Southern Kenya is home to two of the top national parks in Kenya, Amboseli and Tsavo (divided into Tsavo East and Tsavo West). With Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania as its backdrop, herds of elephants can often be seen crossing the plains – an image synonymous with Africa.
In addition to Amboseli & Tsavo, there are many other attractions for visitors to this part of Kenya, including the volcanic landscape at Chyulu Hills and the underground water viewing hide at Mzima Springs. With its close proximity to the coast, visitors often combine time here with some relaxation at one of the nearby beach resorts.
Tsavo East National Park
Tsavo East National Park, one of Kenya’s oldest and largest, is situated equidistant between Nairobi and Mombasa. It is one of world’s leading biodiversity strongholds characterised by bushy grassland, open plains, savannah and woodlands.
A visit to Aruba Dam on the bank of the seasonal Voi River is a must as it is often visited by thousands of animals. Tsavo East houses some of the largest elephant herds in Kenya. Mudanda Rock is a great place to see elephants as the rock towers above the dam seem to act as a magnet for these magnificent creatures. You should also look out for them around the Galana River, often emerging with a red hue after their dust baths!
The Yatta Plateau, the longest lava flow in the world, is a paradise for bird lovers as it attracts migrating birds from around the world. The noisy foaming waters and water eroded rocks at Lugard Falls are also spectacular.
Tsavo West National Park
Bordering Tanzania’s Southern Serengeti, Tsavo West National Park has diverse flora and fauna. The savannah ecosystem consists of grasslands, scrublands, woodlands, riverine vegetation and rocky ridges.
A variety of wildlife can be found here including leopard, cheetah, buffalo, rhino, elephant, giraffe, zebra, lion, plains game, crocodile and small mammals including mongoose, hyrax, dik dik and the nocturnal porcupine. Around 600 bird species have been recorded including the threatened corncrake and near threatened Basra Reed Warbler.
The park is a great location for walking and hiking with a number of nature trails. It’s also possible to explore the caves and see the Shetani Lava Flow. Mzima Springs offers visitors the once in a lifetime experience of getting a unique view of hippos. It’s possible to go underneath the natural spring water pool into the underwater viewing hide which allows you to get an amazing insight into the behaviour of these creatures.
Amboseli National Park
Amboseli National Park is renowned as being one of the best places in Africa to see free-ranging elephants. The bull elephants here have some of the largest tusks in Kenya. It also houses many other bird and animal species, including leopard, serval, pelican, pygmy falcon and pelicans. Amboseli, meaning ‘place of water’ in Maasai has an endless water supply which filters down from Mount Kilimanjaro in underground streams. These underground streams meet in the centre of the park to create two clear water springs.
The park has Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru as it’s backdrop and the views are quite incredible. Observation Hill offers visitors a chance to get a view of the park as a whole – a breathtaking sight.
Amboseli is important in the Maasai culture and there are a number of activities that visitors can get involved in with the local communities surrounding the park.
Chyulu Hills National Park
The Chyulu Hills National Park was designated as a national park in order to protect the unique volcanic habitat and its role as a vital water catchment area. The park encompasses the volcanic mountains as well as forest area.
Numerous species are found here including the black mamba, buffalo, leopard, rock python, oryx, lion and many plant and bird species.
© ecoTravel Africa 2011