Tsavo National Park, Safaris, Lodges and tented Camps in Tsavo East and West
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    Kulafumbi House Tsavo West National Park Kenya

    Kulafumbi House is a luxury and exclusive house, the name "Kulafumbi" literally means "eat dust" in Kiswahili - a reference to the conditions while building in this tinder-dry, remote part of Kenya. Every step of the way, the building of Kulafumbi House has been a challenge because the hotel is so far from any infrastructure or services; there is no electricity, no water mains, no sewage network - nothing. Everything had to be built here from scratch, powered by generators, and using water from the river. Even the building blocks were made by hand, right here. Luckily my father, a professional film-maker by trade who built the house, had had a year's engineering training as a youngster (before deciding a career in wildlife safari film-making was more to his liking). This experience, combined with a lifetime lived in the bush in Africa where you have to be self-sufficient for everything, allowed him to conceive of and manage the whole project - quite a feat when you see the finished item. My cousin, Ian, a structural engineer based in South Africa, flew up to spend a month with us - while he was here, he kindly designed all the structural elements of the house, ensuring that there are enough supports with enough steel in them to make sure this big, rock-laden house does not suddenly fall down. Another Ian - my husband - and I continue to nurture the house, which continues to be a work in progress, and I suspect it always will be. Kulafumbi House is quite unlike any other, it is like the Flintstones meeting a Moorish architect, with more than a little unconventionality thrown in. Kulafumbi House is shaped to follow the river course, so that each room has its own special view. We live upstairs mainly, on the first floor which has a balcony running the whole way around it. Downstairs are Kulafumbi House guest rooms, and the main areas. Although the Kulafumbi House is entirely privately built and owned, as a donation to Tsavo Trust and the African Environmental Film Foundation, the non-profit charities for which we work, we have donated the use of half the downstairs as an office. We have satellite internet which allows us to manage these organizations from here in "the middle of nowhere". The flat roof of the house, reached by a gorgeous rustic staircase, is also a fabulous space - especially to spend a star-spangled night. It also houses our solar panels for hot water and our satellite dish. The Kulafumbi House Tsavo is built "organically", using as many natural materials gathered from our own land as possible. The walls are of natural rock, collected from the river bed, the water and sand came from the river too, and most of the wood used was dead wood, washed up ready-seasoned onto our beach by previous floods. The remainder of the wood is old railway sleepers, from the original Kenya-Uganda railway, of 'Out of Africa' fame - beautiful old Indian Teak and Jarra hardwood, now discarded by the railways in the wake of modernization - what better way to recycle the wood than to use it for our window frames? So, the only building materials which we had to bring in from outside were the cement, the glass and the steel for reinforcing. I think, therefore, we can justly say that this is an example of eco-building at its best. The Tsavo Kulafumbi House has already become part of the natural environment again, colonized by all kinds of creatures from the Agama Lizards and Genets to the myriad collection of birds which frequent our birdbath. Add to them, all the wild plants which grow in the "flowerbeds" lining the balcony and even adorn the rooftop. We've decided only to plant indigenous species both in our "flowerbeds" and "garden". Many plants are self-seeding on our balcony of their own accord, so it's always fun seeing what pops up. From Kulafumbi hotel you can see the small Mtito River flowing into the much larger Athi River, the large white sandbank towards the right is visible from our balcony, and continues out of sight around the corner, to what we call Hippo Bend, where we have a resident pod of hippos. Up behind, you can see the bush airstrip on the neighboring property - this is where we go running to try and keep fit. Kulafumbi is the name of the wonderful place where we are lucky enough to live, situated on the confluence of the Athi and Mtito Rivers. The Athi River is Kenya's second largest, and flows year round from its source near Nairobi, Kenya's capital city. The Mtito River, a small tributary, is seasonal and therefore only flows during the rainy season. It is fed from the Chyulu Hills, to the west, which also feed the Mzima Springs, a source of water for Mombasa, Kenya's second largest city. The land borders the Tsavo East National Park on two sides - the two rivers being the boundary between us and the Park. As our Kulafumbi House sits right where the two rivers meet, the view from your balcony is out over the rivers and the National Park. The Yatta Plateau, the longest lava flow in the world, follows the Athi River on the far bank, and provides a stunning, ever changing backdrop to the river. Because we have no fences between Kulafumbi House Tsavo Kenya and the Tsavo National Park, the wildlife comes and goes between the two, sensing no difference. We maintain our property purely as a conservation area. The Kulafumbi House is predominantly covered by Acacia and Commiphora bush land, overlooked by giant Baobab Trees and the more delicate Delonix Trees. At first glance, the bush land is grey, thorny and lifeless - how deceptive first impressions can be! In this dry country, nature and diversity thrive, for the wild species (unlike domestic stock) have evolved over millennia to live in these apparently inhospitable environments. On closer inspection, it is incredible to see how many different species of plants, animals, birds, and insects survive here. The exception to the dry grey bush land, is the green oasis-line created by the river - a thin band of greenery and large lush trees which snakes its way through the dry country - an Eden of Doum Palms, Fig Trees, Tana River Poplars, Acacia, Salt Bush and Reeds - a magnet for all the wildlife, whether resident on the river or coming there to quench its thirst. The rain in Tsavo though scarce and infrequent - brings almost instant transformation to the property, as the grey bush land turns green almost overnight. The plants here have very fast reproductive cycles, for they have to flower and seed very quickly before the dry times set in again. As a result, it is miraculous to observe the changes from a dry grey thorny scrubland, to a carpet of green adorned by flowers of every colour, hue and description. In theory, we have two annual rainy seasons in Kulafubi House: The Short Rains in November/December and the Long Rains in April/May/June - although these days the weather patterns seem to be so disturbed that often the rain does not come at all. The Kulafumbi House Kenia where Ian and I now live (whose style is indescribable – the Flintstones meet unconventional Moorish influences meet organic eco-building) began as a dream – my father’s dream to own a piece of land and build a house overlooking a river in Africa. We all grew up in Africa, you see – my father has been on this continent since he was seven years old, and my brother and I have spent our whole lives here – give or take a few years. This - our corner - is a piece of wilderness, peopled by Africa’s majestic wildlife, from elephants and buffalo to hippos and crocodiles, a bewildering myriad of birds, insects, amphibians and reptiles. It’s a chunk of grey thorny bush land bordered by a river of unparalleled beauty, fringed by white sand banks, Doum Palms and Fig Trees – a meandering green oasis line through the dry country. Overlooking this river sits the Kulafumbi House Kenya Africa with its breathtaking views – like a widescreen TV permanently set to the National Geographic channel. Kulafumbi House Tsavo – the house and the land – truly is a paradise and we are lucky to live here and call it our home – unspeakably lucky. But paradise comes at a price, I have learned, and not always a financial one. Ian and I fought our private battles in our decision to come back here to Africa, the place where our hearts return to, time after time, no matter where we are in the world. We have just spent three years in Scotland and, for me in particular, for very personal reasons, it was a difficult decision to come back home. Ultimately, after all the deliberations and heartache, it all came down to this: If you have the chance to live an extraordinary life, you have to take it, whatever the cost. The alternative, which is to choose the mundane, is not life, in the real sense of the word... If you’ve got the chance, you’ve got to take it. So, here we are now, Ian and I, newly married (though not newly acquainted), in our magical home called Kulafumbi private house. Every day, whichever direction you look or travel from the house, nature is playing out her many dramas. This is where life happens. The natural world, one soon comes to realize, is the cornerstone of everything. In words and pictures, I’m going to try to share it with you, this Nature’s Paradise, and introduce you to our many cohabitants – you might call them neighbors – the myriad residents of the river and its environs, the trees and plants, both indoors and out, the animals who have moved into our house with us, and those who pass by unseen in the night. The dry season on a river in Tsavo equates to non-stop wildlife action, and it’s fair to say this is a just description of the current situation at Kulafumbi Hotel. The river in front of the Kulafumbi house is like a super-highway, attracting traffic all day long and all night long. Needless to say, we are in heaven! The flipside of course is that, enjoyable as it is for us to have so many animals around, it means life is getting tough for them. The more it dries out inland, the more they have to rely on the riverine belt for survival. As you know, the rains failed miserably in November, and so things are pretty dry in this part of the world. There is not a lot of grass or browse to be had, and many of the animals are spending more and more time in the reed beds. The buffalo take to lying down in the river to cool off during the heat of the day. The fact that they are coming down to drink at midday, and often spending the whole day on the reed islands is testament to how hot and dry it is at the moment. There are a couple of old buffs who have taken up permanent residence in the reeds just below the Kulafumbi house. We’re not sure if one of them is sick (it looks a little thin) or whether the pair of them are just old and rightly think that a reed island in the river is a fine place to spend their days. Here’s the sprightlier one enjoying a green mouthful: Now if this isn’t a scene that just says “Africa”, I don’t know what is. The elephant herds are back in our area and – you guessed it – they’re back in the reeds too! Watching adult elephants help the little ones through difficulties, like here where the baby encounters a pocket of deep water, is always a moving, strangely humbling experience. Teenagers will be teenagers… This little chap just couldn’t resist chasing the Yellow-billed Stork…it’s such fun when something is frightened and flies away! You can see how tall the reeds have grown – they literally swallow up the elephants as they forage around the sick (old?) buffalo… The elephants move on up towards our house, a wonderfully healthy herd with lots of little ones…it’s great to see… Did I tell you that “our” hippos disappeared from Hippo Bend for 6-7 weeks and only reappeared again mid-February? I’m not sure where they went for we still heard and saw them at night, but could not find them during the day. Anyway, here are our fat friends (reed-munchers too), back in their familiar pool on Hippo Bend… You can see how wide our sandbanks are, with the river being so low. Our resident herds of impala and waterbuck can be found here daily, nibbling at the new shoots, which sprout up optimistically through the sand. These two waterbuck fawns were having a tremendous game of chase the other day (how they find the energy in this heat, I don’t know). Remarkably, neither of them fell over, despite the angles attained as they cornered: Just as it was a strange rainy season (in other words, it never materialized properly), so it’s been a strange dry season, for we have had a couple of unseasonable rainy days. Come on this journey with me, and you’ll soon get to know them all.

     

    Tsavo National Park Kenya

     

    At nearly 22,000km2, Tsavo is the largest national park in Kenya and one of the largest in the world. Due to its size the park was split into two - Tsavo West and Tsavo East - for easier administration. Tsavo is the ideal destination for people who seek solitude and privacy as well as the chance to explore the wilderness.

     

    Tsavo West National Park

     

    The Tsavo West National Park is covered in volcanic cones, rocky outcrops and lava flows. The northern part of Tsavo West is the most developed in terms of lodges and infrastructure and has spectacular scenery with a rolling volcanic landscape carpeted in long grass and dense bush. Tall vegetation makes game spotting here a little trickier than in some of the other parks. The Big Five can be found in the park along with a fine range of antelope species. The main attractions of the park are the two waterholes, built by the lodges to more or less guarantee that their guests will be treated to fabulous game viewing. Places to visit include the Chaimu Crater and the Roaring Rocks viewpoint. These are located just southeast of Kilaguni Safari Lodge; they can be climbed in roughly 15 minutes and offer sensational views over the plains.

     

    Tsavo East National Park

     

    Across the highway from Tsavo West is Tsavo East. Famous for its large numbers of elephant and spectacular herds of up to 1000 buffalo, Tsavo East has more open savannah than its western sibling. The scrub-covered hills of the southern park have a very remote feel and the park, despite its great game, 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. 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. In the past the park was hard hit by poachers who slaughtered horrifying numbers of rhino, elephant and other species. Long 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. Today, however, the corner has well and truly been turned and you can be treated to the sight of large herds of 50 or more elephants, which have instinctively retreated to the vicinity of the lodges where they are assured of protection.

     

    Places of interest

     

    There are some interesting geographical features in Tsavo, including the Lugard Falls (this is actually a misnomer as the 'falls' are in fact a series of rapids on the Galana River), Named after Captain F.D Lugard. At Mzima you can walk down to a large pool, a favourite hang out for hippos and crocodiles. There is an underwater viewing chamber where you can observe thousands of primordial looking fish. Sadly, you are not going to spot crocodiles or hippos in the chamber. Mudanda Rock This whale backed rock in Tsavo east National Park towers above a natural dam that attracts elephants in their thousands, views here are spectacular and one can also sit to watch game. Other land formations include the yatta plateau, which was formed from ancient volcanic activity to create a long flat-topped lava ridge on the western border of Tsavo east.

     

    Tsavo National Park Safaris

     

    Are you interested in seeing lions? Leopards? Cheetahs? Maybe it is your dream to experience the legendary tented camp safaris, or you want to photograph elephants at sunrise. Maybe your favorite animal is the giraffe or zebra, or you just can’t wait to see the rare black rhino in its natural habitat. Maybe you are more interested in viewing different species of birds. It may sound rather obvious, but one thing we’ve found from our many years of experience in this vacation industry is that different people are all interested in different things. This of course is a simple fact of life, and it doesn’t become a problem until these different interests start competing with one another on a group safari. One person might be set on photographing a Lilac Breasted Roller perched demurely on a branch in the perfect light, while another person is anxious to follow that pride of lionesses getting ready to hunt. One person might want to leave the lodge before sunrise to see animals in their more active states, while another party wants to enjoy a hearty breakfast at the lodge. The unfortunate result of trying to force different priorities into the same agenda is often disappointment by one or more parties. With a private safari, the risk of compromising your once-in-a-lifetime-trip to accommodate the once-in-a-lifetime-trip planned by somebody else is effectively eliminated. So why jeopardize the success of your dream by joining a group safari with strangers? Why worry about being crammed into a vehicle competing for the best seats and views? Why compromise your interests for the agendas of others? Don’t make that mistake. Together we will work to design the perfect trip of a lifetime – just for you. Step into a world of unsurpassed splendor and beauty. Our Ultimate Luxury Collection includes a small number of exclusive safari properties - nothing short of Africa's finest accommodations, top guides and wildlife and wilderness areas! Traveler's looking for ultra-premium personalized luxury safaris should inquire about our "Tsavo Safaris" - Africa at your own pace and style with private specialist guides, private activities and your own pilot / aircraft. Exclusive use of camps and lodges can also be arranged. This is the ultimate safari experience. Tsavo is a stunning, once-in-a-lifetime safari destination for many travelers, and it deserves to be done right: the Artisans of Leisure way. Our in-house Tsavo National Park specialists have traveled throughout this incredibly beautiful and diverse Land, and have carefully designed Tsavo tours that showcase the extraordinary wildlife, landscapes, food and wine, and cultural attractions. Our private Tsavo tours feature the best luxury safari lodges in a game parks that offer optimal (and uncrowded) wildlife viewing opportunities.

     

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