by Harold Ayodo
Daily, pure water gushes forth from the spring at a steady pace of more than 98 million gallons, creating an oasis at the heart of the game park even as a recent survey reveals a reduction in the flow due to illegal human activities
As the luxuriant growth around the water reverberates noisily with fish-spearing birds and monkeys, other wild animals quench their thirst at the stream.
As hippos wallow and waterbucks drink from one of the three main pools and as fish swim, in another, crocodiles bask at the bank.
A group of giraffes and zebras join the waterbucks but they troop away as a group of buffalos approach. They too leave as a herd of elephants draw near while gazelles watch from a distance. The roar of a lion sends the animals scattering.
With 100,000 visitors each year, the spring is not just the biggest attraction in the park but also the lifeline of Mombasa town and other coastal townships waters. A pipeline from the spring to Mombasa is the source of most of the cityâs drinking water. Water from the spring that is not pumped but moves by force of gravity also serves Voi, Maungu, Bachuma, Mackinon, Samburu, Mariakani and Mazeras townships as well as Malindi and Kilifi towns.
The flow of the permanent spring creates an oasis in the semi-arid area sustaining the wildlife inside and outside the park. It is home to a resident 68 hippos and 450 species of birds.
The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) survey finds a reduction of water flow from the spring over the past six years. "We recently completed a satellite and aerial survey, spring and river flow and rainfall analysis and realised a decrease of the natural water," says KWS senior warden Daniel Woodley. Huge demand for hard wood and sandalwood is threatening the flora and fauna in the park. "Illegal human activities upstream could reduce the flow of water from Mzima Springs," Ms Christine Boit, deputy park warden says. The spring is also the major source of Tsavo River that traverses the Tsavo East and West national parks, the largest protected area complex covering four per cent of the land mass.