Located in the Coast Province of Kenya, in between the capital, Nairobi, and the island Mombasa, is Kenya’s largest national park: Tsavo National Park. It was opened in 1948 and is 22,000 square kilometers (8,494.24 sq mi) of animal paradise. Tsavo National Park is split into two parts due to a railway that separates it; the two parts are known as Tsavo East National Park and Tsavo West National Park. The larger part and the part that I am really excited to share with you is Tsavo East National Park which is 13,747 square kilometers (5,307.7 sq mi).
To access this part of the national park, you need to drive through one of four entrances which are known as Manyani Gate, Voi Gate, Buchuma Gate and Sala Gate and through whichever gate you enter, you will be stunned my the beauty of this natural haven. This is because you will see the savannah woodland, grassland, desert and forest all within one place.
Cheeky and playful monkeys out and about
Tsavo East National Park has several places where you can stay overnight including hotels, lodges and campsites. Game drives around and through the park are permitted only between 6.30 am to 6.30 pm. However, if you’re staying overnight, you’re likely to see animals from your place of rest. One such animal that seems to adore popping up every now and again is the delightful monkey. Can you spot one moneys in this picture? The colour of the earth and the monkey’s fur makes it a little bit hard to see them here, but during a game drive you will hear these cheeky fellows. Monkeys are definitely known for their playful nature.
If you’re staying overnight in Tsavo East National Park, these monkeys will be hovering around near your breakfast area as they will be after your bananas! So watch your breakfast. There are different types of monkeys and the ones that you will find in the national park are known as velvet monkeys. If you see two or more of these creatures having a show-down in the branches, you can assume that it’s the younger ones.
Gazelles and impalas with their powerful horns
Whilst enjoying the animals in Tsavo East National Park, you have to follow specific rules for your safety and the wellbeing of the animals. The rules include not getting out of your vehicle except at designated spots, not harassing the animals in any way, keeping on the tracks that have been made for driving only and to remember that the animals always have the right of way. As you’re in the home of the animals, you should abide by these rules and respect their environment; you will find that if you fail to do this, you will not only have the wardens to worry about but also the animals themselves.
The sheer size and power of the animals is enormous and that even includes the animals that may not look so frightening, like gazelles and impalas. The gazelles, whilst being quite thin, have short horns and long legs and stamp their front feet to signal when they’re disturbed; so if you see them doing this, you know you’ve crossed the line. The horns are present in both male and female gazelles; this is contract to impalas where only males have horns.
Elegant, peaceful and protective zebras
The zebras in Tsavo East National Park are absolutely beautiful; there are two types: the common zebra and Grevy’s zebra. When you pass some during a game drive, however, you may not know whether they are awake or sleeping. This is because zebras stand-up while sleeping, so be careful to keep the noise down when you’re near them—you wouldn’t want to interrupt their nap.
When awake, zebras are really social animals and travel together in a herd; they also invite other animals to join them on their travels and so create strong social bonds with other creatures. When one or more zebras are under threat, the herd forms a semicircle facing the animal that is attempting to or is attacking them and they get ready to fight. They’re known to be elegant and peaceful but if these sense danger, they have fierce fighting skills and are prepared to use them!
Big hearted giraffes munching away
Spotting a giraffe in Tsavo East National Park is pretty easy, especially as they’re known to be the tallest animal in the world. Giraffes can be around 4 to 5.9 metres (13 to 19.3 ft) tall. Their necks, like human necks, surprisingly only have seven vertebrates. These gentle giants, when roaming around together in a group, are referred to as towers, which is quite fitting. It is not only their long necks that make them stand out but also their tongues, which are a whopping 53 cm. Plus, these loving creatures each individually have a heart that weighs approximately 11 kilograms; which is the biggest of any land animal.
Majestic and intelligent elephants
Elephants are one of Kenya’s most iconic animals and the red elephants of Tsavo East National Park are a real spectacle; they should not be missed by anyone as they are simply spectacular! The elephants here are named red elephants due to the red sand in which they cover themselves in; the elephants like to have a bath in the water and then cover themselves in the sand, a little bit like having sunscreen on their skin. Unlike giraffes, elephants are much more vocal and are most known for their trumpets and high pitched squeaks. Beware if their trunk starts trumpeting around you as it may mean that they want you out of their area.
Watching elephants going about doing their day-to-day activities is an incredible moment. This is because elephants are not only highly social animals but also ones that are incredibly intelligent. They have a highly developed brain and are extremely sensitive and caring animals. Elephants demonstrate self-awareness, compassion, altruism and even express grief. They comfort each other by wrapping their trunks together. With such good memories, elephants also remember the deceased and if they recognise bones of a fellow companion, then they stop and gently touch the bones with their trunk and feet.
King of the animal kingdom, the lion
Lions are like a celebrity in the animal kingdom, albeit only to us humans; if you’re a zebra or a gazelle taking a stroll, encountering a lion in your path is a far from ideal situation. Lions are the largest of Kenya’s big cats and will kill anything from a lizard to a hippo. They tend to travel in prides, which is the name given to groups of lions. A pride usually consists of 11 to 20 members. Take a look at how close you can get to a lion from my photograph; would you believe me if I told you that the lion actually got closer as it wandered through a group of vehicles to cross to the other side of the land?
Within the pride, it is the lioness that does the hard work by hunting for meat whilst the lions trawl the territory around in order to keep an eye out for the whole pride. A pride usually has 2 or 3 lions. A lion’s roar can be heard up to 8 kilometres (5 mi) away, so a lioness will definitely hear if there is a threat from another pride in the territory. In Kenya, the lion is a symbol of power and is represented on the country’s national coat of arms.
A theatre in the wild
A game drive in Tsavo East National Park is a jaw dropping and unmissable experience. It’s an unplanned theatre show in the wild that will leave you breathless. You will have an opportunity to see the “big five” animals: buffalos, elephants, lions, rhinos and leopards. You will be wowed by the natural beauty of the Kenyan land and I guarantee you that you will make forever lasting memories that you will cherish forever. I would recommend that you do choose to stay in an overnight accommodation for at least one night so that you can experience living in the wilderness and being surrounded by animals in such close proximity (albeit you will be entirely safe within the confines of your accommodation). There is something really beautiful about waking at 5.00 am and seeing the moon and the sun at the same time with elephants drinking from the waterhole in front of you. Recommended places to stay include the phenomenal Sarova Salt Lick Game Lodge and the homely Semtrim Tsavo East Camp.