Tsavo National Parks
By far the largest of the national parks, the combined areas of Tsavo East and West National Parks is more than 21 000 sq. km and is watered by the Athi/Galana river. This was originally one huge national park, split in two by the main Nairobi/Mombasa highway and for administration purposes.
This area does not host the large number of visitors who go to the better known parks, but it has a large variety of animals, more difficult to see because of the seasonal depth of vegetation and because they are spread over such a large area.
During the terrible poaching years of the nineties the huge elephant herds of Tsavo East were decimated, but strict controls have seen a great reduction in poaching activities and large numbers can be found in both parks.
There are over 60 different mammals in the parks and the bird life is equally varied.
Taita Hills Sanctuary is to the south of Tsavo West and south west of the main highway. High standard accommodation as well as camping sites are available in all three areas.
Undoubtedly the main attraction in this, the smaller of the two Tsavos, is the beautiful area of Mzima Springs 40 km from Mtito Andei.
From these springs, which are fed underground from the nearby Chyulu Hills, flow an estimated 97 million gallons of water a day, and the palm fringed oasis attracts animals from all around to drink in the clear waters.
A most unusual underwater observatory allows visitors to watch the inhabitants of the waters, hippo, crocodile and shoals of barbet from a very ‘different’ viewpoint.
Around this area are flows of lava and the most spectacular is the Shetani lava flow, believed to have formed only 200 years ago (the Chyulu Hills from which the flow came are themselves only 500 years old).
Shetani means ‘devil’ in Swahili and the older residents tell blood curdling stories of the fate of their ancestors during the original eruptions.
An excellent network of roads offers opportunities to explore deeper into the park where predators abound and herds of elephant, buffalo, zebra and gazelle (including oryx) may be found.
In the scenic area of Ngulia is a Rhino Sanctuary where numbers of black rhino browse in safety.
Once away from the riverine vegetation of the Galana River and the imposing Yatta Plateau, this area is mainly dominated by flat bush and huge baobab trees. It was the main area of poaching in the past and some parts still remain closed to the public. At one point the river tumbles down a narrow gorge known as Lugard’s Falls, named after Lord Lugard who travelled up the Galana on his way to take up governance of Uganda and to forget an unrequited love in England.
The Kenya/Uganda railway line runs close to the road in this area of the park and it was here that work on the railways was halted in the early 20th century when man-eating lions dragged several workers away and devoured them in the bush. This gruesome episode is described by the eventual killer of the man-eaters, Col. J. H. Patterson, in the ‘Man Eaters of Tsavo’.