Tsavo East National 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 kilomtere long Yatta Plateau, the longest lava flow in the world, make for an adventure unlike any other in the Tsavo East. The 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.
Tsavo East National Park is one of the oldest and largest African safari parks in Kenya. It was established in 1948 and covers 11,747 km², although not all of the park is open to the public. Some areas are designated as "remote animal wilderness" for the Kenyan animals, but there is still a massive area for visitors to tour around and enjoy viewing the Kenyan wildlife. Key attractions include the Galana River and the Yatta plateau, as well as several pools and dams used as watering holes by both birds and animals.
Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Parks together make up the biggest national park in Kenya at just under 22 000 sq km. In May 1948, a month after the park's conception, Tsavo National Park was divided into east and west for administrative purposes. Named after the Tsavo River which flows from west to east, the park is considered one of the world's biodiversity strongholds.
Tsavo East National Park is the only Kenyan park that permits night drives. It is a vast park and guests will often have to be patient during game viewing activities, but the reward is great. The experienced safari guides are familiar with the game movements and season migration paths and times of Tsavo's wildlife. Some of Tsavo East's popular attractions are Mudanda Rock, Yatta Plateau and Lugard Falls.
The surface of this part of Tsavo is essentially flat and covered with low, dry vegetation. The reserve is popular for short safaris from the Kenya coast, such as Mombasa, which makes for a stunning East Africa beach and bush vacation.
Brief History In 1898, long before Tsavo National Park was created, a pair of maneless male lions terrorized the area. They reputedly killed 135 railway workers who were building the Kenya-Uganda railway. These man-eating lions dragged men from their tents, despite the thorn fences (bomas) built to keep them out. The maneless lions evaded traps and ambushes and were finally shot by Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson. Tsavo East National Park is 333km south-east of Nairobi, and 173km north-west of Mombasa. Its relative closeness to the beaches and tourist attractions around Malindi and Mombasa make it an ideal one-day wildlife safari destination for those who do not want to stay overnight. Tsavo East National Park is a natural area of flat, dry plains, with thorny bushes and swampy marshland near the river. It is teeming with diverse Kenyan animals including large families of giraffes, gazelles, hartebeests and zebras, as well as the "Big Five" must-see animals - buffalo, African elephants, lions, rhinos and leopards.
Although it is a popular African safari wildlife park, it is very rare to see other traffic except under certain circumstances when viewing the wildlife. The guides communicate with each other by radio if they find something unusual, such as a pride of lions, and there may be a sudden convergence of vehicles to the site, but they soon disperse again. The best time to view the wildlife is early or late in the day, as the animals tend to sleep in the hot midday sun. The park is open from 6.30am to 6.30pm daily, and the wardens at the gate give visitors a few sensible rules: do not get out of your vehicle, except at designated spots; do not harass the animals in any way; keep to the tracks; no off-road driving; and remember that the animals always have the right of way. Suitable dress for a day's wildlife safari to Tsavo East National Park should include loose, cotton clothing and a sunhat. Binoculars, cameras and sunglasses are essential. It is also a good idea to carry a bottle of water, frozen overnight, for you to sip during the day. As it melts, it makes a delicious drink to help you avoid dehydration in the heat. Don't forget to enjoy the sights in real-life, not just through the lens of your camera or video recorder! There are rest areas with restrooms and water fountains. The safari viewing lodges also provide excellent buffet lunches while you enjoy watching the animals through the huge panoramic windows. There is also a camouflaged hideout where you can view the African elephants at the watering hole.
Tsavo East is generally flat with dry plains across which the Galana River flows. Feature attractions include the Yatta Plateau, Lugards Falls, Mudanda Rock and Aruba Dam. The water features in Tsavo offer an oasis-like appeal to the park and keep the wildlife present.
Game in Tsavo East includes the famous Big 5. Other sought after species are black rhino, hirola antelope, mongoose, giraffe, bat-eared fox, hyrax, Grevy's zebra, ground pangolin, Sykes's monkey, black-faced vervet monkey and dik dik, to name but a few. Over 500 species of bird have been recorded in the area, including ostrich, kestrel, starling, weaver bird, kingfisher, buzzard, hornbill, secretary bird and heron.
Tsavo lions are historically famous for not having manes (even the males), and as a result of this uncommonness, many lions have been hunted and killed in Tsavo. Kenya has banned hunting for many years now, but the closeness of Kenyan villages to its game reserves means that human-wildlife conflict has to be carefully managed.