Tsavo West National park and Tsavo East National Parks were once a single park, but are now separated. Tsavo West National Park is situated west of its sister, Tsavo East National Park, and is approximately 188km west of Mombasa. This park is considered the best for topography fans who also want to view Kenya’s animals and birds.
There are many tourist attractions at Tsavo West National Park, from safari tours to see the red-skinned elephants, to bird watching and hill hiking, to caving and boating. There are many Kenyan animals in the park, including elephants, African lions, hippos, cheetahs, hartebeest and buffalo.
A wildlife safari is the best way to see Kenya’s wildlife close-up in its natural environment. Tsavo West is home to the largest population of red-skinned elephants as well as to members of the rest of the “Big 5” African animals (buffalo, African lions, leopards and rhinos). There is also a host of Kenyan birds and other animals, both large and small, to see.
From Lake Jipe, on the Tanzanian border, to the mountain forests of the Chyulu Hills, the wide range of landscape offers protection to many endangered African wildlife including the black rhinoceros, Cosen’s gerbil, Hunter’s hartebeest, several species of shrew and rat, Grevy’s zebra and wild dogs.
Upon entering Tsavo West National Park, the park warden will give you several common sense rules. For example: 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.
When driving along the red-earth tracks, keep your eyes open for movement and signs of African wildlife. The more you look, the more you will see, and it increases the camaraderie and excitement of the trip as you point out the wildlife, and pull to a halt. Don’t forget to enjoy the sights in real-life, not just through the lens of your camera or video recorder!
It is amazing to see Kenyan wildlife living in close proximity to one another. A bird may sit within a snap of being eaten, yet, unless it is hungry, the predator will ignore it completely.
See the huge anthills, the sparse shrubs, and the tortoises plodding along the edge of the track. Keep your eyes open for giraffes – they are surprisingly well camouflaged as they nibble the tops of the trees.
Look under the shady trees to find lions sleeping after lunch, and be ready to stop as gazelles or cheetahs stroll across the road in front of you.
It is a long, hot day on a safari to Tsavo West, so wear cool, comfortable clothing, and a sunhat. Remember to bring your camera and binoculars, sunglasses and water to drink. Tsavo West National Park offers many activities and tourist attractions, as well as wildlife safaris.
Lake Jipe attracts a lot of wildlife and is a good place for bird watching. It is fed by the run-off from Mount Kilimanjaro and the North Pare Mountains. Take a boat excursion on the lake, or explore the swamps at each end.
Mzima Springs is at the north end of Tsavo West. Water from the Chyulu Hills runs from beneath the lava ridge and forms several natural pools. Fringed with palm trees, these pools are popular watering holes for birds and African wildlife. You can also watch the hippos bathing underwater here.
Visit the Lava Flows and Caves for geological interest; explore the caves or hike along the lava flow. Bird watching safaris are best between October and January, featuring many migratory birds including African skimmers, red and yellow bishops, goshawks, buffalo weavers and palm nut vultures, to name a few.
The swamps on Lake Jipe and the acacia woodlands also attract many birds. In fact, over 500 bird species have been recorded in the park, including ostriches, kestrels, buzzards, starlings, weavers, kingfishers, horn bills, secretary birds and herons.
The cliff faces in Tsavo West offer some of the best rock climbing in Kenya. The views over the savannah plains are spectacular, and Mt Kilimanjaro can also be seen on occasion.
Visit the 300m high, east side of Kichwa Tembo, the Great Tsavo Chimney and the Ivory Tower on Elephant Rock. Climbing can be arranged through the Mountain Club of Kenya.
Best time to visit Tsavo West National park
January and February are good months to visit Tsavo West, as well as June to September. Visiting during the heavy rainy season of March to May should be avoided as the roads become very muddy. There may be some rain from October to December. Temperatures stay at a pleasant 27-31C (81-88F) during the day and 22-24C (72-75F) at night year round.
Safari lodges in and around Tsavo West National Park
The Kenya Safari Lodges in Tsavo West cater to everyone from the medium budget visitor to the luxury-seeking tourist. Lodges include the un fenced and wildly luxurious Finch Hattons Camp, and the Voyager Ziwani Safari Camp – a popular honeymoon destination in Kenya due to its spectacular view of Mount Kilimanjaro and high level of privacy. Moderately priced Kilaguni Serena lodge, Severin Safari Camp and Ngulia Lodge are good choices for the budget traveler.