Amboseli National Park - Safari in Kenya, Kenya Tours, Safari Holidays

Posted by Anthony Kelly on November 11th, 2019

About Amboseli National Park – Kenya

Crowned by Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak, the Amboseli National Parks is one of Kenya’s most popular parks. The name “Amboseli” comes from a Maasai word meaning “salty dust”, and it is one of the best places in Africa to view large herds of elephants up close. Nature lovers can explore five different habitats here ranging from the dried-up bed of Lake Amboseli, wetlands with sulphur springs, the savannah and woodlands.  They can also visit the local Maasai community who live around the park and experience their authentic culture.

Amboseli history and overview

Amboseli was declared a national reserve in 1968. It became a national park in 1974. However, in 2005, President Mwai Kibaki transferred control from the Kenya Wildlife Service to the Olkejuedo County Council and its residents, the Maasai tribe. This is still being contested in the courts because of its implications that could jeopardize Kenya’s other national parks.

Amboseli National Park covers 392km² (151miles²) and has a mixed topography of plains, acacia woodland, rocky thorn bush, swamps and marshes. This diversity, along with a long dry season, ensures excellent viewing of the large concentrations of African animals living in this natural habitat.

With its awesome view of Mount Kilimanjaro (Africa’s highest mountain at 5,895m), Amboseli National Park offers a unique and breathtaking backdrop for viewing Africa’s animals. It also has a dry Pleistocene lake basin that houses a temporary lake, Lake Amboseli, after the rains.

Amboseli offers some of the best opportunities to see African animals because its vegetation is sparse due to the long dry months. Amboseli National Park is home to wild animals, which include the African elephant, buffalo, impala, lion, cheetah, hyena, giraffes, zebra, wildebeest among other African animals. There is also a host of Kenya birds, both large and small, to see if you keep your eyes open and stop at every sighting.

When you arrive at the park, the warden will give you several common sense rules: do not get out of your vehicle, except at designated spots; do not harass the animals in any way; keep to the tracks; no off-road driving; and remember that the animals always have the right of way. The roads in Amboseli have a loose surface of volcanic soil that is dusty in the dry season and impassable in the wet season.

It can be a long, hot day on a Kenya wildlife safari, so wear cool, comfortable clothing and a sunhat. Remember to bring your camera, binoculars, sunglasses and water to drink.

Weather and climate in Amboseli national park

The climate in the Amboseli region is hot and dry. The national park is in the rain shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro, as it lies on the northwest side. Average temperatures vary only slightly throughout the year. The minimum average daily temperature is 27°C and the maximum is 33°C. Drought is typical in this area, and evaporation is high. A total annual rainfall of just 300mm is expected during April and May, and again during November and December.

Best Time to Visit – Amboseli national park

Although Amboseli can be visited at any time of year it is recommended to go in the dry months, which are from June to October and January to February. The short rains peak in November and the long rains in April and May – these months are not recommended for wildlife viewing. During these wet months, animals tend to spread out and are less inclined to come to predictable water sources.

Views of Kilimanjaro are hit-and-miss, but chances are best early morning and late afternoon in the Wet season months from November to May, when the sky is clear of dust.

June to October Dry Season

  • Wildlife watching is better when it’s dry, the grass is shorter and animals gather at water sources
  • Mainly sunny, almost no rainfall
  • Malaria is much less of a problem in the Dry season
  • It gets very dry and dusty
  • The sky is hazy and the scenery isn’t as pretty
  • Views of Kilimanjaro are les spectacular

November to May Wet Season

  • Scenically the park is at its best
  • April to June is low season and lower rates may apply
  • Plenty of animals to be seen despite being the Wet season
  • Best time for bird watching and migratory birds are present
  • Views of Kilimanjaro are best after rainfall, when the sky is clear of dust
  • Road conditions can be bad in April and May
  • Planned activities, such as game drives, may be interrupted in the peak rainfall months especially April

Can you visit Mount Kilimanjaro from Amboseli?

“No. The grand old mountain may look so close that you can reach out and touch it, and the Kenya–Tanzania border is not far away (somewhere close to the lower foothills of the mountain), but there’s no crossing here. The nearest crossing if you wish to actually climb the mountain is east of here, at Oloitokitok, a busy Maasai border town with an immigration post. All told, you can expect to drive for half a day, including time spent at the border, from Amboseli to Marangu, one of the gateway towns to a Kili climb, or on to Moshi where many of the climbing tour operators have their base.”

What animals can I expect to see in Amboseli?

“Elephants are easily the main draw of any Amboseli safari – they’re big, they’re beautiful and they’re always found in the Enkongo Narok, Olokenya and Longinye swamps that lie in the park’s heart. Bad-tempered hippos also lurk in the waters, occasionally emerging to do battle for territory. I’ve always been really fortunate on Amboseli tours with lions, cheetahs and spotted hyenas (including a den), while giraffe are often sighted amid the acacia’s in the park’s east. Other plains animals include zebras and Thomson’s gazelle in abundance, while baboons and vervet monkeys are similarly prolific. The swamps draw hundreds of bird species, especially waders, year-round but with a discernible spike in numbers from November when migrating species arrive from Europe.

What animals can I expect to see in Amboseli?

“Elephants are easily the main draw of any Amboseli safari – they’re big, they’re beautiful and they’re always found in the Enkongo Narok, Olokenya and Longinye swamps that lie in the park’s heart. Bad-tempered hippos also lurk in the waters, occasionally emerging to do battle for territory. I’ve always been really fortunate on Amboseli tours with lions, cheetahs and spotted hyenas (including a den), while giraffe are often sighted amid the acacia’s in the park’s east. Other plains animals include zebras and Thomson’s gazelle in abundance, while baboons and vervet monkeys are similarly prolific. The swamps draw hundreds of bird species, especially waders, year-round but with a discernible spike in numbers from November when migrating species arrive from Europe.

How to get there

  • By Road: The main road into the park is from Nairobi via Namanga (240 km) on the Nairobi – Arusha Road, through Meshanani Gate. The other road is from Nairobi via Emali (228 km) on the Nairobi – Mombasa Road. Access from Mombasa is mainly through Tsavo West National Park via Kimana (Olkelunyiet) Gate.
  • By Air: Airstrips: The park has a single airstrip for light aircrafts at Empusel gate. Other airstrips exist at Kilimanjaro Buffalo Lodge and Namanga town

Attractions

  • Large Herds of Elephants
  • Mt. Kilimanjaro
  • Big Five
  • Observation Hill which allows an overall view of the whole park especially the swamps and elephants,
  • Swamp below observation hill hosts many elephants, buffaloes, hippos and a variety of water fowls like pelican, Egyptian goose
  • Contemporary Maasai culture and indigenous lifestyle
Anthony Kelly

About the Author

Anthony Kelly
Joined: September 1st, 2019
Articles Posted: 5

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