Amboseli National park, located in Kajiado County in southern Kenya and sitting in the shadows of Mount Kilimanjaro, covers an area of 392 km2 and sits at the core of the larger Amboseli Ecosystem which has a total area of 8,000 km2. The Amboseli Ecosytem includes the Chyulu Hills and Taita, large tracts of Maasai community land that extends across the Kenyan border into Tanzania.
The park derives its name from the Masai word “Empuseli” which means ‘salty dust.’ The salty dust is volcanic ash from Mount Kilimanjaro eruptions a millennium ago. Amboseli was declared a wildlife reserve in 1899 and made a national park in 1974. It was also declared a "UNESCO Man and the Biosphere" Reserve in 1991 because it conserves nature while helping people and contributing to conservation, sustainable economic development, research and education.
A biosphere reserve is unique, unlike an ordinary national park, it incorporates community concerns and involves the local people by tapping into indigenous knowledge to manage and conserve the biodiversity. This is achieved by restricting conservation and human activities to specific zones.
Zonation in Amboseli National Park.
Amboseli National Park is a Core Zone for conservation and education. The area immediately beyond the park is a Buffer Zone meant for low-impact sustainable practices such as eco-tourism, while the land yonder is transitional Zone for settlement and agriculture.
This ensures that economic development does not negatively affect thr people’s culture, ecological diversity and the ecosystem.
Amboseli is a valuable and fragile life-support area of the earth. To retain it’s Biosphere status, it must be treated with care by human beings.
The Amboseli ecosystem has five different habitats ranging from;
- The typical of the open savannah grassland plains of Eastern Africa: Dominated by big game including wildebeest
- Acacia woodland: Scattered umbrella thorn woodland, dominated by huge flat-topped Acacia Tortilis - home to giraffe, impala and a host of striking dry-country birds, notably Von der Decken’s hornbill, red-and-yellow barbet, rosy-patched bush shrike, Superb Starlings, Martial Eagles etc
- Rocky thorn bush country,
- swamps and marshland: Fed by subterranean streams that rise from the slopes of Kilimanjaro, the permanent Enkongo Narok and Olokenya Swamps are home to plentiful hippo, lung fish, catfish and a wide range of aquatic birds.
- The Pleistocene bed of dried-up Lake Amboseli
The nearby Mount Kilimanjaro’s snow and ice melt percolates into the grounds, forming underground rivers that resurface in parts of the park forming 2 large swamps (there are a total of five permanent swamps in the greater Amboseli ecosystem) which form a swampy/marshland habitat that is home to hippo, fish and attracts wildebeest, impala, buffalo, zebra and variety of aquatic birds. The swamps also cause Amboseli’s dry dusty plains to be broken up by sudden eruptions of green.
Amboseli National Park is best known for its enormous herds of elephants and is considered one of the best places to observe, photograph or even film elephant in the wild. Bird-wise, the area is reported to hold over 450 species, including two types of falcon (Lanner and Pygmy falcons) and a variety of kingfishers which, on a clear skied-day day, can all be seen against the background of the world’s tallest freestanding mountain and Africa’s highest peak - Mount Kilimanjaro.
Amboseli is home to the fabled Masai - a tribal people who have maintained their cultural practises intact inspite of the influence of the modern world. A village tour will give a visitor an opportunity to meet Masai and to learn their culture and also to enjoy the cross-cultural interaction.
Safaris to Amboseli National Park can begin from;
We offer options for Air or Road Safaris to Amboseli National Park from either Nairobi or Mombasa
The main road into the park from Nairobi is via Namanga (240km) on the Nairobi-Arusha road, through Meshanani gate. The other road you can use from both Nairobi or Mombasa is via Emali (228km from Nairobi).
There are 5 gates to Amboseli National Park;
- The Airstrip/ Empusel Gate a single airstrip for light air craft (possible to fly in to the park from Nairobi, Mombasa and the Masai Mara),
- Iremito Gate,
- Meshanani Gate,
- Kitirua Gate
- Kimana Gate.
Generally hot and dry fanned by a cool breeze. Long rains are anticipated from mid April to May and the short rains from November to early December. Minimum temperature of 28° and maximum of 33° Celsius.
Why Visit Amboseli National Park? - Amboseli National Park Highlights
- To enjoy the dramatic views of Kilimanjaro: Although the 5,891m high Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain and the world’s highest freestanding mountain, is located in Tanzania the most breathtaking views of it are to be had from within Amboseli National Park in Kenya. For much of the day the mountain is rendered invisible by a thick blanket of clouds, the best time to see it’s snow-capped peaks is at sunrise and sunset.
- Close encounters with huge herds of free ranging elephants: Amboseli is known for its large herds of free-ranging Elephants and is considered as the best place for viewing and filming Elephants. The Amboseli Trust for Elephants has been studying the elephants of Amboseli since 1972. The trust’s most researched elephant was “Echo” - the subject of many books like Elephant Memories, Echo of the Elephants and Portraits in the wild all by Cynthia Moss the founder of Amboseli Trust for Elephants. Another popular elephant includes Tim (died of natural causes in early 2020). Tim was one of the last remaining great tuskers (African male elephants with long tusks) in Kenya.
Most of what is known about elephant social behavior was first studied in Amboseli. As a result of this lengthy and close monitoring, the elephants of Amboseli are unusually well-habituated and are relaxed around humans and vehicles.
- The Pleistocene Lake Amboseli – (thought to have been formed between 2.6 million years and 11,700 years ago): The seasonal Lake Amboseli is usually dry and extremely dusty - formed by fine grey volcanic ash deposited by Kilimanjaro when it was an active volcano. It only holds water briefly in years of exceptional rainfall. In the recent past Amboseli has enjoyed a good amount of rainfall and the lake is brimming with life as hundreds of flamingos have arrived and have made it their new home adding to the already dramatic scenery of the park. During the dry seasons the heat creates a series of mirages over the lake basin a very intersting phenomenon especially when animals are walking of the dry and dusty lake.
- Amboseli is small in size - only 392 km² (151 sq mi) and packed with wildlife
- This park is Kenya’s second most popular national park after the Masai Mara National Reserve
- Amboseli is a UNESCO-Man-Biosphere Reserve - a site for testing interdisciplinary approaches to understanding and managing changes and interactions between social and ecological systems, including conflict prevention and management of biodiversity.
- Amboseli has an endless underground water supply filtered through thousands of feet of volcanic rock from Kilimanjaro’s ice cap, which funnel into two clear water springs in the heart of the park which not attracts big game like elephants and hippos but a high variety of water birds.
- Observation Hill: Observation Hill offers panoramic views across a pretty lake towards Tanzania, with Kilimanjaro often visible at dusk and at dawn.
- Private Conservancies: Outside the national park are a number of private conservancies that are made up of Masai community land and offer exclusive traversing rights to one or two small camps or lodges. In addition to elphants and other plains game, while in these conservancies you stand a chance of seeing several species (like gerenuk and lesser kudu) which are rarely seen within the national park. The conservancies are less crowded as compared the national park giving it’s visitors a chance to enjoy watching wildlife in private
- To enjoy good climate with temperature ranging from 20-30 degrees centigrade and rainfall from 200mm – 700 mm with 2 rainy seasons
Accommodation in Amboseli National Park
Several lodges lie within the national park, and the surrounding conservancies are serviced by some excellent upmarket tented camps.