The Best Safaris In Kenya

Safari In Amboseli National Park

Safari In Amboseli National Park
By Stuart Butler

Amboseli National Park is the postcard park of Kenya.

This is where those photographs of herds of elephants with a backdrop of the (fast melting!) glaciers of Mt Kilimanjaro are taken.

The elephants and the scenery are the real highlights of this park, but plenty of other wildlife is attracted to the swamps and marshy pools in what is an otherwise very dry part of Kenya.

Another big reason to visit Amboseli is the chance to see conservation in action in the conservancies and other environmental and community projects surrounding the park.

Many visitors to Amboseli combine their trip with nearby Tsavo.

Safari in Amboseli National Park

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Elephant Amboseli kenya

Elephants grazing in Amboseli National Park

Amboseli National Park highlights

Swamps

This part of the Rift Valley is hot and bone dry for much of the year and were it not for the underground water sources that bubble up to the surface in Amboseli then there would likely be little in the way of wildlife here. As it is, this life-giving liquid has created large marshes and pools of water that, during the long dry season in particular, attract large amounts of wildlife.

The area is especially favoured by elephants and masses of them can be seen here at certain times, but hippos, grazers and bird life all congregate here too. And carnivores are known to lie in wait.

Elephants

Amboseli is famed for its elephants. In dry periods they flock here from miles around to quench their thirst in the swamps and pools that splash the dusty landscape in greens.

In fact, Amboseli is so good for elephants that the giants here are a part of one of the world’s longest running elephant study programmes, and much of what we know about elephant lifestyle and biology has been gleaned through Amboseli elephants.

Kilimanjaro views

We’ve all seen those pictures of Africa’s two giants: Mt Kilimanjaro (5,895m) with elephants in the foreground. In fact, for many people it's this image that is the very reason they flew to East Africa in the first place. But here’s a thing to know: Although Africa’s biggest mountain towers over Amboseli, it’s actually located entirely within Tanzania.

Kimana Community Wildlife Sanctuary

This is one of the most progressive community wildlife conservancies in East Africa and, despite its relatively diminutive size, has been a blueprint for many other conservancies.

Visiting the conservancy is a fine way of mixing safari with a genuine contribution to conservation and support for the local community. It’s about 30km east of Amboseli.

When to visit Amboseli National Park

Due to the general dryness of the region’s climate, Amboseli can be visited at any time of the year. But, it should be kept in mind that during the rainy seasons of March-May and November, the wildlife does take advantage of the additional water sources to disperse across the plains outside of the park boundaries.

By contrast, at any other time the wildlife congregates around the park's swamps and water sources and is much easier to see. February can be uncomfortably hot.

How to get to Amboseli National Park

Amboseli is fairly easy to fit into an overland journey along the Nairobi-Mombasa highway or as part of an overland journey between Kenya and Tanzania.

Most people on a short, two-week safari holiday opt to save time by flying into the park with Air Kenya (www.airkenya.com) and Safari Link (www.flysafarilink.com) from Nairobi, the coast or Tsavo and Masai Mara parks.

Where to stay in Amboseli National Park

Like all the big name parks and reserves, there’s plenty of places to get your head down for a night or three. Without any hesitation though, the best place is Campi ya Kanzi in the Kimana Community Wildlife Sanctuary, which is a very high-end Maasai-run camp that was set up as much to aid the local community and conservation projects as it was to provide top-notch lodging to well-off safari-goers. It’s about 30km from Amboseli park.

Within the park itself is the good value but still luxurious Ol Tukai Lodge. You can even see Kilimanjaro from the bar. For those without such deep pockets the park’s KWS Campsite offers a spot to pitch a tent and basic bathrooms plus a bar.

Safari In Amboseli National Park

Stuart Butler

Stuart is the author of Lonely Planet’s Trekking in Nepal, the Rough Guide to Nepal, the Tibet chapter of the Rough Guide to China and the Bradt guide to Kashmir & Ladakh. He also writes widely about East Africa and conservation issues.

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