Gazetted in 1948, Tsavo East National Park is one of the oldest and largest Parks in Kenya extending for over 13,747 square kilometers (5308 square miles). It is located within a semi-arid zone that was formerly referred as the “Taru Desert” and is found close to Voi Town in Taita-Taveta County of the former Coast Province of Kenya. Firstly Tsavo is made up of two separate National Parks that include Tsavo west and Tsavo East National Parks but the latter is slightly larger than the former and is generally flatter with dry plains across with the flow of River Galana.
In 1898 before Tsavo National Park was even established, two maneless male lions terrified the area and it is believed that more than 135 railway workers who were working on the Kenya-Uganda railway. These man-eating lions pulled the men from their tents, despite thorn fences being used to keep them out. Not only that, these savages avoided traps and snares but were eventually shot by Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson thus the rainy was completed through to Kisumu on Lake Victoria.
This Park was originally the home area for the Orma pastoralists as well as the Watha hunter-gatherers and still remained until the time the area was gazetted into a National Park in 1948. This therefore meant that that Orma together with their livestock had to leave while the native population of the Watha people was forced to move to Mtito Andei, Voi and other places within and near Taita Hills. After Kenya gained Independence in 1963, hunting was prohibited within Tsavo East National Park and governance/authority was turned to Kenya Wildlife Service.
Landscape and Vegetation of Tsavo East National Park
Tsavo East National Park is generally flat with dry plains across which the Galana River flows characterized by semi-arid grasslands, thorny bushes, savannah and swampy marshlands close to the River. Other breathtaking features Yatta Plateau as well as Lugard Falls.
Attractions within Tsavo East National Park
This Park is brimming with numerous wildlife species including the Big five animals (Lions, Leopards, Elephants, Black Rhinos and Cape buffaloes), African hunting dogs, Antelopes (such as Hirola, gazelles, Suni, Coke’s hartebeests, impalas, Oryx, lesser Kudus, gerenuk, blue duikers and waterbucks), Crocodiles, Maasai giraffes, Hippos, Cheetahs, common zebras, Grevy’s zebras, aardwolf, primates (such as yellow baboons, bush babies, Sykes monkeys, greater Galagos and black faced vervet monkeys among others), Mongooses (white-tailed mongoose, dwarf mongoose, banded mongoose, slender mongoose, Egyptian mongoose and marsh mongoose), Crested porcupines, side-striped jackals, Large-spotted genets, bat-eared foxes, African Civets, Squirrels, Striped and un-striped ground squirrel, African wildcats, Serval and Clawless Otters among others.
Additionally, Tsavo East National Park is a haven to a wide range of bird species (500 species) that include the Red-winged larks, sacred birds, the spectacular golden-breasted starling, secretary birds, eastern chanting goshawk, vulturine guineafowl, Somali golden-breasted bunting, Rosy-patched bush shrike, weaver birds, Somali Ostriches, Kestrels, grey crowned cranes, Black-headed lapwing, slender-tailed nightjar, lovebirds, Sacred Ibis, black kites, Shelley’s starlings, Black-faced sandgrouse, Somali bee-eaters, Hornbills, Pangani Longclaw, Taita falcon, lesser kestrel, Rufous chatterer, Buzzards, African orange-bellied parrots, Northern brownbul, African finfoot, Herons, Starlings, Golden-breasted starlings, Kingfishers, Taita fiscal, and Martial eagles among others. Much as birding can be done throughout the year, it is more enjoyable during the rainy season (November to April) because there are higher chances of sighting the migratory bird species.
Other notable attractions within this Park include Lugard Falls (named after Frederick Lugard and is comprised of a sequence of white water rapids within the Galana River), Mudanda Rock-a 1.6 kilometer inselberg of stratified rock and is an important water catchment that supplies the natural dam below it but is also a viewpoint for hundreds of elephants as well as other wildlife species to take the water during the dry season, the Yatta Plateau-the longest lava flow in the World, formed by the lava from Ol Donyo Sabuk Mountain and extends for 290 kilometers long along the western edge of the Park above the famous Athi River and Aruba Dam constructed in 1952 across River Voi and has a reservoir created by the Dam but attracts wildlife as well as aquatic bird species.
However regardless of its endless beauty and tourist attractions, Tsavo National Park has faced several challenges mainly arising from poaching whereby from 2001 to 2006, over 100 lions were killed within the Amboseli-Tsavo system, with majority of them being speared by youth. This had greatly reduced the number of the Kings of the Jungle in these African destinations.
Best Time to visit Tsavo East National Park
This safari destination is accessible all year round although the long rainy season from March to May as well as the short one from October to December is not preferred because the rains are heavy thus making it a not-so-perfect time for wildlife viewing but that doesn’t mean you can’t go on a safari. Actually, this season is recommended for bird watching because there are higher chances of sighting migratory bird species.
Accommodation Facilities within Tsavo East National Park
On top of its numerous wildlife and bird species, Tsavo East National Park takes pride in its exquisite accommodation facilities that include KWS Campsite, Sentrim Tsavo East Camp, Ndololo Tented Camp, Tsavo Safari Camp, Satao Tented Camp, Leopard Lodge, Red Elephants Safari Lodge, Lion Hill Safari Lodge, Voi Wildlife Lodge, Osteria Swara Camp, Ashnil Aruba Lodge, Satao Tented Camp, Man-eaters Safari Camp, Ithumba Tented Camp, Sarova Salt Lick Game Lodge, Tsavo Lodge, Loyk Tsavo Camp, Manyatta Camp, Kulalu Camp, Voi Safari Lodge, Ngutuni Lodge and Galdessa Safari Camp among others.
How to get to Tsavo East National Park
Tsavo East National Park is situated in south-east of Nairobi and about 173 kilometers north-west of Mombasa and can be accessed through air and road transport whereby with the latter, you enter through its three main gates whereby if you are traveling from Mombasa City (173 kilometers), you connect to the Park through Bachuma gate, through Manyani gate for those connecting via Voi and Sala gate when traveling from Malindi. Alternatively, you can use air transport through chartering flights and land in the different air strips in and near the Park.
The closeness of Tsavo East National Park to the pristine beaches and phenomenal tourist attractions within Mombasa and Malindi makes it a perfect one-day safari destination for tourists don’t wish to spend overnights.