Bravo Tsavo East! – Article by Gareth Jones
Tsavo East National Park – Bravo Tsavo East!
The alarm clock buzzed at 04h00, we rapidly awoke and packed a few remaining items into our car and left Nairobi just after 05H00. After weeks of waiting, we were actually on our way. It is best to try and plan safari trips out of Nairobi to be leaving very early in the morning to avoid the early morning traffic “jam”. We progressed quite well, and after leaving Athi river, soon we began to feel that we were actually on leave. Our family was excited to be on our way to the Tsavo East National Park, a vast wildlife area of approximately 13750 sq km with the Mombasa highway along the western boundary.
Please do not be in a hurry when driving on the Mombasa highway, there is a lot of big truck activity so it is best to allow time for a slightly slower journey. About 160km from Nairobi we stopped at Kiboko managed by Mada hotels for a quick break and some coffee. It is a delightful stopover, with a dammed river, huge trees and many birds and monkeys. The hotel has really improved in recent years due to the change in ownership.
We continued driving for just over another hour and thankfully reached Mtito Andei, about 240km from Nairobi. This little town is a good place to refuel and check vehicles, go to reasonable washrooms, and basically take a brief break. Soon we were back on the road the complete the last leg of the tarred Mombasa road until the welcome turn off to the left through Manyani Gate (presented IDs and paid our entrance fees) and onto the red sand of the Tsavo East National Park. Phew, so relieved to be rid of all that heavy truck traffic, I would rather face Tsavo elephants on any day!! We had chosen to stay at Ndololo Tented Camp near Voi, however, although the route via Voi gate is quicker, I far prefer to enjoy the drive inside the park.
As we drove along in the heat of the day, there was less visible wildlife. Until we arrived at a wonderful waterhole and watched as a large herd of elephants bathed, drank and played in the water. After a while, we continued on to eventually arrive at Ndololo Camp to a welcome reception by the staff. We were taken to our tents to relax and freshen up. After resting for some hours we decided to take a loop drive along the tracks around Kanderi Swamp. This is often a very rewarding drive, and we were glad to see a pride of lions preparing to hunt in the distance.
Early the next morning we explored the vast plains and dry river beds around Aruba dam, there are a number of water holes in the area that are worth the wait as you never know what species might want to come and quench their thirst. On this occasion, a red cloud appeared on the horizon and a large herd of buffalo converged onto the waterhole in record time.
We also found a magnificent herd of fringe-eared oryx, quite a sight to watch them in motion. Further onwards we found a pride of lions near the Aruba dam, it should be noted that the male lions in Tsavo East, in particular, are almost maneless. We observed an interesting family group of dwarf mongoose living inside a large termite mound, they posed for a short moment as they enjoyed the morning sun. Soon we headed back to Ndololo Camp to relax during the heat of the day.
The next day we drove out very early and headed towards Lugards falls, one of the prettiest stretches along the Galana River, Lugards Falls is a wonderful landscape of water-sculpted channels and striated rocks. We saw many elephants on the drive, as well as a herd of Gerenuk with their long necks and ability to stand on their back legs and fed on small trees and shrubs. The falls are also a place where people are allowed to get out of their vehicles at their own risk. It is best to arrive by mid-morning, as the midday sun can be quite aggressively hot on the rocks. On the return drive, we saw many tiny kirks dik-diks our family nicknamed them “dinky-dots” as they are so tiny cute and petite. We also saw many birds including vulturine guineafowl and Somali ostrich with their blue legs. Soon we arrived back at Ndololo Camp for our last night and had an enjoyable dinner together.
Early the next morning, nobody we able to go for breakfast for at an hour. The reason was that a large herd of more than 50 elephants were very near to our tented accommodation as they quenched their thirst at the small camp water hole. We all watched them at close range as young baby elephants played and adults trumpeted loudly. Eventually, the elephants moved off, and we were able to get some breakfast. Part of the excitement of staying in places without fences is that you never know what species you might encounter. WOW, what a wonderful “Bravo Tsavo” moment with the elephants, and what a wonderful way to leave this incredible place.
The park is open daily from 08h00 to 17h00.