Written by: Rachel from Bountiful Safaris
I recently got the chance to visit the Mzima Springs which are part of the Tsavo National Park. Tsavo is made up of two separate parks, Tsavo East and Tsavo West, separated by the Nairobi Mombasa Railway. At nearly 22,000km², the joint mass of Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Parks form one of the largest national parks in the world and covers a massive 4% of Kenya’s total land area.
The park achieved notoriety in the 1900s when ‘the Man-eaters of Tsavo’, a pair of rogue man-eating lions, preyed gruesomely on numerous construction workers of the Kenya-Uganda Railway. The incident was described in a book titled ‘The Man-Eaters of Tsavo’ and later turned into a Hollywood film in 1996. Today the park is more famous for its numerous prides of mane-less lions.
We left Nairobi for Tsavo at around 8am in the morning with Bountiful Safaris. The drive to the park seemed unusually long, probably because it was my first trip to Tsavo. My excitement started to build once we turned off the highway onto the dirt road that leads to the park’s main gate. The excitement died down a bit the moment I realised there was no mobile network coverage. Fortunately, there was a lot to keep me distracted, especially watching the vast Tsavo landscape unravel into endless skies, undulating hills and teeming wildlife set against the backdrop of mile upon mile of African bush.
Tsavo National Park supports all the members of the Big Five as well as the country’s largest elephant population. Our destination for this trip was the Mzima Springs, so extensive game viewing was not in the plans. I did however get to spot quite a number of animals on the way to the lodge, but the majority of the animals I saw were at the watering hole close to our accommodation. I spent a considerable amount of time sitting by the watering hole. It was just the perfect vantage point and had the opportunity to watch countless animals come, drink water and leave at their pleasure.
After a scrumptious meal at the lodge we headed for Mzima Springs. Mzima Springs are a series of four natural springs and one of the biggest attractions in Tsavo West. The source of the springs is a natural reservoir under the Chyulu Hills to the north. The Chyulu range is composed of volcanic lava rock and ash, which is too porous to allow rivers to flow. Instead, rain water percolates through the rock, spending years underground before emerging 50 kilometres away at Mzima.
The natural filtration process gives rise to Mzima’s famously clear stream, which flows through a series of pools and rapids. Mzima is one of Tsavo’s most popular wildlife attractions owing to its resident populations of hippos and Nile crocodiles and numerous bird species. There are two large pools, connected by a rush of rapids and fringed with date and raffia palms.
The walk through the springs was just the perfect activity to wind down after a long journey; serene, beautiful and tranquil – a break from the dust and heat of Tsavo. In a way it was quite noisy with screeching vervet monkeys scampering up and down and swinging from canopy to canopy, the air filled with chirping birds and colourful butterflies flitted among the foliage.
I was able to catch a glimpse of the famous resident hippos of the springs but unfortunately wasn’t able to get a good shot. They were too far away. The springs have a semi-submerged viewing hut where you can view hippos, crocodiles and fish underwater. I have seen documentaries of hippos filmed walking underwater in Mzima Springs, though in this trip I did not get to see the hippos nor crocodiles underwater.
We were able to walk around freely, as the rangers assured us that elephants and large predators hardly come to the springs, plus we had the comfort of several armed KWS rangers watching over us. We were however warned not to get too close to the water’s edge where the crocodiles lurk.
Finally it was time to call it a day. On the way back to the lodge we were able to catch the tail end of the sunset, we watched the sun hovering briefly on the horizon before finally dipping behind the crest of mountains.