Land of Lava Fields, Living Springs and Elephants Aplenty
If you’re planning on visiting Tsavo West, then Finch Hattons should be your top choice. It is such a gem in the dry and arid red earth of Tsavo. Having never been to this part of Kenya before, I was in awe of the beautiful landscapes as we drove in. Mountains, volcanic lava flow, grasslands and bright red earth. Built around a permanent natural spring, this camp is a true oasis in a harsh arid landscape.
The gorgeous setting along with the elegant choice of crockery and cutlery make you feel as though you have travelled back in time to the early 1900s dining with Finch Hatton himself. In reality the camp, as a whole, is in fact an ode to his life. The bar, lounge and library tastefully carry touches of his lifestyle.
Every ‘tent’ has sweeping views over a natural spring and glorious bird viewing can be done from your tent veranda. When not out on game drives, we spent most of our time on the veranda watching a juvenile African fish eagle having fishing lessons.
Each morning we woke to a gorgeous sunrise; birds’ song and the distant sawing of a leopard. Walking to the vehicle, over the volcanic gravel paths, it was impossible not to look left – in the distance standing proud, Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa. She is a shy mountain; teasing you with brief vistas, before covering herself up with clouds. But catch her on a good day and she will make you smile.
Carrying a wholesome picnic breakfast, we ventured out each morning to traverse as much of this gigantic reserve as possible. We walked around the Shetani Lava flow. The colour contrasts here were striking; light green bushes growing out of the relatively 'new' black lava. A bright blue sky, fluffy white clouds and the rusty red road winding its way through.
On the second day we went to Poachers Lookout, a viewpoint so grand it is fabled in African literature. Historically, Tsavo has suffered from rampant poaching and it was from this exact point that rangers used to gaze out with binoculars and spy on the poachers who had moved into the area in search of ivory and bushmeat.
Fortunately, through the hard and relentless work of the Kenyan Wildlife Service and a good engagement campaign with the local communities, poaching levels have dropped dramatically. And for the most part, Tsavo has regained its status as a safe haven for many of the last great Tuskers.
Our informative, and caring guide, Evans, left the best for last: Mzima Springs. It was breathtaking. So brilliant in fact that it was here that the oasis scene in the remake of the Lion King was modelled. Shoals of bright blue fish swimming underneath palm trees. It was impossible not to catch yourself humming the tune to “Can You Feel The Love Tonight?”. There was even a solitary warthog grazing casually at the entrance.
If on an extended trip around Kenya, or returning and wanting to see something completely different, then Tsavo West should not be overlooked.
Filed under: Travel East Africa