Sunday, 18 September 2011

Westward Ho...a brief look at Tsavo West

Less than a week to go now and today we will look at memories from a previous visit to Tsavo West National Park. 

We have only made one brief two-day visit to Tsavo West before, so we are looking forward to spending much more time there and exploring further.  One highlight from the last trip was the magical Mzima Springs, a crystal clear volcanic spring, which creates a beautiful oasis in the middle of semi-arid scrub.  The waters of Mzima Springs are home to a fascinating collection of wildlife, from Crocodiles and Hippo to shoals of Barbel.  Around the fringes of the Springs, Pied Kingfishers wait to dive in and catch the smaller fish.  There is even an underwater viewing area, where you can watch the action beneath the water and enjoy the strangely balletic appearance of swimming Hippos!  Mzima Springs is definitely on our visit list this time!

From the viewing area on the top right, you can see what happens underwater at Mzima Springs.
Image by Jason © Icarus Images

The Pied Kingfisher waits for his dinner to swim by.
Image by Jason © Icarus Images

Our first new encounter in Tsavo West was with a pretty little bird we had not seen before, the Fischer's Starling. We also met the beautiful and enigmatic Lesser Kudu, one of the most stunning antelopes.

Fischer's Starling

A work of Nature's Art ~ The Lesser Kudu

On our only previous visit to Tsavo West, we did not have time to visit the Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary, an enclosed area of the Park, where Black Rhino are bred for re-introduction to areas where they have been previously wiped out by humans.  This is another area of Tsavo West that we are really looking forward to visiting.  As we will be staying nearby in the Rhino Valley Bandas, there will be no excuse for not visiting this time!

We did have something of an adventure in our short stay in Tsavo West last time, as the "airport road" had been washed away in flooding, which gave the little Rav4 we were driving a serious workout on the way to the Public Campsite near Chyulu Gate.  Having spent over an hour bouncing around as we navigated what was left of the track, it was quite amusing when we reached the flatter track at the airstrip, to find a sign warning us about bumps in the road!
After bumping and bouncing our way along the Airport Road, we finally reached a smooth track only to find this sign!
Image by Jason © Icarus Images

The campsite itself is in an area full of sharp volcanic pumice, thrown out thousands of years ago by Kilimanjaro, so it is not only rough on tyres but also impossible to pitch a tent on.  To get over this, Kenya Wildlife Service has built some custom tent pitches, complete with roof canopies, to put your tent up in.  There are also decent areas for building your cooking fires.  In such luxury, Jason and Howard felt it only fair that they should relax and let Karen cut the firewood.

Cutting firewood is no mean task with a blunt panga!

We are all really looking forward to seeing a lot more of Tsavo West National Park on this safari!  In the next pre-safari blog we will look at memories from our other wildlife destination for this safari ~ the Masai Mara.

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