Tsavo East National Park is located in south-eastern Kenya, near Voi in Taita Taveta County. It is situated in the Taru Desert and is widely recognized as the largest national park in the country, covering a vast area of 13,747 square kilometers (5,308 square miles). Established in April 1948, it holds the distinction of being Kenya’s oldest national park.
The park gets its name from the Tsavo River, which runs through it from west to east. Tsavo East National Park, along with Tsavo West National Park, forms a massive protected area spanning approximately 22,000 square kilometers (8,494 square miles). Managed by the Kenya Wildlife Service, this biodiverse stronghold attracts both local and global attention for its exceptional conservation efforts and abundant wildlife.
Tsavo has a rich archaeological history, with evidence of thriving Late Stone Age communities between 6,000 and 1,300 years ago. Due to water scarcity in Tsavo, these settlements were primarily located near the Galana River. The Swahili people engaged in trade with the inhabitants of Tsavo, exchanging goods like ivory, catskins, and possibly slaves. However, there is no evidence of direct Swahili colonization in Tsavo, suggesting that trade was facilitated through extended kin networks.
During the 19th century, British and German explorers encountered the Orma and Watha people, whom they perceived as hostile. The British later constructed a railway through Tsavo in 1898, facing challenges from two infamous man-eating lions. Tsavo remained the homeland of the Orma and Watha until 1948, when it was declared a national park, resulting in the relocation of these communities.
Tsavo East National Park is situated in the southeastern part of Kenya, approximately 250 kilometres from the capital city of Nairobi. It shares borders with the Mkomazi Game Reserve in Tanzania and the Chyulu Hills National Park in Kenya.
Getting To Tsavo East National Park
Tsavo East National Park is conveniently accessible by road, offering multiple entry points for visitors. The distance to the park varies depending on the chosen location and the route taken.
If you’re travelling from Nairobi, you have several gate options to enter Tsavo East National Park. The main road connecting Nairobi to Mombasa, which is approximately 250 kilometers long, provides access to the park through different gates.
If you enter through the Mtito Andei gate, the distance from Nairobi is about 233 kilometers. This gate is a popular entry point for those coming from Nairobi.
If you’re travelling from Mombasa, you can enter Tsavo East National Park through the Voi gate, which is approximately 96 kilometers away. This route offers a more direct access point for visitors coming from Mombasa.
Another option is to take the Western road (C103), which enters the park through the Sala gate. This route covers a distance of around 153 kilometers and provides an alternative entry point for those coming from the western region.
The Madaraka Express (SGR) train provides a unique and convenient option for travel. From Nairobi, the journey takes approximately two hours and forty-five minutes, while from Mombasa, it takes around one and a half hours. The train stops at the Voi Terminal near Tsavo East National Park.
Several domestic flights operate daily from Nairobi Wilson Airport and Mombasa to various airstrips near the park. Travellers can book flights online or through reputable local operators who offer all-inclusive Tsavo East National Park safari packages.
Airstrips in Tsavo East National Park
Airstrips located inside and near the park gates include Voi, Sala Airstrip, Satao Airstrip, Cottars Airstrip, Bachuma Airstrip, Mopeo Airstrip, Aruba Airstrip, Ithumba Airstrip, and Sangayaya Airstrip.
Tsavo East National Park is renowned for its abundant and diverse mammal population. Among its notable inhabitants are the Tsavo lions, which stand out with their unique trait of adult males, often lacking manes. These magnificent creatures captivate visitors with their awe-inspiring presence.
The park’s mammalian treasures extend beyond the iconic lions. It is a sanctuary for numerous remarkable species, including vast herds of dust-red elephants. These elephants, a distinct subspecies, possess a striking reddish-brown colouration attributed to the area’s red soil. Additionally, visitors can encounter rhinos, buffalos, and leopards, heightening the excitement of wildlife sightings.
In the realm of smaller mammals, Tsavo East National Park offers a diverse range of species. The park is home to waterbucks, lesser kudus, gerenuks (long-necked antelopes), and hirolas (also known as Hunter’s hartebeests).
Tsavo East National Park is a haven for birdwatching enthusiasts, as it is home to an impressive array of avian species. With over 500 recorded bird species, the park offers a rich and diverse birdlife for visitors to discover.
Among the notable birds found in the park are ostriches, kestrels, buzzards, starlings, weaver birds, kingfishers, hornbills, secretary birds, and herons.
Mudanda Rock is a prominent and historically significant rock formation. Dating back to the Precambrian era, it holds cultural importance and offers a captivating experience for visitors.
Throughout history, local tribes utilized Mudanda Rock for various purposes, including drying meat and as a lookout point. Today, it serves as a popular viewpoint, providing awe-inspiring 360-degree views of the surrounding area.
This remarkable rock spans a distance of 1.6 kilometres and comprises layered rock formations. One of its unique features is its role as a water catchment. During rainfall, Mudanda Rock collects water, forming a natural dam below. This creates an oasis in the dry season, attracting many wildlife, especially elephants and other animals, in search of water.
Lugard Falls, named after British explorer Captain Lugard, are created by a succession of white water rapids formed when rocks impede the flow of the Galana River. The river cascades into a spacious pool, creating a mesmerizing display as it disappears into a narrow rocky gorge. During the rainy season, the falls gain even more strength, intensifying their awe-inspiring beauty. The area is characterized by stunning multi-coloured rocks, enhancing its distinctive allure. Visitors can wander among the eroded rocks or stroll along the riverbank for a closer observation of the rapids.
Aruba Dam is an artificial reservoir situated on the Voi River. Built in 1952, the dam covered an area of 85 hectares and was constructed by the park authorities to regulate the seasonal flow of the Voi River originating from the Taita Hills.
During the dry season, Aruba Dam serves as a crucial water source, attracting diverse wildlife seeking to cool off and quench their thirst. Visitors can observe wildlife up close, with hippos being a notable highlight, along with various bird species such as woodpeckers, sunbirds, starlings, and guinea fowl. Lions frequently frequent the vicinity of Aruba Dam, and the expansive open grasslands to the east and southeast provide an ideal habitat for cheetahs, making sightings of these majestic creatures more common here than in other southeastern Kenya regions.
There are various enjoyable activities that can be experienced at Tsavo East National Park, such as bird watching, camping, game viewing, and trekking.
Citizens and Residents
- Adults: KSH 515
- Child: KSH 215
- Adults: USD 52
- Child: USD 35
You can pay using MPESA, VISA Card, or by directly depositing KWS Bank Accounts. Please note that cash payments are not permitted.
Tsavo East National Park is known for its hot and dry climate, which persists throughout the year. During the daytime, temperatures average around 31°C (88°F), providing a warm and sunny environment for visitors to enjoy. At night, temperatures drop to approximately 20°C (68°F), offering a cooler and more comfortable relaxing atmosphere.
The park experiences two distinct rainy seasons. The long rains typically occur in April, while the short rains arrive in November. During these periods, the park receives rainfall characterized by brief but intense showers. These showers bring much-needed water to the park’s ecosystem, rejuvenating the vegetation and supporting the diverse wildlife that inhabits the area.
Compared to Tsavo West National Park, Tsavo East is drier, leading to the prevalence of open savannah grassland within its boundaries. This unique landscape creates an expansive and picturesque setting, dotted with scattered Acacia trees. These trees provide shade and are essential food sources for the park’s herbivorous inhabitants.
Best time to travel To Travel To Tsavo East National Park
The best time to travel to Tsavo East is during the winter months, which include June, July, and August. During this period, the air is dry, temperatures are cooler, and the vegetation is relatively low. These factors create ideal conditions for wildlife viewing, as animals are more easily spotted. Although the mornings and evenings can be chilly, the days are generally mild and comfortable.
To avoid crowds,
To avoid crowds consider visiting Tsavo East during the “green” season or low season. This period offers fewer vehicles in the park, providing a more intimate and immersive safari experience. Additionally, travelling during the low season may coincide with special wildlife events such as the birthing season or the great migration, adding to the overall excitement and diversity of wildlife encounters.
value for money
Travelling during the off-peak season also offers better value for money, as safari packages are often available at lower prices. Even during this time, visitors can still enjoy a high-quality safari experience guided by knowledgeable professionals familiar with the park’s trails and wildlife movement patterns.
Tsavo East National Park offers a variety of accommodation options for safari enthusiasts, catering to different preferences and budgets. From elegant colonial lodges to cosy chalet-style rooms and luxurious tented camps, visitors can find a suitable place to stay within the park. Additionally, there are public camping sites available for those who prefer a more immersive experience in nature. All the lodgings are conveniently located at central positions within the park, ensuring easy access to prime game viewing areas.
Here is a list of Tsavo East lodges and hotels, along with their respective distances from the park entrance:
- Satao Camp: Located 27 miles from Voi Gate, towards the park’s southwest.
- Sentrim Tsavo East: Situated 7.5 miles from Voi Gate. It is approximately 85 miles away from the centre of Tsavo East National Park.
- Ashnil Aruba Lodge: Positioned 17 miles from Voi Gate
- Ngutuni Safari Lodge: Found 9 miles from Voi Gate, heading south next to Tsavo East Park in a conservancy.
- Lion Hill Lodge: Situated just 1 mile from Voi Gate, located west of Tsavo East National Park.
- Voi Wildlife Lodge: Located 2 miles from Voi Gate, situated to the west and south, bordering Tsavo East Park.
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