Tsavo National Park consists of two separate parks, Tsavo East National Park and Tsavo West National Park. Together they make up the largest national park in Kenya. The park was split into east and west when a railway and main road were built between Nairobi and Mombasa. Tsavo East National Park is generally flat, with dry plains and more opportunities to spot wildlife. Tsavo West National Park is more mountainous and has a wetter climate, with a more diverse landscape.
Situated in Kenya’s southwest, Tsavo is an enormous wilderness area that has been divided into Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Parks. Combined, Tsavo is Kenya’s biggest park and, at 22,000 km² (13,671 miles), one of the world’s largest game sanctuaries.
It is particularly well known for its large herds of elephants and captivating landscapes. Tsavo is one of the less populated game areas in Kenya and is perfect for those who want to enjoy a pristine wildlife experience.
A highlight of Tsavo National Park is the spectacular Mzima Springs, where crystal-clear water flows through volcanic rock
Steeped in history, the expansive Tsavo National Park was originally home to a Stone Age community that lived near the Galana River some 6,000 years ago. Later, the Orma people—who still populate parts of Kenya today—made this their territory. The park is now divided into east and west by a railway. Both ‘mini-parks’ offer abundant opportunities and different vantage points from which to observe the African landscape.
Rock-climbing is hugely popular in the Tsavo National Park thanks to Mudanda Rock in the east, and the sharp cliffs of Kitchwa Tembo in the west. Resting climbers will find themselves eye-to-eye with soaring birds of prey, and on a clear day, you’ll be treated to magnificent views of snow-capped Kilimanjaro. The clear waters of Mzima Springs attract crowds of hippos, crocodiles, and vervet monkeys, while the park at large is teeming with all manner of wildlife—including the illustrious Big 5.
Both parks cover an impressive 4% of Kenya, making it one of the world’s largest. The endless plains of Tsavo East along with the volcanic hillocks of Tsavo West are home to maneless lions, hippos, leopards, and reddish-tinged elephants. A selection of lodges is scattered around the park offering all the comforts that accompany an African safari experience.
Where Does Tsavo East Fit into Your Kenyan Adventure?
Tsavo East National Park is perfectly situated halfway between Nairobi and the Kenyan coastal resorts. This means Tsavo is perfect if you want to combine a Kenyan safari with a beach holiday.
Diani Beach, located just 30km south of Mombasa and approximately a four-hour drive from Tsavo East, is a stunning tropical paradise and has been awarded the best beach destination in Africa for five years running.
Tsavo is also often paired with Amboseli National Park, which contrasts with the semi-arid landscapes of Tsavo, and is instead made up of swamps, woodland, and areas of open plains.
Amboseli National park lies in the shadow of Mt. Kilimanjaro in the south of Kenya and is adjacent to Tsavo. It is roughly a six-hour drive from Tsavo, with game viewing opportunities on the way and four hours from Nairobi if you plan on starting with Amboseli.
The main access routes are through Chyulu Gate from Amboseli and Mtito Andei Gate from Nairobi. Visitors from Mombasa will make use of Tsavo Gate near Manyani.
Things to Do in Tsavo National Park
The park is home to numerous animals, including The Big Five: lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, and Cape buffalo.
The rivers around the park are also home to most of this wildlife, and crocodiles eagerly hide within the dark depths, waiting to pounce on anything brave enough to approach the shores.
Game drives are best when done in the early morning or evening before it gets too hot and will often include a stop at the Luggard Falls, a series of white rapids on the Galana River, and the Yatta Plateau, for a picnic lunch.
Bush Breakfasts, Picnics, and Sundowners
At Tsavo East, you’re not limited to the dining room. Set up breakfast overlooking the Yatta Plateau or take a break from game driving with a picnic under the shade of a tamarind tree.
Freshly prepared food and drinks are kept cold in the cool box in the back of the safari vehicle, ready for when you get peckish.
Later, watch the coral sun sink behind the hills from a scenic rocky escarpment, ice-cold drink in hand. In Africa, we call these sundowners.
Tsavo East has an astounding number of bird species (500+). It includes many dry-country specials which are easy to spot, including the majestic Golden-breasted starling, golden pipit, and vulturine guinea fowl.
The park is also the southernmost stronghold for the Somali ostrich and is a significant wintering ground for migrant species from Europe.
Migrant birds are present from November to April.