Tsavo West National Park in Kenya

Tsavo West is a mesmerising portrait of rugged hills providing a stunning backdrop for dense forests and sprawling savannah plains, with an oasis shining in the west. With rhinos hide in the thick vegetation, and predators lurking on the vast lava field and in nearby caves, this is a primal land that will captivate you with its wild beauty.

  • Best Time to Go

    June – September; January – February

  • Average Safari Cost

    $100 – $850 pp/day

  • Highlights

    Mzina Springs, Big Five, Lake Jipe, mountain climbing (arranged through the Mountain Club of Kenya), Ngulia Hills, Shetani Lava Flow and Cave, Chaimu Crater, Roaring Rocks, over 400 bird species

Why Visit Tsavo West National Park

Tsavo West is a fantastic safari destination. Aside from the beautiful landscape, great wildlife viewing and amazing bird life, there are so many activities to do and sights to see. Here are a few of the main attractions.

Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary

This sanctuary is a heavily protected area, containing roughly 80 black rhinos. The rhinos are nocturnal, and the chances of seeing them are rare. Even if there were a few roaming about during the day, they prefer thick vegetation, and will be difficult to spot. That is not to say that its impossible to see them.

Ngulia Hills

These hills are one of Tsavo’s most beautiful highlights, rising over 600m high, providing a stunning backdrop to the rhino sanctuary. If you wish to climb this spectacular landform, you will first need to acquire permission from the warden. Check with your operator for more details before attempting the climb.

Mzima Springs

This oasis is a green paradise in the western part of the park and home to numerous hippos, crocodiles, and birdlife. There is a walking trail to and along the shoreline, providing the opportunity to get close to the wildlife. Remember to never step between a hippo and water, as it will charge you to get to the water.

You can also view hippos, crocodiles and other primeval-looking fish, under water, as there is a viewing chamber under the springs. Although, you may need to be cautious here, as crocodiles and hippos are not always restricted to the water.

Shetani Lava Flows

Spreading across the savannah, this huge stretch of lava covers an area of 50km2. Situated near the Chyulu Hills, this vast lava spread is a clear example of the true power of nature. You may want to use a guide for safety purposes, as predators are known to lurk about in this area.

Shetani Caves

The Shetani Caves lie near the Shetani Lava Flows. Indeed, they were created by the same volcanic activity. If you wish to explore the caves, it may be best to book your stay at one of the lodges that provide guided trips, as there may be hyenas living in the caves. For the trip, you will need a flashlight and sturdy hiking boots – watch your step, there are sharp rocks underfoot.

Chaimu Crater and Roaring Rocks

Offering beautiful views of Chyulu Hills, Chaimu Crater and Roaring Rocks are definitely worth a visit. Most of the lodges offer guided trips, and it is a 15-minute climb to the top of Roaring Rocks. It is important to note, however, that Chiamu Crater is known to shelter animals such as snakes. Caution is advised.

Poacher’s Lookout

This hilltop offers a fantastic vantage point of the park, with amazing views of Mount Kilimanjaro and Amboseli.

Lake Jipe

This lake becomes a popular water source for wildlife around September-October time (end of the dry season), and it is a favourite spot for large herds of elephants to drink at. From February to May (wet season) the lake is usually flocked by migratory birds. If you are interested, you could hire a boat to take you along the lake to spot hippo and crocodile.

Pros and Cons

While we know that all adventures have some challenges, we hope that yours will be memorable in only the best ways.
  • Fantastic wildlife watching, with the Big Five - lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo
  • Fantastic views from Poacher's Lookout
  • Mzina Springs is an oasis with crocodiles and hippos
  • Potential views of Mount Kilimanjaro on a clear day
  • Great birdwatching
  • The black rhino can be difficult to spot (they are nocturnal and prefer thick vegetation)
  • The wildlife populations are low
  • Wet weather (especially in April and May) can cause roads to become muddy or flooded.

Best Time to Go

Tsavo West does not have a very rainy climate. You can expect warm, dry weather for most of the year, with the only exception being from March to May, and in November and possibly December. April, May and November are the rainiest months of the year and the while the land is lush, and bird watching is great, it is a terrible time for wildlife viewing.

From June to October, and January to February, are the best times to view wildlife. Water sources dry up during this time, and the animals seek out permanent water sources such as Mzina Springs and Lake Jipe. The vegetation has also thinned out, ensuring that the wildlife will be easier to spot.

For more information when to visit see our Kenya Safari - Complete Travel Guide.

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Wildlife and Birds

While the wildlife population may not be particularly abundant, all the safari favourites are present, including the Big Five. Bird watching is great though, with over 400 species of bird recorded in the park.
List of Animals
  • Lion
  • Elephant
  • Cheetah
  • Leopard
  • Hippo
  • Buffalo
  • Hyena
  • Giraffe
  • Black Rhino
  • Kudu
  • Wildebeest
  • Wild Dog
  • Zebra

The Big Five, lesser kudu, fringe-eared oryx and gerenuk all make Tsavo West a great wildlife destination, despite the low population densities. The buffalo herds are large, and large herds elephants tend to gather at Lake Jipe. The maneless lions usually interest many tourists, while leopards and black rhinos are difficult to spot.

Rare Animals

  • Black rhino
  • Leopard
  • Cheetah
  • Wild dog

Infrequently Seen Animals

  • Buffalo
  • Lion
  • Hyena
  • Klipspringer
  • Fringe-eared oryx
  • Gerenuk

Freqeuntly Seen Animals

  • Elephant
  • Giraffe
  • Hippo
  • Zebra
  • Wildebeest

There are over 400 recorded species of birds in Tsavo West, making it a fantastic bird watching destination. Ngulia Hills is the best spot for bird watching in the park, with Lake Jipe and Mzima Springs tied for second place. Notable birds include the Corncrake, Marsh Warbler, Verreaux’s Eagle Owl, Thrush Nightingale and the Golden Palm Weaver. Migratory species are present from October to January.

Endangered Birds

For a complete list of endangered birds in Kenya see our Kenya Safari - Complete Travel Guide.

Endemic and Near Endemic Birds

  • African Finfoot
  • Basra Reed Warbler
  • Black-faced Sandgrouse
  • Common Whitethroat
  • Corncrake
  • Eastern Black-headed Oriole
  • Fischer’s Starling
  • Golden Palm Weaver
  • Golden Pipit
  • Golden-breasted Starling
  • Lesser Kestrel
  • Marsh Warbler
  • Martial Eagle
  • Narina Trogon
  • Northern Brownbul
  • Pangani Longclaw
  • Pied Kingfisher
  • Red-backed Shrike
  • Red-bellied Parrot
  • River Warbler
  • Red-bellied Parrot
  • River Warbler
  • Rufous Chatterer
  • Slender-tailed Nightjar
  • Somali Bee-eater
  • Somali Bunting
  • Somali Ostrich
  • Taita Falcon
  • Taita Fiscal
  • Thrush Nightingale
  • Verreaux’s Eagle Owl
  • Vulturine Guineafowl

Getting There and Safety


For the flights to Kenya, it is advised to check Skyscanner (for multiple destination flights), to see which airlines can take you there and compare various ticket prices.

If you are based in the UK and Europe, check out these flights to Kenya.

If you are based in the USA and Canada, check out these flights to Kenya.


For more information on visas see our Kenya Safari - Complete Country Guide.


Before booking your trip, you should speak to your healthcare provider regarding anti-malaria medication. As a first line of defence against mosquitoes, use a good insect repellent (30% DEET or more) and ensure that your arms and legs are covered at night.

The highest risk of malaria is from April to May and from October to November, when it rains the most.

Check your local travel health authority for more information:

Travel Insurance

Going on a safari in Africa comes with obvious risks. We recommend you get travel insurance for all safaris in XXXXX. Make sure your insurance has full medical coverage, emergency air evacuation, repatriation and the standard travel insurance for cancellations, delays and luggage cover.

Check World Nomads’ travel insurance calculator to see the cost of your safari trip cover.

What to Pack

For more details on what to pack see our Safari Packing List.


While the parks are all generally safe to visit, you should always listen to your guide and remember that you are viewing wild animals. Do not approach any animals unless your guide gives the ‘okay’.

It is a good idea to practice caution and good sense when travelling in cities and busy areas such as markets and bus stations, as these are hotspots for muggings, pickpocketing and bag-snatchings.