“The Land of Lava, Springs and Man-Eaters”
Did you know that the Tsavo West National Park is home to the largest population of red-skinned elephants as well as to members of the rest of the “Big 5” African animals, namely buffalos, lions, leopards and rhinos?
From the sight of fifty million gallons of crystal clear water gushing out of the under parched lava rock that is the Mzima Springs to the Shetani lava flows, the Tsavo West National Park is a beautiful, rugged wilderness. It comprises of a savannah ecosystem which entails open grasslands, scrublands, palm thickets, Acacia woodlands, belts of riverine vegetation, natural springs, rocky peaks and extinct volcanoes. Its wide range landscape offers a good habitat for the wild animals present in the park.
Tsavo West offers one of the most magnificent game viewing experiences in the world. It boasts of being a home to a vast species of animals such as elephants, rhinos, cheetahs, leopards, buffalos and diverse bird and plant species such as the majestic baobab trees. It covers 7065 kilometers and its altitude ranges from 200-1000m. Irrespective of the plenty wild animals in the park, you’ll have to work harder and be more patient in order to see the animals as the foliage is denser and higher here.
When driving along the red-earth tracks, keep your eyes open for movement and signs of wildlife. The more you look, the more you will see. This increases the camaraderie and excitement of the trip as you point out the wildlife and come to a halt to catch a better glimpse of them not only using your eyes, but also through the lens of your camera or video recorder.
It will be an amazing experience for you to see wildlife living in close proximity to one another. For instance, a bird may sit within a snap of being pounced on and eaten, yet, unless it is ravenous, the predator will ignore it completely.
The Tsavo West National Park also presents you with a chance to see huge anthills, sparse shrubs, tortoises plodding on the edges of the track. Keep your eyes open for the graceful giraffes that are surprisingly camouflages as they nibble on the tops of trees. The afternoons will also be a good time to spot the lions sleeping under the trees. You will also have to stop to allow cheetahs and gazelles strolling across the road to get to the other side before proceeding.
Climate and weather in Tsavo West National Park
Tsavo West National Park is a few degrees south of the equator. Temperature in the park remains constant throughout the year at 27-31 degrees Celsius during the day and 22-24 degrees Celsius during the night.
The park experiences high humidity from December through April. It also experiences a long rainy season from March to May, while the short rains season runs from October through December annually.
How to get to Tsavo West National Park
There are two ways to get to the park. By air or by road. Let’s take a look at each of the ways.
By air: There are several airstrips for chartered aircrafts at Chyulu, Mtito Andei, Tsavo, Jipe, Maktau, Kasigau and Ziwani gates.
By road: From Amboseli (52km) head for the Chyulu gate. If you are coming from Nairobi, enter the park using the Mtito Andei gate (272km). From Mombasa (188km), use the Tsavo gate or the Mtito Andei gate. There are also entrances at Maktau, Ziwani and Jipe.
What to see and do at the Tsavo West National Park
Tsavo West offers myriads of tourist attractions and activities. You will never tire of visiting the park since each time you visit feels like a new experience. Besides t wildlife, below are some of the attractions that will always have you yearning to visit the park for the umpteenth time.
- Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary
At the base of Ngulia Hills, is the Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary. It entails a 90 square kilometer area surrounded by a high electric fence. It was erected in the bid to provide a measure of security for the around 80 of the park’s endangered black rhinos.
In the sanctuary are driving tracks which allow for easy access. There are also waterholes which the rhinos frequent to quench their thirst.
- Mzima Springs
Mzima Springs is an oasis of green situated in the western part of the park that produces an incredible 250 million litres of fresh water on a daily basis. The springs, whose source rises in the Chyulu Hills, provides the bulk of Mombasa’s fresh water.
There is a walking trail that leads to the spring’s shoreline. There are also hippos, crocodiles and a variety of birdlife that you can view at the springs. In addition, there is an underwater viewing chamber which gives a creepy, yet spectacular view of thousands of indigenous fish species.
Caution ought to be taken as neither the hippos, nor crocodiles are confined to the water.
- Ngulia Hills
Rising more than 600 meters above the valley floor and to a height of over 1800 meters above sea level, this jagged ridgeline ranks among the prettiest of all Tsavo landforms. Its peaks are recognized as a flyaway for migratory birds heading south from late September through to November.
To climb the hills, you need to seek permission from the wardens.
- Shetani Lava Flows
About 4 kilometers west of the Chyulu gate, are the spectacular Shetani lava flows. “Shetani” means “devil” in Swahili language. The lava flows date back to a hundred years ago and local people believe that it was the devil emerging from the earth, hence the name Shetani.
This vast expanse of folded black lava spreads for 50 square kilometers across the savannah near Chyulu Hills. It is quite a sight to behold.
- Chaimu Crater and Roaring Rocks
Situated on the southeast side of the park, these two natural features offer breathtaking views of the Chyulu Hills and birds of prey circling above the plains. The Roaring rocks can be climbed in a span of 15 minutes. Its name is attributed to the whistling wind that blows up the escarpment.
Be wary when exploring the Chaimu Crater, since the crater and lava may shelter snakes and large sleeping mammals.
- Shetani Caves
Close to and part of the Shetani lava flows, the Shetani caves came about as a result of volcanic activity. You’ll a flashlight if you want to explore as they are pitch dark.
- Poacher’s lookout
A short distance northwest of Severin Safari Camp, this hilltop vantage point offers a good view of the entire park.
- Lake Jipe
This lake lies on the southwestern end of the park and is reached by a dusty track from Taveta. It is a habitat to hippos and crocodiles and boats can be hired at the campsite to take you hippo and crocodile spotting on the lake.
Large herds of elephants also frequent the lake to quench their thirst, giving you a chance to marvel at them.
Best time to visit Tsavo West National Park
January and February are ideal months to visit Tsavo West, as well as June and September. Visiting during the heavy rainy seasons of March to May is not recommended as the roads are often rendered impassable due to their muddy state. However, if you don’t mind the struggle that comes with driving in the mud, all I’d say is “karibu Kenya”.
Temperatures in the park stay pleasant year round at 27-31 degrees Celsius during the day and 22-24 degrees Celsius at night.
For bird watchers, the best months to see migratory birds are October to January. While the best times to view the park’s animals are early and late in the day as they tend to sleep in the hot afternoon sun.
Fascinating facts about the Tsavo West National Park
You must be wondering why the elephants in the Tsavo are referred to as red skinned and why the park is referred to as the land of lava, springs and man-eaters. Well, this is why:
- The red elephants of the Tsavo owe their red color from the red soil which they use for dirt bath. This serves to clear ticks and other organisms from their skin, as well as provide a shield from the scorching sun.
- There is a railway line that runs along the border separating Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Park. In 1898, as many as 135 railway workers were attacked and killed by man-eating lions. The pair of male maneless lions unusually hunted human beings rather than livestock and fellow wild animals. The lions evaded the hunter’s snare for many months but were eventually shot by Lt. Col, John Henry Patterson. The legend however lives on.
- It is home to some endangered species such as the black rhinoceros, Cosen’s gerbril, Hunter’s hartebeest, Grevy’s zebra, wild dogs and several species of shrew and rat.
Tsavo West is a park with a whiff of legend about it, for its famous man-eating lions in the late 18th century and then for its devastating levels of poaching in the 1980s. Despite the latter, there is still plenty of wildlife for you to see, although you will have to work harder and be very patient as the foliage is denser and higher here compared to parks like Amboseli and the Maasai Mara.
Put all those things together, along with its dramatic scenery, fine lodges and vastness, it is one of Kenya’s most rewarding parks and we at Gidtor would like to enable you enjoy an unforgettable safari to the Tsavo West National Park.
Give us a call or write to us to day for us to book and plan your safari for you.