Pack Your Safari Gear and Cameras and Explore Amboseli, the Elephant Country
Just picture a group of 60 to 70 big-tusked elephants walking calmly and majestically across the plains against the backdrop of Mt. Kilimanjaro. This is usual in Amboseli – even herds of up to 100 are quite common. Amboseli National Park is the home of elephants. The park is home to over 1,000 elephants, which includes 58 families and some 300 independent adult males.
After elephants, Amboseli is known for beautiful views of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Although the mountain is in neighboring Tanzania and Amboseli is in Kenya, the park offers the best views of Mt. Kilimanjaro. However, the view is not guaranteed as the “roof of Africa” is usually covered in clouds. Your best bet for unrivaled views of mighty “Kili” is at dawn and at sunset when the cloud cover lightens.
Amboseli has sparse vegetation, offering a good opportunity to view wildlife. Apart from elephants, the area is home to more than 100 lions, spotted hyena, Cape buffalo, the graceful cheetah, impala, Maasai giraffe, Grant’s zebra, gerenuk, and the blue wildebeest. Four of the big five – lion, elephant, buffalo, and leopard, are found here. Only the rhino is missing.
Amboseli is a photographers’ dream destination. To secure the best nature photography, camp out in the wild and catch the action as it unfolds. You might even catch a hunt. And what better than to photograph the animals against the backdrop of Mt. Kilimanjaro, at dawn or dusk, when the cloud cover on the mountain has cleared?
Apart from game watching, what else can you do in Amboseli?
• Climb Observation Hill
This is one of the places in Amboseli National Park where you are allowed to get out of your vehicle. From this pyramid-shaped hill, you can view the nearby plains and marshlands, as well as Mount Kilimanjaro in the horizon. Although the hill does not attract wildlife, it provides unparalleled views of the surrounding landscape.
• Go bird watching
Amboseli beckons the bird watcher. The area houses over 400 species of birds, including some rare species like the shoebill, the lesser flamingo, the lesser kestrel, and the Madagascar pond heron. Others include the African sacred ibis, the yellow-billed stork, pelicans, grey-crowned cranes, and the pied kingfisher. Moreover, October to January is bird migratory season. This boosts the number of birds available in the area.
• Visit Maasai villages
If so inclined, talk to your safari guide to arrange a visit to a Maasai village to learn something about their way of life. They might even let you milk the cows or help with bead making.
Combine your Amboseli visit
From Amboseli, you can travel by road or fly to continue your holiday on the beautiful Kenyan coast. If you choose to go by road, you could consider spending some time at Tsavo East and Tsavo West national parks, both of which offer magnificent scenery. Moreover, the birdlife in Tsavo is only second to Naivasha, a bird haven. You could also choose to visit some northern Tanzania parks, like Mount Kilimanjaro and Arusha.
Best time to visit
Although Amboseli is a good all-year destination, it’s best to avoid the rainy seasons, that is, March to May and October to December. Weather patterns have changed in recent years and there is no guarantee of rain. However, it might rain – and worse – even flood, during the rainy seasons. The rest of the year is good for wildlife viewing, but November to March is the best time for birdwatching.
Amboseli National Park is accessible easily from both Mombasa and Nairobi by air and by road. The park is located some 240 kilometers (150 miles) southeast of Nairobi, and 309 kilometers (192 miles) northwest of Mombasa. It takes about four and a half to five hours by road from Nairobi and about six hours from Mombasa.
So, pack your best camera, get your safari gear and brush up on your Swahili, and head to Amboseli. Of course, Kenya is an English-speaking country, but it will delight your hosts no end if you drop a few words of Swahili, the national language. And as said earlier, Amboseli is a photographer’s dream destination.