One of the oldest game parks in Kenya, Tsavo National Park was established in 1948, covering about 22700km². The Tsavo Park was soon divided into two sections, along the major railway line bisecting the wilderness area, forming Tsavo East and Tsavo West national parks. Today the Nairobi-Mombasa highway runs between the Tsavo national parks, both named after the Tsavo River that flows through the region.
The Tsavo parks are located in the Coast Province of Kenya, the southeastern region of the country. Only about 100km's from the coastline, Tsavo is within easy reach of Mombasa and the tropical beaches of East Africa. Tsavo is also close to the famous Amboseli and Masai Mara wildlife reserves, making it an ideal safari destination to combine with the most visited parks of the country.
Tsavo East is Kenya's largest game park incorporating a massive 13700km², whilst Tsavo West is about 9065km² in size.
Tsavo West is known for its birdlife and large mammals, especially elephants and lions. The park is also home to buffalos, rhinos and leopards, making it a Big Five safari destination. Other wildlife species include the bush baby, Maasai giraffe, hippo and numerous antelopes, such as hartebeest, lesser kudu, oryx and klipspringer.
Tsavo East is renowned for its large herds of elephants, often dramatically coated in fine red dust. The population is over 10 000 elephants strong. Tsavo East is also notorious for its lions - the 'man-eating' lions of Tsavo, in particular. The lions of Tsavo became famous when railway crews were attacked and many of the workers eaten in 1898. Some reports estimate that the two lions killed about 135 people building a railway bridge over Tsavo River, whilst recent evidence suggests that 34 people were eaten. Over the centuries of slave trading between East Africa and Arabia, countless slaves died en-route to Mombasa - their bodies left behind in the Tsavo area, where lions most likely fed on the corpses. The lions of Tsavo are today known for their short manes, compared to the males of other populations. The hot, dry habitat of Tsavo may be the reason for their shorter manes.
In addition to its famous elephants and lions, Tsavo East is also home to the other members of the Big Five - leopard, buffalo and rhino. The black rhino population is monitored to protect these endangered mammals from poachers, but they are rarely spotted on game drives. Tsavo East is also home to endangered hirola antelopes. Tsavo also hosts a wide variety of other wild animals, from cheetahs, hyenas and crocodiles to hippos, giraffes and Grevy’s zebra, along with species typical of northern Kenya, including gerenuk and Somali ostrich. Over 500 bird species have been recorded in Tsavo East, including black kite, crowned crane, hornbill, lovebird, sacred ibis.
Tsavo West National Park is less arid and dusty than Tsavo East, featuring swamps, springs and Lake Jipe. Vegetation ranges from woodlands and dense bush to lush grasslands. This wetter park is ideal for birdwatching, but spotting the Big Five in the rocky, vegetated hills of Tsavo West is more challenging. One of the most popular attractions is Mzima Springs, where hippos can be viewed underwater from underground hides. Lake Jipe offers excellent birding and lovely mountain views, and visitors can hike to Chaimu Crater.
Tsavo East consists largely of flat, dry plains and the Yatta Plateau, one of the world's longest lava flows and a birding haven. The Galana River is another defining feature of the landscape, serving as one of the few permanent water sources in the national park. It is at the Galana River that the dusty red elephant herds gather and the tumbling rapids of Lugards Falls can be viewed. Because Tsavo East is flat and dry with sparser vegetation, it offers better chances of spotting wildlife at the few permanent water sources. Aruba Dam and the Glana River attract thousands of animals, making these ideal areas for game viewing.
Tsavo has an interesting history, beyond the infamous man-eating lions, and was the site of a major WWI battle between British and German troops. The geological and geographical features of the Tsavo national parks is also facinating with the volcanic craters, lava plains, rock formations, plateaus and springs encompassed.
Use the Google map to explore Tsavo National Park. Feel free to Print the Street Map when you're ready.