Newest Review: ... male lions sitting at the wheel of your 4x4 - i could go on, its just mindblowing! And Kenya certainly seems to be THE place to see it... more
Member Name: funagogo
Advantages: Loads of animals
Tsavo East (joined with West) is the largest safari park in Kenya. It is where they film big cat diaries for the BBC and unlike the more famous Masai Mara is easily accessible by road - it is 2 hours drive from Mombasa. If you are staying in Mombasa the Masai Mara is easiest to get to by flying (in a rickety looking old plane!)
The safari experience:
If you book through a travel agent or rep it is likely your party will be organised through Sonak Safari (a Nairobi based company.) You will be picked up from the hotel, very early in the morning and driven to the Tsavo east gates. The vehicle is like a campervan with 6 passenger seats and a detachable roof so you can stand up and have a look.
The roads are very dusty so don't wear anything white and they are also seriously bumpy! If you have big boobs you would probably be best taking a couple of good sports bras. After a few hours I am sure I lost the ability to have children thanks to being thrown into my seat about 5 times! It will probably also make your shoulders ache after a while as you will learn to lock your body in order to stop being thrown about.
As you enter the park you will be approached by a man who could sell snow to the eskimos who will try to sell you a hat. I would advise to go for it as they are pretty good quality, have a tie string underneath (which is a must) and cost about £5. Plus if you buy one from the entrance your driver will get a little backhander!
During the middle of the day is too hot for the animals so you will have a drive in the morning - around 8 - 11 then one in the afternoon - around 3 - 5.
Tsavo is split into East and West by the Mombasa to Nairobi railway line and covers nearly 22,000 km2 in total. It is an arrid land which means visibility for animals is greater than Tsavo West which is full of trees and shrubs. Tsavo East is around 11,000 km2 and mainly flat land.
Tsavo East is home to a massive amount of animals, and four of the big five (lion, leopard, elephant and buffalo - the rhino is protected in a sanctuary in Tsavo West.) We had to drive for about half an hour into the park before seeing anything and took loads of pictures of some giraffes that were about a mile away - as you go further into the park animals will be about 6 ft away from you so be careful not to run your battery down too soon! Obviously lions, leopards and cheetas are quite rare so all the vans are fitted with a radio system so that if something is spotted your driver will floor it so you can see it!
Gazelles/ Antelopes/ Bucks
There are also over 500 breeds of birds in the park
Safari will give you hundreds of opportunities to take pictures so it is worth while borrowing or investing in a good pair of binoculars and a camera with a good zoom. These range from about £300 to £700 but ours paid for itself with the amount of pics we got.
About £20 per person per day to enter the park, however if you are booking a package it will be about £200, which will include all meals, petrol, driver and accomodation
Your driver will be your guide for the period you are on safari, and ours was amazing. He had the eyes of a hawk and would often slam the brakes on and reverse up the road at high speed. They know the best places to see the animals and will answer just about any question you have. If you want to see a particular animal they would go on a mission to find them for you! They are fluent in English and either German or French. It is customary to tip them 500 schillings per person per day
Depending on the length of time spent on safari will depend on whether you need accomodation. The usual packages offered are 1, 2, 3 or 7 days so if you are on a 1 day safari you won't be staying over. The main place to stay in Tsavo East is Voi. There is an option of tents or a hotel. We opted for the hotel.
It was set on a side of a mountain and looked impressive as we pulled up. We were greeted by a fresh glass of orange juice and checked into our rooms. I know we were on the safari experience but the rooms were about as basic as is possible. They didn't seem clean, were covered in lizards, had holy mosquito nets and you could hear everything going on in the rooms next door. Also if you had a room on the top level you could hear monkeys, birds and lizards chasing up and down the roof all night. There was also a lack of hot water! Its one saving grace was the amazing view of the watering hole where elephants frequented. The food was a buffet, which was ok - nothing special.
However a couple of my friends stayed in the campsite below with military large tents. They had an amazing time with great barbecued food, hot showers and even massages included! I was gutted. Moral of the story is that even though camping may seem scary it was filled with fewer creepy-crawlies than the hotel!
At night you are pretty limited to the hotel (as you are in the middle of the reserve) so there isn't a lot to do. But after dinner you will probably be so knackered you will want an early night anyway
Safari is the most amazing experience I have ever gone on and if you are lucky enough to get a good driver and have a good eye you will love it. Tsavo is so big that you can easily lose everyone else in the place, as there are usually a lot of vans there. You can often go miles without seeing another person!
I would advise not to take any food with you as the monkeys do tend to try and get in and pinch it.
Tsavo is filled with a massive variety of animals that are best to be seen in a natural environment - we were fortunate enough to see some cheetas chasing a gazelle, which luckily got away.
Tsavo is cheaper than the Masai Mara and means you don't have to get on a rickety old flight. My only downside was the hotel - so go for the full on safari experience and go for the tents!
I would also say that a 3 day safari will be enough, as you will see most of the animals on the first day. You are also likely to go further afield into Tsavo west and seeing the Rhino. People who did the seven day one said it was a bit too long and quite tiring.
Summary: A great experience