Like every twenty-something I grew up watching a bit too much Lion King (or was that just me?), which made going on a safari a long-standing item on my travel bucket list.
I finally fulfilled this African dream when I went to Kenya and did a safari in the Tsavo East National Park. This was without a doubt one of the most amazing experiences of my life.
If you’re dreaming of your own magical Kenyan safari, but are looking for help to plan it, you’ve come to the right place!
In this guide I’ve put together everything you need to know about doing a safari in Kenya, specifically in the Tsavo East National Park.
I go over things like what to pack, things you need to know before you go, choosing a park for your safari, where to stay and more.
So what are you waiting for, your safari in Kenya is waiting! Let’s dive in!
Things to know before going on a safari in Kenya
Even if you’re an experienced traveller, going for a safari in Africa isn’t quite like going on any other trip. There are some things you need to do before you go.
Check if you have all the necessary vaccines – Arguably you should do this before every trip, but for most destinations you will usually be up to date.
Before a trip to Kenya you should pop by your local pharmacy and see what they recommend vaccine-wise.
Visit a pharmacy or doctor to get your anti-malaria treatment you want (if any) – I’m not a doctor and can’t advise you, so make sure to visit a doctor or local pharmacy and ask about the different types of malaria treatment you can get.
Some parts of Kenya aren’t affected by malaria, and some travellers decide to not take malaria tablets to avoid the side effects as they feel the risk to catch it is very low. Personally, I took Malarone for my trip.
Check the weather forecast – Generally speaking, the weather in Kenya is always very hot. However it does occasionally rain, so you will want to check the forecast before your trip and pack accordingly.
What to pack for a safari in Kenya
I listed below some items you definitely don’t want to forget before your safari in Kenya, and some suggestions for safari appropriate clothing.
Mosquito repellent – Unless you want to spend the day swatting mosquitos away, make sure to bring yourself some mosquito repellent!
Sunblock – The African sun is very intense, you don’t want to get sunburnt and ruin your trip.
Loose and long sleeved outfits – These are the best outfits for such hot climates, since it keeps things breezy and in the shade.
Wide-rim hat – Like the above points, you want to protect yourself from the sun.
Sunglasses – Don’t forget them, there’s nothing worst than squinting all day while trying to watch the horizon under the midday sun.
Binoculars – As good as your eyesight can be, it won’t be good enough to spot animals that are very far away. Bring one of these with you to ensure you can see animals that you can’t get closer to.
About the Tsavo East National Park
With its 13,000+ kilometres squared, the Tsavo East National Park is one of the largest and oldest parks in Kenya. Access to the park costs 65 USD for adults and 30 USD for children.
There are three entry gates to the park and once inside you can only drive on the set paths. Bush driving isn’t allowed so as to not disturb the wildlife.
How to get to the Tsavo East National Park
We were staying in Malindi before heading to the Tsavo East National Park. From Malindi it is approximately a 4-hour car drive depending on the road conditions.
The road is paved for a short section beyond Malindi, with the rest of it being a dirt road, which takes considerably longer to drive on.
If you are travelling to the Tsavo from further away (eg. Nairobi) you can fly to one of the small airstrips that are close to the park. You can usually organise these with the camp or lodge that you are staying at.
On our drive back to Malindi after the safari we spotted lots of early morning jeeps that were doing a day trip safari to the Tsavo East National Park from Malindi. While this is doable, I don’t particularly recommend it.
You would end up spending 8 hours in the jeep just to get there and back, plus all the time you will spend in the Tsavo East National Park doing the safari.
Doing a safari is a once in a lifetime experience, you want to be fresh for it!
Also, staying in a lodge or camp in the park (or close to it) is also a unique experience, you don’t want to miss out on it!
Where to stay during your Kenyan safari
I’ve listed below some options of camps in and around the Tsavo East National Park that you can stay at for your safari for every budget.
Budget: Sagala Lodge – If you want to have a safari lodge experience without breaking the bank, Sagala Lodge is a great place to do so.
This affordable camp might be basic compared to some of the more luxurious ones, but it comes with a pool, delicious food, spacious rooms and a great location for an early morning safari. Can’t ask for much more really!
Mid-range: Swara Osteria Camp – We stayed at a camp just outside the park called Swara Osteria Camp and it was an incredible experience. They had an infinity pool with a view, glamping tents and the food they served was delicious.
Luxury: Finch Hattons Luxury Tented Camp – If you’re looking to spoil yourself, this is the place to do so. With private pools, a spa and lovely savannah décor, it’s the perfect place for a luxury safari experience.
Our safari in the Tsavo East National Park
After a long afternoon of driving we arrived at the Swara Osteria Camp in the evening, where we were greeted by Maasai with refreshing drinks and towels.
We were also greeted by the most amazing starry sky, since the power generators don’t kick in till later at night. We got to sit around the pool and the fire and enjoy the star and candle lit atmosphere.
Before having dinner we decided to head out for a night safari, which was incredible. Driving around the savannah under the stars, surrounded by all the sounds of animals getting ready for the night was magical.
We didn’t see big cats, which we were hoping to see as they usually come out to hunt at night, but we did see a group of elephants with their babies. We also saw a rabbit, who ran away as soon as we approached.
Can’t lie when I say it was pretty unexpected.
The morning after we woke up at 5am, and had an awesome breakfast while watching the sunrise over the river in front of our camp.
We set off nice and early, so that we could have a full day searching for animals and watch the sunrise over the savannah.
I had a very Lion King moment when the big red sun rose in all its beauty. My safari companions didn’t appreciate my singing moment as much.
We had an adventure packed day, featuring mostly a lot of driving, interrupted very often by a yell of “I see something!” or “Look there ahead!”, which was usually an animal, but sometimes just turned out to be a funny shaped rock.
Seeing our first elephant in daylight was quite the encounter. Especially because our first elephant encounter was a mother with her cub!
After that we saw lots of elephants, playing in muddy rivers or simply walking around. One even crossed the road right in front of us and almost charged at our land rover!
At one point we got to a traffic jam in the road, definitely not what I was expecting in the middle of the savannah!
There were three or four cars parked on the side of the road. We were wondering what they were doing when our guide explained they had spotted lions.
I got super excited about this. The lions were resting in the shade under some bushes, but we saw them move around and walk from one to the other. I can happily say I saw Simba. Although I still need to find Pride Rock.
After that we saw an abundance of zebras, antelopes, monkeys and giraffes. Driving along the river our guide told us to keep an eye out for hippos. However this is really hard for those with an untrained eye.
We stopped a few times with the driver pointing out at what looked like shallow rocks, but when you look at it long enough realise it’s moving and it’s a hippo!
We got to get out of the car at a “Hippo Point”, where you could walk down to the river to get a closer look at the hippos. I was a bit scared since hippos seem placid, but they’re actually very dangerous!
On return from the safari we went on a sunset walk along the river, accompanied by the Maasai from our camp. When compared to driving, walking in the savannah was an even more magical experience.
Especially a since we were accompanied by expert Maasai, who were pointing out all the traces of animals and told us stories of the area.
If you want to find out more about the Maasai check out this article about life in a Kenyan Maasai village. We then closed the day with a lovely dinner under the stars.
Final thoughts on doing a safari in Kenya
Have you ever been on a safari? How did you find it? Let me know in the comments below!
For me it was a dream come true. Doing a safari had been at the top of my travel bucket list for years, and finally going to Kenya for a safari was simply magical. We had an incredible experience thanks to Swara Osteria Camp.
I wanted this post to be informative, sharing with you useful safari information like what to pack and where to stay, but I also tried to make it more personal than the average travel guide.
Doing a safari left me simply awestruck, and I wanted to convey those feelings to you by sharing my experience. I hope you find this guide useful in planning your own safari to the Tsavo East National Park, Kenya!
If you need help planning your trip, make sure to check out this Kenyan safari packing list.