Most Kenya travellers flock to the Maasai Mara or do round trips that take them to the Northern parts of Samburuland or to the famous Amboseli Nationalpark with it’s views of Mount Kilimanjaro. But if you venture a bit further to the East, there’s more to discover! Let us introduce you to the iconic Tsavo West and Tsavo East National Park, home to the largest population of elephants in all of Kenya.
5 Reasons why you should visit Tsavo
Like most visitors we didn’t include Tsavo in our first visit itinerary of Kenya. But we knew from the get-go that we would visit if we ever returned! And just a year later it was time, our second Kenya trip would finally also bring us to Tsavo. Now that we’ve experienced both Tsavo West and East, let us share a few good reasons, why you should include Tsavo in your itinerary:
- Scenic landscapes: The red soil and rolling green hills make for stunning vistas in and by itself. But there’s more: From palm trees to baobabs, there’s a large diversity of different landscapes!
- Abundant wildlife: Right around the corner from the airstrip we stumbled upon an Oryx antelope, one of the residents, that you cannot see in the Maasai Mara or in other parts of Kenya. Apart from Oryx Tsavo is home to the largest population of elephants in Kenya, as well as lions, leopards, wild dogs, rhinos, hippos and large herds of zebras and towers of giraffes. Well and much much more!
- Size matters: Together Tsavo West and East form one of the largest and most diverse national parks in the world – approximately the size of Israel. From baobab trees to rocky outcrops and the longest lava flow in the world, it doesn’t get more diverse and largely untapped!
- Water – the lifeline of Kenya: Two rivers form the lifeline of the parks – the Galana and Tsavo rivers bring water to this otherwise arid bush land. Even in a drought like this year there’s still water and wildlife will gather here to survive!
- Extraordinary lodges: We stayed at the incredible Kipalo Hills Lodge by Secluded Africa, which is perched on a hill with fantastic views and in it’s very own private conservancy.
Keep on reading to find out more about this abundant region of Kenya!
How to get to Tsavo
There’s a number of ways to get to Tsavo, from the famous railway that runs between Nairobi and Mombasa to a modern tarmac road that also connects the two cities. Personally we chose the most comfortable method of transport and flew in with a bush plane by Safarilink from the Maasai Mara to the Tsavo Kilaguni Airstrip (with a stopover in Nairobi), which is located inside of Tsavo West National Park.
From here the team of our lodge Kipalo Hills picked us up with a safari vehicle and off we went on a game drive through Tsavo West straight away. The drive took around 3 hours (with some stops along the way for wildlife encounters). In the future the lodge will have it’s own air strip, so the trip will be even easier!
Where to stay: Kipalo Hills by Secluded Africa
Kipalo Hills is a lodge, that keeps every promise when it comes to seclusion, privacy and wildlife encounters deluxe. There’s only 6 rooms in total and the way it’s perched on the side of Mbulia Hills not only makes for sweeping views across the plains, but also a gentle breeze, that makes even the hottest of days bearable.
The central location of Kipalo Hills allows access to both Tsavo West and Tsavo East National Park, but there’s more to it. In fact, the owners Secluded Africa, have not just built a lodge here, but transformed the land into their own conservancy. The Mbulia Conservancy directly borders Tsavo West and was created so that the local community can benefit from protecting the resident wildlife.
Adjacent to the main building of Kipalo Hills lodge you’ll find the bar and a large terrace with a pool.
The key feature: Kipalo Hills’ own water hole
The water hole in front of the lodge attracts wildlife from elephants to leopards, so you hardly have to even leave the lodge to experience a full on safari. Every evening when we enjoyed our sundowner at the lodge we witnessed one species after the other pay a visit to the water hole (which needs to be filled twice a day to keep up with the demand!).
We even got lucky to see two different leopards drinking at the water hole during one dinner!
Our room: The luxury suite at Kipalo Hills
Currently the team of Kipalo Hills is transforming the lodge, so that more of the standard tented rooms become luxury suites in the near future. We got lucky enough to stay in the one luxury suite that has been finalised already and there’s no easy way to describe this thatched roof paradise properly to keep true to it’s stunning features!
The luxury suite at Kipalo Hills offers a large deck, tented living room and bedroom (with a huge closet) and a thatched roof open bathroom.
What to do during your stay at Kipalo Hills
Apart from lounging on the deck and enjoying the swimming pool with views of Mount Kilimanjaro there’s a couple of activities, that we would recommend during your stay at Kipalo Hills. Of course you should plan game drives or day-long safaris to both Tsavo West and Tsavo East. Other than that you can visit the Mbulia Conservancy’s ranger unit to learn more about the effort it takes to keep humans wildlife conflicts at bay and manage the protected area.
Another specialty at Kipalo Hills are the walking safaris, where you’ll learn more about the wildlife, read tracks and pay attention to the small details. After the short track you’ll be treated to a bush breakfast deluxe with fresh warm dishes, all made by chef Daniel on a gas stove!
From ranger unit visits to walking safaris – make sure to use the opportunity to learn more about Mbulia Conservancy!
Another highlight of a stay at Kipalo Hills is the sundowner – the team will set it up either at the terrace of the lodge or even better – on a small plateau at the edge of Mbulia Hills. This is a must do and offers the chance to connect with the lovely team personally!
The ideal traveller type for Kipalo Hills
We believe Kipalo Hills is the perfect lodge for you if you’re looking for serenity and privacy with a very relaxed atmosphere. After our days in the Maasai Mara we enjoyed the seclusion and off-the-beaten-path feeling here. In Mbulia Conservancy you won’t meet any other tourists as it belongs exclusively to guests of Kipalo Hills. Also during our game drive through Tsavo West we didn’t see one other car.
Tsavo East can be either completely empty (if you drive along Galana river for example), but you’ll also be able to cross paths with other visitors when you drive along what locals call the “pipeline road”. This is where a lot of wildlife gathers as the pipeline leaks in many places (on purpose) and provides water. In any case with the size of Tsavo East you can also manage to go days on end without meeting other tourists.
Kipalo Hills is the perfect lodge for guests who are looking for a secluded place & a private family atmosphere!