Tsavo East National Park

Tsavo East National Park is in the Southern Rift Valley of Kenya. Tsavo East is more popular than it's slightly smaller brother, Tsavo West National Park, due to its proximity to Mombasa and its drier, more barren landscape that makes wildlife easier to spot.


The long horizon of Tsavo East

The best time to see wildlife in Tsavo East is from August through September, when the grass is lower and the viewing distances longer. That said, safaris will be more expensive during this period. If you're on a budget, you may want to consider the low season from May through June.



Tsavo was the hunting ground of the infamous Tsavo Man-Easters, two lions that were responsible for the deaths of many construction workers on the Kenya–Uganda Railway during 1898. (This saga was dramatised in the 1997 Hollywood film The Ghost and the Darkness.) The national park was established on 1 April 1948 with an area of 21,812 km2 (8,422 sq mi). It was the largest park in Kenya for just a month, as the park was then divided in two in order to ease its administration. The dividing line for the parks is today's Nairobi–Mombassa railroad.



Tsavo East is characterised by dry, flat plains, crossed by the Galana River, around which is a swampy marshland.

Flora and fauna

Elephants taking a mud bath

The park is home to elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion, leopard, hippos, crocodile, waterbucks, kudu, gerenuk and hirola, among others. Fauna is dominated by dry grass land and thorny bushes.



It's usually warm and dry. The temperature is fairly constant year round, but the rainfall varies. The temperature ranges from 27–31 °C (81–88 °F) in the daytime to 22–24 °C (72–75 °F) at night. The long rainy season lasts from March until May, and the rainfall is usually heavy, making this a bad time for wildlife safaris. There is also a short rainy season from October to December, but the weather during this period is nice enough for safaris – just expect some afternoon showers. Humidity is high from December through April.

Get in

Buchuma Gate

There are four gates for Tsavo East: Voi Gate (the main gate), Manyani Gate, Buchuma Gate and Sala Gate. However, a smartcard is needed to enter the park, and this can only be obtained at Voi gate. (The smartcard can also be obtained at the main gates of Nairobi National Park and Lake Nakuru National Park, as well as the Mombasa office of the Kenya Wildlife Service. Also note that proof of identity is required for Kenyan resident discount cards). You then need to put money on the card. This can be done at the Voi Gate, or at any location where you obtained your card. Once you have your card loaded with money, any gate will do – the entrance fee will be deducted from your card.

Fees and permits


Entrance fees per day:

  • Adult resident – Ksh 1200
  • Children resident – Ksh 600
  • Adult non resident – US$75
  • Children non resident – US$40

Vehicle fees per day:

  • Less than 6 seats – Ksh 200
  • 6 to 12 seats – Ksh 600

Get around

A cheetah passes in front of a safari vehicle
Not a man-eater

Though you can tour the park on your own, it's usually best to hire a safari operator to guide you and, most importantly, find you the wildlife.


  • Yatta Plateau – A roughly 290-kilometre-long (180 mi) lava flow; one of the world's longest.
  • Lugards Falls – On the Galana river. Not a true waterfall but rather a series of rapids.
  • Mudanda Rock – A long, rocky outcrop running about 1.6 km (1 mi) long. There is a dam at the base which creates a watering hole for animals.
  • Aruba Dam - Built in 1952 across the Voi River. The dam attracts both animals and waterfowl.
  • Tsavo River/Athi River confluence – where the two rivers join to form the Galana river


  • Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary – A sanctuary for the critically-endangered black rhino





Your safari operator should, in most cases, provide catered food. Otherwise there is food at the lodges.



In the lodges the prices for soft drinks are about Ksh 150ksh, while beer is roughly Ksh 350 and wine Ksh 400. Water is free in most camps. Prices for drinks in the safari vehicles should be about the same.



There are many places to stay inside the park (more expensive) and outside the park (less expensive). The downside to staying outside the park is that you have to drive through the gate again, which takes time.





Most campsites lack fencing and animals – elephants in particular – are able to roam around them. Depending on your perspective, this can be unnerving or exhilarating (or both).

Stay safe


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