Tsavo West is one of Kenya’s larger national parks covering about 9065sq-km, with a huge variety of landscapes from swamps, natural springs, and rocky peaks to extinct volcanic cones, rolling plains and sharp outcrops dusted with greenery.
This is a park with a whiff of legend about it, first for its famous man-eating lions in the 19th century and then for its devastating levels of poaching in the 1980s. Despite the latter, there’s still plenty of wildlife here, although you’ll have to work harder and be much more patient than in Amboseli or the Masai Mara; the foliage is generally denser and higher here. Put all of these things together, along with its dramatic scenery, fine lodges, and sense of space, and this is one of Kenya’s most rewarding parks.
This is a highly recommended area for wildlife watching, with plenty of antelope species keeping a careful eye out for the resident lions, leopards, and cheetahs. You’ll also see elephants, giraffes, and, if you are lucky, black rhinos. Birdlife is also particularly diverse here. The signposted ‘Rhino Valley Circuit’ is a good place to start, and anywhere along with the Mukui River’s ponds and puddles is a place to watch and wait.
Rising more than 600m above the valley floor and to a height of over 1800m above sea level, this jagged ridgeline ranks among the prettiest of all Tsavo landforms, providing as it does a backdrop to Rhino Valley. The hills can be climbed with permission from the warden, while the peaks are also a recognized flyway for migrating birds heading south from late September through to November.
Tsavo Gate & the East
Many visitors heading for Tsavo East National Park or Mombasa use this gate. Wildlife spotting in this eastern section of the park is challenging due to the quite dense foliage, but both leopards and lions are known to frequent the area.
Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary
At the base of Ngulia Hills, this 90sq-km area is surrounded by a 1m-high electric fence and provides a measure of security for around 80 of the park’s highly endangered black rhinos. There are driving tracks and waterholes within the enclosed area, but the rhinos are mainly nocturnal and the chances of seeing one are slim black rhinos, apart from being understandably shy and more active at night, are browsers, not grazers, and prefer to pass their time in thick undergrowth.
Tsavo River & the South
Running west-east through the park, this lovely year-round river is green shaded and surrounded for much of its path by doum palms. Along with Mzima Springs, the river provides aesthetic relief from the vast semi-arid habitats that dominate the park.
Run by the same people as Severine Safari Camp, Kitani is located 2km past its sister site but is equally good value. These thatched concrete bandas with their own simple kitchens have far more style than your average budget camp and you can use Severin’s facilities (including the pool and free wi-fi). Good value, though does call ahead.
Finch Hatton’s Safari Camp
This luxurious tented camp, arranged around a stream full of crocs and hippos, is now looking fancier than ever after a renovation. The 17 massive, glamorous tents have vast beds, huge verandahs, and incredible outdoor bathrooms complete with copper bathtubs. There’s a spa, gym and pool, courteous staff, and wonderfully stylish air to the place.
Severin Safari Camp
This fantastic complex of thatched luxury tents just keeps getting better. There are lovely, spacious tents, a swimming pool and spa, and even a tented gym. Their staff offers a personal touch (Manja and Juergen, a pastry chef, have been running this place since 2008), the food is outstanding and the tents are large and sumptuous despite costing considerably less than others elsewhere in the park.