Previously known as the Maasai Amboseli Game Reserve, is a park found in the southern constituency of Kajiado in Kajiado County, Kenya. It is an ecosystem that extends across the border between Kenya and Tanzania and it has an area of 39,206 ha (392 km2).
The main inhabitants are the Maasai, over time inhabitants from other parts of Kenya have migrated there due to the booming economy thanks to intensive agriculture along the water rich land and tourism, for the bird watchers there is an experiences out of this world with 400 bird species including waterfowl such as hamerkops, kingfishers, crakes pelicans, and 47 species of raptors to feast your eyes on.
The park offers protection for the two of the five salt flats. It has a dry Pleistocene lake and semi-arid foliage. Located approximately 240 km (150 miles) to the Southeast of Nairobi, Amboseli comes at number two in popularity after the Maasai Mara National Reserve.
History of Amboseli
Joseph Thompson from Scotland became the first known European to venture far in this area in 1883. He was in is journeys around L. Victoria when by chance he stumbled on this beautiful land of Maasai people, known as Empusel which means salty and sandy place. He became the second European to catch a glimpse of Mount Kilimanjaro which was capped by snow. The first European being the missionary from German, Johann Rebmann.
The amazing diverse flora and fauna and sharp difference between the dry lake bed and the lush green vegetation, bird-filled swamp oasis really struck him. At the onset of colonial era, in the beginning of 20th century, the South Maasai Game Reserve was established to curb the rampant wildlife hunting and especially the Elephants which was being hunted for their tusks. The area comprised of a large area to the south of Nairobi, and the current Amboseli National Park and it had extended to area that now is for the Maasai Mara National Reserve.
April 1948, after the 2nd World War, Amboseli was announced as a Nature Reserve. Its southern border was extended across the border of Tanzania and it went upto Sinya, Namanga and Meto and as far as Oloitokitok. This been part of the protected area of Ol Donyo Orok, a spot for the elephant, rhinos and the buffaloes.
Before this, the Maasai grazed their livestock freely on their land, this action caused frequent conflicts between the wildlife and the humans. This resulted in wild animals fleeing to the arid part where they could not meet humans, but most perished here.
It was for this reason that the inception of the park came. They local community (the Maasai) were banned from grazing their livestock in the protected area. Water supplies were made through wells, in an area where there was less conflict between the humans and the wild animals. The Maasai were not happy with this arrangement at first because they didn’t want to abandon their villages, and the dependence on the water resources from the protected area.
The creation of the park yielded the results in short time, no longer bothered by the herdsmen the wild animals began to fill the park again. To vent their anger, some of the Maasai began poaching the lions and the rhinos in the park. The rhinos which survived this ordeal were transferred to other safe parks while the lions population shows an effect of this annihilation, they are low in number compared to other parks.
The government eventually granted the Maasai access to some wells for water supply; There is still the water problem for these people and often, especially during the dry season, some animals can be seen leading Maasai cattle within the borders of the National Park in search of water sources, thus creating further damage to the already fragile ecosystem of the region. Park.
The UNESCO declared this park as a Biosphere Reserve in 1991 for its effort in ecosystem protection. In the modern time, the local community the Maasai, have known importance of the wildlife protected areas, and the impact on the economy. In fact, tourism is source of income for a number of them who are safari guides or lodges’ employees. Some even own some of the private conservancy where they get steady income as they conserve the wildlife.
How to get there
Nairobi is the popular starting point. Jomo Kenyatta International Airport , Nairobi is just 12km from the city center. Moi International Airport (MBA), which is Kenya’s 2nd largest airport is located 9 km west of Mombasa. Like many other parks in Kenya, Amboseli National Park is accessible both by road and by air.
The park is located 240 km (150 miles) south of Nairobi. Drive on the heading to Arusha from Nairobi highway through Namanga and enter the park through the Meshanani gate. An alternative passage is to use is the Mombasa route; This means that you will arrive at the park through Tsavo West National Park through the Kimana Gate.
The only airstrip in Amboseli national park, located at its heart — with a terminal building and both a tarmacked and dirt runway. Its position provides aerial views of the park’s lakes and swamps to most planes using it.
Amboseli airstrip sits some distance east of Lake Amboseli, at the center of Amboseli national park — southern Kenya. There are daily flights set to fly from Nairobi to Amboseli airstrip, as well as flights from Tsavo West and Masai Mara. Flights to Amboseli National Park depart from Nairobis Wilson Airport and Moi Mombasa Airport. Charter flights are available from Nairobi Wilson Airport. The journey takes about 40 minutes.
Weather & When to Go
The park’s proximity to the equator means that the annual temperature changes hardly changes. It is usually hot, with readings between 80- and 86-degrees F (27-30 degrees C). However, temperatures can drop dramatically at night, so be sure to pack plenty of layers for evening and morning game drives. There are two rainy seasons: long rains (March to May) and short rains (Nov to Dec).
Traditionally, the best time to travel in terms of wildlife viewing is during the long dry season (June to September). At this time, the animals congregate around the park’s water sources and are easily seen.
However, the rainy season can also be rewarding. The landscapes are lush, there is less dust and you have a better chance of having an unobstructed view of Kilimanjaro. The short rains are particularly satisfying for bird watchers, as migrants from the Northern Hemisphere flock to the park at this time of year and Lake Amboseli partially fills up, attracting waterfowl. Accommodation is also cheaper. Disadvantages of the rainy season include muddy roads that can become impassable, an increase in mosquitoes, and the fact that many of the larger wildlife disperse, making them more difficult to spot.
Kenya Wildlife Service charges a daily conservation fee of $ 60 per adult and $ 35 per child for all overseas visitors to Amboseli. Discounted rates are available for Kenyan citizens and residents. The park is open every day, including holidays, from 6:00 to 19:00. Before visiting Amboseli, talk to your doctor about malaria pills and any other vaccinations you may need to travel safely to Kenya.
Famous Elephants and Other Wildlife
Elephants are the main attraction for visitors to Amboseli. The largest land animals on the planet can be seen in herds that often number more than 100 individuals, from wise old mothers to small calves still covered in tough orange fuzz. The sparse vegetation makes the elephants easy to spot. In particular, keep an eye out for the iconic Amboseli tuskers, giants whose tusks have grown to extraordinary lengths. The park is also home to the famous Amboseli Trust for Elephants, which has been studying herds since 1972.
Amboseli Elephant Research Project
The Amboseli Elephant Research Project (AERP) has done the important research in conjunction with the Amboseli Trust for Elephants, since 1972. The much-needed research still goes on to this date. Their noble aim being a sustainable long-term wellbeing and conservation of the African elephants and the environment they stay in. They use scientific research, public awareness, advocacy and community outreach which has proofed to yield multiple results over time.
Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
Their work with Amboseli elephants is aided by other organizations, such as the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, primarily known as the world’s most successful orphaned elephant recovery and rehabilitation program. To date, 247 orphaned elephants have been reared, an astounding 6136 veterinary cases have been dealt with to date and 14 mobile trapping teams operate in Kenya’s arid areas with a firm mission and goal as they say in their slogan;
“We take all measures that integrate wildlife conservation, conservation and protection, including combating poaching, protecting the natural environment safely, raising community awareness and providing veterinary care to animals in need.”
The sweetest part of the park’s safari is the iconic interactions with elephants, and in that the work of this organizations are supported. That is through the payment of park fees and conveniences.
Apart from elephants also buffaloes, lions and leopards, four of the Big Five can be seen in Amboseli. The reserve also has an abundance of antelope and other ungulates, ranging from graceful impalas and Thomson’s gazelles to endangered blue wildebeest, Grant’s zebras, and Masai giraffes. Rarer carnivores such as the cheetah and spotted hyena may also be seen, although Amboseli is not as famous for its predator sightings as other Kenyan reserves (namely the Maasai Mara). Bird watchers have the opportunity to see more than 400 different bird species, including 47 different types of raptors.
Top activities in Amboseli
Watching the game is the number one activity at Amboseli and there are several ways to do it. You can sign up for a guided safari at your lodge or camp, or you can drive in your own vehicle. As in all national parks in Kenya, night tours are not permitted. However, if you visit one of the private concessions on the edge of the reserve, you can enjoy a variety of more unusual safari experiences, including night tours, walking safaris, horseback and camel safaris, and even flying fields.
Lectures on conservation and ranger experiences at the Amboseli Trust for Elephants can be arranged in advance or as part of a planned itinerary. Specialized birding safaris (both by vehicle and on foot) are popular with those interested in the birds of the Amboseli. Top spots include the lesser flamingo, common kestrel, blue-cheeked bee-eater, and endangered Malagasy pond heron.
This park and the surrounding conservancies have smaller wildlife which can be hard to see on a normal safari, however an excursion can be organized in the reserve and you will get the best view of this special tiny insects, small mammals and other wildlife beyond the vicinity of the vegetation. You maybe lucky to stumble upon an African Python devouring a whole antelope. In your excursions you might meet large animals, but your guide will ensure your safety and you get to enjoy wildlife from a totally different perspective.
The Maasai traditions are intriguing, and a Maasai guide will show you many medicinal plants they have been using for centuries during the bush walk. You will get also a grand visit to their beautiful villages, where you will enjoy well prepared traditional meals, see how they make their magnificent handicrafts and also an opportunity to get involved in traditional dances or if you are lucky a wedding ceremony, see how they herd their cattle among many great things .
The photos you will take from a trip here is mesmerizing, with so much wonderful sceneries at the park, you will take great photos of the Maasai people and their cows, to top it all is the elephant pictures against the snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro as the backdrop.
The accommodations are rated after a through visit and inspection of the hotels and camps, to give a real rating. Every visitor has different needs and expectations and all this are covered by exceptionally professionally trained staff.
There is a deluxe range, which brings all the luxury to the most interior part of Kenya, making you fuse the class with simplicity. Mid-range accommodations are also top of range and also affordable. Each level has there fun-activities, and you wont feel left out no matter the level you are in. Only few additional activities do differ like access to a private, but after additional fee and arrangements.
Tier 1. Your holiday in this park will be one of the best. In this level you get deluxe and high-end luxury accommodations. Tortilis Camp is one them with 18 tents. The camp is known widely to be among Amboseli’s top accommodation because you get to be close to elephants, and a good number of the staff knows the elephant herds by name, wacky behaviors, thus providing more personalized and exciting experience.
In this category there is also Tawi Lodge which has 12 chalets. This lodge works hand in hand with the African Wildlife Foundation for the development and protection of wildlife in the Amboseli’s ecosystem and the Maasai people that stay there. With such limited guests in these accommodations, you can expect to be given the best attention by staff who have top range experience serving guests and often anticipate their needs. The guides of these first-rate lodges have the highest level of knowledge of the park, flora, fauna, monitoring methods plus other questions you may have during your African trip.
Mid-range (Tier 2)- most of the accommodations here are co-owned by the Maasai making it more special as you will interact more with deep African culture, Satao Elerai is a good example. It has 1t cabins and tented suites. The location of this camp offers an unobstructed stunning sighting of Mount Kilimanjaro and the vast Savannah plains. In this level also there is Porini Camp which is found in Selankay Conservancy within the park boundaries. It offers up-close experience of the rich culture and undisturbed view of the magnificent animals. Other mid-range accommodations are Ambokili Lodges Lodges Amboseli, , Kibo Safari Camp, Penuel plaza Hotel and others.
At the cheaper end of the spectrum are the independent bandas operated by the Kenya Wildlife Service. Whether you choose Kilimanjaro Guest House, Simba Cottages or Chui Cottages, you will benefit from a comfortable yet simple temporary home equipped with a kitchen, living room and electricity generator. Amboseli Public Camping is the best option for budget travelers. It is located near the headquarters of the Amboseli National Park and offers basic toilets and bathrooms.