Tsavo National Park, Safaris, Lodges and tented Camps in Tsavo East and West
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    Mzima Springs Tsavo National Park Kenya Africa

    Mzima Springs are a series of four natural springs in Tsavo National Park, Kenya. They are located in the west of the Park, around 48 km from Mtito Andei. The source of the springs is a natural reservoir under the Chyulu Hills to the north. The Chyulu range is composed of volcanic lava rock and ash, which is too porous to allow rivers to flow. Instead, rain water percolates through the rock, and may spend 25 years underground before emerging 50 kilometres away at Mzima. The natural filtration process gives rise to Mzima's famously clear stream, which flows through a series of pools and rapids. Two kilometres downstream from the springs, the stream is blocked by a solidified lava flow and disappears below the surface again. Mzima is one of Tsavo's most popular wildlife attractions owing to its resident populations of hippos and Nile crocodiles. Mzima's isolation makes both species are dependent on its waters: other sources are too distant for them to reach by overland travel. The hippos also sustain an entire food chain. They browse the surrounding savannah by night and return to Mzima's pools by day, where their dung fertilizes the water. The biggest attraction in Tsavo West is Mzima Springs, this stream of crystal-clear water was made famous by Alan Root’s 1983 film Mzima: Portrait of a spring, which followed crocodiles and hippos in their underwater lives. It’s a delightful, and popular, spot, so you’re advised to arrive very early to avoid a possible tour-bus atmosphere.

     

    With luck, some of the night’s animal visitors may still be around, while the luxuriant growth around the water reverberates noisily with birds and monkeys. You can walk around freely, as elephants and predators rarely visit, and there are KWS rangers posted by the car park to look after you, but make sure you’re not close to the water’s edge, where large crocodiles lurk. Equally be sure that you’re not between a hippo and the water, especially early or late in the day, or during wet weather. They seem settled in their routine, content to snort and flounder en masse, but are notoriously irritable animals. There are two large pools, connected by a rush of rapids and shaded by stands of date and raffia palms. The upper pool used to be the favoured hippo wallow, though in recent years they seem to prefer the lower pool. The springs’ hippo population was cruelly hammered by the drought of 2009, during which the springs were the only source of water in the region, and the surrounding grasslands, on which the hippos graze at night, were reduced to a dustbowl as wildlife moved into the area. Despite the efforts of the KWS and local lodges to supply bales of hay, dozens of hippos starved to death. Their numbers are increasing again, but it will take years for them to recover fully. At the side of the top pool, a circular underwater viewing chamber has been built at the end of a short pier. With luck (and it doesn’t happen on every visit), you’ll see the unforgettably comic tip-toeing of an underwater hippo, or the sinuous, streamlined stealth of a crocodile in motion, as well as the blue swirl of large fish. Mzima Springs’ water is filtered to aquarium transparency by the lava of the Chyulu range, just to the north of here: the porous rock absorbs the water like a sponge and gravity squeezes it out into the springs. A direct pipeline from Mzima to Mombasa, completed in 1966, is the source of most of the city’s drinking water. Engineers devised a way of taking water from beneath the lava, but above the spring, preserving the area’s integrity. There are one or two signs of the pipeline, but most are unobtrusive. You don’t have to be a botanist to enjoy Mzima’s two tree trails, with examples of various trees labelled with their common uses and their English, local and botanical names. It’s easy to spend a couple of hours in the area: try to sit for a while completely alone on the bank and you’ll begin to piece together the ecological miracle of the place, as the mammals, birds and other creatures forget about your presence. And look out for sycamore figs, the spectacular tree that features in the extraordinary nature documentary The Queen of Trees (Mark Deeble & Victoria Stone, 2006; widely available on DVD) about the symbiotic relationship between the sycamore fig and the tiny fig wasp.

     

    Tsavo National Park

     

    The joint mass of Tsavo West and Tsavo East National Parks forms one of the largest National Parks in the world and covers a massive 4% of Kenya’s total land area. Tsavo East, the larger of the two, lies to the east of the Nairobi -Mombasa road, equidistant between Nairobi and Mombasa, and offers a vast and untapped arena of arid bush which is washed by the azure and emerald meanderings ofthe Galana River, guarded by the limitless lava reaches of the Yatta Plateau and patrolled by some ofthe largest elephant herds in Kenya. Larger than Israel and about the size of Wales, Tsavo has become the home for some of the largest families of elephants in Africa. Orphaned baby elephants, raised in the Nairobi based Sheldrick Reserve, are brought here to join other older elephants -- also orphans. Here is a great experiment to find out if damage done can be undone. To protect the environment, off-road driving is strictly forbidden in the park, and only a small part is open to the public. At just over 21,000km sq, Tsavo is the largest national park in Kenya and one of the largest in the world. Because of its size the park was split into two, Tsavo West and Tsavo East, for easy administration. Midway between Nairobi and Mombasa the area boasts volcanic hills, four rivers, more than 60 major mammal species and 1000 plant species. But its huge size has also been its enemy and the park has been hard hit by poachers who slaughtered horrifying numbers of rhino, elephant and other species. The northern part of Tsavo West is the most developed and has spectacular scenery with a rolling volcanic landscape carpeted in long grass and dense bush. Although the tall vegetation makes game spotting trickier than in some of the other parks, the big five are in residence along with a fine collection of antelope. The main attraction of the park are the two watering holes, where lodges have been built which more or less guarantee that their guests will be treated to fabulous game viewing.

     

    Across the highway from Tsavo West is Tsavo East. Famous for its large herds of elephant, the park has long been at the epicentre of a poaching war which decimated rhino numbers from approximately 8000 in 1970 to less than 50 two decades later. Elephant numbers plummeted from 50,000 in the 1960s to 5,000 twenty years later. For a number of years only the southern third of the park was open to the public because of the danger posed by poachers, and visitors were likely to encounter carcasses of tuskless elephants. Today, however, you can be treated to the sight of large herds of 50 or more robust elephants, which have instinctively retreated to the vicinity of the lodges where they are assured of protection. Another great sight is the spectacular herds of up to 1000 buffalo which are common here. The rolling scrub-covered hills of the park have a very remote feel and it does not attract large numbers of tourists. The best game viewing is along the watercourses and at the Kanderi swamp, which is not far from the main Voi gate. Thirty kilometres from the gate is the Aruba Dam and lion are commonly spotted around here.

     

    Tsavo West National Park

     

    Tsavo West National Park is located in the Coast Province of Kenya. Size: The Park covers an area of 9,065 square kilometers. The A109 road Nairobi-Mombasa and a railway divide the park into east and west. The western part is a more popular destination on account of its magnificent scenery, Mzima Springs, rich and varied wildlife, good road system, rhino reserve, rock climbing potential and guided walks along the Tsavo River. The park is operated by Kenya Wildlife Archaeology and history: Although a few Early Stone Age and Middle Stone Age archaeological sites are recorded from ground surface finds in Tsavo, there is much evidence for thriving Late Stone Age economy from 6,000 to 1,300 years ago. Research has shown that Late Stone Age archaeological sites are found close to the Galana River in high numbers. The inhabitants of these sites hunted wild animals, fished and kept domesticated animals. Because of the sparse availability of water away from the Galana River, human settlement in Tsavo West National Park focused on the riparian areas and in rock shelters as one moves west. Swahili merchants traded with the inhabitants of Tsavo for ivory, catskins, and probably slaves as early as 700 AD (and probably earlier).

     

    There is no evidence for direct Swahili "colonization" of Tsavo. Instead, trade was probably accomplished by moving goods to and from the Swahili Coast via extended kin-networks. Trade goods such as cowry shells and beads have been recovered from archaeological sites dating to the early Swahili period. Rock climbing: In 1978 Bill Woodley, then the warden of Tsavo West National Park, invited the Mountain Club of Kenya (MCK) to explore the cliffs in the park. The setting for climbers is superb with elephant roaming the plains below the cliffs and eagles, vultures and falcons circling on thermals around the crags with Kilimanjaro frequently visible on a clear day. The rock-climbing is some of the best in Kenya; solid gneiss walls are often covered in holds and free of vegetation. Cracks and corners abound, but tend to be more vegetated. The most impressive piece of rock, the 300m high east face of Kichwa Tembo, attracted the first explorers and resulted in the ascent of Great Tsavo Chimney. Mastadon took 3 visits before it was completed. A more recent route, Ivory Tower on Elephant Rocks, ranks with the best and hardest bush climb in Kenya. Generally pegs need not be carried. Unless climbing in the shade, an early start is advisable as it often gets very hot on clear days. The permit the MCK has to climb here, and to camp by the Tsavo River, is a special privilege and every effort must be made not to jeopardize this situation by careless actions. Other climbers should initially contact the MCK if wishing to climb ere.

     

    Wildlife: Tsavo West National Park has a variety of wildlife, such as black rhino, Cape buffalo, elephant, leopard and Maasai lion. There are also other smaller animals that can be spotted in the park, such as the bush baby, hippo, hartebeest, lesser kudu and Maasai giraffe.

     

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