Crowned by Africa’s highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro, Amboseli National Park is one of Kenya’s most prized natural treasures. It lies just northwest of the mountain on the border with Tanzania and covers 392 square km, forming part of the much larger 3000 sq km Amboseli ecosystem. The name “Amboseli” comes from a Maasai word meaning “Salty dust”. While people from other parts of the country have settled in Amboseli, attracted by the successful tourist-driven economy and intensive agriculture along the system of swamps, the local people are mainly Maasai.
Unique Things to See in Amboseli National Park
Amboseli became a national park in 1974 and a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 1991. What makes it special are the Oleokenya and the Enleongo Narok swamp fed by the melting snows of Mount Kilimanjaro. During the dry season, these water sources attract animals of all sizes.
The park is famous for being the best place in the world to get up close to African elephants. Herds of elephants and groups of up to a hundred are not uncommon. While the bull elephants have some of the largest tusks in all of Kenya, there are over 1000 elephants present in the park including 58 families and close to 300 independent adult males. Each individual has been named, numbered, or coded and can be recognized individually. This unique degree of recognition makes the Amboseli elephants the best-known free-ranging population in the world. The feeling of watching them move calmly and majestically around the place is awe-inspiring.
Amboseli National Park is home to over 400 bird species, some of which are difficult to find in other parts of the continent. There’s also an observation hill that allows for a panoramic view of the whole park, especially its swamp, and its over 80 different mammal inhabitants including, lions, wild dogs, zebra, crocodile, mongoose, nocturnal porcupines and a variety of waterfowl-like pelicans and the Egyptian goose. In some cases, your local guide can also help you locate and identify yellow and olive baboons and black-face vervet monkeys playing about deep in the forested lands.
While here at Amboseli, there’s a chance to visit the nearby Masai village and witness first-hand its culture and indigenous lifestyle. Its proximity to Tanzania makes for a perfect combination with several Tanzanian parks. Mount Kilimanjaro National Park and Arusha national park just lies across the border and are closest, but the highlights of northern Tanzania including the Serengeti, Tarangire, and the Ngorongoro crater are easily accessible from this region.
The Mesmerizing Scenery
Mount Kilimanjaro, the world’s tallest free-standing mountain with postcard-perfect views at dawn and sunset of its snow-capped peaks, rises almost six vertical Km above the savannah. The grasslands are lush and inviting, making you feel at one with nature. It’s a wondrous sight to behold and will definitely make a fantastic backdrop to the many pictures you’ll definitely be taking.
Compared to Masai Mara
There is no denying that the Masai Mara Reserve is the jewel of Kenya’s tourism industry. But the breathtaking sights and sounds of Amboseli National Park make it a worthy contender. Of course, the park doesn’t boast premium events like the Great Migration, but its natural surroundings can rival any top safari park in Africa. The savannah plains stretching all the way across the horizon interrupted only by the iconic shape of Mount Kilimanjaro and the distinct flat-topped shape of acacia trees in the distance. Definitely a worthy inclusion in any Kenya safari itinerary.
In Amboseli, temperatures range from 20-30 degrees C. There are two rainy seasons: the long rains, from March through April, and short rains from November – December. During the dry season of late May to October, the wildlife in Amboseli National Park congregate around very few watering holes, which makes it easier to spot them. They then disperse when the rains increase the availability of water throughout the park, but thanks to a variety of game drives, you can still spot these magnificent creatures milling about.
How To Get There
There are two main ways to get to Amboseli from the more popular cities like Nairobi and Mombasa.
By Road – Driving will take you about 2.5 hours through Namanga (240km) on the Nairobi – Arusha Road, through Meshanani Gate, while the other road is through Emali (228 km) on the Nairobi – Mombasa Road. Access from Mombasa is mainly through Tsavo West, through Kimana (Olkelunyiet) Gate.
By Air – Amboseli has an airstrip at Empusel gate. There is also another airstrip for light aircraft at the park headquarters (Olekelunyiet), other airstrips exist at Namanja town and Kilimanjaro Buffalo lodge. The flight takes about half an hour or so and is by far the best way to travel. However, you will be missing out on seeing more of the countryside, especially the scenery and the old volcanoes along the way.
Amboseli National Park is a nature lovers paradise. A visit here lets you explore its diverse habitats, ranging from the wetlands with sulfur springs to its dried bed of the lake, open plains, rocky thorn bushes, and acacia woodlands. In the distance, the resounding trumpet of an elephant interrupts your amazement long enough to draw your eye beyond the delightful scenery to the wildlife inhabitants of the area. If you need information on how to get to Amboseli National Park, schedule a safari visit to Kenya with us by calling or filling out our contact form.
You can see the wonder of Amboseli National Park yourself! Check out these tours that let you experience the park’s magic first-hand: