Tsavo West National Park
Tsavo West National Park may be smaller and have less wildlife than Tsavo East, but its scenery more than makes up for it. Shetani Lava Flows, Mzima Springs, the Chaimu Crater…. the different environments within the same park are absolutely fascinating.
Make no mistake – at 9,065 square kilometers, it’s home to four of the Big Five (lions, buffalo’s, leopards & elephants). They roam the land along with giraffes, zebras, antelopes and many different birds. The park was established in 1948. It’s an ancient park with remains of prehistoric settlements. The park is separated from its brother Tsavo East by a highway that connects the coastal city of Mombasa with the capital, Nairobi.
With green hills, savannah, water and lava rocks from nearby volcanoes, the landscape is varied. Visit the Shetani lava fields: fifty square kilometers of black volcanic rock spread throughout the country. Shetani means devil in Kiswahili: the flows formed during the last eruptions a few hundred years ago, and the locals believed that this hot lava was the devil himself coming out of the earth. Since the last eruption 200 years ago, there is practically no fertile soil in the area surrounding the volcano.
Drive past Mzima Springs, a series of four natural springs with fifty million gallons of crystal clear water gushing from beneath parched lava rock. Meltwater from Mount Kilimanjaro sometimes spends 25 years underground here. Lava rocks filter it before it emerges again at the Mzima springs. The stream with pools and rapids is only two kilometers long – then it disappears again under the surface of a solidified lava flow. Hippos and crocodiles love the clear, fresh waters of Mzima Springs and are easy to spot. An underwater structure with a window offers the opportunity to observe the animals underwater.
Tsavo West is also home to the Ngulia Sanctuary, established to protect the critically endangered black rhino. In 1940, there were an estimated 20,000 rhinos in Tsavo National Park. By 1989, however, the rhinos had been so decimated by poaching that only fewer than 20 remained. Thanks to the sanctuary, the number of rhinos is now back up to 80.