Amboseli National Park formerly known as the Masai Amboseli Game Reserve is a premier Kenya Wildlife Safari and the second most popular Kenya safari destination coming second after Masai Mara National Reserve.
Amboseli National Park is referred to as “The Land of Giants” due to an impressive number of big tusked elephants, the park is also set against the backdrop of Mount Kilimanjaro – the best views in Africa. At 5,895 meters, Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa and on a clear day, its snow-capped summit is visible in Amboseli national park.
Amboseli National Park covers an area of 392 square kilometers and is at the heart of an 8.000 square kilometers ecosystem stretching across the Kenya – Tanzania border.
Location of Amboseli National Park
Amboseli National Park is located in the Kajiado province, Loitoktok District in the Rift Valley Region of Kenya. The park is situated about 240 kilometers southeast of Nairobi – Kenya’s capital and where most Kenya safaris start from.
Amboseli National Park is strategically situated that is easy to combine it with other Kenya safari destinations including Tsavo East and West national parks which are 2 hours and 4 hours’ drive respective and Masai Mara National Reserve which is 4 hours’ drive away.
History of Amboseli National Park
The name Amboseli comes from a Maasai Word meaning “salty dusty”, the area currently known as Amboseli national park was formerly known as Empusel- a masai region that was the most feared region to be crossed by a foreigner.
The first European to penetrate the region was Joseph Thompson in 1883, on his arrival he was astonished by the fantastic variety of wildlife, the splendid scenic views of Kilimanjaro and the contrast between the dry lake bed and the swamps.
In 1906, Amboseli national game reserve was established and in 1974, the reserve gained a park status and renamed Amboseli National Park. in 1991, the park was recognized as a UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere for its special combination of ecology and culture.
Attractions in Amboseli National Park
Amboseli National Park is popular for being the best place in the world to get up – close and personal with free-roaming elephants, a part from elephants the park hosts several attractions to see during your Kenya safari visit.
Amboseli National Park is a popular wildlife safari destination in Kenya providing the most rewarding wildlife viewing opportunities, the park is home to the high concentrations of elephants roaming around the dusty plains. The best place to see the elephants in Amboseli National Park are Ol Kenya Swamp and Ol Tukai located in the heart of the park, Ol Tukai features woodland yellow fever and doum plam tree.
Other animals to see in Amboseli National Park include wildebeests, Thomson gazelles, hippos, zebras, leopards, spotted hyenas, Masai giraffes, buffaloes, lions, cheetahs, spotted hyenas, hippos and impalas among others.
Amboseli National Park is one of the best destination for Kenya bird watching safaris with more than 400 species recorded, Amboseli is a true sanctuary for birding safaris with various habitats including swamps, grasslands and lakes such as the Sinet Delta, Kioko lake, Simek lake, Conch lake and Lake Amboseli.
Notable bird species in Amboseli National Park include steel-blue whydah, ostriches, white-bellied go way, Spike-heeled lark, Long-toed Lapwing, Hartlaub’s bustard, African Swamphen, Starlings, Rufous Chatterer, Pangani Longclaw, Dickinson’s kestrel, Common redshank, Eurasian thick-Knee, Secretary birds, love birds, Dickison’s Kestrel among other bird species.
The best time of the year to see birds in Amboseli National Park is during the wet seasons which runs from March to May and October to December, migrant birds can be viewed between November and April.
Amboseli National Park consists of water bodies such as seasonal lakes found in the western area, these lakes are found in the drained basin of an ancient Pleistocene lake. These lakes often fill up during the rainy season, lakes in Amboseli national park include Lake Kioko, Lake Conch, Amboseli Lake and Simel Lake among other.
These lakes are fantastic places to view water birds and big concertation of wildlife which come to drink water.
The Observation Hill in Amboseli National Park is a pyramid – shaped hill situated in the western region of the park, the hill is a resting area for tourists who wish to climb to get a good view of Mount Kilimanjaro, the scenic beauty of the park and various animals.
The Observation Hill is the only place in the park where visitors are permitted to leave their vehicles on a game viewing safari and view the park’s beauty and animals.
Swamps and Marshes
There is a chain of marshes and swamps in Amboseli National Park serving as a source of water for the animals and the whole eco system, marshes are found in the central part of the park and are bright green which makes them stand out in the park’s arid and dusty plains. Marshes in Amboseli National Park include Ol Tukai, Ologinya/Ol Okenya, Ekongo or Ngong Narok Narok, Engone Naibor and others.
Marshes in Amboseli national park are fed by spring water coming from the melting snow of Mount Kilimanjaro, the water from the springs penetrates the volcanic soils down into the valley. The water in the marshes attract a variety of animals which come to drink water, they are also the best places to see hippos, elephants and several water bird species such as kingfishers, cattle egrets, heron and black – winged stilts among others.
Mount Kinlimanjaro is a remarkable attraction in Amboseli national park creating a spectacular backdrop with its snow-capped summit, Mount Kilimanjaro is located in Tanzania but it can clearly be seen in Amboseli.
Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain in Africa rising 5,895 meters above the sea level, it has a snowcapped summit surrounded by a scenic landscape and its view is very magical most especially for photography.
The Elephant Research Camp
The Elephant Research Camp is situated in the heart of Amboseli National Park operating under the guidance of the Amboseli Trust for elephants, the camp offers research on elephants within the park and is the primary stopping point in the world for elephant research and study.
Activities to Do in Amboseli National Park
Amboseli National Park is among the popular destinations for Kenya wildlife safaris, the park is a haven for wildlife and is the best sight to see large herds of elephants. Game drives in Amboseli National Park are done all day as morning and evening drives.
Morning game drives start from 06:30 am to 11:30 am and evening game drives start from 2 pm to 6:30 pm, during the game drives you have a chance to spot a variety of wildlife including spotted hyenas, elephants, lions, leopards, aardwolf, jackals, Thomson’s and Grant’s gazelles, zebras among others.
Nature walking safari is one of the best ways to explore the spectacular landscape of Amboseli National Park with its stunning vegetation, swamps and various animals.
A guided nature walk around the park offers visitors a close-up encounter with nature and is also the best way to discover the park’s hidden treasures since you are on foot, some of the animals you will encounter include elephants, zebras, giraffes, impalas, buffalos among others. You will also enjoy the sweet melodies of birds and the calmness of nature.
Amboseli National Park is a bird – watchers’ paradise with over 400 bird species, the park is also recognized as an Important Birding Area. Some of the birds to lookout for while on a Kenya birding safari include African swamphen, Taveta Golden Weaver, falcon, Vulnerable Lesser Kestrel, Grey Crowned Crane, Falcon Naumanni, Steel-blue Whydah, Eurasian thick-kneel, Common redshank, Rufous-naped lark, Goliath heron, African fish eagle, Double-banded Courser among others.
Communities around Amboseli National Park are homes to Maasai people who were the resident of plains of Amboseli, these people have fascinating culture and traditions which have not be contaminated by technology and modernity.
Normally the Maasai people are visited in the afternoon after the game drives, on your visit you will learn about their unique way of life, be entertained by traditional dances and their unique of dressing among others.
Hot air balloon safari
Hot air balloon safari is one of the most rewarding Kenya safari activities to do during your visit, hot air balloon safaris offer spectacular aerial views of the plains of the park, large herds of elephants, buffaloes, and many birds.
After the experience, visitors are treated to a champagne bush breakfast set at one of the picnic sites in the park.
Best Time to Visit Amboseli National Park
Amboseli National Park is open all year round, however the best time to visit the park for a Kenya safari is during the dry season which runs from June to October and December to February. In this period, the routes leading to the park and inside the park are in good condition, the dry season is the best time for game viewing in Amboseli National Park
The best time for birding in Amboseli National Park is during the wet season when migratory birds arrive in the park, the wet season runs from April to June and November to December.
Where to Stay in Amboseli National Park
There are a variety of accommodation in Amboseli National Park ranging from Luxury, Midrange to Budget options. These accommodations are perched inside and outside the park and they include
Amboseli Sopa Lodge
Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge
Kilima Safari Camp
Amboseli Ol Tukai Lodge
Getting to Amboseli National Park
By road – Amboseli National Park is easily accessed from Nairobi – the capital of Kenya via Namaga road, it is a drive about 4 hours covering 240 kilometers.
By air – There are domestic and chartered flights to Amboseli National Park’s Amboseli Airstrip from Wilson Airstrip. Alternatively, one can also fly from Moi Airport, Mombasa to Amboseli airstrips which takes on 30 minutes.