Amboseli National Park Safari
An Amboseli National Park Safari is one of the most astounding things to experience and which should make it to everyone’s bucket list.
Crowned by Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak, the Amboseli National Park 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.
The local people are mainly Maasai but people from other parts of the country have settled there attracted by the successful tourist-driven economy and intensive agriculture along the system of swamps that makes this low-rainfall area (average 350mm (14in)) one of the best wildlife-viewing experiences in the world with 400 species of birds including water birds, pelicans, kingfishers, crakes, hammerkops, and 47 types of raptors.
In 1883, Joseph Thompson was the first European to penetrate the feared Maasai region known as Empusel(meaning ‘salty, dusty place’ in Maa). He, too, was astonished by the fantastic array of wildlife and the contrast between the arid areas of the dry lake bed and the oasis of the swamps, a contrast that persists today.
Amboseli was set aside as the Southern Reserve for Maasai in 1906, but returned to local control as a game reserve in 1948. Gazetted a national park in 1974 to protect the core of this unique ecosystem, it was declared a UNESCOMan and the Biosphere Reserve in 1991. The park earned $3.5 m (€2.9 m) in 2005. On 29 September 2005, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki declared that control of the park should pass from the Kenya Wildlife Service to the Olkejuado County Council and the Maasai tribe. Some observers saw this as a political favour in advance of a vote on a new Kenyan constitution; legal challenges are currently in court. The degazetting would divert park admission fees directly to the county council with shared benefits to the Maasai immediately surrounding the park.
And what exactly makes an Amboseli National Park Safari so magical?
The first thing has to be the wildlife with the park being mostly famous for the best place in the world to get close to free ranging elephants. The Amboseli for example was home to Echo, perhaps the most researched elephant in the world, and the subject of many books and documentaries, followed for almost four decades by American conservationist Dr Cynthia Moss. Echo died in 2009 when she was about 60 years old.
It is also home to Cape buffaloes, impala, East African lions, cheetahs, spotted hyenas, Masai giraffes, plains Zebrasand blue wildebeest among other African animals. Also, a host of Kenyan birds, both large and small, are found there.
An Amboseli National Park Safari is also not a safari without witnessing the great views of Mt. Kilimanjaro which is the highest Mountain in Africa at 4,900 metres (16,100ft) from its base to 5,895 metres (19,341ft) above sea level.
The mountain is part of the Kilimanjaro National Park and is a major climbing destination and has been the subject of many scientific studies because of its shrinking glaciers and disappearing ice fields.
The origin of the name “Kilimanjaro” is not precisely known, but a number of theories exist. European explorers had adopted the name by 1860 and reported that “Kilimanjaro” was the mountain’s Kiswahili name. The 1907 edition of The Nuttall Encyclopædia also records the name of the mountain as “Kilima-Njaro”.
Johann Ludwig Krapf wrote in 1860 that Swahilis along the coast called the mountain “Kilimanjaro”. Although he did not support his claim, he claimed that “Kilimanjaro” meant either “mountain of greatness” or “mountain of caravans”. Under the latter meaning, “Kilima” meant “mountain” and “Jaro” possibly meant “caravans”.
Jim Thompson claimed in 1885, although he also did not support his claim, that the term Kilima-Njaro “has generally been understood to mean” the Mountain (Kilima) of Greatness (Njaro). “Though not improbably it may mean” the “White” mountain.
Best Time to Go to Amboseli National Park
The best time to experience an Amboseli National Park Safari is actually all round the year. The park is normally open Daily 6.00 am -7.00 pm including public holidays although no entry is allowed on foot and visitors will not be allowed entry after 6.15pm.
How to get to Amboseli National Park
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.
You can also choose to fly there as the park has a single airstrip for light aircrafts at Empusel gate. Other airstrips exist at Kilimanjaro Buffalo Lodge and Namanga town.
Park Entry Fees for Amboseli National Park
Entry fees to Amboseli National Park are 60 USD for non resident adults and 35USD for non resident children. It’s Ksh 1,030 for resident adults and ksh 515 for resident children. It goes down ksh 860 for citizen adults and Ksh 215 for citizen kids.
There are a number of places to stay at while sampling an Amboseli National Park Safari and they range from lodges, cottages, campsites and guest houses.
There is for example Ol tukai lodge which is one of the best spots in the world to watch elephant with the backdrop of Africa’s highest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro. Writers have described Ol Tukai and the surrounding Amboseli National Park ‘as a home for the Gods’. Ol Tukai is an Eco-rated lodge having excellent outdoor and indoor facilities with its unique collection of African art. The property receives overwhelming response from the international and local tourism market. A 4 star hotel, the lowest rate is 225 pounds per person per night.
There is also Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge which is nestled in an acacia grove by a gentle mountain spring, our hotel, comprising a Maasai-inspired design, a garden restaurant and a palm-shaded swimming pool and sundeck, provides uninterrupted views of Mount Kilimanjaro and the surrounding landscape. In every detail, the ambience captures the essence of Maasai culture, warmth and indomitable spirit. The setting is breathtakingly beautiful, the wildlife abundant and the cuisine, hospitality and amenities unrivalled. It costs approximately 250 USD to spend a night at the lodge.
There is also Amboseli Camp Site which is only 200 M away from the Amboseli National Park headquarters. The campsite can approximately host 60 persons.
Others include Simba cottages, Chui cottages and Kilimanjaro guest house.