The sight of dust-red elephant wallowing, rolling and spraying each other with the midnight blue waters of palm-shaded Galana River is one of the most evocative images in Africa. This, along with the 300 kilomtere long Yatta Plateau, the longest lava flow in the world, make for an adventure unlike any other in the Tsavo East. The park forms the largest protected area in Kenya and is home to most of the larger mammals, vast herds of dust –red elephant, Rhino, buffalo, lion, leopard, pods of hippo, crocodile, waterbucks, lesser Kudu, gerenuk and the prolific bird life features 500 recorded species.
In 1898, long before Tsavo National Park was created, a pair of maneless male lions terrorized the area. They reputedly killed 135 railway workers who were building the Kenya-Uganda railway. These man-eating lions dragged men from their tents, despite the thorn fences (bomas) built to keep them out. The maneless lions evaded traps and ambushes and were finally shot by Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson. Tsavo East National Park is 333km south-east of Nairobi, and 173km north-west of Mombasa. Its relative closeness to the beaches and tourist attractions around Malindi and Mombasa make it an ideal one-day wildlife safari destination for those who do not want to stay overnight.
Tsavo East National Park is a natural area of flat, dry plains, with thorny bushes and swampy marshland near the river. It is teeming with diverse Kenyan animals including large families of giraffes, gazelles, hartebeests and zebras, as well as the "Big Five" must-see animals - buffalo, African elephants, lions, rhinos and leopards. The land itself is flat, dry and arid, with more variation at the Galana River, which is bordered with smooth grey boulders and sandy banks that allow doum palms and acacia elatior trees to grow by the river. The river drops down a series of falls at Lugard’s Falls, which have caused interesting shapes to be carved out of the rock by the process of erosion. Good views of the park can be seen from Mutanda rock, whilst there is a large concentration of game and birdlife around the wetland areas, notably the Aruba dam and Kanderi swamp.
The animals of the park are numerous, with a variation in habitat giving a good range of animals. The Galana River is home to pods of hippo, and the rare and endangered Hirola antelope, as well as elephants that have a red colouration due to their habit of bathing in the red dust on the ground. The lion here are unusual and interesting, with the males having barely any mane, in contrast to their southern counterparts, who have thick and luxurious manes. The reason behind the baldness of the Tsavo lions is not understood, but is thought to be due to the thornbush which densely covers much of the Tsavo area, causing the lions to loose their manes to prevent them being pulled out by the thorns. The birdlife is incredible here, with over 500 species recorded in the area. These vary from the saddle-billed stork to the violet wood hoopoe, and it doesn’t take very long to rack up a large list of sightings.
How to get there
By Road: the park Mtito Andei Gates is 233 km South of Nairobi and 250 km North of Mombasa on the main Nairobi- Mombasa Road. Distance Nairobi-Mtito Andei: 233 km - Mtito Andei-Voi: 96 km - Voi-Mombasa: 153 km. From Malindi, take the western road (C103) and enter in the park via Sala gate.
By air: Voi, Aruba, Satao, Sala, Ithumba, Sangayaya, Mopeo, Bachuma, Cottars.