Amboseli, Chyulu Hills and Tsavo West National Parks

  • Roger N. Scoon


The Amboseli and Tsavo West National Parks, cover vast areas of mostly semi-arid, scrub-covered plateaus in a part of southeastern Kenya that has remained largely unaffected by human impact. The Chyulu Hills is a newly proclaimed national park that abuts against the western boundary of Tsavo West. This contains one of the youngest volcanic ranges on Earth (Pleistocene–Holocene). Views of Kilimanjaro are an additional highlight of visits to these parks and Amboseli includes parasitic cones related to Kibo, the youngest component of this giant volcano. Despite being located some distance from the Gregory Rift, the volcanism of these areas is associated with the East African Rift System (EARS). The Chyulu Hills volcanism is characterised by individual and coalesced cinder cones, which typically rise some 900 m above the regional plateau. This volcanism has encroached into Tsavo West where barren Holocene-age features, including the Shaitani and Chaimu flows and cones with an estimated age of 1865–1866, can be distinguished from the vegetated Pleistocene lava fields. The Shaitani event includes a lava tube, which can be entered from areas of surface collapse. An intriguing feature of Tsavo West is the site of recent lavas unconformably overlying granite of the Neoproterozoic Mozambique Belt. The Amboseli and Tsavo West National Parks support large concentrations of wildlife despite the relatively arid terranes. Wildlife is sustained throughout prolonged dry seasons by underground water fed through porous rocks of the volcanic uplands. Swamps on the Amboseli Plains rely on groundwater from the Kilimanjaro massif. Tsavo West is fed by the Mzima Springs with water derived from the Chyulu Hills. The springs have created a small oasis, where huge volumes of underground water well up through the Pleistocene age Mzima lavas.


Holocene volcanism Lava tube Mozambique belt Mzima springs Regional plateau Shaitani lava 


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeologyRhodes UniversityGrahamstownSouth Africa

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