Apart from being one of the largest parks in Kenya, Tsavo East National Park is also one of the oldest. It spreads on an area of 13.747 square kilometers, the entire Tsavo National Park being divided into two sections (the western part and the eastern section), between a railway and the A109 road. The park received its name from the Tsavo River, which has its course through the park. It is about nine times larger than the Maasai Mara National Reserve, and it is most famous for the fact that it contains large herds of dust-red elephants. It is the perfect park to watch the wildlife under the skylight, admiring the spectacle.
- +Experience night drives and day drives with professional guides.
- +Game viewing and seasonal migrations, including elephants and rhinos.
- +See the Aruba Dam, which goes across the Voi River, and was built in 1952.
- +See the Luggard Falls, which go around the Galana River. Rocks have been naturally created there, stopping the river’s progress.
- +The Yatta Plateau, which can stretch for about 300 km to the northern and the eastern banks of the Athi-Galana. See the large numbers of migrating birds in that area.
- +The Crocodile Point, which is downstream from the Luggard Falls. You can see there the crocodiles which are often basking in the sun.
- +The Mudanda Rock, which is a sandstone that forms a natural water catchment. In that area, you can see a large number of animals that are attracted to the water.
About Tsavo East National Park
Tsavo East National Park is mostly known for its sheer size. It is said that one could fit the entire Maasai Mara reserve, which is pretty large in itself, in the southern tip of Tsavo East National Park. As mentioned, you are also extremely likely to see big groups of dust-red elephants which bulldoze their way through the park in numbers which can go way over 10.000.
Although Tsavo East National Park is very popular for tourists when it comes to game viewing, you can go on a 3-hour game drive across the land that seems relatively empty without seeing any signs of other vehicles. Camps are usually scattered around Voi (west) or the Mombasa, leaving you with an entire park just for yourself. The entire park is a spectacle that will leave you in awe, no matter where you’re looking at.
On most of the safaris that take place in the Tsavo East National Park, you will be taken to its southern side, which is located south of the Galana River. Considering that the northern part of the park wasn’t available for the public for many years and that it just opened recently, the infrastructure is not that good. The northern area is less suited for game drives and most suited for adventurous explorers.
Although the two sides of the Tsavo National Park (Tsavo East and Tsavo West) share a name, they are entirely different when it comes to wildlife and landscapes. While the Tsavo West National Park is known for its hilly and wooded landscapes, full of volcanic cones with black lava flows, the Tsavo East National Park is its opposite with scattered bushes and open plain fields. Apart from their differences, both sides are a sight to be seen.
You can either opt for a ‘fly-in-drive’ or a ‘fly-in-fly’ safari. Visitors will arrive in Kenya at the International Airport “Jomo Kenyatta” in the capital city called Nairobi. This airport is usually very busy, so many visitors will continue with the flights from the Wilson Airport which is found 18 km further.
When to Go & Weather
January-February: Moderately recommended.
March-April; November-December: Not recommended.
May-October: Highly recommended.
The best time to visit Tsavo East National Park is from May to October. During this period, the humidity and the temperature are lower, which is why it’s considered to be the peak of the season. The weather conditions are generally pleasant during that time, and the rain is practically unseen, which is why it’s the perfect place for game viewing. It’s also a good idea to visit Tsavo East National Park from January to February, due to the minimal rainfalls and generally good weather. Although the weather can be rather fluctuating during that time and the temperatures are usually higher as compared to the May-October period, it is still a pretty good season for game viewing.
However, the most off-peak season to visit the Tsavo East National Park is definitely from March to May and from November to December. Those are the rainy seasons, which make game-viewing rather difficult if not impossible. Movements are usually restricted around these times of the year due to the heavy rains that occur relatively often.
Seeing that Tsavo East National Park is only a few degrees latitude south of Kenya, which is just across the Equator, the weather and temperatures are usually fairly constant, except for the rainy seasons. It can go from 27-31 degrees Celsius in daytime and 22-24 degrees Celsius during nighttime. More information regarding the weather can be found on here or here.
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In prehistoric times, Tsavo East National Park was known to be the home for entire communities of hunter-gatherers. Before the present-day residents of Kenya, these groups resided along the banks of the Galana River, living a precarious existence in caves and shelters. The people would simply search the lands for seeds, fruits, and edible plants while also trying to hunt down any small animals they could get their hands on. With practice, they would learn how to use spears, clubs and bows to hunt larger, four-legged animals. They were in continuous competition for food with the predators of the time, such as lions, hyenas, leopards or crocodiles. Sometimes, they would also be hunted by these species of predators.
Somewhere around 500AD and 1000AD, the northern side of the Tsavo district became inhabited by the Kamba ancestors and intermingled with the people of the hunter-gatherers tribe. The place where the Kamba first settled is now known as Kenya, the central part of Africa. They had iron-working technology which was rather advanced for their times. Apart from the technology, they also arrived with other folks who were able to speak the Bantu languages, like the Mijikenda and the Kikuyu. Even though they were restricted to areas with water, just like the hunter-gatherers were, the Kamba began searching and herding livestock throughout the savannah. Later on, they became very famous across the entire Kenya for their beekeeping ability. They were cultivating honey from their hives. They were also acknowledged as great hunters with highly advanced hunting technology, becoming fairly known for their art of making poison-tipped arrows.
When it comes to the flora of the Tsavo East National Park, the most obvious thing is that it is mostly covered by short grass and thorn bushes, along with other two main species of trees. One of the most common is the baobab, which is actually the icon of the Tsavo East National Park. It is usually found across the Mombasa highway, but you can still find this tree in significant numbers across the entire park. The baobab is a crucial habitat for many birds and insects that live in the tree. Hornbills are especially known to use the holes in baobab trees to nest in.
The doum palm is another rather intriguing tree of the habitat, which is a native of the North African lands. The young doum palm looks like a bunch of bushy fronds, but once they mature enough, they start to bifurcate and grow two or three times their size, creating an impressive visual image of the forked palm tree.
The fauna is also pretty impressive in this national park. While wildlife density wasn’t so high a few years ago, the numbers have suddenly started to grow. Recent safaris have seen an increase of wildlife, making the numbers seem surprisingly good. You can often see Tsavo-lions with their short manes, which are characteristic for this park, and also, cheetahs running around in the wild. You will also be impressed by the number of elephants, all of them majestically surging across the river, strolling over the roads or wallowing in any waterholes they might find. You will be astonished by the sheer length of the tusk most of these elephants have. Although the cases of poaching have increased over the years, the levels didn’t reach the epidemic ones of 1980. The current Tsavo East National Park is much better prepared to deal with these situations and holds better equipment to prevent them.
Geographically speaking, Tsavo East is situated on the southern side of Kenya. However, you will find out that it is also zoologically related to the northern area. This means that somewhere along your drives, you might come across some Somali Ostrich or Long-necked Gerenuks, together with whole herds of Grevy’s zebras. You might also see populations of black rhinos, but since they spend most of their time in the bushes, travelers rarely see them.
Many projects have been developed to preserve the ecology of Tsavo East National Park. Wildlife protection equipment has been provided for the use of the park, most of them consisting of vehicles and equipment for road management. The vehicles are mostly used to prevent any poaching activities and to manage the activities held by the park, transporting any employees and tourists. The road equipment establishes the infrastructure needed for visitors, improving the roads to increase the safety. There are many wildlife conservation programs that tackle wildlife monitoring, protecting the elephants and any other animals in the park from poaching. The Tsavo Trust is one of the biggest non-profit conservation organizations that work to protect the wildlife in the southern part of Kenya, namely, Tsavo National Park.
- In the Akamba language, ‘tsavo’ translates as ‘place of slaughter’. It is a reference to the earlier years of the Maasai, who were known for the fact that they took no prisoners in their raids against the Waliangulus and Akamba tribes.
- During World War I, the British army built some fortresses along the Tsavo River, in order to prevent any attacks from the Germans who wanted to blow up the Tsavo River Bridge.
- Dr. Tsavo was the first European to visit Mt. Kenya, journeying the area on foot on his way to Kitui during 1848.
- During the construction of the railway that reached the Tsavo River, over 130 people were killed by the lions which were terrorizing the workers. Those lions became later known as the ‘man-eaters of Tsavo’.