I was thrilled to return to Tsavo after such a long time. The last time I had been there was 2012. Back then, it was exceptionally magical being my first time and up to date has remained so. In Kenya, there only three places I simply cant get enough of; Amboseli, Maasai Mara and both Tsavo East and West.
The Tsavos are the largest national parks in Kenya and by far East Africa, so big that the parks are divided and administered as two different parks namely Tsavo East National Park and Tsavo West National Park. Unlike most parks and reserves in Kenya, Tsavo is most rugged and has a lot of unexplored virgin wilderness with lots of free roaming game. Therefore if you are out there looking for an authentic wildlife safari, Tsavo East and West would be your best bet.
Tsavo is famous for the Man-Eaters. The Harrowing story of two large male lions that devoured Indian coolies during the construction of the Kenya – Uganda railway in 1890s. The story was later captured in a 1996 movie called The Ghost and the Darkness starring Michael Doughlas and Val Kilmer.
The park also played host to Satao, the great tusker, one of the largest African elephants and Kenya’s iconic elephant. He was referred to as a ‘tusker’ because his tusks were so long that they almost touched the ground. Born in 1968, he was killed by poachers in March 2014.
Tsavo East National Park
Tsavo East National Park is the biggest of all parks in Kenya, measuring about 11,800 square kilometers. That’s about nine times bigger than Maasai Mara National Reserve. It hosts the Mudanda rock, Luggard’s Falls on Galana river and the Yatta Plataeu – the world’s largest lava flow. This makes it extremely scenic and perfect for photographic safaris. Besides this, its home to some of the largest elephants families in Kenya. These are the famous ‘Red Elephants.’ The elephants glow red after dust baths on red soil. Other popular resident game of Tsavo East include; maneless lion, leopard, rhino, zebra, nile crocodile, kudu and Aruba hunter’s Hartebeest.
The park can be accessed through Sala Gate at Malindi, Manyani Gate as well as Voi where Kenya Wildlife Service has its offices or Bachuma Gate near Mombasa. Chartered light planes are also able to access the park through numerous airstrips in the park such as; Vio, Aruba, Satao, Sala, Ithumba, Sangayaya, Mopeo ,Bachuma and Cattar.
There are excellent choices of accommodation facilities that include; Galdessa Safari Camp, Ndololo Safari Camp, Tsavo Lodge, Satao Camp, Ashnil Aruba Camp, Voi Wildlife Lodge, Tsavo Crocodile Camp, Kilalinda Camp, Ngutuni Lodge, Dik Dik Camp, Pattersons Camp among others.
Tsavo West National Park
Tsavo West National Park covers approximately 7,070 square kilometers and is home to the iconic Mzima Springs located in the northern part of the park near Kilaguni Lodge. Easily accessible through the park also is Lake Jipe, perfect and favorite spot for avid birders. The park also hosts Chaimu Crater, Shetani Lava Flow and caves, Rhodesian Hill, Kichwa Tembo, the Great Tasvo Chimney, the Ivory Tower and Ngulia, which are picturesque steep slopes and cliffs. Unlike Tsavo East, Tsavo west is characterized by riverine vegetation, thickets, rocky ridges and plains as well as forested hills on the southern side facing Serengeti plains.
Tsavo West hosts plenty of wildlife including; red elephants, the African wild dog, hippo, crocodile, dik dik, the black rhino, cape buffalo, maasai giraffe, burchell’s zebra, bush baby, cheetah, lion, impressive and excellent number of bird species such as the bright red rump, hornbill and the white-headed buffalo weaver.
The park is accessible via Chyulu Gate on your way from Amboseli, Mtito Adei Gate as you come from Nairobi or Tsavo Gate near Manyani. It can as well be accessed from Maktau, Ziwani and Jipe. The only airstrips serving the park include; Tsavo gate, Ziwani, Finch Hattons, Kamboyo, Kilaguni, Jipe and Kasigau.
A variety of accommodation facilities exist with the popular ones being Ngulia Safari Lodge, Severin Safari Camp, Serena Kilaguni Lodge, Finch Hantton’s Camp, Voyager Ziwani Safari Camp, Kitani Bandas, KWS self-catering banda (Kamboyo Guest House) as well as Lake Jipe Bandas.
The best time to visit both Tsavos is usually between May to October when the humidity and temperatures are relatively lower. This time also serves as the tourist peak season in Tsavo and is ideal for game viewing.