So here’s is my account an amazing, magical and memorable trip to the Amboseli National Park courtesy of the Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge .
The name Amboseli comes from the Maasai place name, Empusel, meaning salty dust. Amboseli is a small National Park, measuring only 392 km2 The park straddles southern Kenya and northern Tanzania, and is amongst the richest wildlife areas in Africa. The area covered by Amboseli is a fragile ecosystem that is internationally recognized as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Biosphere Reserve because of the ecosystem’s significance as an example of an area that fulfils conservation, research and development functions.
Second in popularity after the legendary Masai Mara, Amboseli National Park not only offers great game viewing but it’s also the place to go for the best views of iconic Mount Kilimanjaro. The world’s tallest free-standing mountain actually stands just across the border in Tanzania, but Amboseli has a postcard-perfect view of its snow-capped peaks, rising almost six vertical kilometres above the savannah. A while back Kenya was accused by Tanzania’s tourist industry of trying to hoodwink tourists into thinking Africa’s highest mountain is in Kenya rather than Tanzania. Kenya has no claim to Mt. Kilimanjaro but there is a popular tale of Queen Victoria giving the mountain to Kaiser Wilhelm, her nephew as a birthday present. However, there is no evidence that this tale is true.
During my one night stay in Amboseli I was able to go for 2 game drives, one in the evening and the other in the morning. Both times our driver Nathifo was amazing. She was very knowledgeable and you could tell that she is passionate about her job. It is not very common to find female drivers so I was even more excited for the game drive. It is encouraging to see women working in fields that traditionally thought to be for men.
Nathifo our driver c/o Maneno
Amboseli’s swamps are the life-blood of and are home to a myriad of species of animals. The most popular of these species without a doubt are the elephants. Amboseli is home to some 1,200 elephants (2011 figure) and also has the longest running study of elephant behavior in the wild, and has gathered data on life histories and association patterns for more than 1700 individual elephants – a story I’ll cover in another post.
Picture c/o Maneno
The park has a rich bird fauna, with over 400 bird species recorded, including over 40 birds of prey.
The ostrich is the largest living bird species and lays the largest eggs of any living bird. There are two sub species in Kenya the one found in Amboseli is Masai ostrich its neck and thighs are pink unlike the Somali ostrich whose neck and thighs are grey blue.
Rainfall is concentrated in two rainy seasons, March-April and November-December. I visited in January just after the rainy season. The grass was green and most of the herbivores had given birth to their young as grazing was in plenty.
The park is a host to other herbivores too
Only the males have the characteristic slender, lyre-shaped horns. Impala are known for their great leaping ability, reaching heights up to 3 m (9.8 ft).
The wildebeests, also called gnus, are a genus of antelopes. The blue wildebeest is native to eastern and southern Africa and is larger than the black wildebeest.
I have never seen a hippo in the wild out of water we were driving back to the lodge when we had to stop and give way for this one.
The name Hippopotamus comes from the ancient Greek for “river horse” The common hippopotamus or hippo, is a large, mostly herbivorous semi aquatic mammal .
The next morning we left the lodge at 6 am just in time to catch the sunrise. The early start was well worth it. The sunrise was glorious. If you are ever in Amboseli the sunrise should be on your must see list.
There were lots of hyenas around that morning. They were the only predator I saw. Spotted hyenas are usually referred to as scavengers but they hunt up to 95% of what they consume. After the sunrise we then drove to the hyena’s den. They were pretty blasé and lay basking in the sun as we watched.
The game drive culminated in breakfast at Observation Hill. I wrote about that here.
Of all the parks I have ever been to Amboseli has been my favourite. You do not have to drive for miles to see any animals. I am longing to go back again, maybe next time I will spot the elusive cats.
How to get there:
Distance from Nairobi is approximately 270 km via Emali and 280 km via Namanga.
By road: Transfer by road from Nairobi takes approximately 4 hours.
By air: Flight time approximately 30 minutes from Wilson Airport Nairobi.
All info on how much it costs to enter the park can be found here
Cost per game drive Kshs 4500 ($49) per person per game drive
Carry warm clothing if you intend to go for an early morning game drive. The mornings are quite chilly.
This trip was facilitated by Serena hotels as part of a media tour.
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