Tsavo National Park East and West Explained

Famed for its sheer size, diverse landscapes, and incredible wildlife encounters, Tsavo National Park is divided into two distinct sections – Tsavo East and Tsavo West. These two siblings may share a name, but they each have unique personalities and stories. Join us as we share the captivating differences between the two.

Elephants sighted on safari game drive

Both “mini national parks” offer abundant opportunities and different vantage points, Image Credit: Finch Hattons

How Do You Get to Tsavo National Park?

Getting to Tsavo National Park is part of the adventure! Depending on where you start your journey, you can either fly into Nairobi or Mombasa. From there, a thrilling road trip’ll take you through quaint villages and stunning landscapes. There are also several private airstrips which you can use to fly to the national park.

Elephants splashing and quenching their thirst

What is Tsavo National Park Known For?

Tsavo National Park presents a plethora of surprises! But first, prepare to be whisked away into a world of adventure where reality and the silver screen collide!

1. The Fearsome Lions of Kenya’s Past

Remember the thrilling movie “The Ghost and the Darkness,” starring Val Kilmer? Well, Tsavo National Park is the actual stage where this riveting story unfolded. Yes, you read that right – the Tsavo Man-Eaters, a pair of fearsome male lions in Kenya’s Tsavo region, brought intrigue and terror as they were responsible for many construction workers’ demise on the Kenya-Uganda Railway in the late 1800s.

And get this – the very railway that once saw this gripping saga is what now divides Tsavo National Park into its east and west counterparts. Talk about a jaw-dropping twist! But, we must note that many lions still call Tsavo home, all of which enjoy a healthy diet of plains game only! No man-eating lions here, folks!

Duas leoas na Reserva Privativa do Sabi Sand

Seeing lions in the wild will always be a highlight on safari, Image Credit: Silvan Safari

2. Incredibly Vast Terrain and Varied Wildlife

Tsavo National Park is a treasure trove of wonders that go beyond its compelling history. Picture an expansive paradise covering a staggering 4% of Kenya’s topography, making it a true titan among the world’s national parks.

Venture to the glistening Mzima Springs, a haven where hippos, crocodiles, and cheeky vervet monkeys come out to play. Additionally, as you journey through the Tsavo, a symphony of wildlife greets you, starring the legendary Big 5. Majestic lions rule the realm with regal flair, while a parade of elephants adds grandeur and grace to the scene.

Image Credit: Finch Hattons

Giraffes always look so curious, Image Credit: Finch Hattons

3. From Plains to Peaks

But wait, there’s more! Tsavo National Park isn’t just a sanctuary for the wild – it’s an adrenaline-pumping playground for rock-climbing aficionados! Mudanda Rock in the east and the rocky cliffs of Kichwa Tembo in the west beckon you to conquer their heights. Imagine locking eyes with soaring birds of prey as you ascend. And, on clear sunny days, treat yourself to the awe-inspiring sight of snow-capped Kilimanjaro on the horizon.

Die malerische Savanne in Kenia mit Bäumen und dem Kilimanjaro im Hintergrund

Majestic Mount Kilimanjaro as seen from the savannah, Image Credit: Sergey Pesterev

Differences Between Tsavo East and Tsavo West

When experiencing the unparalleled curiosities of Kenya’s wilderness, Tsavo West National Park and Tsavo East National Park stand out as two distinct gems. Each with its own charms, these two wildlife havens showcase the rich natural beauty of Kenya in different ways.

Image Credit: Finch Hattons

Zebras playing in the dust, Image Credit: Finch Hattons

1. Landscape and Geography

Tsavo East National Park enjoys a classic African savannah landscape. Its open plains stretch as far as the eye can see, and the Galana River winds its way through the landscape, creating picturesque scenes of wildlife congregating along its banks.

On the other hand, Tsavo West National Park presents an alluring blend of rugged terrain, volcanic cones, and unexpected oases. Its defining feature, the pristine Mzima Springs, welcomes you with crystal-clear pools fed by underground streams. This contrast between arid landscapes and water adds an enchanting layer to the national park’s character.

Red ground road and bush with savanna panorama landscape in Africa. Tsavo West, Kenya.

Both national parks cover an impressive 4% of Kenya, making it one of the world’s largest

2. Wildlife and Biodiversity

Tsavo East, renowned for its herds of elephants, is home to a vibrant ecosystem that includes lions, giraffes, zebras, and an abundance of bird species. Its expansive plains provide ample grazing opportunities, making it a sensational sight to witness wildlife thriving in their natural habitats.

Then there’s Tsavo West, boasting diverse wildlife, including elephants, leopards, and rhinos. The national park’s unusual soil colour has given rise to the famous “red” elephants that frequently roam its grounds. This diversity ensures that every safari drive gives you sightings of some of Africa’s most iconic creatures.

Elephant dusted in red soil in Tsavo National Park

Elephant covered in red dust in Tsavo National Park

3. Other Scenic Marvels

In Tsavo East National Park, the Yatta Plateau, one of the world’s longest lava flows, stretches majestically across the landscape. The stunning Lugard Falls, where the Galana River surges through rocky rapids, paint a picture of the river’s unyielding power.

Tsavo West National Park boasts several remarkable landmarks that showcase its geological oddities. The mesmerising Mzima Springs, the enigmatic Shetani Lava Flow, and the dramatic Chaimu Crater all contribute to its allure, providing visitors with glimpses of the Earth’s geological history.

Leopard maneuvering around the Shetani Lava Flow formations

Leopard manoeuvring around the Shetani Lava Flow formations, Image Credit: Finch Hattons

Start Planning Your Tsavo Safari Experience

Discover Tsavo National Park with the guidance of our Travel Experts. Tsavo West and Tsavo East National Parks, while united by their name, each offer an entirely distinct safari experience. From the lush oases of Tsavo West to the sweeping plains of Tsavo East, these national parks showcase the kaleidoscope of Kenya’s natural beauty and wildlife. 

Contact us today, and let’s start planning

Tsavo National Park's red elephants

East Africa in Pictures

East Africa continues to captivate travellers from around the world with its extraordinary blend of wildlife, vast landscapes, and vibrant cultures. From witnessing the epic Great Wildebeest Migration in the Serengeti to gorilla trekking in Rwanda and lazing on powdery beaches in Zanzibar, get a glimpse into Africa’s untamed wonder in this guide to East Africa in pictures.


Lionesses on the prowl in Kenya, Image Credit: Governors’ Camp

The primary hunters in the pride, lionesses are all about teamwork! They will hunt for food and rear their cubs together, with the little ones suckling milk from any of the pride’s moms. To catch a glimpse of these majestic cats up close, East Africa offers some of the best safari experiences on the continent.


A magical hot air balloon safari over the Mara River, Image Credit: Governors’ Camp

What better way to soak up the scenery than with a hot air balloon safari? For spectacular sunrise views and sightings of rhinos, elephants, hippos, giraffes, and even crocodiles, this unforgettable experience is a must on your itinerary when travelling to Kenya.


two cheetahs on anthill

East Africa has its own subspecies of cheetahs, Image Credit: Ann-Kathrin

Being the fastest land animal, it comes as no surprise that cheetahs need a lot of space. Unfortunately, due to human expansion, their shrinking habitat has led to a steep decline in the number of cheetahs left in the wild. Today, various reserves and initiatives in East Africa are working to prevent their extinction.


Embark on a night safari adventure, Image Credit: &Beyond Lake Manyara Tree Lodge

Watch the day fade into night as East Africa’s nocturnal animals come out to hunt and play in the moonlight. This is your chance to spot animals hardly ever seen in daytime, like aardvarks and bush babies, while you catch a glimpse of lions and leopards hunting silently in the shadows.


The modern Nairobi city centre

The modern Nairobi city centre

Kenya’s largest city and capital, Nairobi, is home to the Nairobi National Park, boasting not only an elephant sanctuary but also the largest number of black rhinos anywhere in the world. Nowhere else will you embark on an authentic wildlife safari set against a backdrop of city skyscrapers.


Elephant grazing in Amboseli National Park

Elephant grazing in Amboseli National Park

Called the “Home of the African Elephant”, Amboseli National Park is also where you’ll find the highest peak in Africa, namely the magnificent snow-capped Kilimanjaro. Offering a diverse range of wildlife and birds while arguably the best place to spot elephants in all of East Africa, what’s to stop you from paying a visit to this iconic wildlife paradise?


herd crossing the Mara river during the great migration

Herd crossing the Mara River during the Great Migration

As millions of wildebeest, zebras, and other herbivores traverse the vast plains of the Maasai Mara in Kenya, desperate herds plunge into the raging waters of the Mara River, braving not only the powerful currents but the crocodiles lurking beneath the surface in a thrilling display of survival and determination.


Gorilla chilling in the forest of Rwanda.

Gorilla chilling in the forest of Rwanda, Image Credit: Singita Kwitonda Lodge

After witnessing the awe-inspiring sights of the Great Migration, venture into the lush rainforests of Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park to come face to face with some of the last remaining mountain gorillas on our planet. The deep love and bond between gorilla family members will make your heart leap.


White sandy beaches with twinkling turquoise seas

Zanzibar’s white sandy beaches with twinkling seas

After only a short flight or ferry ride from Tanzania’s mainland, you can reach the island of Unguja (Zanzibar). Picture pristine beaches, clear ocean waters, and vibrant cultures. Plus, you can savour tantalising seafood and unwind in paradise-like resorts for a touch of tropical bliss to your East African adventure.


Hundreds of thousands of flamingos on the lake

Hundreds of thousands of flamingos in the waters of Lake Nakuru, Kenya

Lake Nakuru is a mesmerising haven for flamingos, as thousands of these elegant-looking birds flock to its shores during the dry season in search of food. The sight of the vibrant pink hues against the shimmering lake creates a spectacle that enchants nature enthusiasts and photographers alike.


Game drive at sunset, Image Credit: Governors’ Il Moran Camp

As the golden light of the African sunset bathes the savannah, the wildlife awakens, creating a symphony of sights and sounds, where lions prowl, and giraffes’ silhouettes are seen against the horizon, with herds of elephants traversing the grasslands, offering a truly magical safari adventure.


Kigali is rich in culture and history

Kigali is rich in culture and history

From scenic hiking trails to lush parks and gardens, Kigali provides a perfect balance of urban charm and serene natural settings. Visitors are thrilled to be able to connect with Rwanda’s breathtaking environment, all while enjoying the vibrant capital.


Maasai Mara in their colourful traditional clothing

The Maasai in their colourful traditional clothing, Image Credit: Governors’ Camp

Amidst the vast stretches of Kenya and Tanzania, you can find the Maasai people showcasing their vibrant customs, colourful attire, and unique way of life. Be sure to visit a Maasai village to gain a deeper understanding of their captivating traditions that have endured for generations.


Large wildebeest herd during migration Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Large wildebeest herd during their migration through Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Witness the epic journey of millions of wildebeest, zebras, and gazelles as they cross the savannah in search of greener pastures. This mesmerising spectacle offers a thrilling safari experience, leaving you in awe of the Serengeti’s remarkable biodiversity.


Explore the tea plantations in Rwanda

Explore the tea plantations in Rwanda

Amidst the rolling hills, tea plantations flourish in Rwanda’s volcanic soil conditions. Discover the intricate process of tea cultivation, indulge in the aromatic flavours of locally grown tea leaves, and lose yourself in the serenity that Rwanda’s nature offers.

It’s Your Turn to Experience East Africa

Does the thought of being enveloped in the vast stretches of the African savannah or rainforests excite you? Contact our East African Travel Experts, and let’s start planning your tailor-made itinerary!

Featured Image: Governors’ Camp

The Great Migration in Pictures

Witness nature’s most extraordinary wildlife scenes in our Great Migration in pictures blog post. With breathtaking views and drama-filled encounters, the Wildebeest Migration is a unique experience in East Africa that every safari enthusiast should experience. Keep scrolling for a taste of what to expect…


Wildebeest crossing the Mara River during the annual great migration

Wildebeest crossing the Mara River during the annual Great Migration

Described as the “greatest wildlife display on Earth”, this annual migration sees over 1.5 million wildebeest, followed by zebra, antelope and hungry predators, trek across the plains of the Serengeti in Tanzania to Kenya‘s Maasai Mara. Crossing the enormous savannah isn’t for the faint-hearted, and these animals must fight some of Mother Nature’s fiercest forces.


Mother group stand over to protect baby just born

Mothers protect their vulnerable newborns

The Great Migration isn’t a day event but a year-long journey guided by rainfall. Between December and March, wildebeest give birth to cute newborns in Tanzania. However, this also attracts the attention of predators as these little ones are easy prey, and mothers have to keep a watchful eye.


Hunting lion

Hungry lion getting ready to hunt for some lunch

As wildebeest flood the open plains, watchful predators follow on their heels. And with so many choices of prey to enjoy, the chance of a successful kill is very good.


Wildebeest herd crossing the Mara River

A wildebeest herd crossing the crocodile-infested Mara River

Africa’s number one wildlife spectacle is on full display as the wildebeest cross the Mara River. Made world-famous by nature documentaries, this river-crossing promises drama in the highest form, as ravenous crocodiles lie waiting, ready to pounce from out of nowhere!


Cheetahs attacking wildebeest

This wildebeest does not stand a chance

On-lookers watch in awe as a pack of cheetahs go in for the kill. Become so enchanted by the thrill of nature that you, too, hold your breath as predator and prey battle it out.


Big herd of wildebeest in the savannah

Wildebeest gather in baffling numbers during the Great Migration

It’s easy to see why this is named one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa! The sheer number of animals congregating during the Great Migration is unbelievable.


Mother and baby wildebeest In Amboseli Park

Mother and baby wildebeest in Amboseli National Park, Kenya

To truly appreciate its magnitude, this majestic pilgrimage should really be experienced first-hand. We especially love seeing the newborns trying to find their feet.


Crocodile attack wildebeest in the Mara river

A crocodile unexpectedly attacks a wildebeest in the Mara River

More entertaining than anything you’ll watch on TV, the raw and exhilarating sightings will keep you on your toes. You never know what’s lurking, ready to attack unsuspecting prey. Therefore, this journey requires a lot of grit and determination.


Large wildebeest herd during the great migration

Wildebeest grazing in the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

A captivating vision of wildebeest-speckled savannah, Tanzania is a wildlife paradise that should be at the top of any nature lover’s bucket list.


Wildbeest Migration between the Serengeti and Maasai Mara National Park

Wildebeest Migration between the Serengeti and Maasai Mara

As the survivors leave others in their dust and storm towards their new territory, the magic that has unfolded through this journey can only be described as phenomenal.

See the Great Migration in Real Life

Are you ready for a Great Migration safari of your own? There are many variables to consider, like the time of year you want to travel and what part of the migration you wish to be a part of. 

Contact our Travel Experts, and let’s start planning your tailor-made, once-in-a-lifetime East Africa adventure! 

Grandes traversées de la rivière Mara pendant la Grande Migration des gnous