The Amazing Amboseli National park, also known as the home of the African Elephant lies South east of Nairobi, North West of Mount Kilimanjaro. The Name Amboseli is derived from the Maa language Empusel meaning salty dust. The Masai people have lived in this ecosystem for ages alongside the wildlife. The area was set aside for conservation in 1906 as the Southern reserve for the Masai. In 1948 it was returned to the local control and gazetted as a game reserve. In 1974 it was gazetted as a national park to protect Amboseli National park’s unique ecosystem. In 1991 it was designated as a man and biosphere reserve by UNESCO. Today Amboseli covers an Area of 392 square kilometres (151 square miles).
jackal vs vultures
Amboseli National Park has on of the most unique ecosystems in Africa and is crowned by the highest Mountain in Africa and the fourth most topographically prominent peak on earth, Mount Kilimanjaro. This ecosystem on the lee ward side of the gigantic mountain has a magical contrast. It has lava strewn thorn bush, acacia woodland a Pleistocene lake and swamps and marshlands that make it an oasis in the semi-arid region. The swamps provide water for both the wildlife and Masai community throughout the year. Water from the Kilimanjaro percolates through the volcanic rocks by hydro-static pressure supplying fresh water to the animals in the low lands making the swamps a great refuge especially in the dry months. Before the eruption of Mount Kilimanjaro about a million years ago, Amboseli ecosystem was a dense woodland area. With volcanic activity, the existing river systems were diverted / closed affecting the forests and even leading to the now dry lake Amboseli. This was after river pangani which was the main inlet was cut off as a result of the volcanic activities. With the volcanic origins, Amboseli’s soils are powdery, loose and nutrient deficient – making it quite a weak ecosystem for growth of life. In the dry season, this volcanic Powdery soils are blown into myriad dust devils and spectacular dust storms.
Amboseli National park is also known as the home of the gentle giants. It is the best place in the world to get close to free ranging elephants. It hosts approximately 1600 magnificent African elephants. The world renown Echo the Matriarch roamed the “Amboseli streets.” She became a matriarch at only 23years which is not normal in the elephant families. She was studied for over 30 years by ethologist Cynthia Moss, beginning in 1973, and was the subject of several books and films. She was the first subject of the Amboseli Elephant Research Project, the longest-running study of a land mammal. Other Famous elephants like Tim who had record tusks have also called this home. It is the best place for elephant photography as well as elephant watching safaris. Other mammal species too are found amongst them lions cheetahs hyenas serval cats honey badgers, aardvarks, common water bucks, gerenuks, giraffes, hippopotamus, yellow baboons, vervet monkeys, Eastern white bearded gnus, zebras and many more antelope species.
With over 420 bird species (40 species birds of prey) Amboseli National park is classified as an important bird area (IBA) The park has both resident as well as migratory birds. Being located close o the coastal area makes it an ideal breeding ground for some bird species and a migratory route for European bird migrants that sometimes break their long flights here. We have rare birds like Southern banded harrier eagle and Taita falcon, the endangered Madagascar pond heron, greater and lesser flamingos’ snipes, thick knees sandpipers and other water bird species. The greater painted snipes and the African jacana which are polyandrous (females have multiple male partners and male incubate and rear the chicks) are found here too. Amboseli birdwatching safari is highly recommended for both keen and general birdwatchers.
Amboseli photography safari is one of the most rewarding. Amboseli’s unique ecosystem makes it one of the best “natural studio”. Due to the dry nature of the larger ecosystem elephants come into the swamps every morning after a night of foraging to quest their thirst and spend the entire day in the swamps munching away on the grass. This provides a perfect opportunity for head on shots with the snow capped mount Kilimanjaro back drop. The soft Powderly dust is sometimes sprayed on their backs as they approach giving a photographer a unique opportunity to capture this behaviour. During the day perfect opportunities for black and white photography as the contrast between the hills and white volcanic soil make a perfect setting as zebras dust role or a herd of elephant closes the dry beds Lake Amboseli. Early morning game drives at Amboseli also present you with an opportunity to get rare species like the honey badger or the melanistic serval cat if not the African wild cat. Lions and cheetahs tend also to be more active in morning before the temperatures soar. The evenings at Amboseli turn magical, the Powderly dust is brown as the zebras, elephants’ wildebeests live the swamps for another night foraging away. The golden light makes it ideal for back lit shots giving you unique frames.
Zebra walking from the swamps on a photography safari
The best times to travel to Amboseli National park for wildlife safaris are June to September and January to February with little to no rainfall recorded in this periods .
December to March and July to October are high seasons and the national park gets busy.
Low Season is from April to June and that’s when the area and Kenya in general experiences the long rains.
The dry season starts from June to October. This is when wildlife watching is better and more pleasant because animals gather at the swamps and marshlands. The days are mainly sunny, with almost no rainfall but it can get quite dry and dusty.
There are a variety of visitor accommodation facilities in the parks and reserves of KWS to suite the taste, budget and safari style of each type of visitor. Within every park, visitor accommodation ranges from luxury lodges and tented campsites to private budget campsites operated by individual operators.
There is a variety of accommodation at the Amboseli National Park. Inside the Park we have Oltukai lodge, Serena lodge Tortilis Camp. Close to the park we have Satao Elerai Kibo Safari Camp, Sentrim, Tawi and Kilima camp.
The Kenya Wildlife Service runs public and special campsites. The self-catering accommodation units (called Bandas) provide accommodation for visitors who want an experience away from the beaten track close to the wild.
Amboseli ecosystem is generally a warm area though early mornings tend to be chilly and you may need to pack something warm.
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