Three national parks – East Tsavo, West Tsavo and Chiulu Hills cover a huge area in southern Kenya. The main road and railroad Nairobi-Mombasa runs right in the middle of Tsavo, thereby neatly dividing it into two parts – Tsavo East and Tsavo West.
East Tsavo is one of the oldest and largest national parks in Kenya, located on the eastern edge of the inner plateau. Here you will see dense meadows and rocky open plains interspersed with semi-desert landscapes with acacia bushes and forest, as well as the beautiful Galana River that flows through the entire park. For the southern areas of the park, the seasonal rivers Voi and Tiva are important, as there is very little other surface water.
Mudanda Rock is a great sight in this park as it is a catchment area that feeds a natural dam where hundreds of elephants come to drink and bathe during the dry season. The views here are incredible and it’s also a great place to just sit and watch the animals. Ancient volcanic activity is evident in the Yatta Highlands, a long, flat-topped lava ridge on the western border of East Tsavo.
West Tsavo offers incredible large-scale views and diverse landscapes such as riverside mountains, forests, plains, lakes and wooded meadows. This area is especially attractive after the rainy season, when everything turns green. West Tsavo is the more popular destination due to its stunning scenery, Mzima springs, wildlife diversity, good road system, rhinoceros sanctuary, rock climbing opportunities and guided walks along the Tsavo River.
Mzima Underground Springs is a pool of natural spring water that attracts many wild animals. There is even a special glass underwater chamber from which you can observe hippos and other inhabitants of this beautiful place.
Rock climbing in West Tsavo is one of the best in Kenya. The climbing environment here is excellent, with elephants roaming the plains below the cliffs, eagles, vultures and falcons circling these cliffs, and Kilimanjaro often peeking out on a clear day. West Tsavo is also known for its Roaring Rocks, which offer incredible views.
Tsavo remained home to the Orma and Maasai pastoralists and the Waata hunter-gatherers until 1948, when it was declared a national park. At that time, the indigenous population was resettled in Voi and Mtito-Andei, as well as in other places located within the nearby Taita Hills Park. After Kenya’s independence in 1963, hunting was banned in the park, and management of the park was transferred to a governing body that eventually became the Kenya Wildlife Service. Currently, Tsavo attracts photo tourists from all over the world who want to look at these expanses of untouched wilderness and incredible terrain.
Chiulu Hills is a volcanic mountain range covered with volcanic cones and barren lava flows that separates the Tsavo and Amboseli plains. Surface water is scarce, but it is nonetheless an important catchment area for Mombasa. Shortly after the volcanic eruption, strange cylindrical tunnels formed, creating the longest lava tube in the world.
Volcanism in this area began about 1.4 million years ago in the northern part of the hills, but over time, volcanism spread to the southeast. The volcanoes located here are still considered active, since their last two eruptions (Shaitani and Chainu) occurred in 1856.
The lower parts of the hills are occupied by meadows and young forest, while above 1800 m (approximately) mountain forests predominate. Wild khat grows on the hills, which is collected by local people, and it is also cultivated around the hills. Cat from here is known as Chiulu.
The Chiulu Hills National Park includes the eastern part of the hills and is managed by the Kenya Wildlife Service. The park was created in 1983. It is the northwestern extension of the West Tsavo National Park. The western part of the hills is occupied by the West Chyulu Game Conservation, owned by the Masai people (Maasai and Kamba tribes still live in this area). Potential threats to the ecosystem include poaching, overgrazing by a growing population of Maasai herders, and water shortages.
Unfortunately, Chiulu Hills, unlike the two Tsavos, located near the coast of Mombasa, is deprived of the attention of most tourist routes. However, none of these parks are ever crowded.
ANIMALS AND BIRDS
The sheer size of these parks, with many outlying areas, makes them very important in terms of the diversity of their inhabitants.
West Tsavo is home to species such as the black rhinoceros, African buffalo, elephant, leopard and East African (Masai) lion. There are also other smaller animals such as Galagidae, hippopotamus, wildebeest, kongoni, lesser kudu and Masai giraffe. About 500 different bird species have been recorded in the area of West Tsavo, including many migratory ones.
The fauna of East Tsavo is also very diverse. Here live: lions, leopards, cheetahs, zebras, giraffes, servals, spotted hyenas, ostriches, gazelles, buffaloes, elephants, various types of antelopes (small kudu, oryx, impala and others). In East Tsavo, herds of up to a hundred elephants can be seen, and they often appear brown rather than grey, due to the rich red color of the dust in Tsavo.
Also, more than 500 species of birds nest in the park, including migratory birds that settle here from late October to January. Sedentary species also live here: palm vulture, many types of weavers.
Mammals found in the Chiulu Hills forest include black rhinoceros (subspecies Diceros bicornis michaeli), buffaloes, bushbucks, elands, elephants, bush pigs, giraffes, leopards, elephants, mountain reeds, common stenbucks, wildebeests and zebras. The hills are home to various types of snakes, such as the black mamba, the noisy viper, and the hieroglyphic python. There are also various species of birds (including endemic ones): Shelley’s francolin, common white-starred thrush, orange thrush, cinnamon spotted eagle, long-tailed eagles, crowned eagles, martial eagles and Abbott’s short-tailed starlings.
The weather in Tsavo is pleasant most of the year.
Rainy Season: There are two rainy seasons. Long rains usually occur between March and May, and the weather is then hot and humid. Short rains occur during the warmer months from October to December.
Dry Season: Hot and dry from January to March, and warm and dry from July to October.
FACTS ABOUT CAVO
This is a malaria zone.
Western Tsavo covers an area of 9065 sq. km, the heights here range from 152 to 183 m above sea level.
Eastern Tsavo covers an area of 11,747 sq. km, the heights here range from 152 to 1219 m above sea level.