Amboseli National Park is a mix of swamps and plains concentrated within a 96,435-acre wildlife area dominated by the snow-capped peak of Mount Kilimanjaro. The park was hived from the expansive Maasai Amboseli Game Reserve which covered 805,564 acres. Before this, the Maasai lived side by side with the game. Since there was not enough pasture for both, the Maasai had to move. But on the promise of a pipeline to bring them water outside the park. It is a UNESCO Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Reserve and Kenya’s second most famous national park after Maasai Mara National Reserve. The park’s name means ‘salty dust’ in the maa language of the Maasai. If you have it on your bucket list, make sure you do these five things.
1. Discover Lake Amboseli is a Dry Bed
Even though Lake Amboseli appears blue on maps, it is a dry bed of soda most part of the year and even produces mirages like a desert.
2. Get Close to Free-ranging Elephants
See large herds of elephants and buffalo attracted by swamps like the Loginya which remain wet throughout the year. For this reason, Amboseli National Park has become famous for being the best place in Africa to get close to free-ranging elephants. Amboseli National Park also protects herds of Kongoni, Eland, Oryx, Wildebeest, Gazelle and Zebra. With a guide, you might spot some members of the cat family, including the Caracal, cheetah, Civet Cat, Leopard, Lion and serval. The rhino has been all but poached almost to extinction here.
3. Mingle with the Maasai
Interact with the legendary Maasai people and learn about their contemporary and indigenous lifestyles.
4. Catch Views of the Elusive Mount Kilimanjaro
Catch rare but spectacular views of the elusive Mount Kilimanjaro and discover why they call it the ‘shy mountain’. The best viewing times are at dawn or dusk.
5. Do a Birdwatching Safari
Try to spot the over 600 bird species that reside here. The swamps provide a great location to spot water birds such as herons, egrets, crowned cranes and pelicans. From March to May and October to December when it is wet, you can catch flamingos. The grassland areas provide opportunities to see fascinating ground birds such as the Pangani longclaw and the Hartlaub’s bustard. Others like the steel-blue whydah, white-bellied go-away bird and the Von der Decken’s hornbill will be easier spotted in the acacia woodland.
Amboseli National Park is accessible both by road and air. The main route is via Namanga on the Nairobi-Arusha road through Meshanani Gate. Alternatively, you can access the park through Emali on the Nairobi-Mombasa road. From Mombasa, you can access it via the Tsavo West National Park at the Kimana Olkelunyiet Gate. The park has an airstrip at Empusel Gate for light aircraft. Other airstrips are at Kilimanjaro Buffalo Lodge and Namanga town. Before you plan a visit, be sure to check the Kenya Wildlife Service website for the latest park entry rates.