Tsavo East and Tsavo West

Tsavo East and Tsavo West, Kenya

When combined, Tsavo West and Tsavo East form one of the largest National Parks in the world and at almost 22,000 sqkm, it is the largest in Kenya.

The larger Tsavo East offers a vast and largely untapped wilderness of arid bush with some of the most dramatic landscapes in Kenya; generally flat, with dry plains across which the Galana River flows. Much of the park north of the Galana River is closed and only a few private safari operators may enter, but this makes the park feel even more remote and rewarding. Large herds of dust red elephant occur, along with rhino, lion, buffalo, leopard, gerenuk, lesser kudu to name a few species. Birding is exceptional with almost 500 recorded species.

Tsavo West was established in 1948 and forms part of the Greater Tsavo National Park. The savannah ecosystem comprises of open grasslands, scrublands, and Acacia woodlands, belts of riverine vegetation and rocky ridges and is not as arid as the eastern Park. The same abundancy of wildlife is found here, however the greater diversity of vegetation and habitat mean there are more recorded bird species to be found. The park is also more developed with more lodges and day and overnight safari visitors from Mombasa.


The Tsavo River, which is one of two permanent rivers, passes through northern Tsavo West, attracting wildlife. Mzima Springs are also found in this area, offering clear water and observation points below surface level, where you may see fish and hippos. The route between the springs and Tsavo Gate are considered the best game driving area.

As to numbers of species, Tsavo may be compared to Kenya's prime park Masai Mara, and has some species that are absent in the Mara, for example gerenuk, oryx and Grevy's zebra. There are some 7,000 elephants, many lions and some rhinoceros, even though the rhino population was heavily decimated by poaching during the 1900's.

Just west of the Mzima Springs is the Chaimu Crater, a volcano crater that you may visit on foot. The Shatani Caves north of the river can also be visited.

Lake Jipe in south-western Tsavo West has huge reed beds and a rich bird life. You may see for example pied kingfisher, palmnut vulture, black heron and African skimmer.

More than 400 bird species have been recorded in Tsavo, including eight different hornbills, all eight East African vultures and eleven types of herons. Both common ostrich and Somali ostrich are found in the area, even though the latter only appears north of the Galana River in Tsavo East.

Other attractions include the Yatta Plateau and Lugard Falls, and Baobab trees are a common sight

Best time to visit

September to October is the best time to visit Tsavo National Park, when the weather is temperate and the humidity is lower. This is regarded as the peak tourist season in Tsavo, as the pleasant weather conditions and lack of rain, allow for ideal game viewing.

Another good time to visit Tsavo National Park is during the months of January and March, when there is minimal rainfall.

Getting there

 It takes 4.5 hours by fair tarmac road from Nairobi to Tsavo, 3 hours from Mombasa.