Tsavo East National Park has an undeniable wild and primordial charm and is a terrific wildlife-watching destination. Although one of Kenya’s largest rivers flows through the middle of the park, the landscape here is markedly flatter and drier and lacks the drama of Tsavo West. The flip side is that spotting wildlife is generally easier thanks to the thinly spread foliage.
Despite the size of the park, the area of most wildlife activity is actually quite compact, the northern section of the park is largely closed and can only be visited with advanced permission due to the threat of bandits and ongoing campaigns against poaching. The demarcation point is the Galana River.
Wilderness, red elephants and leopards, lions, and cheetahs. The park is also home to almost 500 bird species.
Towering over a natural dam near the Manyani Gate, this towering natural formation runs for over 1.5km. It attracts elephants on the dry season and is reminiscent of Australia’s Uluru (Ayers Rock), albeit on a much smaller scale. Leopards and elephants are among the wildlife to watch out here.
Running through the heart of the park and marking the northernmost point in the park that most visitors are allowed to visit, the Galana River, which combines the waters of the Tsavo and Athi Rivers, cuts a green gash across the dusty plains. Surprisingly few visitors make it even this far and sightings of crocs, hippos, lesser kudus, waterbucks, dik-diks, and, to a lesser extent, lions and leopards are relatively common. Watch out also for the distinctive Somali ostrich.
Around 10km from Voi Gate, the lovely area of green known as Kanderi Swamp is home to a resident pride of lions, and elephants also congregate near here; this is one of the only two water sources in the park during the dry season. The landscape here has a lovely backdrop of distant hills. A number of vehicles tracks also follow the contours of the Voi River; keep an eye on the overhanging branches for leopards.
Some 30km east of Voi Gate is the Aruba Dam, which spans the Voi River. It also attracts heavy concentrations of diverse wildlife; one of the park’s regularly spotted lion prides ranges around here. Away to the east and southeast, all the way down to Buchuma Gate, the open grasslands provide the perfect habitat for cheetahs and sightings are more common here than almost anywhere else in southeastern Kenya.
Voi Wildlife Lodge
Close to Voi Gate, this well-run place is actually a number of places in one. From the main property, there are fine views into the park from some of the platforms of the recently renovated room. At its Manyatta property, the tents have private plunge pools. It’s a good deal in a good location just outside the park.
Located on the banks of Voi River, this luxury camp was recently renovated and now looks better than ever. There are 20 canopied tents, all of which are perfectly spaced within sight of a waterhole that’s known to draw lions, cheetahs, and elephants occasionally. The elevated viewing tower and the sense of being far removed from the safari scrum are big selling points here.
Ashnil Aruba Lodge
Just a stone throw from the wildlife-rich Aruba Dam, this lodge has attractively decorated rooms decked out in safari prints, although it’s the six luxury tents that are the real stars, with a far stronger sense of light and space than the rooms. In the heart of the park, it’s an ideal starting point for most Tsavo East safaris.