Tsavo East National Park is one of the oldest and largest parks in Kenya at 13,747 square kilometres. Situated in a semi-arid area previously known as the Taru Desert it opened in April 1948, and is located near the town of Voi in the Taita-Taveta County of the former Coast Province. The park is divided into east and west sections by the A109 road and a railway. Named for the Tsavo River, which flows west to east through the national park, it borders the Chyulu Hills National Park, and the Mkomazi Game Reserve in Tanzania.
The park can be accessed by three main gates, from Voi through the Manyani gate, from Mombasa through the Bachuma gate or from Malindi through the Sala gate. There are also several airstrips in the park that allow chartered light planes. Inside the park, the Athi and Tsavo rivers converge to form the Galana River. Most of the park consists of semi-arid grasslands and savanna. It is considered one of the world’s biodiversity strongholds, and its popularity is mostly due to the vast amounts of diverse wildlife that can be seen, including the famous ‘big five’ consisting of Masai lion, black rhino, cape buffalo, elephant and leopard. The park is also home to a great variety of bird life such as the black kite, crowned crane, lovebird and the sacred ibis.
The slightly larger Tsavo East is generally flat, with dry plains across which the Galana River flows. Other features include the Yatta Plateau and Lugard Falls.
Tsavo West National Park is more mountainous and wetter than its counterpart, with swamps, Lake Jipe and the Mzima Springs. It is known for birdlife and for its large mammals. It is also home to a black rhino sanctuary.