Taita Taveta County

Discover Taita Taveta County

View of Elephants in Tsavo East National Park
View of Elephants in Tsavo East National Park

Brief Overview of Taita Taveta County

In a world that is almost on the blink of overcharge and where wildlife has been distanced to the most remote corners, the Tsavo Conservation Area serves as a meritorious reminder that all in not lost. Covering 21,000 kms, and the largest protected wildlife complex in Kenya, it pieces itself as an outdoor encyclopedia to explore the wildest Africa. Here, you find yourself in a strange country where men are rarer than animals; where it is not hard to understand how 25 million years of evolution gave the “red elephants” their emblematic trunks, which can uproot a mature tree in one go, yet, very powerful when showing affection. It is a spectacular exposition – a little like visiting a zoo with boundless dimensions.

Established as a singular entity consisted of Tsavo East, Tsavo West and Chyulu Hills National Parks, which cover about 4% of the land surface of Kenya, Tsavo Conservation Area is the most patronized wildlife protected habitation in Kenya attracting almost 350,000 visitors every year. Its proximity to the Coast Region of Kenya also gives it a relative advantage over many Game Parks in Kenya. In fact, the generally levelled Taita Taveta County falls under the Coast Region of Kenya going by its altitude, soils, natural and cultural resources. 62% of Taita Taveta County is consisted of the Tsavo National Parks – Tsavo East and West.

Taita Taveta County is divided into three major topographical zones. The upper zone, suited for horticultural farming and comprised of Taita, Mwambirwa and Sagalla Hills regions with altitudes ranging between 304 and 2,208 ms. In the midland zone, west of the ‘coast range’ bordering Kwale and Kilifi Counties, the terrain drops deeply into the Nyika Plateau which has a gently rolling relief and gradually rises further inland, where goodly hills, most notably of Kilibashi and Kasigau predominate over.  The lower and transitional zone of Nyika Plateau is consisted of the vast plains where there is ranching, national parks, and mining.

Salient Features of Taita Taveta County

  • County Number 06
  • Area – 17,084 km2
  • Altitude – 1,390 ft
  • Major Towns – Voi, Mwatate, Taveta
  • Borders – Kajiado, Makueni, Kitui, Taita Taveta, Kilifi, Kwale

Brief History of Taita Taveta County

The first shot that beckoned the start of the World War 1 land campaign in the East African region was fired on August 15th, 1914, at the border town of Taveta in Taita Taveta County.  The District Commissioner fired the shot from its then Taita Taveta Police Station. That deciding shot killed a German soldier whose grave is found at Taita Cemetery. This was instigated by the German soldiers from Tanzania who had invaded the British Taveta border post killing a native guard, Murimi Mwiti, who was manning the outpost. Forthwith, the German General led the British Empire forces on a four year snipe hunt starting on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, further southerly into Tanzania and Mozambique.

The Five Sister Hills in Tsavo West National Park.  Photo Courtesy of The Sane Travel
Five Sister Hills in Tsavo West National Park. Courtesy of The Sane Travel

Places of Interest in Taita Taveta County

1. Chyulu Hills National Park

Although Chyulu Hills National Park sits entirely in Makueni County, it forms a part of the thousands of square kilometres of virtually unbroken bushland seen from Makindu to Manyani. Chuyulu Hills covers the stretch between Makindu to Mtito-Andei; with the contiguous Tsavo West National Park marching the surfeit of bushland from Mtito-Andei to Manyani. The 200 km2 Chyulu Hills National Park is also a part of Tsavo-Amboseli Complex, and widely-known for the series of ash cones and, of course, its tremendous population of elephants. In overall terms, the elephant herds both at Chyulu Hills National Park and at Tsavo Parks estimated to be over 30,000 are thought to be the largest assembly of elephants anywhere in the world. Chyulu Hill Park is reached from Nairobi by way of a 190 kms drive along the A109 (Nairobi-Mombasa Road) to Kibwezi. 

2. Kisula Caves

Most travellers make Voi, 330 kms from Nairobi along A109 Mombasa Road, their jumping-off place for visiting the Tsavo Parks. There are five access gates into Tsavo West National Park – through Chyulu, Mtito-Andei (Kamboyo HQ), Maktau, Ziwani and Lake Jipe. Those aiming to access the park using Mtito-Andei can easily combine a visit to Chyulu Hill National Park and explore the Kisula Caves. This 11-kms-long lava-tubes, casting lengthy cylindrical passages, are thought to be the second largest lava caves in the world.  They are one of the most popular caving destination in Kenya and visited by over 20,000 travellers each year. Here, one gets to explore the geological mystery of these caves which are also one of most recent volcanic flare-ups in Kenya. The hike or drive from the foothills of Chyulu to Kisula Caves is also wild and pleasant and its wildlife, especially the antelopes, easily sighted. By road, turn right at Kibwezi, off A109 Mombasa Road onto a signposted road that leads after 9 Kms to Kithasyo Gate and to the Park’s HQ. It’s possible to enter Tsavo West National Park from here.

3. Kampi ya Kanzi Lodge

The natty and snuggly Kampi ya Kanzi Lodge pleasingly set-up at the footslopes of Chyulu Hills enjoys sensationally epic views of the primitive plains of Tsavo West National Park and Chyulu Hills National Park – a panorama ranging from the heavily wooded Chyulu Hills to the rolling savanna plains of Tsavo.  Kampi ya Kanzi Lodge was raised in collaboration with the native Maasai community on the extensive 1245 km2 Kuku Group Ranch and is based on a holistic model that aims to cater for both people and wildlife.  Kampi ya Kanzi is made up of 6-luxury-tented-cottages and 2-tented-suites built around the lovely Kanzi House which sleeps 8. Places of interest at hand include Iltari Villages and Lave Caves.

Spatial Location of Kampi ya Kanzi at Chyulu Hills National Park
Spatial Location of Kampi ya Kanzi at Chyulu Hills National Park

4. Tsavo West National Park

Originally established in 1949 as part of the Tsavo Conservation Area and later reestablished in 1964 as Tsavo West National Park, the 9,065 km2 park became the second National Park to be gazetted in Kenya – after Nairobi National Park. Tsavo Conservation Area was split for administrative purpose, with three main headquarters – Voi (for Tsavo East), Kamboyo (for Tsavo West) and Kithasyu (for Chyulu Hills). It borders both Makueni and Kajiado Counties. Although it is the less popular of the two Tsavo Parks, it receives no less than 90,000 holiday-makers each year, many of whom are attracted by its high diversity of big-game. Tsavo West National Park is widely-popular for its expansive open grasslands interspersed with ancient ash cones. Exploring through the magnificent Tsavo West National Park one gets a proposition of what this area might have looked like over a century ago. And for wildlife, Tsavo West’s abounding herds of “red elephants” are so well-known as to warrant no introduction here.  Interestingly, it is the activity of these elephants that did away with much of its woodland, rendering it to a treeless domain.  Tsavo West National Park is a haunt of many species of wild animals, as widely cited in numerous travel books, to include its legendary ill-tempered rhinos, giraffes, buffaloes and its legions of reptiles. The Park has tremendous attractions. About 32 kms from the Mtito Andei Gate sits the highly acclaimed Kilaguni Game Lodge, so often whooped up as the pioneer safari lodge in East Africa. Only 10 kms from the lodge is Mzima Springs, one of Tsavo’s greatest spectacle. It is also home to Ngulia Lodge raised on the edge of Ndawe Escarpment where game of all kinds call in on to drink at the waterholes near the lodge. It also faces the scenically-spectacular Mount Kilimanjaro. The main gates are Chyulu Gate from Amboseli and Mtito Andei Gate from Nairobi.

Map of Tsavo West National Park.  All Rights Reserved to Expert Africa
Map of Tsavo West National Park. All Rights Reserved to Expert Africa

5. Kamboyo Cottage

Kenya Wildlife Service manages and maintains the budget-friendly four-rooms self-catering Kamboyo Cottage, which is situated about 8 kms from the Mtito-Andei Gate. It is the perfect launching-point for adventures centered on Tsavo West National Park. It has spectacular views of Mount Kilimanjaro and allows for easy calls on Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary, Mzima Springs and Shetani Lava flow.

6. Shetani Lava Flow

The conspicuous Shetani Lava, which is a black lava flow (8 kms long and 1.6 kms wide) of a recent-volcanic eruption, is one of the outstanding interests in Tsavo West National Park. It features two large chinks and a single ‘mythical’ ancient tree growing mid-way its two eerie entryways. The Shetani Lava Flow has always been the subject of indigenous superstition largely because many of the foregoing generation of locals in the area witnessed “as the lava came up from a black cone” which they named Shetani the Swahili equivalent for Devil. This site, found near the Chyulu Gate, is a universal welcome to the Tsavo West.

7. Chaimu Crater

Evidence of recent volcanic activity in Tsavo West National Park is sighted in almost every direction and particularly in the northern area where most of its touring activities are well-developed.  A short distance from the Shetani Lava Flow, the Chaimu Crater, also known as ‘the devils crater’, rises abruptly from the metaphorical red soils and scrubland of Tsavo West. Dated to 1865, the conical-shaped Chaimu Crater and its associated lava-flows form a striking and unmistakable site. Chaimu offers a quick stop and hiking destination, which can be ascended in under thirty minutes and from where adventure-makers get to relish the landscapes of Tsavo West. Atop the crater, the landscape is altogether amazing. One most days, Mount Kilimanjaro stands sentinel in the background.

8. The Five Sister’s Hills

Equally impressive in Tsavo West National Park’s inventory of striking natural wonders are the Five Sister’s Hills which are a battery of five ash cone shaped hills of almost similar height. Although they are only modest in elevation, these ethereal hillocks stand-out in the levelled plain. Five Sister’s Hills rise from a stunted ridge of black lava that’s grown with shrubland and long luscious grass.

9. Mzima Springs

Past the Shetani Lava Flow the parkways in Tsavo West National Park go past other geologically-interesting lava flows, conical ash cone hills and sensational ranges before arriving at Mzima Spring – 25 kms from Chyulu Gate. Using the Mtito Andei Gate, these springs are 38 kms away; past Kilaguni Serena Safari Lodge. There is a middle-of-the-road consensus that these springs are the most spectacular sight at the indelibly picturesque Tsavo West National Park.  Here, in stark contrast to the out and out wildest savanna plains, the still magnificent crystal sparkling springs which surge out from the ground form a graceful oasis that’s sprucely girded by charming tropical palms and tamarinds.  These series of propitious pools are rich in variegated species of fish, crocodiles and hippos. Their headwaters is a natural reservoir underneath the Chyulu Hills, which act as a giant sponge, most of the rain falling on the rock percolating downwards through them and flowing out as sizeable springs along the northern edge to replenish streams, the largest being Mzima Springs. In turn, Mzima Springs are in important source of water for residents of Mombasa and other townships connected by a pipeline completed in 1966. Elevating their importance to both aethestical and economical. There is the “top pool” and the “long pool” from which the Mzima River flows to join the Tsavo River 7 kms away. Two of the much liked places to lodge in vicinity are Kitani Lodge and Severin Safari Camp.

Tsavo West National Park. Published by Leila Bennani

10. Kilaguni Serena Safari Lodge

The dusty but scenic procession of 23 kms from Chyulu Gate eventually reaches Kilaguni Serena Safari Lodge. In-spite of it being one of the oldest safari lodges ever set-up in a park in Kenya, and the first hotel establishment in Tsavo West National Park, the world-famous 56-rooms Kilaguni Serena Safari Lodge is still remarkably one of most revered safari lodges in Kenya.  Its design, exceptional hospitality, coupled with its nuance of fine views, all add up to a top-rated safari experience. The Kilaguni Serena Safari Lodge enjoys superb views over its own whooping waterhole, Chyulu Hills, the snowy dome of Mount Kilimanjaro and the plains of Tsavo West.  The Lodge is also situated just a short distance from the fairytale Mzima Springs, Chaimu Crater and Five Sister’s Hills.  From here, travellers may also explore Ngulia Hills and the Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary. From Mtito Andei Gate, the Lodge is found 38 kms away via Nhtongoni-Kambu Road.

One of the prominent features of Kilaguni is its splendid verandah, on which visitors can sit all day and watch big and small game of all kinds coming to drink at waterholes in the front of the lodge. The verandah looks over the Ol Turesh Valley and up to Mount Kilimanjaro, framed on the right by the Chyulu Hills, and on the left by Ngulia Range.

11. Ngulia Hills

Reaching a maximum elevation of 1820 ms, the Ngulia Hills, just south of west from Kilaguni, are comprised of a rugged ridge of red-coloured granite-hillocks, whose eye-catching scenery on the joyride crossing the “Rhino Valley” is awe-inspiring. From near the edge of the Ndawe Escarpment, the Ngulia Hills drop steeply into the Tsavo River Valley in the south limit.  Not far from Ngulia Hills is a small inselberg infamously known as Poacher’s Lookout that offers knock-out views of the plains and the Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary. These hills can be hiked with permission from the warden. Ngulia Safari Lodge high up the range offers up to the mark living. Ngulia Hills are found 40 kms south of Mtito Andei Gate.

12. Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary

Established in 1986 at the heart of Rhino Valley and overlooking the Ngulia Hills, the 35 km2 Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary is conceivably one of Kenya’s most successful Rhino conservation project and which has earned Tsavo West Park invaluable standing in conservation colloquies. Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary kicked-off with only three rhinos that have expanded to a population of more than 70. The area is also a beautiful one: with the cliffs of Ngulia Hills being a stopover for migratory-birds from the Northern Hemisphere, most of which are exotic. The magnificently sighted Ngulia Safari Lodge along the outer limits of Ndawe Escarpment and looking out to Kalunga Valley offers great value for money for any traveller looking to explore Tsavo West National Park. Established in 1969, the 52-rooms Ngulia Safari Lodge is enchanting and would turn even the most skeptic of safari-holidays to look good as an avid safari-adventurer. All kinds of game come to drink at the waterholes near the lodge and at a natural salt-lick, favoured by rhinos. The view from the top of Ngulia Hills is also beyond-money. There is also the modest Rhino Valley Bandas located close to these pretty Hills.

Spatial Location of Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary in Tsavo West
Spatial Location of Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary in Tsavo West

13. Kitchwa Tembo Hill

Kitchwa Tembo Hill located 45 kms from Mtito Andei Gate, about 5 kms south of the Ngulia Hills and immediately north of the Tsavo River, is many things to many people. To some it is one of the exigent hiking destinations in Kenya, first climbed in 1978 by Bill Woodley, and unveiled for hikers under the auspices of Mountain Club of Kenya who operate hiking adventures here. “Ivory Tower on Elephant Rocks, ranks with the best and hardest bush climbs in Kenya”. To others the Kitchwa Tembo Hill, which reaches 1,250 ms, is a famous World War One relic once used as a lookout by German troops. And to others it is none of these things. It is part of the rich landscape of Tsavo West National Park which is interspersed by scores of volcanic cones that also include the Chaimu and the Roaring Rocks. To learn more about hiking Kitchwa Tembo Hill do read MCK hiking guide. From Mtito Andei Gate, take the main road and turn left at the 2nd junction (2A). At the next junction (28) turn left again. Go straight over the crossroads at 21A on which the east face of the Kitchwa Tembo comes into view.

14. Finch Hatton Camp

Strategically sighted at the northwest corner of Tsavo West National Park and lionized as an authentic “Out of Africa” affair thanks to its wildscapes topped by views of Mount Kilimanjaro and Chyulu Hills, it also has awesome game safaris, natural-pools fed by springs from Kilimanjaro, as fashionable a sunset as can be offered in Africa, and good for ones spirit cultural passage into Maasai Villages. True to profile: As Africa’s Leading Tented Safari Camp in 2016, 2017 and 2018; Africa’s Leading Safari Lodge in 2013, 2014, 2015; and Kenya’s Leading Safari Lodge in 2009, 2012 and 2015, Finch Hattons Camp is an archetype of luxury safari. Some of the select amenities include a private chef at no additional cost, round-the-clock butler service, indoor and outdoor showers with a copper bath tub in each suite, heated plunge pool, star-gazing terrace and a world-class spa. It is, perhaps, needless to point out that it costs a pretty penny to vacation here. At the same time, its “Out of Africa” connection is undeniable as the brainchild of Denys Finch Hatton, the infamous British aristocrat big-game hunter turned passionate safari guide who was the lover of Baroness Karen Von Blixen. Over and above that, this camp was among the pioneers luxury safari destinations in Kenya.  Arrival at Finch Hattons Camp is no less excellent, on a private airstrip.

Experiential Video – Finch Hattons Camp

“Denys Finch Hatton was a legendary British aristocrat who travelled to Kenya in 1911 and fell under the spell of the African wild. His fascination with the wildlife turned him into a renowned photographer, dedicated conservationist and host, introducing both business tycoons and British Royalty to his world of Luxury Safari.” – Finch Hattons

15. Voyager Ziwani Camp

This is located just 5 kms outside the western limit of Tsavo West National Park along A23 Voi-Taveta Road, at the doorstep of Mount Kilimanjaro. From A109 Mombasa-Nairobi Road the traveller leaves Voi along the A23, which is tarmac into Tanzania, and proceeds westerly for 110 kms through Mwatate and Maktau to near Taveta. Here there is a turning to the left, sign-posted Ziwani Voyager Tented Camp. This is an weather gravel road, hilly and winding, that passes to the southern side of Mount Kilimanjaro. After 6 kms you reach the 25-tented-camps Voyager Ziwani Camp. If Amboseli visitors aim to visit here, they can follow Oloitoktok-Mkuu-Mwika-Taveta Road through Tanzania to Ziwani. This much-liked middle-budget retreat is a great safari weekend destination to soak up the hauntingly beautiful sights of Tsavo West National Park and explore the impressively rich historic area of Taveta. Set-up on a 30,000-acres private farm on the edge of a generous man-made dam on Santi River, Voyager Ziwani Camp offers a uniquely private but adventurous safari holiday. Some of the highlights include lazing around Ziwa Dam, fishing, guided game treks, visits into nearby Gicheha Farm, exploring World War Sites, excursions to Lakes Jipe and Chala. Also found within close quarters are Grogan’s Castle and the Ndolwa Sanctuary.

16. Mount Kilimanjaro

Granted that Mt. Kilimanjaro lies just over the Kenyan border in Tanzania, the appeal of this magnificent haunt caps the beauty of the southern area of Kajiado County. Rising 19,340 feet (5,895 ms) from the game plains at Kenya-Tanzania boundary, the snow-capped peaks and glaciers of Mount Kilimanjaro provide a knockout landscape. It is the highest mountain in Africa, as well as being one of the highest volcanoes in the world. Kilimanjaro has two main peaks; Kibo is the main attraction, being the true summit of the mountain. Mawenzi rises east of Kibo to a height of 16,980 ft., and is of particular interest to the serious climber. Whether you are an active potential mountain climber or a mere beauty lover, Mount Kilimanjaro is a must. The walks take through a fairyland of forest and waterfalls among the colourful, happy Chagga people who give the traveller as warm a welcome as can be had in any part of East Africa. The ascent of Kibo can be made from many different routes, but the common ways are from Moshi (on the Tanzania side), and Loitokotok (on the Kenyan side). The best months for climbing Kilimanjaro are January and July on a round trip of five or seven days.

Mount Kilimanjaro: The Mountain of Greatness

17. Lake Chala

The enchantingly multi-hued Lake Chala glistening from turquoise blue to jade green at different times of year makes this one of the most phenomenal lakes in Kenya. Although still an untravelled destination, the 4 km2 Lake Chala set in a rocky crater at the border of Kenya and Tanzania, it has been styled as a place of grander tranquility and serenity. Popular things at Lake Chala include spotting its bountiful avi-fauna, swimming, fishing some of its endemic fish species and camping. A trip to this site is easily combined with a visit to Lake Jipe, found 35 kms south. Lake Chala is situated 6 kms north of Ziwani Voyager Tented Camp.

18. Crystal Caves of Lake Chala

“Missionary, Charles New, the foremost European to survey Lake Chala in 1871, was told by his guides to listen for the lowing of cattle, the crowing of cocks, the thudding of pestles and mortars and the grinding of flour mills which, they said, were the sounds of the people who lived in the crystal caves at the bottom of the lake. He was also warned to take caution because sometimes the people at the bottom of the lake got lonely and came up to look for company.” Lumo Wildlife

19. The Snipers Tree

One of the most captivating war-time myths among the natives of Taita Taveta County is that of the Snipers Tree and its occupier – a German dowager whose husband was slayed by the British Empire Forces during the World War battles in East Africa. Thirsty for blood and bent on avenging the death of her husband, she hid in a hollow baobab tree (the Sniper Tree) and shot many unsuspecting British Guards. Of course, this thriller has never been confirmed, and, truth be told, it remains an old-wives myth albeit a most intriguing one. Even so, there are a shedload of bullet holes in the Snipers Tree and its hollowed opening, high up the trunk, has space enough for one death or glory tenant and their gear.  It’s found 25 kms from Ziwani Voyager near Taveta Town, at the foot of Salaita Hill.

20. Salaita Hill

The Salaita Hill whose name is widely thought to be a corruption of the English idiom “slaughter”, was the ground for some of the bloodiest battles between the British squaddies and the Germans troopers who settled scores here between February and March of 1916, during World War One. In reality, the Battles at Salaita Hill had little to do with the local politics of Salaita, and likewise, the wars in Europe had nothing to do with Africa but were primarily a defense of imperial assets on the part of the British.  The German’s interest was to keep the British forces occupied and to attempt to compromise the indispensable British East African Railway Line. The legendary Salaita Hill is located 25 kms from Voyager Ziwani Camp. Here, its old bunkers and turrets connect trippers to the tales of Salaita and to the weighty history of World World One. “Were it not for occasional cartridges, unexploded ordinance and trenches very little gives it away as a scene that has witnessed a major historical battle. It was a strategic look out post and major base for German railway communication and an important tactical point for the British ambitions to penetrate German East Africa. British intelligence showed it was defended by a small detachment of 300 men with no artillery, an error that would cost them dearly. The British command tasked to attack Salaita was marshaled by brigadier General Beve’s 2nd South African Infantry brigade and 1st East African brigade. In addition was the Indian artillery brigade. In total there were 6,000 men” – Forgotten Battlefields. Strategically set between Pare Mountains and Mount Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania, Salaita was taken over by the Germans in 1914 as a defensive stake.

21. Grogan’s Castle

This is found 23 kms southeast of the Ziwani Voyager Tented Camp taking the turnoff immediately before that into Ziwani Voyager along the A23 Voi-Taveta Road. It is set equidistant between Lake Chala (north) and Lake Jipe (south). Built in the 1930’s as a residence for distinguished Colonel Ewart Grogan – the English explorer and entrepreneur who was also the first recorded person to walk the length of Africa – it was later refurbished as a lovely egress hideout, in 2010. The conspicuous Grogan’s Castle, now a 6-rooms-getaway perched atop a hill with commanding views of the plains, offers a homey family-oriented hidey-hole and a winsome base for a weekend escape.  There is plenty to get excited about at Grogan’s Castle including its grand views overlooking the plains, Tsavo West National Park and Mount Kilimanjaro. A visit to the ancient canal system built by Colonel Grogan in the 1950’s, to irrigate his farms, is also worthwhile. Then, there’s the timeless colonial-style classic British architecture and its six cozy room-suites.  From Voi, Grogan’s Castle is 121 kms away, westerly heading.

Feeling like a Mexican hacienda grafted onto the soils of Africa, this whitewashed colonial relic has a lovely hilltop perch and is steeped in history – the building dates to late colonial times and takes its name from Colonel Ewart Grogan, the influential settler who built it. – Lonely Planet

22. Lake Jipe

The 34 km2 inter-territorial Lake Jipe, which is situated east of Pare Mountain in Tanzania, on a shallow basin surrounded by swamps, is popular as a birding paradise. It is especially vibrant between October and January when scores of migratory birds come to nest and roost here.  Lake Jipe is also a liked camping and fishing spot. It is located 30 kms south of Ziwani and A23 Voi-Taveta Road.

23. Lake Jipe Safari Camp

Away from modernity, the 10-rondavels Lake Jipe Safari Camp set on the east shores of Lake Jipe (just 500 ms away) is a simple, rough and ready, serene hideout. These bandas are modestly furnished, each with a private veranda and bathroom with a flush toilet, hot and cold shower. There is a restaurant, well-stocked bar and pool too. A campsite is located closer to the littorals. The lake, which is fed by Lumi River with its headwaters at Pare Mountains and springs coming from the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, shrinks by a few km2 during the dry season. It supports numerous endemic fish species, varied water birds and is fascinating for the fisherman and ornithologist. A popular way to explore Lake Jipe is on a tour aboard the KWS fibre glass boats around the lake. There is also a popular observation post overlooking Tsavo West National Park. Places of interest close by include Salaita Hill, Grogan’s Castle and the Maktau Station.

24. Maktau Railway Station and Cemetery

Of the 35 cataloged battlefields sites in Taita Taveta which enshrine the fierce battles between British and German forces during World War One, the Maktau Railway Station and Cemetery are perhaps the best maintained. As alluded to earlier (Salaita Hill), the German’s paramount agenda was to keep the British Forces occupied so as not to send any idle troops to other areas of conflict like to Mesopotamia and Dardenelles.  On a lesser extent, the German were bent on destroying the new railway that was a key lifeline for the British. So, the British set up base at Maktau in preparation to attack the Germans, who had fortified the Salaita Hill. At Maktau, a small British mounted force was ambushed and suppressed on September 4th, 1915. This got things going on the setting up of a fortified camp at Maktau manned by 200,000 askaris, reinforcement depot and a clearing hospital. The Maktau Cemetery was used from March, 1915, to May, 1916, and this contains 16 graves, including 1 unidentified. It is situated on the south side of the Voi-Moshi railway line and via A23 Voi-Mwatate-Taveta Road.

Some of the best-known Battlefield in Taita Taveta County include the Mzima Springs Forts, Kichwa Tembo Hill, the Poacher’s Look Out, Mahoo Hills, Mahoo Hills Church, the Mahoo Fort and Observation Post – near Salaita Hill, Maili 27 Bridge in Taita Hills, Taveta Police Station, Taveta War Cemetery, Mashoti Fort, and the Tsavo Railway Station.

25. Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary

Bordering Tsavo West National Park in the west, Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary, at the base of Taita Hills near Maktau, is a privately-run 28,000-acres wildlife area that boasts its own functional airstrip in close proximity to its two flagship lodges. Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary harbours upwards of 50 different species of mammals and over 300 species of birds. Its faunal profile includes elephants, lions, cheetahs, leopards, buffalos, giraffes, zebras, ostriches, eagles, vultures, among many. It was established in 1972 by Hilton International as a means of opening up this region for travellers. The Lumo and Taita Wildlife Sanctuaries together include a diversity of habitats that provide shelter for a wide variety of animals. As such, this is an excellent area for enjoying the enormous variety of animals found in the Tsavo Eco-system. Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary has two lovely lodges: Sarova Salt Lick Game Lodge and Sarova Taita Hills Game Lodge.

26. Sarova Salt Lick Game Lodge

Beyond question one of the most romanticized safari-destinations about Tsavo, and one of the bellwether safari lodges established in Kenya, the multi-award winning Sarova Salt Lick Game Lodge is a visionary safari wonderland not least for the unique architecture. The entire complex is built above ground, on stilts, with all 96 rooms conforming to the design of the indigenous Taita traditional huts. Essentially raised as a large lookout for game viewing over the plains and overlooking a waterhole and Taita Hills, this captures the imagination of safari. Over the years, big game have become accustomed to its unobtrusive presence. The animals therefore ignore it, and come to drink and dig for salt around the waterhole in front of the building in large numbers. Between game-watching at the private verandas in the rooms, there are two public game viewing balconies and the something-else underground pillbox placed on the edge of the watering hole. Today, the Sarova Saltlick Lodge is an indelible asset of the living-history of Tsavo Ecosystem in more ways than one. It is also the perfect jumping-off place to the Battlefield sites in Taita Taveta. By the same token, Sarova Salt Lick Lodge is actively involved in identifying these sites and coming up with exciting historical journeys. Its sister hotel, the Sarova Taita Hills Game Lodge, has a museum that displays some antiquities of World War 1. From both these hotels, holiday-makers can explore the Maktau Military Line, Mwashoti Fort, Maktau Railway Station and Cemetery, Snipers Baobab Tree, Salaita Hill and Mahoo Hills. The lodge is found 46 kms from Voi along A23 Voi-Mwatate-Taveta Road.

Sarova Saltlick Game Lodge. Published by Sarova Hotels

27. Lumo Wildlife Sanctuary

Contiguous with the Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary, the 125 km2 community-run Lumo Wildlife Sanctuary is also focused on conserving the landscape and perpetuating the wildlife resources in the wilderness area between Tsavo West National Park and Taita Hills. Its entire western boundary marches on with the Tsavo West and is a historically important dispersal and migratory corridor for elephants, and other game. The area is rich in animal diversity with over 102 mammals of which 61 are large mammals, and over 400 bird species recorded. The land is mainly rolling savannah. Lumo Wildlife Sanctuary was established, in 2002, primarily to encourage tourism in this wildly alluring back-country, and to support consolidate three Maasai Ranches under a mutually beneficial partnership. Three community ranches (Lualenyi, Maramba and Oza) each set aside sizable tracks of land to form the 45,000 hectares wildlife sanctuary. The beautifully-appointed Lion’s Bluff Lodge is its anchor lodge.  For avid campers, there are its Cheetah Campsite and Eggs Campsite.  Some of the highlights at Lumo Wildlife Sanctuary include guided walks, driving safari and cultural tours to Maasai villages. This is found 51 kms from Voi turn via A23 Voi-Taveta Road.

Spatial Location of Lions Bluff Lodge in Lumo Wildlife Sanctuary
Spatial Location of Lions Bluff Lodge in Lumo Wildlife Sanctuary

28. Lion’s Bluff Lodge

The visually-fleek Lion’s Bluff Lodge propped on the edge of a bluff overlooks the 125 km2 Lumo Wildlife Sanctuary and over one of the immemorial elephant migratory path and breeding locales for the iconic lions of Tsavo.  Lion’s Bluff Lodge adopts the traditional ‘Maasai inspired’ architecture for the 14 chic and modish en-suite bandas – all fitted with verandas overlooking the stunning and wondrous plain. Visitors to Lumo Wildlife Sanctuary get to enjoy day walking safaris and night game viewing trips. From here, it is easy to explore Mwakitau or Sagalla Hill, Battlefields of Taveta, Lake Jipe, and Tsavo West National Park. 

29. Mwakitau Hill

A visit to Mwakitau Hill, reached on a short walking jaunt from Lumo Wildlife Sanctuary, brings trippers to one of the most fascinating exhibitions of military oddments of the World War I battles in East Africa – which is among dozens of such sites to be seen in Taita Taveta County.  Just over a century ago, during the World War Campaign in East Africa, a series of infamous “bloody wars” took place at Mwakitau Hill; in the latter day Tsavo West National Park. Standing at the remains of the dry stone wall fortifications built at Mwakitau Hill, trippers can connect to this dying history of Kenya. The ardent history buff may wish to continue to some of the battlefields found around this area including Maktau, Kenyatta Caves and Snipers Tree.  Mwakitau Hill is found 11 kms east of Lumo.

30. Ndolwa Wildlife Sanctuary

Located just 7 kms from Maktau, the 10,000-acres Ndolwa Wildlife Sanctuary, which forms part of the Oza Group Ranch, enjoys glorious views of the great spectacle of Tsavo. Holiday-makers to the sanctuary stay at the Ndolwa House, a resposeful small private homestay set atop Ndolwa Hill with pleasing views of Mount Kilimanjaro, the Chyulu Hills, Yatta Plateau and of Taita Hills. Ndolwa Wildlife Sanctuary is situated near Maktau Gate into Tsavo West National Park.

31. Taita Hills

The strikingly sizeable Taita Hills covering close to 250 km2 with the highest peak reaching 2,200 ms and towering above the surrounding Taita Plain are an invaluable biosphere. Taita Hills form the northernmost sector of the Eastern Arc Mountain’s Forest Landscape, that’s a crescent shape formation which runs through most of eastern Tanzania and unfolds in the south-eastern marches of Kenya, ending near Voi.  Taita Hills are comprised of three big massifs: Dawida and Sagalla located near Voi, and Kasigau located near the Tanzania and Kenya border. Dawida Hill (the central complex) is bound by Voi Town in the east, Mwatate Town in the south, Maktau Town in the west, and Ndome in the north. The appearance of part of the Taita Hills is so well known by holiday-makers to Mombasa as it is traversed both Nairobi to Mombasa Railway and the Nairobi to Mombasa Highway. Views of Taita Hills are lovely around Voi. And the views of Dawida Hill along the rarely busy Voi-Taveta Road are especially exceptional.

32. Wundanyi Bluff

The fact that Wundanyi Town is set in the middle of Dawida – the main massif of the Taita Hill – should suggest an unusual landscape. Wundanyi lies north of Mwatate via A23 Voi-Mwatate Road and C104 Mwatate-Wundanyi Road about 30 kms west of Voi. The road which is steep and winding on most sections from Mwatate (17 kms to Wundanyi) on the way up Taita Hills has been built along the contours in the saddle of these hills. Wundanyi Bluff (sometimes known as Wesu or Wundanyi Rock) has been described as “a landmark of Taita”. The first impression of it as you near the town is breathtakingly lovely. Its near perfect vertical rock face, devoid of forest, stands sentinel over Wundanyi Town, rising almost 1,000 ft above the surrounding precipitous landscape. Most adventure-makers spend the day hiking to its summit and relishing the superb views at the apex. Generally speaking, the striking precipitous landscape around Wundanyi Town offers innumerable opportunities for hiking. There are a handful of other inviting forested hilltops with first-rate views of Wundayi to include: Ngangao Forest (highest point 1,952 ms), the Chawia Forest (highest point 1,587 ms), Mwacha Forest (highest point 1,653 ms), Mwachora Forest (highest point 1,657 ms), Kuchuchenyi Forest (highest point 1,500 ms) and lower-lying Vuria Forest.

33. Ngangao Forest

A closed canopy cloud forest and reminiscent of the rich tropical rain forest of Central Africa, Ngangao Forest is part of the Taita Hills and is situated about 10 kms north of Wundanyi on the eastern side of the north-south oriented range. Taita Hills has three main forest fragments; Chawia ( 86 ha), Mbololo (185 ha) and Ngangao (120 ha), and a number of other smaller forest fragments. Despite having a goodly rich floral profile and a spectacular forest hike, Ngangao Forest is greatly disturbed by human activities. Managed by the Kenya Forest Service, it is rich in biodiversity – with many indigenous trees, bird species and patches of exotic tree species best explored on guided tours. It is easy to traverse due to the gentle topography of the area and well beaten paths. For bird watchers it is classified as an ‘Important Bird Area’ with excellent bird viewing opportunities.

34. Kenyatta Caves

Any trip that takes to the tumulous area of Wundanyi should not omit a visit to the folkloric Kenyatta Caves, also known as the Kino Caves. Up until now, the geological curiosity and earliest occupation of the Kenyatta Caves still stirs up debates. It has been suggested that these three caves were first used as a refuge from the colonial troops – the British in Kenya and the Germans in Tanzania. Later, and rather more interestingly, it is thought that one of these caves was used by Mzee Jomo Kenyatta as a meeting room with fellow elders to discuss local affairs. At the adjoining caves is where he allegedly met the late President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania. The third cave was a kitchen where Mr. Nyambu’s wife cooked for Kenyatta and his guests. “A bed used by Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and other freedom fighters in the Caves has been preserved for posterity”. Myth or not, these caves are worth a visit. Also of interest nearby is Njama Mizango Cultural Centre. These are located at Mwanguwi Village, 5 kms from Wundanyi.

35. Sagalla Hill

The isolated Sagalla Hill, also known as Mount Sagalla, 18 kms south of Voi, is the second largest of three massifs that make up Taita Hills. It reaches 1,520 ms at the highest point. The higher slopes of Sagalla Hill are covered with exotic forests homogenous to those seen at Dawida. Its lower slopes are covered by an Acacia type bushland. Kisagalla is the language of the Sagalla people who live on the Sagalla Hill and also on the lowlands around the Hill. “There has been controversy surrounding the status of Kisagalla as either being a fully-fledged language or a dialect of Kidawida; spoken by people living around Dawida Hill”.

Taita Hills forests are small patches of forests on the hills like islands in a sea of intensive agriculture. None of the forests is free from human impacts. All the forests have portions of exotic forest planted several decades ago. On the extreme, the entire Sagalla forest is almost covered with Eucalyptus with only a small patch of indigenous forest.

36. Rev Wray Memorial Museum

Mission work in Kenya began in 1844 which was ushered in by the arrival of the German missioner/explorer Johann Ludwig Kraph of Church Mission Society of England under protection of the eminent Coast leader Seyyid Said.  Johann Kraph is best remembered for the establishment the Church at Rabai.  To grow Christianity in the hinterland, the German missioner Johannes Rebmann who had worked closely with Kraph at Rabai moved to Taita Taveta to start mission work. He founded the AIC Missionary Church at Sagalla, while Kraph moved to Kitui County.  AIC Sagalla Church was among earliest known inland missions in Taita Taveta alongside Bura Catholic Mission and the AIC Mahoo Church. The Wray Church at Sagalla, which was founded by Father Joseph Wray in 1900, is, however, one of the oldest surviving Churches in Taita Taveta. Originally built as St. Marks Church, the pocket-sized iron-fabricated relic kirk measuring only 60×40 feet still stands to date. Reverend Joseph Wray arrived in Mombasa in 1882 and a year later he travelled to Sagalla where he founded this Church and diligently served at Sagalla for thirty years before returning to England in 1912. During his stay here, Wray also helped to engender education and professional healthcare. He also wrote the first Sagalla to English dictionary and translated the Bible and the Prayer and Song Book from English to Sagalla. This Church was turned into a community museum in 2006 after their new church was built.

37. Ngutuni Wildlife Sanctuary

Found between the Tsavo Parks and adjoining Tsavo East National Park on its eastern flank, the 10,000-acres Ngutuni Wildlife Sanctuary is located 14 kms south of Voi Town. The rustic and modest Ngutuni Lodge is the anchor hotel at the sanctuary. It is the wildlife which offers the major attraction to the visitors. With its wooded fringes around the lodge, which is set atop a small hill, forming canopies of deep shade which affords welcome relief, elephants, giraffes, lions, gazelles, baboons, buffaloes and warthogs can be easily spotted at its waterhole; from the comfort of the shade and the sun-awning verandas. As the great hills of Taita begin to subside beyond Voi, rising from the surrounding plains, these also offer pleasant views draped by eroded away rock faces and wooded sleeves.

Spatial Location of Ngutuni Wildlife Conservancy in Taita Taveta County
Spatial Location of Ngutuni Wildlife Conservancy in Taita Taveta County

38. Camp Tsavo

Camp Tsavo is one of three base camps in Kenya run by Camp International, an award-winning volunteer expeditions outfit with camps across Africa, Asia and South America and headquartered in Ringwood UK, and Dubai UAE. Founded in 2002, with the first Camp Muhaka near Shimba Hills National Reserve then at Camp Tsavo near Tsavo West National Park, it now runs over 23 camps in 8 countries in 3 continents. One of its winsome products is the gap year volunteer tours which are equal parts adventure escapades and educational experiences. In all its locations Camp International encourages their volunteers to be part of the community; to immerse themselves in real world challenges, and to foster innovative solutions to everyday problems. Camp Tsavo has not only put a twist on the conventional safari experience but also runs many community projects in these areas centered on wildlife conservation, education initiatives and social welfare. It is located in Maungu, 40 kms south of Voi nearby the Marungu Hills.

39. Rukinga Wildlife Sanctuary

Unique to the isolated 311 km2 Rukinga Sanctuary located 50 kms south of Voi is that it was the first location in the world to be recognized as a Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) area. This rarely-heard status is issued to properties that fulfill a strenuous threshold of REDD – Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation – certified by the United Nations.  Owing to their valiant efforts in environment and biosphere management, Rukinga has since grown to include 11 ranches (almost 2,023 km2) around Rukinga.  Callers to Rukinga Sanctuary can enjoy a stay at the inexpensive and charming Kivuli Camp or at Kudu Camp and enjoy an enriching conservation encounter at their Taita Discovery Centre.

40. Teita Sisal Estate

Teita Sisal Estate is one of the largest sisal estates in the world and the largest of its kind in Eastern Africa. Of its 30,000-acres estate, 22,000-acres are under the cultivation of sisal which garners about 11 million boles annually.  Teita has been active in growing sisal for over six decades. The manufacturing of its sisal products such as ropes, sacks and baling twine is done at their Teita Estate Ltd annex in Nairobi. At the same time, this estate has been the source of a striking landscape in stark contrast to the vast bushland which dominates Taita Taveta County. Sighted along Nairobi-Mombasa Road and Nairobi-Mombasa Railway, around Kibwezi, the neat-as-a-new-pin unbroken rows and columns of sisal juxtaposed by bewitching giant baobabs pieces itself as one of the memorable roadside attractions. This farm’s headquarters are located near Mwatate Town.

41. Tsavo East National Park

Tsavo East, separated from Tsavo West by A109 Nairobi-Mombasa Road, is the larger of the two parks (at 14,000 km2) and the largest protected area in Kenya. Famous for its size and as the dais for big-game, Tsavo East National Park also christened as “Theatre of the Wild” has larger elephant herds and its landscape wilder than in Tsavo West. This wondrous park, where the endless bushland is only transmuted by ancient hillocks, spans four counties – Kitui, Taita Taveta, Tana River, and a small portion in Makueni. It is patrolled by over 60 species of mammals, 400 species of birds, and a miscellany of flora.  Tsavo West is also guarded by the kooky imperial lava marches of the 300 kms long Yatta Plateau. Approximately 6,369 km2 of Tsavo East National Park sits in Kitui. In spite of such a big coverage of Kitui County, there are no direct benefits; just thousands of square kilometres of bushland. In a bid to open up the dull and untravelled northern area of Tsavo East, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in partnership with Kenya Wildlife Service established Ithumba Elephant Nursery, Ithumba Camp and Ithumba Hill Camp. The Ithumba Conservation Area is located about 93 kms from the junction to Kibwezi Town. The two popular entry-points for game-viewing-safaris at Tsavo East are through Mtito-Andei Gate and Voi Gate.

Map of Tsavo East National Park.  All Rights Reserved to Expert Africa
Map of Tsavo East National Park. All Rights Reserved to Expert Africa

42. Yatta Plateau

Rising 150 ms over the surrounding landscape and spanning 210 kms from near Ol Doinyo Sabuk National Park, in Machakos County, marching south along the western bounds of Tsavo East National Park, Yatta Plateau is best-known as the world’s longest lava flow. It is marked by a narrowed flat to gently undulating bush-covered ridge with a maximum altitude 450 ms above sea level. Along the A109 Mombasa-Nairobi Road, shortly after the turnoff to Kibwezi, the striking upland of Yatta Plateau can be easily seen – to the left if heading to Mombasa and to the right if heading to Nairobi – first appearing as a perfectly sketched line in the distance and as a wooded range as you near Voi. Athi River skirts the western side of the Yatta Plateau while River Tiva flows on its eastern side. The plateau is rarely inspected at close quarters mainly because it occurs in the less developed northern area of Tsavo East that is less accessible, but can be toured by crossing Galana River on a causeway at the Lugard’s Falls where the routes extends via Mopea Gap north to River Tiva near Wathoni, and east of Lali Hills.

43. Emusaya Wilderness Zone

One of greatest attractions in the rarely visited area of Tsavo East National Park north of Galana River, 80 kms from Manyani Gate, is the Emusaya Wilderness Zone. This covers around 27% of Tsavo East. This zone, flanked by Galana River to the south, is rarely used by travellers and has no permanent accommodation. The large part of the area has relatively low densities of wildlife, and as such a wide range of alternative activities to vehicle-based game drives are permitted. This zone will continue to have the lowest density of hotel and camp facilities in Tsavo Conservation Area and is therefore exclusive. To encourage touring of the Emusaya Wilderness Zone, the suggested Thabagunji Eco-camp, a permanent ecolodge or luxury tented-camp with a maximum of 30 beds, is under planning.

44. Mudanda Rock

Until quite recently the thousands of square kilometres at the northern area of Tsavo East National Park was closed to the public, subsisting as an uninhabited scrubland, the A109 Nairobi-Mombasa Road providing the only great platform to view over. Thus the traditional first stop at Tsavo East National Park 291 kms southeast of Nairobi turning off the A109 into Manyani Gate is Mudanda Rock. This popular observation point extending about 1.6 kms long is an inselberg of stratified rock along the eastern boundary of Tsavo East and just 5 kms south of Manyani Gate. It also serves as a large watering-hole which fills seasonally and is never without a reasonably concentration of wildlife viewed from the safety of Mudanda Rock.  The dam is fed up by rain water outflow from this rock. While it lasts, this plash serves as useful stopover point for varicoloured array of birds.

45. Lugard’s Falls

Also of interest nearby Manyani Gate 28 kms easterly along the C103 that cuts across Tsavo East National Park to Sala Gate on the eastern edge is the unique bewildering landscape around Lugard’s Falls. Set in the dead-quiet backwoods, the sound of Galana River as it rushes over the bizarrely abraded boulders and narrowed passages is amplified ten fold. The mesmerizing cascades and rapids of Lugard’s Falls result from millions of years of the Galana River carvings these rocks. The main activity here is to see these rapids from as many perspectives. There are two designated crossing points. Equally impressive is the shimmering of Yatta Plateau which forms a fitting backdrop. A word of caution is necessary: The rocks at Lugard’s Falls are quite slippery and the current of this crocodile infested river is also formidable. Galdessa Little, a luxurious yet wild experience for travellers seeking to immerse themselves in a hidden and untouched corner of Tsavo East National Park, is located 14 kms northeast of Lugard’s Fall along the banks of Galana River. “Galdessa Little sleeps 6 people in 3 tents. It can be booked along with Galdessa Camp, which sleeps a further 10 people in 5 tents.”

Lugard’s Falls in Tsavo West National Park. Published by Nadejda Pommier

46. Voi War Cemetery

Voi is reached by turning off the main highway and following the minor road to Voi Town. The Voi War Cemetery is 400 metres east of the railway station and there is a CGWC sign opposite the entrance. The cemetery is surrounded by a green metal pale fence and is set back a small distance from the main road. Voi became a hospital centre early in 1916. In the period August 1915 to December 1917, 100 burials were made in the cemetery and after the Armistice, a further 37 graves were brought in from Bura Military Cemetery (14 graves of the 2nd Loyal North Lancs, 29 September 1915), Maktau Military Cemetery (17 graves, largely 3 September 1915) and Tsavo Military Cemetery (six graves). The origin of the Voi Cemetery can be traced back to the burial of a civilian engineer (Mr. O’Hara) in 1899, who was killed by one of the famous ‘Man-eaters of Tsavo’. It now contains 137 Commonwealth burials of the First World War, one of which is unidentified. The Commission also has responsibility for six non-war burials.

47. Kanderi Swamp

“Tsavo East National Park is effectually drained by the Athi River crossing the northern portion of the Park along the Yatta Plateau to become Galana River further south after joining with Tsavo River. Seasonal Voi River flows through the southern portion of the Park while its other seasonal Tiva River traverses the northern reaches. Swamps in Tsavo East include Kanderi and Aruba Dam.” – KWS. Kanderi Swamp, a groundwater fed system reservoir also fed by River Voi, is situated close to Voi Gate. Thanks to the drainage, the encircling area is marked by a singular leafy swamp vegetation. All kinds of game come to drink here, varying from the elephant and buffalo, to the lion and hundreds of birds. There are two tented camps nearby Kanderi: Ndololo Camp and Sentrim Camp.

48. Voi Wildlife Lodge

The centerpiece of Tsavo East National Park is the splendid Voi Wildlife Lodge, situated about 7 kms from the main Voi Gate. This has been built at the peak of a rocky outcrop in the saddle of the Worsessa lookout and overlooks the Tsavo Plains. It was designed as the forerunner of a new type of safari lodge, which, while in character with its dramatic landscape, provides international standards of comfort and service. Established in 2003 and set up on 25-acres, Voi Wildlife Lodge is comprised of 88 rooms including 24 deluxe rooms, all with access to the large swimming pool below the main complex that’s a swanky area to watch the wildlife. Its overall outlook is designed to sensitively contrast with the wild plains. The massive volcanic outcrops near the hotel also add to the beauty of the setting. It is within easy reach of Mombasa, and the beach, and this offers a unique opportunity to switch between two of Kenya’s biggest tourism offerings.

49. Aruba Dam

Most visitors to Tsavo East National Park make Voi Gate the starting-off point. Travellers can stay at one of many lodges found here. If one enters the park and takes a 33 kms drive easterly they arrive at the Aruba Dam. It was built in 1952 across the Tsavo River to create a permanent waterhole for wildlife. Situated on the banks of the large Aruba Dam, where many animals including large herds of elephants come to water, is the Aruba Lodge. Facing the dam and set amongst landscaped gardens, the 40-rooms and 6-en suite-tents Aruba Lodge lack little in beauty. It is reachable by road or air. From Mombasa Aruba is 160 kms away.

50. Taru Desert

Voi is separated from the Coast Region of Kenya by a 150 kms long seemingly never-ending scorched and waterless scrubland known as Maungu Plains and more proper as the Taru Desert – A vast wilderness of wait-a-bit thorny and occasional baobab trees. These plains form the main migratory corridor for wildlife passing from Tsavo East to the foothills of Kilimanjaro. At most times a haze of grey-green scrub and red rocky outcrops, where hornbill swoop in May and June, the Taru bursts into a tapestry of blue and white convolvulus flowers.

Mzima Springs in Tsavo West National Park.  Image Courtesy of KWS
Mzima Springs in Tsavo West National Park.  Image Courtesy of KWS

Geography of Taita Taveta County

Taita Taveta County is divided into three major topographical zones: The upper zone comprised of Taita, Mwambirwa and Sagalla Hill with altitudes ranging between 304 to 2,208 ms; The lower zone consists of plains of Tsavo Parks. The main rivers in Taita Taveta County are Tsavo, Lumi and Voi. Mzima Springs is the major water supplier to Voi Town and Mombasa City, while small springs and streams include Njukini, Njoro kubwa, Kitobo, Sanite, Maji Wadeni and the Lemonya Springs. And in addition is Lake Jipe exploited for small-scale fishing.

Land Use in Taita Taveta County

The land surface area of Taita Taveta County is 17,059 km2. Of these, the total agricultural land is approximately 10,630 km2, with arable land constituting about 2,055 km2. The rest is rangeland best suited for livestock rearing. About 14,307.2 km2 of land is non-arable. The percentage of arable and non-arable land area is 12% and 88% respectively.  Additionally, the Tsavo National Parks cover an approximate area of 10,650 km2, which translates to about 62% of the total land area. Water bodies cover approximately 16 km2, leaving about 22% of the land for settlement and agricultural activities.  Much of the land in Taita Taveta County is communally retained with only 35% of land having title deeds.

Highlights in Taita Taveta County

In the lowlands and transitional zone of Taita Taveta County lies the expansive rangeland where the Tsavo National Parks are located. 62% of Taveta County’s area constitutes Tsavo National Parks. Some of the notable areas include Aruba Dam, Mudanda Rock, Lugard’s Falls, Mzima Springs, craters and Yatta Plateau.

Population in Taita Taveta County

According to the 2009 Population and Housing Census, the total population of Taita Taveta County was 284,657.  This population was projected to be 306,205 in 2012 – comprising of 149,869 females and 156,336 males – set to increase to 329,383 and 345,800 in 2015 and 2017. Of the four constituencies, Voi has the highest number of people at 96,229; followed by Mwatate with a population of 76,926, and Taveta, with 72,787. Wundanyi, its HQ, is the least populated town.

The Sniper Tree near Voyager Ziwani Camp.  Photo Courtesy of The Star
Sniper Tree near Voyager Ziwani Camp.  Image Courtesy of The Star

Airports in Taita Taveta County

There are 17 airstrips in Taita Taveta County with 6 located in Taveta, 5 in Voi and 6 in Mwatate. These include 2 private airstrips, one located in Mwatate and another in Taveta and 4 public airstrips found within the Tsavo National Parks.

Roads in Taita Taveta County

Taita Taveta County has almost 90 class D, E and unclassified roads totaling 1,513 kms and a further 200 kms of class A, B and C roads.  The main roads are A109 Mtito Andei-Voi-Bacuma Road (150 kms), A23 Voi-Taveta Road (123 kms), C104 Mwatate-Wundanyi Road (18 kms) and the C105 Voi loop (6 kms).

Climate in Taita Taveta County

Taita Taveta County experiences two rainy seasons – the long rains between the months of March and May, and the short rains between October and December. Rainfall distribution is uneven, with the highlands receiving higher rainfall than the lowland areas. The mean temperature in Taita Taveta is 23 Degrees Celsius.

Taita Taveta County Distance Chart
Taita Taveta County Distance Chart

View of Sarova Salt Lick Lodge in Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary.  Photo Courtesy of Expedia
Sarova Salt Lick Lodge at Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary. Image Courtesy

National Monuments in Taita Taveta County

  1. ACK Sagalla

Taita Taveta County Map

Taita Taveta County Map