Tsavo West National Park is located in the Coast Province of Kenya. The park covers an area of 9,065 square kilometres. The A109 road Nairobi-Mombasa and a railway divides it from the adjoining Tsavo East National Park. Together with adjoining ranches and protected areas, they comprise the Tsavo Conservation Area. Tsavo West is a more popular destination on account of its magnificent scenery, Mzima Springs, rich and varied wildlife, good road system, rhino reserve, rock climbing potential and guided walks along the Tsavo River. The park is operated by Kenya Wildlife Service.
Tsavo West together with its expansive Tsavo East neighbor form one of the largest national parks in the world. The park is home to the Big Five, but wildlife viewing can be a bit slow at times. There are, however, several landmarks worth visiting including recent lava flows and Mzima Springs with its underwater observation chamber for close-up views of hippos.
History of Tsavo West National Park
Although a few Early Stone Age and Middle Stone Age archaeological sites are recorded from ground surface finds in Tsavo, there is much evidence for thriving Late Stone Age economy from 6,000 to 1,300 years ago. Research has shown that Late Stone Age archaeological sites are found close to the Galana River in high numbers. The inhabitants of these sites hunted wild animals, fished and kept domesticated animals. Because of the sparse availability of water away from the Galana River, human settlement in Tsavo focused on the riparian areas and in rockshelters as one moves west.
Swahili merchants traded with the inhabitants of Tsavo for ivory, catskins, and probably slaves as early as 700 AD (and probably earlier). There is no evidence for direct Swahili "colonization" of Tsavo. Instead, trade was probably accomplished by moving goods to and from the Swahili Coast via extended kin-networks. Trade goods such as cowry shells and beads have been recovered from archaeological sites dating to the early Swahili period.
19th-century British and German explorers document people we now refer to as Orma and Waata during their travels through the "nyika," and generally viewed them as hostile toward their interests. Beginning in the late 19th century, the British began to colonise the interior of Kenya and built the Uganda Railway through Tsavo in 1898. The construction of the railway was noted for the killings of a number of construction workers in 1898, during the building of a bridge across the Tsavo River. Hunting mainly at night, a pair of maneless male lions stalked and killed at least 28 Indian and African workers – although some accounts put the number of victims as high as 135. The lions, dubbed "the Maneaters of Tsavo," were eventually shot and killed by the bridge construction supervisor, Lt.-Col. John Henry Patterson. The skins and skulls are now displayed in the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.
Tsavo remained the homeland for Orma and Maasai pastoralists and Waata hunter-gatherers until 1948, when it was gazetted a national park. At that time, the indigenous populations were relocated to Voi and Mtito Andei as well as other locations within the nearby Taita Hills. Following Kenyan independence in 1963, hunting was banned in the park and management of Tsavo was turned over to the authority that eventually became the Kenya Wildlife Service. Tsavo currently attracts photo-tourists from all over the world interested in experiencing the vastness of the wilderness and incredible terrain.
Where is Tsavo West National Park
The park is in southeast Kenya between Nairobi and Mombasa. It’s relatively close to the beaches of the Kenya Coast and can easily be a 1-day safari for those who wish a quick getaway.
he northern part of Tsavo West is fascinating geologically: the whole developed area is dotted with old and new volcanic hills, ranging from pimples to great pyramids on the plain. The district was ravaged as recently as 200 to 300 years ago by a series of violent volcanic eruptions that devastated the area, and evidently killed much of the human population – local people still speak of ghosts and noises at night.
West of Chyulu Gate, en route to Amboseli National Park, the road passes for several kilometres across a huge expanse of black lava rock, still barely colonised by plant life. And north of this area, a dramatic route climbs into the Chyulu Hills, out of Tsavo West National Park altogether and into the neighbouring Chyulu Hills National Park.
Best Time to Visit Tsavo West National Park
If you prefer your vegetation green instead of brown, and want a clear view of Kilimanjaro, then the Wet season (October to May) is when you’ll want to visit. Migratory birds also offer a great spectacle at this time. But for wildlife watching in general, you should really go in the drier months, when a lack of water sees animals gather at local rivers and waterholes.
We recommend that our guests consider weather patterns when planning their ultimate holiday in Tsavo West National Park. While the equatorial location offers warm temperature year-round, the dry and rainy seasons present elusive differences in wildlife experiences, rooming costs and logistics. Using these guidelines when considering when to visit the park will ensure that you have a gratifying experience that exceeds your personal expectations. Most of our guests prioritize viewing a diversity of wildlife that is easily located and observed. For this reason, we recommend the long dry season of Tsavo to these visitants. The lack of rainfall from July to October means that few water and food sources are available to the animals. As a result, the many herbivore species move to locations with permanent water, such as rivers and springs.
The moisture in these locations also means that the foragers and grazers have better access to food than they would in drier areas. Because these herbivores are prey animals, predators travel closer to permanent water sources, where they also benefit from the proximity and accessibility to varied prey, and later returning back to their territories, especially the larger cats. If these conditions appeal to you, we want to advise you that AfricanMecca lodgers share your perspective. As a result, visitor levels are highest during this time of year, especially because the long dry season also coincides with summer vacations in Kenya for American and European families and the Mara wildebeest migration in south-western Kenya.
Daytime highs during this period range from 80 F (27 C) to 86 F (30 C) degrees. Nighttime temperature hangs around 60-64 F (16-18 C) degrees. The short rainy season in November and December brings short late afternoon and evening rains; though, there is more precipitation during this period in comparison to other regions of Kenya, and this is primarily due to the proximity to the Indian Ocean coast.
Wildlife in Tsavo during the rains have more options for food and water, so, to some degree, they may be scattered in the park. The moisture at times evaporates because the park is located in equatorial Kenya, so your safari activities should not be adversely if it is only showering rather than an intense downpour Visitor levels are lower during this time when compared to the long dry season, with the exception of Christmas and New Year’s, both of which are popular African travel times amongst local Kenyans and also Americans and Europeans from abroad.
The short, hot-dry season in January and February is followed by a long rainy season from March to May and parts of June. Rainfall can last for several days but not throughout the day, and this is when the park receives an abundance of moisture. The landscape springs to life with dense, lush vegetation, and seasonal watering holes are replenished. Wildlife disperses across the park, so you are less likely to see congregated mixed-species groups when paralleled with the drier periods.
Roads and trails can be muddy and slippery, so some vantage points in the park may not be as easily accessible during the rainy season. The long rainy season, though, offers a magical safari experience that connoisseur AfricanMecca guests treasure for a lifetime. Some mammalian species give birth during the long rainy season. The bond between mother and baby is one of the most heart-touching natural events to see during your bush tour in Kenya.
Attractions in Tsavo West National Park
Wildlife species can be seen at different spots in the national park and they include elephants, zebras, giraffes, lesser kudu, lions, African eland antelopes, dik-diks, warthogs, black rhino, buffalo, hartebeest, and leopards.
- Bird species sighted within Tsavo west national park include eastern black-headed oriole, golden palm weaver, pied kingfisher, Vulturine guinea fowl, African finfoot, reed warbler, corncrake, lesser kestrel, martial eagle, northern brownbul, Pangani longclaw, river warbler, red-backed shrike, red-bellied parrot, slender tailed nightjar, black-faced sand grouse. Ngulia is a famous spot for birding in the national park.
- Mzima springs; is a clear pool of water in Tsavo west national park which flows from underground and generates into a stream on the surface. It is also a water point for many animals such as hippos and is a habitat for crocodiles. Fish can also be seen at these springs which have a viewing point inform of a submerged hut with glass windows where tourists can see the hippos, crocodiles and fish as they swim. The source of water at Mzima springs is Chyulu hills and the springs are said to supply Mombasa with fresh water.
- Ngulia Rhino sanctuary located at the base of Ngulia hill is home to the endangered black rhino species which are bred with help and support from Kenya wildlife services and African wildlife foundation. The rhinos are protected from the threats of poachers who are the main reason behind their limited number. The black rhinos are nocturnal which makes them rare but not impossible to sight.
- Shetani lava flow can be accessed from Chyulu gate offering a view of folded black lava and wildlife species can also be viewed from this area. The word “shetani” is a Swahili word meaning devil which is a reference to the time when lava was flowing from the ground which the locals believed was the devil himself emerging from the ground.
- Chaimu volcanic crater is a viewpoint in Tsavo west national park which is characterized by black lava stones. During a drive to the hill, the soil color turns darker and creates beautiful scenery in contrast with the green vegetation along the road and also offers stunning views of Chyulu hills.
What to Do in Tsavo West National Park
The attractions within the national park entice tourists to visit this destination and participate in different activities. Activities that tourists can engage in at Tsavo west national park include the following;
This takes you to the wilderness from the comfort and safety of the tour vehicle as you view different wildlife and bird species in the national park which include elephants, lions, hippos, buffalos, lesser kudu, elands, gazelles, zebras, fringe-eyed Oryx, monkeys, impalas, and dik-diks.
Game drives take place at different times of the day such as morning game drives, evening game drives, full-day game drives, and night game drives. Morning game drives are more rewarding as they offer a chance to see the wildlife species as they graze around and bask in the early morning sun while the predators begin to hunt for their prey.
Full day game drives increase the chances of game viewing as it offers an opportunity to see the wildlife species at different times of the day and a tourist can also study the way of life of the animals at different times of day in terms of their feeding habits, survival and many other characteristics of the animals. Night game drives offer a chance to see the nocturnal animals and also predators as they hunt.
Birding in Tsavo west national park
This can be done at different birding spots such as Mzima springs which offers great opportunity to sight the birds in their nests. Bird species viewed during game drives include; pied kingfisher, Vulturine guinea fowl, African finfoot, reed warbler, corncrake, lesser kestrel, martial eagle, northern brownbul, Pangani longclaw, river warbler, red-backed shrike, red-bellied parrot, slender tailed nightjar, black-faced sand grouse.
Offers a closer view of the attractions as well as providing a deeper understanding of even the smallest scrubs and animals within the national park. Rangers accompany the tourists during these nature walks and also provide information to tourists about different attractions or sites of interest.
Is an excellent way to reach the heights of the national park and enjoy the breathtaking scenery and view the different attractions within Tsavo west national park due to its hilly nature.
Lake Jipe is an attraction located in the southern end of Tsavo west national park straddling the Kenya- Tanzania border.
|Languages spoken||English, Kiswahili|
|Currency used||Kenya Shillings (KES)|
|Area (km2)||7,065 SQ. KM|