Amboseli National Park which lies in the shadows of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountain, is one of Kenya's most popular parks. It is located about a four-hour drive (240 km or 150 miles) southeast of Nairobi. The park is 39,206 hectares (392 km2; 151 sq mi) in size at the core of an 8,000 km2 (3,100 sq mi) ecosystem that spreads across the Kenya-Tanzania border. The park is well known for its rich wildlife, particularly the majestic herds of elephant and glorious views of Mount Kilimanjaro in neighbouring Tanzania. Other attraction of the park includes opportunities to meet the Maasai people who live around the park and experience their authentic culture.
The park embodies five main wildlife habitats (open plains, acacia woodland, rocky thorn bush country, swamps and marshland) and covers part of a Pleistocene lake basin, now dry. Within this basin is a temporary lake, Lake Amboseli, that floods during years of heavy rainfall. Amboseli was gazetted as a National park in 1974, and was later declared a UNESCO-Mab Biosphere Reserve in 1991.
The park can be accessed via Meshanani gate, remito gate and Kimana gate. The Park has an airstrip at Empusel gate. There is also an airstrip for light aircraft at the Park Headquarters (Olekelunyiet). Other airstrips exist at Kilimanjaro Buffalo Lodge and Namanga town.
Amboseli National Park is home to over 80 mammals species and 400 species of birds. Most of the big safari animals are present in the park with exception of rhinos. This park is famous for its prolific elephant population, over 1,000 live in the park’s fragile eco-system, and records show them to be amongst some of the biggest elephants in Africa.
The park is also home to a large resident population of wildebeest, Burchell's zebra, Thomson's and Grant's gazelle, buffalo, warthog, impala, waterbuck, dik dik, Maasai giraffe and eland. Vervet monkey and yellow baboon inhabit the scarce woodlands, mainly around Ol Tukai Lodge. Spotted hyena, black-backed jackal, wild cat, bat-eared foxes and caracal are also found here. Click here to read more about Kenya Safari Animals and Wildlife.
The climate in Amboseli region is generally hot and dry. The national park is in the rain shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro, as it lies on the northwest side. Average temperatures vary only slightly throughout the year. The minimum average daily temperature is 27°C and the maximum is 33°C. Drought is typical in this area, and evaporation is high. A total annual rainfall of just 300mm is expected during April and May, and again during November and December.
Amboseli National Park is regarded as year round safari destination, but the dry season from June to October is generally considered the best time for wildlife watching, when animals gather around the marshes and other predictable water sources. The April and May long rains, which bring torrential downpours and washed-out roads, are best avoided.
Amboseli has several amazing hotels, specifically tented camps and lodges, located in distinct areas of the park to suit every budget. Some of these luxury Tented Camps and Safari Lodges are international award winners. Below is a simple list of some of the more outstanding accommodation options.
Typical double tent interior at Luxurious Elewana Tortilis Camp, Amboseli.
Typical double room interior at Amboseli Sopa Lodge.