Amboseli National Park mostly referred to as the land of giants is located in the Loitoktok district in Kajiiado county of Kenya. Amboseli national park lies in the rift valley of Kenya covering an area of 392 square kilometers spreading across Kenya and Tanzania border. Amboseli national park formerly known as Masai Amboseli game reserve with Nairobi as the nearest city is governed by three authorities i.e. Kenya wildlife service, country council, and the Masai community. The name “Amboseli” comes from a Maasai word meaning salty dust, the Masai people live near the park and carry out farming in the swamps of the park.
Amboseli National Park lieing at the altitude range of 1124-1164 meters is one of the most popular national parks in Kenya and the best place in Kenya offering best wildlife viewing with large herds of elephants up close that is why it is referred to as the Home of Africa elephant and also offers fantastic photo opportunities. Amboseli national park lies North West of mountain Kilimanjaro on the border of Tanzania forming a much larger 3000 square kilometers of Amboseli ecosystem.
Amboseli national park is a prominent ecological system made up of open plains, acacia woodlands, rocky thorn bush country, swamps, marshland and part of it is a Pleistocene lake basin though it is dry. In these regions, there is a dried-up bed of Lake Amboseli and wetlands with Sulphur springs. Amboseli national park is a UNESCO biosphere reserve harbors a large population of interesting wildlife which includes over 1000 African bush elephant individuals, climbing lions, zebras, wildebeest, giraffes, cape buffalo, spotted hyena, impala, cheetah, Masai giraffe, leopards, and monkeys. The park also shelters approximately 370 bird species such as ostriches, flamingos, yellow-billed, colorful grey crowned cranes, spur-winged lapwings mostly swamp birds, these animals are more concentrated in the flat open landscape which makes game viewing more easy mostly in the dry season of June to September and January to February where the park is filled with clear skies and animals trample through the dusty plains creating dusty which is an impressive view.
Amboseli national park offers great scenic beautiful view of the snowcapped mountain Kilimanjaro the highest free-standing mountain towering above the Amboseli plains which attracts millions of tourists to this park. Mountain views are more interesting in the morning when the top of the mountain is covered with mist. Snowcapped Mountain Kilimanjaro has created two clear water springs/ underground water supply filtered through layers of volcanic rock. The park is famous for six community-owned group ranches and special for swamps like Enkongo Narok and Olokonya swamps which are fed by the melting snow of Mount Kilimanjaro.
Amboseli national park experiences mild dry climate it is hot and dry since it lies in the rain shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro in the northwest of it. Temperatures in the park vary with a minimum temperature of 27°C and a maximum of 33°C. The climate here is known for shifting from drought to flood by time for example in the 1990s a lot of rain was received in the park turning it into a swamp and years later the grass-covered plains turned into dust.
The area covered by Amboseli national park was formerly known as Empusel a Masai region that was the most feared region to be crossed by a foreigner. In 1883 joseph Thompson was the first European to penetrate the region an on his arrival he was astonished by the fantastic variety of wildlife, the beautiful scenic view of Mount Kilimanjaro combined with a contrast between arid areas of the dry lake bed and the swamps. In 1906 Amboseli was protected as reserve for the Masai, in 1948 the reserve was put under the control of the locals and in 1974 the reserve was declared a national park primarily to conserve the unique ecosystem it hosts, in 1991 the area was declared a UNESCO biosphere reserve During the regime of President Mwai Kibaki the control of the park was transferred from Kenya wildlife service to Olkejuedo country council which is still being contested in courts.
Activities in Amboseli National Park
Amboseli National Park is a breathtaking tourist destination offering positively addictive safari activities with numerous attractions. These safari activities include
- Culture encounters: On the outskirts and in some areas in Amboseli national park there live the ancient Masai people, in Kenya, this is the only area where you will get to experience the unique culture of the great Masai. In culture encounters you are guaranteed to witness and learn the indigenous life style of these people like cultivating ways, dance and reciting stories and many more, on this activity you sure to be mesmerized.
- Bird watching: Amboseli national park hosts a large population of magnificent bird species of approximately 400 species, for example, African sacred ibises, pelicans, yellow billed storks, flamingos, ostriches, colorful grey crowned cranes, bishops, goshawks, buffalo weavers and palm nut vultures and many more. These birds are seen in swamps, the dried lake basin, and the savannah plains.
- Sightseeing: There is no beautiful scenery in Kenya than the scenic view of elephants running around with a back drop of the snow covered mountain Kilimanjaro. Kilimanjaro is made up of more scenic scenes that can be enjoyed by tourists such as the swamps, the dried lake basin and the dusty plains which are good for pictures.
- Nature walks: Nature walks in Amboseli national park is very amazing as it takes you through the different sections of the park while you enjoy numerous wildlife grazing in the savannah plains especially large herds of the giant African elephants, drinking water at the spring.
- Wildlife viewing/ game drives : Amboseli national park shelters a variety of wildlife which offers breath taking game viewing with a back drop of the snowcapped mountain Kilimanjaro while on a game drive, the park is made up of flat savannah plains which facilitate wonder game drives where large herds of African elephants, climbing lions, ostriches and many more.
For the safety of animals and tourists, some rules and regulations were drafted by the park authorities, these include:
- Never leave your vehicle except at designated spots
- Do not harass the animals
- Always keep on designated tracks
Visiting Amboseli national park can be done throughout the year, but the best wildlife experience it is better to go for a safari during the dry months of June to October in this period animals gather around the marshes and water sources to drink water, they are also seen the sandy plains kicking up a lot of dust which is a great photo opportunity when the light is low.
Amboseli national park can be reached by road through the main road from Nairobi via Namanga which is 240 kilometers using Nairobi- Arusha road. The other road to use is via Emali which is a tarmacked road from Emali to Remito gate which is 64 kilometers from Mombasa. By air you can use a chartered aircraft from Empusel gate, other airstrips to use to connect to Amboseli are located at the park headquarters, at Kilimanjaro Buffalo lodge and Namanga town.
While on a safari at Amboseli accommodation can be got from e Oltukai Lodge, Amboseli Serena Lodge, Amboseli Sopa Lodge, Kimana Lodge, and Tortilis Camp