Amboseli presents a unique environment for wildlife in Kenya, complete with stunning views of Kilimanjaro across the border in Tanzania
Whereas the majority of wildlife parks in Kenya are dominated by savannah that stretches to the horizon, Amboseli is typified during and after the rains by its big skies, huge lake and natural spring water-bodies.This can bring its own setbacks in terms of accessibility, with some tracks submerged and others impassable but the benefits it brings in terms of wildlife sightings are outstanding.
Situated in the extreme south of Kenya, in Loitoktok District, Rift Valley Province of Kenya, its easily reached from Nairobi and excellent as a staging post for Tanzania if that’s where you’re heading to.
A real bonus on a visit to Amboseli is the stunning view of Mount Kilimanjaro – often better than you’ll achieve from its home country of Tanzania – weather permitting!
Amboseli’s unique habitat also means that with sparse vegetation, wildlife is easier to spot. Renowned for its free-ranging African bush elephant population, you’ll nevertheless stand a great chance to see Cape Buffalo, Impala, Lion, Cheetah, Spotted Hyena, Giraffe, Grant’s zebra, and Blue Wildebeest but the big treat for birdwatchers is the 400 species that fly here – from raptors to ground birds.
Our visit to Amboseli is in May, when the recent ‘long rains’ have filled Lake Amboseli and flooded some of the tracks we want to take – but there’s enough of the park accessible to a 4×4 to enable us to get a really good feel of the park and all it has to offer.
The landscape is a fascinating contrast to the dusty plains of the Mara or Serengeti with their muddy waterholes – and with its moody skies it can create the impression of a somewhat desolate landscape.
There are several quality camps within the park in which to stay but other substantial camps have been abandoned and remain as silent testament to the fact that good management and regular tourist numbers can’t always be guaranteed.
As we’re interested in birdlife we’re more than happy with spending time just sitting in our vehicle with camera and binoculars as everything from Tawny Eagles and White backed Vultures perch around us and water birds strut by – but one of our birdlife highlights has to be a flock of Grey Crowned cranes passing overhead and flying towards Kilimanjaro, which graces us with sight of a band of snow-capped slopes as the overcast splits to create a magical scene.
Not to be outdone the predators show up as well – in particular we come across a sleepy band of brothers – five Cheetah males lazing around in the grass just a few metres from our vehicle – superb! They seem in no hurry to move and are unperturbed by our presence. At this time of year we have the park virtually to ourselves with all the benefits of peace, quiet and undisturbed wildlife.
We’re making our way into Tanzania by car (although there is a small airport linking other parks and Nairobi), so a good part of our journey is spent crossing the volcanic soil of Amboseli and skirting the huge lake which is full. Animals graze at its shore and the lush landscape provides dramatic photographic opportunities that we’ve not experienced in other parks.
It’s a mistake to assume that if you’ve been to one park in Kenya for the Big Five that you’ve seen all the country has to offer. Yes, you’ll probably see similar animal species in many of them but the setting and natural habitat within which you see them brings a totally different perspective to each sighting and puts their survival and ability to adapt to changing conditions into context.
The indigenous people here are Maasai and time can be spent with them, although we find these ‘experiences’ somewhat canned and unnatural, albeit the tourist dollar does supplement their income.
The park, now run by the local county and the Maasai people (in a political move to enlist parliamentary support) has removed it from the umbrella of the Kenya Wildlife Service – but politics and bureaucracy apart, it’s well worth the visit – to add another remarkable experience to your wildlife travels.
We stayed in Ol Tukai Lodge in Amboseli but why not ask us to arrange your own tailor-made travel – to immerse yourself in the wonders of history and safari in East Africa?
Why not download the TLC World guide brochure or give us a call today on 01202 030443, or simply click ‘enquire’ to submit your own personal itinerary request