tsavo west national park

Tsavo West National Park

Background Information

Combined with Tsavo East, this park forms Kenya's largest game sanctuary. Tsavo West covers a huge variety of landscapes, from swamps and natural springs to rocky peaks, extinct volcanic cones to rolling plains and sharp reddish outcrops.


Tsavo West National Park is situated on Kenya's southern border with Tanzania, located about 200km south east of Nairobi. Combined with Tsavo East, this park forms one of the world's largest game sanctuaries. The East and West parks are separated by the Mombasa/Nairobi road, and both work nicely on a circuit with Mombasa.

Tsavo West has a variety of landscapes, from swamps and natural springs to rocky peaks, extinct volcanic cones, to rolling plains and sharp reddish outcrops. Wildlife can be difficult to spot because of the dense scrubs. In May 1948, a month after its conception Tsavo National Park was divided into East and West for administrative purposes. At 21 812 square km, Tsavo National Park is the largest park in Kenya.

This national park to offer a host of attractions: the magnificent scenery, Mzima Springs, rich and varied wildlife, good road system, rhino reserve, rock climbing potential, and guided walks along the Tsavo River.

The thick vegetation makes game viewing more difficult when compared to the more flat, open parks like the Masai Mara, but some patience will reap great reward with sightings of the Big 5 along with a wide range of antelope species, hippos and spectacular birdlife.

The legend of Tsavo, portrayed in the film, 'The Ghost and the Darkness', are the so-called 'man-eaters', which was the name given to a pair of lions said to have attacked and killed a number of railway workers in the 19th Century.

Where to find Tsavo West National Park

About Tsavo West National Park:
Named after the Tsavo River which flows from west to east, the park is considered one of the world's biodiversity strongholds. It is the only Kenyan park that permits night drives and also allows off-road driving so one can see the wildlife close up.

The Shetani flow, a black lava flow of 8km long, 1.6km wide and 5m deep, is the remains of volcanic eruptions. There is a cave located near the centre of the outflow, which is only a few metres long, but the exit is not accessible as it is too narrow. In the far south western corner of the park is Lake Jipe, which is fed by runoff from Mount Kilimanjaro and the northern Pare mountains. It is a wonderful attraction to visit.

How to get there:
By air: The following airstrips can be used to get access to Tsavo West National Park: Kamboyo, Kilaguni, Tsavo Gate, Jipe, Kasigau, Finch Hottons, Ziwani, and Maktau.

By road: The main access routes are through Chyulu Gate from Amboseli and Mtito Andei Gate from Nairobi. Visitors from Mombasa also use Tsavo Gate near Manyani. Visitors from Taveta - Voi Road can access the park through Maktau, Ziwani and Jipe Gates.

What to see and do:
Tsavo West National Park offers a variety of wildlife and birdlife. More than 600 species of birds have been recorded. Animals to be spotted include the leopard, cheetah, buffalo, rhino, elephant, giraffe, zebra, duiker, waterbuck, lion, crocodile, mongoose, warthog, hyrax, dik dik and porcupine.

Another attraction is the Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary at the base of Ngulia Hills. The sanctuary is part of the Rhino Ark Programme, which protects Tsavo West's precious population of black rhinos.

When to go:
During the dry season (June to October) the sky is clear and the sun is shining, although these include the coldest months of the year. Early mornings can drop to around 12 degrees, so it is advised to pack warm clothing as morning game drives in open vehicles will be cold.

During the wet season (November to May) daytime temperatures vary between 24 and 30 degrees Celsius, depending on altitude. A period of ‘short rains’ occur between November and December, while the main rainy season, called the ‘long rains’ arrive after a short dry spell, in March April and May.

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