Lioness, Tsavo East National Park
See all of Africa's Big 5 in Tsavo. Credit: stevie withers (flickr)
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Tsavo East National Park in Kenya
Located about 200km south east of Nairobi, on the main Nairobi to Mombasa road, Tsavo East is dominated my the 300km long Yatta Plateau, which is the worlds longest lava flow.
Tsavo East is part of the Greater Tsavo National Park that includes Tsavo East and West National Parks and the Chyulu Hills and consists mostly of miles and miles of dry flat thorn-bush, semi-arid acacia scrub and narrow woodland dominated by acacia. The wonderful Baobab trees are also a common sight in the Park. Whilst Tsavo East is huge (over 4500sq miles), most of the park north of the Galana river is closed to the general public with only a few private safari operations permitted to enter. This should not deter you from visiting as the area you are permitted to explore is still massive and has a very good network of well signposted roads.
Tsavo East does not have the Mountains and hills of Tsavo West, it does have it's own beauty and because it is less visited, you do get more of the feeling and indeed you are in completely wild Africa.
Tsavo East's Main Attractions:
- Yatta Plateau - one the world's largest and longest lava flow (300 km long).
- Lugards Falls and the Galana River - Easy access to the rapids and possibility to spot majestic landscapes along the river.
- Mudanda Rock is an outcrop rock of 1.6 km long with a large dam at its base. There is possibility to walk at the top of the rock, enjoy the cool breeze and watch wildlife drinking in the dam.
- Aruba Dam - built in 1952 across the Voi river, this dam attracts many bird species and migratory species.
- Home to all of the Big 5 including large amounts of "red" elephants, black rhinoceros, buffalo and Lions.
- Camel safaris and river fishing
With all the lush vegetation along the Voi river and in the Kandara swamp, there is plenty of game to see in this area and is a good area to visit within Tsavo East. Look out for the fantastic Voi safari lodge that sits up on a hill and makes a great place to stay if you are visiting Tsavo East National Park.
The Sheldrick's Orphaned Elephants
Between 1955 and 1976 Daphne & David Sheldrick were co-wardens of Tsavo (David was the founder Warden of Tsavo East National Park) and it was during this time that they rehabilitated back into the wild not only elephants, but also a whole host of other animals that had for one reason or another needed help. These other animals included black rhinos, buffalo, zebras, elands, kudus, impalas, duikers, reedbuck, dikdiks, warthogs, civets, mongoose and birds. For her work in this field, including being the first person to successfully hand rear a newborn fully milk dependent African Elephant orphans, Daphne Sheldrick was decorated by the Queen in 1989 with an MBE. Today their conservation work continues within the reserve. For more information: http://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org
Just north of Voi, you can find what is sometimes referred to as the miniature of Ayers rock in Australia. Almost 2 kilometers long it juts out of the surrounding landscape. On the western side of Mudanda rock there is some parking and a pathway which you can take to climb it, from the top there are some excellent views across the park from which you can sometimes see elephant as well as other game that gather at the natural small dam / water hole below the rock, especially during the dry season.
The Tsavo and Athi rivers join together to form the Galana river, a permanent river which flows eastwards to the Indian Ocean and Malindi. Follow the road within the park that goes from the Voi gate to Sala gate and follows the Galana river as it must be one of the best drives within the park. Along the way you will also come across the Lugards falls and the Crocodile point.
Named after Britain's first proconsul in East Africa, Captain Lugard, the fallls are located about 60km north of Voi on the Galana river. The falls, which are actually a series of rapids are at their most impressive just after the rains. There is a parking area at the falls and you can either climb around the eroded rocks or walk down the river to view the rapids.
Below the falls about a kilometer further downstream is Crocodile point where you can often find some pretty large crocs as well as plenty of other wildlife including buffalo, hippo and the highly endangered Hunter's Hartebeest. This is also a great area for within the park for birding as well.
Animals at Tsavo East
You can see all of the Big 5 as well as a huge range of other species. Below is a list of some of the species of animals found in Tsavo East National Park:
- African Wild Cat
- Dog (Hunting)
- Fox (Bat-eared)
- Hyena (Spotted)
- Hyena (Striped)
- Jackal (Black-backed, side-striped and common)
- Cape Buffalo
- African Elephant
- Giraffe (Maasai)
- Black Rhinoceros
- Warthog (Common)
- Warthog (Desert)
- Plains Zebra
- Grevy's Zebra
Antelope and Gazelle
Bushbuck, Guenther’s Dik-dik, Kirk's Dik-dik, Blue Duiker, Common Duiker, Eland, Grant's Gazelle, Coke's Hartebeest, Hunter's Hartebeest, Impala Klipspringer, Lesser Kudu Fringe-eared Oryx, Steinbok, Suni, Waterbuck.
Hyrax (Eastern Tree), Hyrax (Rock), Hyrax (Southern Tree), Civet (African and Palm), Genet (Large-spotted), Genet (Small-spotted), Mongoose: Many species including the Nanded, Bushy-tailed, Dwarf, Grey, Marsh, Slender, White-tailed Otter (Clawless), Honey Badger (Ratel)
Baboon (Savannah), Bushbaby (Lesser), Galago (Large-eared greater), Galago (Small-eared greater), Monkey (Blue/Sykes/Diademed), Monkey (Green Vervet).
This is an area where there is malaria and it is recommended that you take the necessary precautions if you visit this area. More information on Malaria.
How to Get to Tsavo East
Take the main Nairobi to Mombasa road (A109) via Voi through the Voi gate or Manyani gate. Distance about 200km
Take the main Nairobi to Mombasa road (A109) and enter through the Bachuma gate. Distance is about 150km
Go to the Sala gate on the (C103) from Malindi, this road was recently graded and is the shortest way from North Coast.
There are six airstrips in the southern part of the park and thirteen in the Northern part. There are no scheduled flights to the Park but chartered light planes can be used.
When to Visit Tsavo
Personally I don't think there is a best time to visit Tsavo, you will just see different things at different times of the year. Generally the weather in Tsavo is warm and dry with the temperatures ranging from 20-40 celcius, rainfall from 200-700mm per year.
Rainy Season: There are two rainy seasons. The long rains are generally from March through to May and the weather is hot and humid. The short rains arrive in the warm months of October to December.
Dry Season: January to March is hot and dry and July to October is warm and dry
There is a good variety of accommodation at Tsavo East, this includes luxury lodges, tented camps as well as public campsites.
Camping at Tsavo National Park
There is only one public campsite, which is the Ndololo campsite and is located about 7km from Voi gate, facilities include water and toilets only and you should bring your own camping equipment. In case of emergency, you can camp near the main gates of the park or any other K.W.S. post, there will be no facilities however. Another alternative for cheap accommodation is to go to Voi town.
Located on the southern bank of the Galana River in Tsavo East. The lodge has 14 semi-tented bungalows, all with ensuite bathroom (safari style bucket showers) and private veranda. There is a dining area and a lounge. Three of the bungalows are positioned away from the others, have private facilities and can be booked exclusively. The lodge offers game drives and bush walks.
A tented camp located near a waterhole that attracts many animals. There are 20 luxury tents and a nice touch that not many other lodges in Kenya offer is that Satao Camp has been built to allow access for visitors in wheelchairs, and also has game drive vehicles adapted for wheelchairs.
A tented camp located by a river outside the western section of Tsavo East National Park. Patterson's Camp has 20 standard safari tents with ensuite bathrooms, restaurant, bar, and gift shop.
Voi Wildlife Lodge
A large lodge that can accommodate up to 300 guests situated just outside Voi (close to Tsavo East). It has 72 rooms plus tents. There is a restaurant, two bars, spa, health club, conference facilities, badminton, volleyball, and children's playground.
Voi Safari Lodge
As the name suggest this lodge situated just outside Voi (close to Tsavo East). It is built on a hill and offers great views. It has 52 rooms, restaurant, bar, swimming pool, conference facilities, and waterholes.
Located on the banks of the Galana River in the western section of Tsavo East. There are both tents and bungalows with ensuite bathrooms. The lodge has restaurant, bar, and swimming pool.
Taita Hill Lodge and Salt Lick
Lodge Situated between Tsavo East and west National Parks
Taita Discovery Centre
located on it's own sanctuary next to Tsavo East. The lodge has 48 rooms, restaurant (dress code for dinner), bar, gift shop, and a floodlit waterhole. The activities offered include day and night game drives.
Epiya Chapeyu Camp
The most remote of all the camps and lodges in the park, Epiya Chapeyu Tented Camp is located near the Galana River in Tsavo East. The camp has 15 tents, all with ensuite bathroom and veranda facing the river. It has riverfront dining deck, and game viewing platforms with bar service. An airstrip is 5 km/3 mi from camp.
The Park opens at 6.30 a.m. and closes at 6.30 p.m.
Tsavo East Entrance Fees
A smartcard is needed to enter Tsavo, these can be obtained and loaded at Voi gate and then used at a number of National Parks throughout Kenya including Nairobi, Lake Nakuru, Aberdare, Amboseli, Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Parks.
Adult non resident - US$23 Children non resident - US$10
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Tsavo National Park
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