Amboseli National Park -Kilimanjaro’s Royal Court

Amboseli National park which stands at an altitude of 1150 meters above the sea level is the land of the giants! Amboseli lies North West of Kilimanjaro, on the border with Tanzania thus referred to as Kilimanjaro royal court. This park was established as a National reserve in 1968 and later gazette as a National park in 1974. Amboseli covers an area of about 390 sq kilometers and forms the much larger part of 3000sq Kilometers Amboseli ecosystem. Amboseli harbors some of the regions oldest and bulkiest elephants. Towering above Amboseli is the Kilimanjaro, the world’s tallest free standing mountain. It is surrounded by 6 communally owned group ranches namely ogulului, Kimana, Imbirikani, Kuku, Selengei and Rombo.

Amboseli derives its name the Maasai empusel, a reference of insinuating layer of grey saline volcanic ash that was deposited by Kilimanjaro during its volatile infancy. Amboseli is famous for the big game and its great scenic beauty- the landscape dominated by Mt. Kilimanjaro and floating elephants within the swamps. Amboseli is a place of wide dry plains where the horizons stretch into the furthest distance and becomes one with the sky. The most spectacular sunrise and sunset are seen here. It has also featured in several films like the “Where no vultures fly”, “king solomons mines”, “Tomb Raider 2” which stars-Angelina Jolie,” “Echo: An Elephant to Remember” a TV series about a remarkable matriarch of a family of elephants.   

For a true African evening, try a sundowner in one of the Amboseli hills.

Vegetation

Amboseli National park embodies five main wildlife habitats. These are open plains, acacia woodland, rocky thorn bush country, swamps and marshland. Swamps are dominated by papyrus and Cyprus. The dominant plant species are sporobolus in the grassland, Acacia in the woodland and Sueda Monica in the bush land. Amboseli climate is mainly hot and dry. The maximum average temperature of the warmest month is 33 degrees Celsius during the day and the coldest is 27-28 degrees Celsius. Amboseli receives an annual rainfall of about 300 mm and is distributed in two seasons; April/may and November/December. There have been recurrent droughts and in the recent years.

Attractions

Amboseli National park is famous for being the best place in Africa to get close to free-ranging elephants among other wildlife species. The park has an endless supply of water which is filtered through thousands of meters of volcanic rock from Mount Kilimanjaro. Elephants are estimated at approximately 1500, buffaloes at 475 and lions approximately 40. Other wildlife attractions include zebras, wildebeests, giraffes, impalas, hippopotamus, snakes and about 400 recorded birds’ species. 

Mt. Kilimanjaro: Visit Amboseli Park for fantastic views of Mt Kilimanjaro that forms the backdrop of this game sanctuary and it is a sight to see and marvel. Kilimanjaro stands at 5,896 meters above the sea level and its snow capped summit dominates the landscape on a clear day and is easily visible in the early morning and late afternoon.

The swamps: The enkongo Narok swamp and other permanent swamps which divide the grey landscape into broad swatches are favored resorts for buffaloes, hippos and elephants. Close by graze herds of Zebra, wildebeest and impala while numerous birds feed, breed and nest in the lush vegetation. The marshes of Amboseli are one of its principal attractions. At the end of the rains, game viewing can be truly fantastic.

Observation Hill: From the observation hill, there is a panoramic view of most the Amboseli Park and climbing is worth the effort. It was inhabited many years ago by the hunters and gathers people; the ndorobo. Observation hill is known as “Noomotio” meaning a rocky depression that holds water in the local Maa tongue, probably in reference to its black porous rock, a product of the same volcanic activity that created Kilimanjaro.

Oltukai Swamps: The heart of Amboseli woodland of yellow fever trees and the doum palms known as Ol tukai by the Maasai and Makindu in Swahili. This is a cool oasis and a retreat for wildlife and is greatly favored by the elephants.

Amboseli plains: The plains support an abundance of large herbivores with wildebeest, Zebra and Grant/Thompson gazelles most characteristic of the open areas while Impala and the Maasai giraffe browse amid stands of Acacia tortillis. The open plains also support a variety of birdlife including the secretary bird, the yellow necked spurfowl and the pangani longclaw. There are also high chances of Spotting hyenas, cheetahs, jackals and lion in the open plains.

Lake Amboseli: This is a seasonal lake covering a third of the Amboseli Park western side. This immense pan gets filled with water when Amboseli receives a good rainfall. More often, Lake Amboseli is a barren expanse of cracked clay, swept across by swirling armies of dust devils and occasional herds of wildebeest and Zebras.

Amboseli Elephant research project: This was founded by Cynthia Moss in 1975 and is the world’s longest running study of wild elephant population. The project has compiled three decades worth of births and deaths within a community of 50 elephant families totaling about 1500 individuals. Due to these project efforts, the local elephant population in Amboseli was spared the attention of poachers who were so active in the early 1980’s. As a result, elephants in Amboseli have little fear of vehicles thus making this park arguably the finest place in Africa to observe elephants at close quarters.

Accommodation in Amboseli: Amboseli has the best accommodation units from the basic camping to deluxe lodging and camps. 

How to Get There

By Road: Amboseli National Park can be accessed by road and airstrip. The main road is from Nairobi via Emali on the Nairobi- Mombasa highway, a distance of 250 km South of Nairobi through the Iremito gate and you can top up the entrance fees here. The other road is from Nairobi via Namanga and onto Meshanani gate. From Namanga to Meshanani gate is 75 kilometers of a badly corrugated and potholed road. Access from Mombasa is also through Iremito gate via Emali or Kimana gate via Tsavo west National park. Amboseli has five gates; Iremito, Kimana, Meshanani, Airstrip and Kitirua gate.

By Air: Amboseli National Park has a single airstrip for light aircraft. There are scheduled flights operating from Nairobi and Mombasa on daily basis one can also charter a flights.

Amboseli has adequate and good infrastructure that make most parts of the park accessible. It is open daily to visitors from 6.00 am to 6.00 pm including public holidays No entry is allowed on foot and you can only use a safari card or visa card to enter.

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