Tsavo Natl Park

Overview

Introduction

Tsavo, the largest of Kenya's national parks, covers 7,800 sq mi/20,200 sq km and is located 175 mi/280 km southeast of Nairobi. Because of its vast size, it's administered as two separate parks: Tsavo West and Tsavo East. It lies roughly halfway between Nairobi and Mombasa and is dissected by the Nairobi-Mombasa road and railway.

The area's landscape, which ranges from savanna and open plains to acacia woodland and arid scrub, is dotted with baobab trees (some are 1,000 years old) and red termite mounds (some as tall as 5 ft/2 m). Big-game hunting, poaching and drought significantly reduced the number of elephants and rhinos in the park, but their populations are recovering. And when you see these large animals, they'll look more reddish-orange than gray because of the park's characteristic red soil.

Tsavo West is filled with crocodiles, vervet monkeys, antelope, baboons, giraffes and hippos. On clear days, you should keep an eye out for Mount Kilimanjaro. There's also a fenced-off sanctuary for black rhinos. At Mzima Springs, one of the park's best features, you can view animals from a glass-paneled underwater observation tank. Lots of fish swim in front of the tank, but you may have to wait for a hippo to come by. Be patient—it's worth it. We found walking around the pools of water there a welcome break from sitting in our Land Rover.

Adjacent Tsavo East is much larger but is not visited as often—animals are less abundant. The upside is that you won't feel overwhelmed by other tourists. Large herds of elephants are Tsavo East's claim to fame, though all of the big five (lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo and leopard) are present, and there are more than 500 species of birds. Tsavo is often a stop for visitors traveling between Mombasa (or the southern coastal resort areas) and Nairobi.

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