Tsavo National Park
At nearly 22,000km2, Tsavo is the largest national park in Kenya and one of the largest in the world. Due to its size the park was split into two – Tsavo West and Tsavo East – for easier administration. Tsavo is the ideal destination for people who seek solitude and privacy as well as the chance to explore the wilderness.
With its proximity to Mombasa (less than 100 km away) it is also a great safari option for those staying on the coast or those planning to relax on Kenya’s beaches after a dusty safari. Tsavo also combines well with the nearby Amboseli National Park.
The Tsavo West National Park is covered in volcanic cones, rocky outcrops and lava flows. The northern part of Tsavo West is the most developed in terms of lodges and infrastructure and has spectacular scenery with a rolling volcanic landscape carpeted in long grass and dense bush.
Tall vegetation makes game spotting here a little trickier than in some of the other parks. The Big Five can be found in the park along with a fine range of antelope species. The main attractions of the park are the two waterholes, built by the lodges to more or less guarantee that their guests will be treated to fabulous game viewing.
Places to visit include the Chaimu Crater and the Roaring Rocks viewpoint. These are located just southeast of Kilaguni Safari Lodge; they can be climbed in roughly 15 minutes and offer sensational views over the plains.
Across the highway from Tsavo West is Tsavo East. Famous for its large numbers of elephant and spectacular herds of up to 1000 buffalo, Tsavo East has more open savannah than its western sibling.
The scrub-covered hills of the southern park have a very remote feel and the park, despite its great game, does not attract large numbers of tourists. The best game viewing is along the watercourses and at the Kanderi swamp, which is not far from the main Voi gate. Thirty kilometres from the gate is the Aruba Dam and lion are commonly spotted around here.
For a number of years only the southern third of the park was open to the public because of the danger posed by poachers, and visitors were likely to encounter carcasses of tuskless elephants. In the past the park was hard hit by poachers who slaughtered horrifying numbers of rhino, elephant and other species.
Long at the epicentre of a poaching war which decimated rhino numbers from approximately 8000 in 1970 to less than 50 two decades later, elephant numbers plummeted from 50,000 in the 1960s to 5,000 twenty years later.
Today, however, the corner has well and truly been turned and you can be treated to the sight of large herds of 50 or more elephants, which have instinctively retreated to the vicinity of the lodges where they are assured of protection.
Places of interest
There are some interesting geographical features in Tsavo, including the Lugard Falls (this is actually a misnomer as the ‘falls’ are in fact a series of rapids on the Galana River), and the Mzima Springs (the source of much of the fresh water in Mombasa).
At Mzima you can walk down to a large pool, a favourite hang out for hippos and crocodiles. There is an underwater viewing chamber where you can observe thousands of primordial looking fish. Sadly, you are not going to spot crocodiles or hippos in the chamber.