 minutes. The views from both are stunning, with falcons, eagles and buzzards whirling over the plains. While there is little danger walking these trails, be aware that the wildlife is out there.
Another attraction is the Ngulia Rhino Sactuary at the base of Ngulia Hills, part of the Rhino Ark Programme. The 70km² area is surrounded by a metre-high electric fence and provides a measure of security for the park’s last 49 black rhinos. There are driving tracks and waterholes within the enclosure and there’s a good chance of seeing one of these elusive creatures.
Some of the more unusual species include the naked mole rat and the enigmatically named white-bellied go-away bird, which is often seen perched in dead trees. Red-beaked hornbills and bateleur eagles are also common. Look out for dung beetles rolling huge balls of elephant dung along the tracks.
It’s possible to go rock-climbing at Tembo Peak and and the Ngulia Hills, but you’ll need to arrange this with wardens. This area is also fantastic for bird life and there’s a very reliable hippo pool on the Mukui River.
Lake Jipe (Pronounced ji-pay), at the southwest end of the park, is reached y a desperately dusty track from near Taveta. You can hire boats here for hippo and crocodile spotting (US$5). Huge herds of elephants come to the lake to drink and large flocks of migratory birds stop here from February to May.
Tsavo East National Park
Divided into 3 parts by the Tiva and Galana rivers, the Tsavo East National Park is Kenya’s largest National Park covering an area of 11,700sq kms.
It is a hot, waterless dry region with an annual rainfall of less than 51cm recorded, and has a large diversity of landscapes from the gorges of Lugard falls with its water carved rocks to the natural catchments at Mwanda.
The park has dramatic sights of large mammals including great herds of elephant, antelope, hippos, black rhino, eland, lions and giraffe plus a host of birdlife. It is an ideal place for exclusive camping, game circuits and adventures and is the greatest of all Kenya’s parks. The middle section of the park has many rock and cave paintings.
Area : 11,700 sq km Altitude: 200 to 1000 m [656 – 3280 ft]
Access from Nairobi / Mombasa: By Road : 270kms ( 5 hours )
Location : In Eastern and Coast Province, South East of Nairobi
Animals : Numerous – The Big Nine, and plenty other herbivores and birds
Vegetation : Open savannah and light patches of bush, cactus like euphorbia trees
Facilities : Few lodges and camp sites
Attractions : The Big Five, rock and cave paintings
Tsavo West National Park
Tsavo West National Park was established in 1948 and is bordered by Taita Hills to the east at the water margins. It covers a total area of 9065sq kilometers and hosts a wide variety of wildlife species from the ‘Big Five’ (Lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo and elephant), numerous other carnivores, gazelles to over 150 bird species.
The park also has the Mzima springs, Shaitani Lava Flow which consists of caves, three craters, basalt flows and lava splashes. Bordering Tanzania to the south east with areas of unending succession of fantastic views across the plains dotted with fin graphite, marble and sulphite deposit.
Area : 9065 sq km Altitude: 200 to 1000 m [656 – 3280 ft]
Access from Nairobi/ Mombasa: By Road : 275kms (5 hours )
Location : In Eastern and Coast Province, South East of Nairobi.
Animals : Numerous – The Big Nine, and plenty other herbivores and birds.
Vegetation : Open savannah and light patches of bush, cactus like euphorbia trees.
Facilities : Lodges and camp sites are available
Attractions : Mzima springs, Big Five, Rhino sanctuary.