After a very long, rough and bumpy bus ride, it is the endless expanse of dry grassland and the rich, dark red clay earth that makes the first impression on a traveller entering the Tsavo National Park.
The Park is divided into two areas – Tsavo East and Tsavo West -by the Nairobi-Mombasa highway. It is the largest game park in Kenya, and one of the largest in the world, and is the most popular destination in Africa for safaris.
Known for its high concentration of elephants and lions, Tsavo National Park offers a stunning assortment of animals able to survive in the unforgiving arid, volcanic landscape – including the famed ‘Big Five’.
From one hotel, formerly a sisal plantation, you can watch massive elephants through floor-to-ceiling glass windows as you dine by candlelight. It is like living in a wildlife programme as you witness these, and other animals, drink from an isolated pond within arms’ length. The views of the various animals caught in the dim torch-lit night as you watch them from your luxurious grass-covered hut, which is perched on stilts, are incredible.
Tsavo East is less visited and only the southern area of the park, below the Galana River, is open to visitors. Sightings of elephants are virtually guaranteed here except in the wetter months of May, June and November, when the larger animals disperse. Other animals that you are likely to encounter include hippos, lions and herds of zebras. Near Lugard’s Falls is the black rhino sanctuary, created to conserve the population, which had dwindled to a mere 50 animals because of poaching.
Tsavo West is smaller and offers what can be a more approachable experience, although it is still packed with a wide range of wildlife, including more than 70 species of mammals.
The 70-m (230-ft) wide river, created by Mzima Springs, affords excellent views of Nile crocodiles, as well as hippos, plains zebras and gazelles as they drink at its banks, while both blue and vervet monkeys can be heard in the surrounding fever trees.