Tsavo East is Kenya’s largest park. Its 11,747 km2 – 40% of Kenya’s entire park system – together with Tsavo West, forms part of the larger Tsavo/Amboseli ecosystem. Tsavo East divides roughly into two areas: south of the Galana River, where there is an excellent network of roads and a number of tented camps, lodges and viewing sites, and north of the Galana, a wilderness area that was once a focal point for poaching activity.
Altitude 500 – 4,000ft
Area 11,747 sq. kms
Distance from Nairobi 333 kms
16 airstrips (4 graded)
Opened April 1948
Spectacular scenery: Galana river, Lugard Falls Aruba Dam & Mudanda rock
Unrivalled birdwatching: Resident & Migratory flocks
Game Viewing: Elephant, rhino, giant crocodile, ostrich, Camel safaris, river fishing
Easy access from the coast
Tsavo-East is one of Kenya’s oldest and largest parks:
Covering about 40% of the total area of all national parks. Its beautiful landscape and proximity to the Coast make it a popular safari destination.
It is one of the world’s leading biodiversity strongholds, with bushy grassland and open plains alternating with savannah and semi-arid acacia scrub and woodlands. Green swathes cross the park where river banks give rise to lush vegetation. North of Galana is a true wilderness. Leading tour guides offer private safaris across this area. Camel safaris are available.
Tsavo-East is recommended for photographers with its fabulous light and fantastic views, especially the Mudanda Rock and the Yatta Plateau, the world’s largest lava flow. Lugard Falls on the Galana River are remarkable for the shaped water-worn rocks. Game includes: elephant, rhino, lion, leopard, crocodile, waterbuck, kudu, gerenuk and zebra. Aruba hunter’s hartebeest, with its lyre-shaped horns, can also be seen. Home to some of the largest herds in Kenya, the elephants glow red after dust baths, blowing the vivid red dust through their trunks over their bodies.
About 500 bird species have been recorded including ostrich, some migratory kestrels and buzzards which stop at Tsavo-East during their long flight south.
Accommodation: one lodge with 104 beds, four tented camps (total 92 beds), two campsites (total 36 beds), one self-help banda site with 12 beds and nine campsites. More lodges and tented camps are planned.
Updates from KWS on Management of Tsavo East National Park
Now that security is no longer a problem in the northern zone, the section between the Galana and Tiva rivers will be opened up for ecotourism activities. (The northenmost zone will remain a natural wilderness.) Ecotourism is in keeping with Tsavo East’s noninterventionist management policy, which has kept the park largely untouched. When management action must be taken, it reflects the core KWS strategy: wildlife protection and enhancement of local community relations.
Ecotourism is as much about attitude as it is about resources, and KWS is keen to promote noninvasive, environmentally friendly tourist activities such as camping and walking safaris that encourage visitor’s interest in the entire ecosystem instead of a few animal species.
In the last year, the main areas of active management were introduction and protection of rhino and elephant; security and antipoaching; ecotourism development, supported by road and vehicle maintenance; reduction of human-wildlife conflict; community education; and water projects. A particularly strong emphasis in 1994-95 was on minimizing wildlife harassment and preventing soil erosion and plant damage caused by off-road driving. A new public campsite, Satan Mkwanju, was built at the southeastern end of the park.
In the area of community relations, the local Community Wildlife Service office, supported by Tsavo wardens and rangers, initiated a number of successful activities to minimize human-wildlife conflict and educate local communities about the value of wildlife in the parks.
In Tsavo East and West, as in Amboseli, the elephant has been the main agent of change. In the 1960s, 40,000 elephant roamed the Tsavo parks and their dispersal areas until drought and poaching cut their numbers dramatically. By 1970, their elephant population had been halved to 21,000. Since the population within the parks has declined by 75% and the population outside by 87%.
By 1988, elephant numbers in the area were at an all-time low of 5,000, with poachers slaughtering two animals a day. Rhino too were all but eradicated during this period. Since 1990, when the Antipoaching Protection Unit went to work in Tsavo, the menace has diminished. According to a July 1995 aerial count, the Tsavos (with a carrying capacity of 30,000) are now home to 7,990 elephant, indicating an increase in numbers of approximately 5% a year. Rhino too have increased, from 7 in 1994 to 13 in 1995, boosted by the successful introduction of black rhino from Nairobi National Park and Solio Ranch.