Tsavo National Park Guide
The Tsavo National Parks are one of the oldest parks in Kenya. In this post, I give you a guide on what to expect in terms of where to stay and the kind of animals you will see on your next visit.
How To Get To Tsavo East and West National Parks
Both the parks are accessible from the Mtito Andei gate which is 232 km south of Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya. It is also 250 km north of Mombasa on the main Nairobi -Mombasa Road
At Tsavo west, the following gates are accessible: Tsavo, Lake Jipe, Mtito Andei (Kamboyo Headquarters), Chyulu, Maktau, and Ziwani. My tour of Tsavo West National Park had me connect from Amboseli National Park via the Chyulu gate. The Chyulu gate is a remote dirt road.
At Tsavo East the Nairobi to Voi Gate is 325km, the Mombasa – Voi gate is 157 km. The following gates are accessible; Mtito Andei, Voi, Buchuma, Manyani, Ithumba, and Sala.
There are several airstrips in Tsavo East while Tsavo west has 3 airstrips.
There is an alternative to driving to the Tsavo from both Nairobi and Mombasa. You can opt to fly with Safarilink with daily flights from Nairobi. There is a map for sale available at the gate and it corresponds well with the park’s numbered signposts making navigation through the parking stress-free.
Tsavo West National Park
You will agree with me that the Tsavo West National Park is not normally on your to visit wish list. For most travelers, it’s either a means to an end, a shortcut between Taveta and Mtito Andei. Getting to Tsavo west, you will drive from Nairobi to Sultan Hamud then to Hunters Lodge then to Mtito Andei. Just before you get there, you can take a break at the old Tsavo Inn in Mtito Andei. It is located right across the road from the park entrance. Roads in the park are suitable for all types of vehicles and no four-wheel drive is necessary.
Tsavo West National Park is located towards the southern part of Kenya. It covers an areas of 7,000 km. My tour of Tsavo West National Park did not start in Nairobi.
Unlike Tsavo East that is a huge flat plain, Tsavo West is rocky, hilly. Surrounded mostly by the Chyulu Hills. Here is a video tour of Tsavo West National Park
Facts About Tsavo West National Park
- It lies between 150 – 1800 m above sea level
- It covers 9,065 square kilometers
- It is located south-west of Kenya, inland from the coast.
- The distance from Nairobi is 252 km from the Mtito Andei Gate
- It was gazetted as a national park in April 1948
- The climate in the area is warm and dry
- The park features over 1000 plant species, the mixed habitat of bushes, grasslands, and acacia woodland that are dotted with baobab trees, ivory palms, tamarind, and fig trees.
- You will find leopards, cheetah, buffalo, rhino, elephants are among some of the wildlife you will see.
- The park features 600 recorded species of birdlife
- The roads are well maintained and graded.
Here are more details on current park entry fees to Tsavo West National Park
What You Will See
The Mzima Springs
The lush hippo heaving pools of Mzima springs that receive over 250 million liters of water coming from the lava flows of The Chyulu Hills provide an oasis of green and an underwater viewing chamber. There are two nature trails with some unique picnic spots. Mzima is a Swahili word meaning alive and these springs comprise of four natural springs whose reservoir is the Chyulu Hills.
Lions and Lava
Tsavo achieved its notoriety in 1898 when the man-eaters of Tsavo, that was a pair of man-eating lions preyed on railway builders. Today the park is more famous for the numerous pride of maneless lions that patrol the plains and police the herds of herbivores.
The molten lava that forms the Shetani Lava Flow spewed from the earth about 200 years ago and its fiery fury was thought by the local people to be the work of the devil, hence the name Devil which means Shetani in Swahili. The Chaimu crater is another volcanic area. This area can be climbed by those who feel fit to do it.
You can also see the imposing Chyulu and Ngulia Hills. There are also the roaring rocks that are named after the buzz of the cicadas that inhabit them and the howl of the wind as it rushes past the sheer face of the scarp.
These are panoramic vantage points from where you can monitor the movements of the herds. The most popular being the Poacher’s lookout, a rush roofed hut that is set high on a hill.
Game Drives and View Points
The game drives here are interesting as you will get to see the lesser kudu, numerous impala, oryx, the gerenuk, elephant, eland, buffalo, dik-dik, crocodile, hippo, ostrich, Grant’s gazelle, bushbuck, duiker, wildebeest, giraffe, zebra, baboon, vervet and sykes, monkey, hartebeest, warthog, lion, leopard.
Shetani Lava Flow and Shetani Caves
A few minutes from the Chyulu entrance at Tsavo West National Park, you will encounter the Shetani Lava Flow. The Shetani caves and Shetani Lava Flow go for about 1.6km. The flow consists of thick black soil of uneven chunks of solid magma. According to oral tradition, many people and animals were buried alive by the lava which led to its name in Swahili, Shetani meaning the devil.
Where To Stay
One of the places to stay at Tsavo West National Park is Severin Safari Camp. The tents are really comfortable, spacious, and tastefully furnished with wonderful views of miles and miles of Africa with Mt. Kilimanjaro as a beautiful backdrop. There are small waterholes in front of the tents and the main building that houses the dining area, bar, reception, and shop attract animals throughout the night.
The bar and lounge are great places to meet, relax and tell stories after a day’s safari. The lodge offers delightful menus with a good choice of delicious hot and well-presented meals. Other accommodation options include the Finch Hattons that is a longtime favorite of many guests at the park. It is considered the best-tented camp in East Africa. A magnificent location situated around a series of beautiful springs. It’s luxurious and far from the madding crowd.
Kilaguni Serena has 56 rooms, a swimming pool, and conference facilities. It has wonderful views from its bar and dining terrace overlooking a very active waterhole.
Kitani Bandas is a self-catering accommodation option that was built in the early 1950s and the first accommodation built in Tsavo. The property has been renovated with a sensitivity to its original design. The bandas stock basic items for self-caterers.
Voyager Ziwani Camp is located on the southwest adjoining the park on a private thirty thousand acre conservancy. On the banks of a river, the camp offers a high level of privacy and is popular with couples.
I stayed at Ngulia Safari Lodge. The lodge has a number of watering holes where wildlife come in search of water from time to time. You will see elephants, buffalo families coming to the watering holes. The beauty of Ngulia Safari Lodge is that it is within the park and from the comfort of your room you can have spectacular game viewing. I share an extensive review of the lodge in a separate post.
You can also check out this video tour of Ngulia Safari lodge and a review of my stay here.
Tsavo East National Park
Tsavo East National Park is one of Kenya’s oldest and largest parks and lies in a semi-arid area that was previously known as the Taru Desert. The park is known as the place where Stone Age sites have been recovered with evidence of a thriving Stone Age economy from as early as 6,000 years ago.
This park is one of the last great tracts of wilderness on earth. Much of it is so wild, so far off the beaten track that it’s only visited by the rangers of Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). Closer to the park you will see a circuit of roads bustling with tourism vehicles.
Here are more details on current park entry fees to Tsavo East National Park.
Facts About Tsavo East National Park
- It lies at an altitude of 150 to 1,200 meters above sea level
- It covers an area of 11,747 square kilometers
- It is located in the south-west of Kenya, inland from the coast.
- It is 232 km from Nairobi through the Mtito Andei Gate and 325 km through the Voi Gate.
- It was gazetted as a National Park in April 1948.
- The climate is warm and dry
- The park features bushy grasslands, open plains, semi-arid acacia scrub and woodlands.
- You will find elephants, rhino, buffalo, lions, leopards, crocodiles, wildebeests, kudu, gerenuk and the zebras
- The prolific bird lives here features over 500 species
- The roads are well graded and maintained
What You Will See
The sight of elephants wallowing, rolling, and spraying each other in the waters of the Galana River.
This beautiful dam is located on the northern bank of the Voi River. Voi River is a seasonal river that is visited by thousands of animals from the park making it a great place to view wildlife.
Explore the park to a unique area called Mudanda Rock, get a guide in advance to take you through rusty red tracks which seem treacherous. Some of the paths are blocked by trees newly felled by elephants while others have been washed away by the recent rains.
The Mudanda Rock is a huge whale of pinkish-red stone that rises unexpectedly out of the bush with a flight of steps cut into its huge flank. The area looks like a stairway to the stars. At the foot of the steps is a signboard with more information about Mudanda Rock.
Mudanda Rock is up to 4,550 million years old and a favorite place for leopards and elephants. Mudanda according to the locals means a place of dried meat. The rock is massive and runs for 1.5km and at the peak adorns the colors pink and purple. From here you can see the Galana River as it snakes through the Yatta Plateau.
Yatta Plateau Lava Flow
You will see the longest lava flow in the world. It stretches for about 300 kilometers. The Yatta Plateau is an ornithological paradise that attracts birds from all over the world.
These falls are named after captain Lugard. He was the first proconsul to East Africa. They feature eroded rock neck through which the waters of the Galana River feed into foaming rapids and crocodile-infested pools.
Tsavo East offers some of the most spectacular game drives in the world and in it, you will see vast herds of dusty red elephants, hippos, giant crocodiles, and vast birdlife that are set against a blazing backdrop of endless wilderness.
Where To Stay
Aruba Ashnil is located next to a watering hole, giving you a chance to see zebras and wildebeests grazing. The views overlooking the Tsavo East National Park are breathtaking
Epiya Chapeya Tented Camp is your perfect bush experience. The tents are huge with spacious bathrooms. The camp is located right next to the river and you will experience hippos conversing. The camp is situated along the banks of Galana River. Enjoy a great Italian menu with mini pizza servings and drinks as dinner appetizers.
Kilalinda Lodge – The lodge offers interesting activities such as water rafting and Game Park walks. You also have an opportunity to sit down and relax as you watch breathtaking views of the park. The lodge serves delicious food with a menu that has lots of variety and you can experience open-air baths.
Ndololo Tented Camp located about 7 km from the Voi Gate. It is located near the banks of Voi River near the Aruba dam that is a popular wildlife attraction. It has 20 luxurious spacious self-contained tents. The interiors are adorned with rich African furniture.
Voi Safari Lodge has one of the best views of Tsavo East National Park. From here you can view wild animals roam below. Close to a watering hole with an opportunity to all kinds of animals found here. The lodge has plenty of rooms located in four buildings within the property.
Tsavo East National Park does not have any self-catering accommodation.
There is one campsite called Ndololo campsite (which is different from the Ndololo tented camp) that is 7km from the Voi gate and it offers water and latrines only. There are also special or private campsites with no facilities that are in a number of locations however they must be booked in advance and to be used on an exclusive basis. Reservations are done through the Tsavo game warden or through the KWS Headquarters in Nairobi.
Best Time To Visit
The Tsavo East National Park is accessible by 2 WD vehicles. You can also access it by air all year round. The best times to visit the park is during the rainy season, as most of the animals will have migrated back in search of pasture and food.
The park is open daily from 6 am to 7 pm however no entry is allowed on foot and you will not be allowed to enter the park after 6.15 pm
What To Pack
- Always carry drinking water and stay hydrated
- Carry picnic items when leaving for game drives in the morning and evening.
- Carry camping equipment if you intend to stay in the campsites.
- Also include binoculars, a hat, sunglasses, camera, sunscreen and guidebooks.
The Tsavo East can be frustrating when it comes to game viewing. Wildlife views are very rare, you will be lucky to see wild animals. You can drive for miles on end without seeing a single wild animal. However, one of the most spectacular views of the park can be found at the Voi Safari Lodge and the Mudanda Rock.
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