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Tsavo East and West National Park

Tsavo East is famous for its red elephants as they continuously cover themselves with the red dust typical of Tsavo. And whilst you may see many red elephants you won’t see many other vehicles on your safari as Tsavo East is huge, in fact, it is nine times bigger than the Masai Mara Reserve.

Tsavo West is wetter and more mountainous than Tsavo East and slightly smaller. It is well-known for its birdlife and the lava flows and caves that can be found here.

About Tsavo East NP and Tsavo West NP

Tsavo NP consists of Tsavo East NP and Tsavo West NP as the road between Mombasa and Nairobi as well as the railway line cut the park into two. It is one of the oldest national parks in Kenya and is one of the biggest national parks in the world.

Tsavo East covers an area of 13,747km2 and Tsavo West 9,065km2. It is possible to access the parks from several different gates, most located along the Mombasa Highway, but it is also possible to enter or leave Tsavo East via the gate close to Malindi. This makes an excellent short cut from Nairobi to the coast and vice versa.

Main Attractions

The two national parks combined are one of the largest national parks in the world. Some of its main attractions are:

  • Red elephants in Tsavo East
  • Lava flows in Tsavo West
  • The infamous maneless male lions
  • The remoteness and solitude when on safari in Tsavo East
  • Watching the hippos from the underwater observatory in Tsavo West
  • Watching the world and the wildlife go by from the comfort of a chair close to a waterhole right at your lodge or tented camp


Red elephants in Tsavo East

Tsavo East is mostly flat with scattered bush on the open plains and the Galana River flowing through its middle with the beautiful Lugard Falls where you can stretch your legs. Along the Galana River, you will find many elephants, especially during the dry season, as this is the only permanent natural water in the area. They dust themselves with the red soil, creating striking images of red elephants underneath a vivid blue sky.

Lava flows in Tsavo West

Tsavo West is very different with its hills, forested areas, and the black lava flows. The stark contrast between the black lava flow, still without vegetation as the lava is only 100 years old, and the surrounding green is amazing. Hyraxes live in the rocks in and near the lava flows and other animals tentatively cross this open expanse without much cover. The caves in the lava flows were notorious for trapping animals in search of water, including the predators that followed. The Shetani Lava Flow is named after the Swahili word for devil.

Lions of Tsavo

The lions of Tsavo have short manes, most likely due to the heat in this area. They became very infamous in the time when they were building the railway line more than 100 years ago through the area as two of them developed a taste for humans. It is still an unusual sight to see the big male lions without manes.

Remoteness in Tsavo East

Tsavo East is huge, and during your stay you will not see many other cars whilst on safari. A huge contrast with some of the more popular parks.

Underwater observatory for hippos

Tsavo West is also home to Mzima Springs, a series of crystal clear lakes with an underwater viewing chamber where you can watch hippos dance under water if they are around.

Wildlife watching at waterholes and rivers

Many of the lodges in Tsavo East as well as Tsavo West have a waterhole or are located near a river. This means you can often watch the wildlife come for a drink from the comfort of your own chair. Some even offer night time game watching as they have lights at the waterholes.


How to get there

Fly to Tsavo East NP and Tsavo West NP

There are scheduled flights to Tsavo West. For Tsavo East it is best to fly to Malindi and drive from there, or fly to Nairobi or Mombasa and start from there.

Book your cheap flights to Tsavo East and Tsavo West NP with Tripindigo today and spend some time in one of Africa’s biggest national parks.

Drive to Tsavo East NP and Tsavo West NP

From Nairobi Airport, you can drive to Tsavo East NP and Tsavo West NP in approximately 6 hours along the notorious Mombasa Rd. It is approximately 3-4 hours drive from Mombasa.

If you fly to Malindi and then drive, it takes around 2 hours to reach Tsavo East. You will have to cross Tsavo East to reach Tsavo West when driving from Malindi.

Best time to visit

The Tsavo national parks can be visited any time of the year, but be aware of Kenya’s seasons. It has a dry season from June to October, a wet season called ‘short rains’ in November and December, another dry spell in January and February, followed by the ‘long rains’ in March, April, and May.

High season

The busiest times of the year will be in the dry season as well as around Christmas and New Year’s Eve. But as Tsavo East and Tsavo West are never really busy, you can easily visit any time of the year and hardly see another car in the national park.

Low season

The rains might make some minor tracks in the national parks impassable, but other than that it is possible to visit the national parks year-round.


  • Tsavo is well-known for its short-maned lions, made infamous by the real-life story of the two man-eaters of Tsavo when they were building the railway line through the National Park in 1898. More than 30 people were killed by the two lions. Watch The Ghost and the Darkness to understand how more than 30 people were killed by these two lions.
  • Stop at Mudanda Rock in Tsavo East, an Ayer’s Rock lookalike where you can get out of the car and walk to the top for excellent views of the plains around you. Be careful as wildlife can be around.
  • Poacher’s Lookout is an excellent lunch stop in Tsavo West and if you want to stretch your legs you can hike to the top of the Chaimu Crater. An interesting walk on the black loose volcanic rock, best done in the morning to avoid the heat of the day on this exposed hike.
  • Visit the free rhino sanctuary inside Tsavo West for a chance to see a black rhino.

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