​Overview – Tsavo East NP

Anthony Ham
Expert
By Anthony Ham

Anthony is a renowned Africa expert and author of many Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the guide to Kenya.

Anthony is a renowned Africa expert and author of the Lonely Planet guide to Kenya.

Anthony is the author of the Lonely Planet guide to Kenya.

Tsavo East National Park is a superb place to watch wildlife. It’s a vast, semi-arid wilderness populated by elephants, sometimes in large herds and caked in the red Tsavo dust, and unique maneless lions. Tsavo’s wild and sunlit plains host other highlights, from cheetahs on the hunt to species such as gerenuk and Somali ostrich that you can see nowhere else this far south. And if you range beyond the main track through the park, it can feel like a real adventure.

Best Time To Go June to October and January to February (Best for general wildlife viewing; little rainfall)
High Season December to March and July to October (Not busy)
Size 13,747km² / 5,308mi²
Altitude 171-845m / 561-2,772ft

Pros & Cons

  • Good wildlife viewing with four of the Big Five present
  • Excellent birding with many dry-country specials
  • Great wilderness appeal with off-the-beaten-track options
  • Beautiful landscape with scenic landmarks such as the Galana River and Taita Hills
  • Wildlife densities can be low
  • Temperatures can be very hot for much of the year

Tsavo East NP Safari Reviews

  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

Wildlife

Tsavo East is home to four of the Big Five (elephant, lion, leopard and buffalo). Although the park officially has rhino, the species hasn’t been seen here in years. The park is a stronghold for elephants, and you’ll commonly find them with a reddish appearance from the distinctive red soil of the area. Tsavo is also famous for its maneless lions.

Scenery

If you stay close to the park’s main thoroughfare, you’ll experience barren plains, grasslands and semi-arid shrub. The plains either side of Aruba Dam can be good for cheetahs. A slight detour brings the Kanderi Swamp (popular with elephants) and Voi River (with lush riverine forests) into play. Nearby, Mudanda Rock, a towering rock formation, offers sweeping views from the summit. The wild, croc-filled Galana River runs through the north.

Activities

The only two activities permitted in Tsavo East National Park are wildlife viewing and birding, both of which you’ll most likely enjoy on a guided game drive. Self-guided game drives are possible in theory, although they’re not very common in Kenya.

Weather & Climate

Conditions stay hot and dry throughout the year at Tsavo East, with the exception of the park’s higher altitudes where it gets progressively cooler as you head up the hills. The Wet season (November to May) gets particularly hot, especially during the break between the rains at year’s end and during the later long rains. The Dry season (June to October) brings a little relief from the heat.

Best Time To Visit

Tsavo East doesn’t always look its best in the Dry season (June to October), when the sky can be hazy from the dust, but this is the best time to spot animals. The dry, hot months of January and February are also good. The grass is much shorter than in the Wet season (November to May), so the wildlife is less easily concealed behind the vegetation. And, of course, getting wet is not an issue.

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Tsavo East NP Safari Reviews

  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding
Most Helpful Expert Review
Expert
Ariadne van Zandbergen  –  
South Africa ZA

Ariadne is a renowned African wildlife photographer whose work is featured in many well-known guidebooks and magazines.

Tsavo East: one of Africa’s wildest parks
4/5

Tsavo East is one of Africa’s great wilderness destinations. With very limited accommodation in a huge area, you almost feel like you’ve got the place to yourself. Everything is here which always gives me a sense of anticipation: you...

Full Review

Latest User Review
Jane  –  
Kenya KE
Reviewed: Jun 14, 2024
Satao Camp
5/5

My overall rating for SATAO CAMP is excellent in all respects. This is a friendly and welcoming camp. Perfectly situated and open to all the animals that inhabit it. The accommodation, service and attention to detail are superb. The staff...

Full Review