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Overview

These contiguous but separately administered national parks, set on either side of the main highway connecting Nairobi and Mombasa, extend over an area larger than Wales or South Africa’s legendary Kruger National Park. Though the two parks share a common border, they are quite different in character. Tsavo West protects a volcanic landscape of jagged outcrops and solidified lava flows overshadowed by Kilimanjaro on the southwest horizon. The larger Tsavo East protects a flatter habitat of red earth and dry acacia scrub alleviated by the perennial Galana River (Kenya’s second-longest) and various tributaries. Though neither park is as ...

These contiguous but separately administered national parks, set on either side of the main highway connecting Nairobi and Mombasa, extend over an area larger than Wales or South Africa’s legendary Kruger National Park. Though the two parks share a common border, they are quite different in character. Tsavo West protects a volcanic landscape of jagged outcrops and solidified lava flows overshadowed by Kilimanjaro on the southwest horizon. The larger Tsavo East protects a flatter habitat of red earth and dry acacia scrub alleviated by the perennial Galana River (Kenya’s second-longest) and various tributaries. Though neither park is as popular as the Masai Mara or Amboseli, Tsavo West is the busier of the two, with a well defined "developed area" protecting all the Big Five, and black rhino being relatively easy to locate in the fenced and guarded Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary. A highlight of Tsavo West is the oasis-like Mzima Springs, where subterranean water emerges at a daily rate of more than 200 million liters into a series of crystal clear pools inhabited by hippo and surrounded by lush palm and fever-tree forest that can be explored along a clearly marked walking trail. Tsavo East has more of a remote wilderness atmosphere than Kenya’s other main parks, and while game viewing can be erratic, it is usually quite good. Elephants are particularly common, cheetah are often seen around the main Voi Gate, and there’s a good chance of encountering a selection of dry-country wildlife absent from other reserves in southern Kenya, notably gerenuk, fringe-eared oryx and hirola, the latter an endangered northeast Kenyan endemic that was introduced to this part of Tsavo East in the 1960s. For those mainly on a beach holiday, Tsavo East is also very well suited to short safaris out of Malindi, Mombasa and other coastal resorts.

Philip Briggs
About the Expert

Philip Briggs has written or contributed to 50-plus editions of Bradt, Insight, AA and Berlitz guidebooks to African destinations.

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Philip Briggs for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Game viewing is fair throughout the year, but the main rains (March-May) are best avoided if possible.