Tsavo East National Park and Tsavo West together form one of the world’s largest national parks, covering 4% of Kenya. It feels wild and undiscovered; its vast open spaces are mesmerizing. The huge, semi-arid wilderness is home to most safari animals, and although wildlife densities aren’t large, spotting animals is always possible here due to the lack of foliage.
Tsavo East is home to all of the Big Five. 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.
Tsavo East offers great wildlife viewing in pristine wilderness. All of the Big Five are here. Elephants are common, and their red dust coating makes them stand out against the arid environment. Of the big cats, lions are most easily spotted. Buffalo, zebra, and plenty of Masai giraffes are some of the other animals you can expect to see.
Tsavo East has a good range of unusual antelope. This is one of the few places to see the fringed-eared oryx. The lesser kudu is very shy, but can sometimes be seen darting off into the bushes. The long-necked gerenuk can be found standing on its hind-legs to reach the sparse foliage of trees and bushes. With some luck, you might spot the critically endangered hirola or Hunter’s hartebeest.
Tsavo East can be visited throughout the year, but the best time for wildlife viewing is from June to October – in the Dry season. During this season, the vegetation is thinner, and animals congregate around predictable sources of water.
A trip to Tsavo East is best planned in June to October and January to February when conditions in the park are favorable for wildlife watching. During the peak of the short rains (November) and the long rains (April and May) conditions can be more challenging. The vegetation at these times is denser and animals spread out, which makes spotting them more difficult.
Tsavo East offers miles of open plains, bushy grassland, and semi-arid shrub. The Galana River is a major feature in the park and is fringed by riverine forests. Another scenic highlight is Mudanda rock, a towering, quartzite (hard, metamorphic rock) formation.
The park doesn’t look its best in the Dry season (June to September) when the sky is hazy from the dust, but this is the best time to spot animals. The grass is much shorter than in the Wet season (October to May), so the wildlife can’t easily disappear into the bush when your vehicle approaches.
Tsavo East offers great bird watching advantageous at any time of year. A lot of unusual specials are residents, making it easier to spot them with regularity, year-round. Migratory birds call the park home from November to April.
Visitors to Tsavo East can expect a hot, dry climate. The average temperature fluctuates between 31°C/88°F during the day and 20°C/68°F at nighttime. Rainfall peaks in April and November during the long and short rains, respectively. Rain tends to fall as short heavy showers.
The Dry season months are the coolest. Days are full of sunshine and there is very little rain. June & July – Days are normally sunny. Average afternoon temperatures are around 29°C/84°F.
August & September – The average September temperature is 30°C/86°F, although it does get much hotter. Temperatures during the day escalate prior to the rain.
The ‘short rains’ and the ‘long rains’ are separated by a drier couple of months in January and February. Road conditions are at their worst in April and May.
October, November & December – October usually signals the beginning of the rains. November is one of the wettest months of the year. Rain generally doesn’t last all day, but expect afternoon storms. During daylight hours the average temperature is 32°C/90°F.
January & February – These months see a break between the short and long rains. The exact duration of this dry period is difficult to predict. February is reliably the hottest month – the average in the afternoon is 33°C/91°F with higher peaks.
March, April & May – The long rains usually begin in late March. It hardly ever rains all day, but fleeting afternoon showers should be expected. April receives the most rainfall. Temperatures in the afternoon are about 32°C/90°F.
Tsavo East is in southeast Kenya, 325km/201mi from Nairobi, and 250km/ 155mi from Mombasa. You can drive to the reserve from Nairobi, Mombasa, or another park depending on your itinerary. There are no scheduled flights to Tsavo East, but there are several airstrips available for chartered flights. The distance from Lake Nakuru NP is 450km/280mi and the driving time is about 7½ hours. There are no scheduled flights to Tsavo East, but there are several airstrips available for chartered flights.
The two most useful international airports in Kenya are Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO), 15km/9mi southeast of Nairobi; and the smaller Moi International Airport (MBA), 9km/6mi west of Mombasa.
In Kenya, the developed network of parks and reserves is generally crime-free. Tsavo East is, therefore, in our opinion, a very safe destination. However, visitors who drive around the country independently should take the usual precautions in cities and towns between parks.
Before coming to Kenya, you should see your doctor regarding vaccinations that you may require. Malaria is undoubtedly the main health concern. While taking antimalarials is advisable, a few sensible precautions – such as covering up at dusk, and using mosquito repellent (those containing DEET are most effective) – provide a good defense against contracting malaria. The risk from malaria is greatest at the peaks of the rainy seasons from April to May and from October to November.
The behavior of wild animals is always unpredictable and in some cases, dangerous. Do remember that incidents are very rare so there is no reason to be paranoid. Most importantly, use your common sense and listen to the instructions provided by your guide