Amboseli National Park is among the elite national parks in Kenya, eminent for being the best place in Africa to get close to free-roaming elephants. Amboseli is located in Loitoktok – Kajiado County, Southern Kenya, just northwest of Mount Kilimanjaro on the Kenya-Tanzania border. The park’s observation hill provides spectacular panoramas of the immense peak and the Amboseli’s swamps and plains.
‘Amboseli’ derives from a Maasai word meaning ‘salty dust’. The park is a perfect safari destination for nature lovers looking to explore habitats varying from open plains, wetlands with sulphur springs, rock-thorn bush, marshland and acacia woodlands. You can also visit the park’s western region that is dominated by the dried-up bed of the seasonal Lake Amboseli which flocks with water birds during the rainy season. The park was declared as a game reserve in 1948 but gazetted as a national park in 1974 to protect its unique ecosystem.
Apart from its scenic beauty and sure elephant sightings, Amboseli National Park has a diverse concentration of wildlife species including giraffes, zebras, wildebeest, leopard, cheetah and hundreds of bird species. The local Maasai community, with an authentic culture, also live around the park.
Amboseli National Park offers a well-managed game watching experience against the stunning backdrop of Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa.
Observation Hill is one of the only places in the park where you can get out and walk. The summit provides an ideal view of the whole park especially the swamps and elephants.
The swamp below observation hill hosts herds of elephants, buffaloes, hippos and a variety of waterfowl like the pelican and the Egyptian goose.
You can also enjoy contemporary Maasai culture and indigenous lifestyle.
Best Time to Visit
All year round, daily 6 am to 7 pm including public holidays. No entry is allowed on foot and visitors will not be allowed entry after 6.15 pm. The dry season (May to October and January to March) is best for spotting wildlife, while November to March is the best time to see migratory birds.
What to Do
Wildlife: Amboseli has over 80 different mammals to be found ranging from the tiny (and rarely seen) spectacled elephant shrew to the huge bulk of the African elephant. Apart from guaranteed elephant sightings, you’ll also see wildebeest, buffalos, and zebras, and you have a reasonable chance of spotting lion, hyena, leopard, cheetah, wild dogs, crocodile, giraffe, zebra, mongoose, dik-dik, hyrax, lesser kudu and nocturnal porcupine.
Birds: The park has a prolific birdlife with over 600 species for both resident and migratory birds.
How to Get to Amboseli National Park
By Road: The main road into the park is from Nairobi via Namanga on the Nairobi -Arusha Road, through Meshanani Gate. The road is tarmac up to Namanga but is murram from Namanga to Meshanani Gate. The other road is from Nairobi through Emali on the Nairobi – Mombasa Road. Access from Mombasa is mainly through Tsavo West National Park via Kimana (Olkelunyiet) Gate.
By Air: Amboseli has airstrips at Empusel gate and at the Park Headquarters (Olkelunyiet) for light aircraft. Other airstrips are at Kilimanjaro Buffalo Lodge and Namanga town.
What to Take With You
Drinking water, picnic items, and camping equipment if you intend to stay overnight.
Also useful are: binoculars, camera, hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, and guidebooks.
The climate is mainly hot and dry. Temperatures range from 20-30 °C and rainfall from 200 mm-700 mm. Amboseli is in the rain shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro and experiences two rain seasons: long rains – March/May and short rains – November/December.