Tsavo East National Park is by far the bigest of Kenya’s National parks. At more than 13,700km², Tsavo East is nine times bigger than the Maasai Mara National Reserve: indeed you could fit the whole of the Mara reserve into the southern tip of Tsavo East National Park, south of the Voi River. Most famous for its huge herds of dust-red elephants, more than 10,000 of them bulldoze their way around this vast park.
The sight of dust-red elephant wallowing, rolling and spraying each other with the midnight blue waters of palm-shaded Galana River is one of the most evocative images in Africa. This, along with the 300 kilometer long Yatta Plateau, the longest lava flow in the world, make for an adventure unlike any other in the Tsavo East.
This Kenya National Park forms the largest protected area in Kenya and is home to most of the larger mammals, vast herds of dust –red elephant, Rhino, buffalo, lion, leopard, pods of hippo, crocodile, waterbucks, lesser Kudu, gerenuk and the prolific bird life features 500 recorded species.
The history of Tsavo East National Park
Thousands of years later, the ancestors of the Kamba moved off the slopes of Mount Kenya into the northwestern fringes of the Tsavo district. This is probably sometime between 500AD and 1000AD. They gradually displaced, or culturally absorbed, most of the hunter-gatherers. The Kamba had first arrived in what is now Kenya from central Africa, with their iron-working technology, along with all the other people’s speaking Bantu languages, such as the Kikuyu and the Mijikenda, roughly between 1000BC–200BC.
While still restricted, like the hunter-gatherers, to areas of Tsavo East with water, which effectively meant the valley of the Galana River, the Kamba began to herd their livestock across the savannah and seek out bees’ nests in the baobab trees. They subsequently went on to become great bee-keepers, famous across Kenya for their honey. They also refined the ancient art of poison-tipping their arrows, and for centuries, Kamba hunting arrows were at the forefront of hunting technology.
Tsavo East National Park Exploration
By the time the Maasai arrived in the Tsavo area with their cattle, in the eighteenth century, Swahili traders from the coast had been trekking across the region for centuries, using the Kamba as middlemen to exchange foreign cloth, alcohol, gold and silver coins and gunpowder for animal skins, ivory, rhino horn and slaves from the far interior. It was Swahili and Kamba traders who led the earliest explorers and missionaries on the world’s first ‘safaris’.
In 1849, they showed the German Bible scholar Johann Krapf the snowy peaks of Kilimanjaro and Kirinyaga (later called Mount Kenya), and in the 1880s they guided the eco-conscious Scottish geologist Joseph Thomson – the world’s first explorer to practice something resembling responsible travel (nobody ever lost their life on a Thomson safari) – on his way through Maasai-land.
The early Victorian colonists from Britain saw Tsavo East as a problem area to be fought against: they couldn’t farm there, but they were going to make sure their trains ran on time on the new railway line. Having dealt with two man-eating lions (the ‘Man-Eaters of Tsavo’) after losing dozens of labourers to the hungry pair during the railway’s construction, they were determined to avoid staff shortages over wildlife.
Tsavo East’s dense population of black rhinos was considered to be a particular scourge, making footpaths and roads unsafe for pedestrians. As late as the years after World War II, the British employed the suitably named JA Hunter to cull the rhinos, and he quickly lived up to his name, killing 1088 rhinos over the course of a year in the area that is now Tsavo East National Park.
Tsavo East becomes a National Park
In 1948, there was a change of mind. The authorities declared that the area of Tsavo East National Park would henceforth be protected as Tsavo East National Park. A decade after independence, the government of Jomo Kenyatta banned all hunting and tourists began to deliver an income to the region.
Elephant and rhino poaching remained a serious problem however, spiking in the late 1970s as Middle East oil wealth began to purchase ivory and rhino horn dagger handles, and again in the late 1980s and early 1990s as Somalia’s economy disintegrated and refuges and weapons flooded the area. A third spike seems to be happening now, as China’s economy booms, though the park authorities, with private assistance, are better equipped to deal with poaching than in the past.
How to Get to Tsavo East National Park
Tsavo East National Park is in southeast Kenya, 325km/201mi from Nairobi and 250km/ 155mi from Mombasa. You can drive to the reserve from Nairobi, Mombasa or another park depending on your itinerary. There are no scheduled flights to Tsavo East, but there are several airstrips available for chartered flights.
Most people flying from Europe or North America to Kenya enter the country via Nairobi. This is because it is the biggest transport hub, so there are plenty of ticketing options. The two most useful international airports are Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO), 15km/9mi southeast of Nairobi; and the smaller Moi International Airport (MBA), 9km/6mi west of Mombasa.
What to Do in Tsavo East National Park
You can enjoy two game drives a day one in morning and the other afternoon within the Great Tsavo East National Park with endless areas to explore. While on Kenya safari tour here, we recommend you to go for a game drive around the Voi River and Aruba Dam, but for the more adventurous African safari tour guests, one can also choose to stay in the lesser visited areas adjacent to our camp and experience a more exclusive game drive with less vehicles and a greater chance to encounter the Tsavo lions all be yourselves.
Staying out in the bush in front of a campfire with a dawa cocktail or a glass of champagne in your hand, while the sun slowly drops over the horizon of the Sagala Hills is truly an unforgettable and revealing safari experience. Listening to the sounds of the bush with a feeling of the old Africa is cleansing for the mind and the soul and an experience you will never forget.
Tsavo East National Park is a very favored habitat for a great variety of birds. Over 300 different species of birds have been identified. Birders, and interested can walk around the premises of our camp and watch the many birds coming to nest or take a bath at the waterhole. Hornbills, barbits, starlings, guinea fowls, pearl spotted owls are very common to see.
|Languages spoken||English, Kiswahili|
|Currency used||Kenya Shillings (KES)|
|Area (km2)||13,747 SQ. KM|