Photo credit: Kim van Velzen

Tsavo East National Park, one of the oldest and largest in Kenya


Tsavo East National Park is one of the oldest and largest African safari parks in Kenya, located near the town of Voi , 333 km south-east of Nairobi, and 173 km north-west of Mombasa. Tsavo East was established in 1948 and covers 11 747 km²; although not the entire park is open to the public with some areas selected as the “remote animal wilderness” for the Kenyan animals. The Park which is divided into east and west sections by the A109 road and a railway was named after the Tsavo River which flows west to east through the Park. Tsavo East neighbors the Chyulu Hills National Park and the Mkomazi Game Reserve in Tanzania.

Elephants of Tsavo East Shever Licence: CC


Whilst Tsavo West National Park is a mountainous and wet area with swamps, most of Tsavo East National Park is mainly flat, dry plains with semi-arid grasslands, a couple of thorny bushes and a boggy marshland close to the Galana River which is formed where  the Tsavo and Athi rivers join. On the Galana River there are the Lugard Falls, a series of white water rapids and along the western boundary of the Park, above the Athi River lies the Yatta Plateau, the world’s longest lava flow. The Plateau, spanning 290 km, was produced from lava from the Ol Doinyo Sabuk Mountain. There is also the Mudanda Rock, a 1.6 km inselberg of stratified rock that works as a water catchment, supplying a natural dam below.

Tsavo East National Park in Eastern Kenya
McKay Savage License:CC


The Park is regarded as one of the world’s biodiversity strongholds and its popularity is mostly due to the huge quantities of varied game including the famed big five of the Elephant, Lion, Leopard, Black Rhino and the Cape Buffalo. Other animals one is surely to spot in the Park include Cheetah, Grevy’s and Plains Zebra, Waterbuck, Gazelle, Warthog, Gerenuk, Suni, Giraffe, Striped and Unstriped Ground Squirrel, Hare, Spectacled Elephant Shrew, Hartebeest, Serval, Hyena, Impala, Bohor Reedbuck, Mongoose, Ratel, Black faced Vervet and Sykes’s Monkey, naked Mole Rat, Crested Porcupine, Ground Pangolin, Aardwolf, Clawless Otter, Yellow Baboon, Fringe-eared Oryx, Bushbaby, lesser Kudu, Bushbuck, Klipspringer, Caracal, black-backed and side-striped Jackal, African Wildcat, Civet, rock and tree Hyrax, Dik-dik, East African Hedgehog, African Hunting Dog, large-spotted and small-spotted Genet, African Dormouse, greater Galago, blue, bush and red Duiker, and Bat-eared Fox.

Giraffe standing among trees, in the National Park of the Tsavo East, Kenya Tambako The Jaguar License:CC

Tsavo is an ideal bird lover’s paradise with over 500 bird species recorded in the Park. These include the Sacred Ibis, Kestrel, Lilac-breasted roller, Lovebird, Ostriches, Crowned Crane, Buzzard, Black Kite, Starling, Heron, Weaver Bird, Secretary Bird, Kingfisher and Hornbills.

Lilac-breasted roller in Tsavo East National Park, Kenya Roberto Faccenda License:CC

Getting there

Tsavo East National Park is accessible by road, rail and air. By road, one could use their own vehicle, get onto public transport or order a tour minibus with a tour guide. From Nairobi, the trip is 333 km long and goes via Voi or Manyani Gate, from Mombasa, it is 173km long and goes via Bachuma Gate and from Malindi, the journey is 156 km long and has to go through the Sala Gate. By rail, visitors can catch a train that services the Nairobi-Mombasa railway line which runs right through the Tsavo East National Park. By air, visitors have access to chartered light aircrafts that may land at any of the six airstrips in the southern part of the Park or at any of the 13 airstrips in the north.

Tsavo East National Park, Kenya Simone Roda License:CC


As the Park is only 173 km from Mombasa and 156 km from Malindi, most visitors opt to find accommodation in the Mombasa beach resorts and hotels along the coast whilst taking a wildlife safari day trip to Tsavo East then returning to their hotels at the end of the day. However, for those who decide to stay in the Park overnight, there are numerous accommodation options on offer.

The lodges close to the Park include the Voi Wildlife Lodge and the Voi Safari Lodge both of which are popular with travelers due to their nearness to the Nairobi-Mombasa highway.

There are also tented camps available and these include the Sobo and Patterson Safari Camp, the Galdessa Camp offering eight rooms, the Satao Camp with 10 rooms, the Epiya Chapeyu Camp with 11 rooms and the Tsavo Safari Camp/Cottars with 20 rooms.

Public campsites are available but these do not provide any facilities, hence visitors have to bring with them their own camping gear. These include the Main Gate, the Ndololo and the Kandri campsites.

Best Time to Visit

For keen bird watchers, the best time to visit Tsavo National Park is between October and January as a number of migratory birds including  the Palm Nut Vulture, the African Skimmers, the Buffalo Weaver, the Red and Yellow Bishop, the Goshawk plus more, will be making the Park its temporary home.

January and February as well as June to September are also good months to visit as it would be dry hence animals would be drifting towards the water holes and vegetation would be thinner, all making game spotting easier, compared to the period between March and May where heavy rains fall.

Safari in Tsavo East National Park Simone Roda License:CC

Weather and Climate

The temperature in the Park is somewhat regular all year round, though the precipitation varies. Daytime temperatures range from 27 to 31°C whilst night time temperatures vary from 22 to 24°C. March to May are the long rain season months where rainfall is heavy whilst October to December is the short rain season where the weather is good enough to go on safari. From December to April, humidity is high in Tsavo East.

Other Safety Considerations

Visitors to Kenya are said to require inoculation against yellow fever and cholera as well as against Hepatitis, Typhoid and Tetanus. Preventative measures against Malaria should also be taken. These include use of mosquito repellent sprays, sleeping under treated nets, covering bare skin at dusk and taking malaria prophylactics.