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Elephants In The Marshy Area In Amboseli, Kenya

Kenya: Amboseli National Park

Our first stop on our tour of Kenya was to visit Amboseli National Park in the south of the country, close to the border with Tanzania. It took us about 3 hours to drive the two and half hours to cover the 240 km from Nairobi to Amboseli. The road was good most of the way, although there were quite a number of trucks which slowed everything down and there were very few places to safely pass these. We had arranged to travel with our tour company, Tanzania Roadside Expeditions, so we didn’t have to worry about driving ourselves. 

Setting off from Nairobi around 8:30 am we were at our hotel, Amboseli Sopa Lodge, around lunchtime so we had a chance to eat and relax a bit before heading out on our sunset game drive. We’d have loved to have seen Mount Kilimanjaro, but sadly it was covered with clouds.

Not surprisingly we were not the only folks planning a sunset game drive, so there was a bit of a line of drivers checking their vehicles and clients in. Luckily, a combination of people-watching and some giraffes turning up, helped the time pass quickly.

A giraffe by the entrance of Amboseli National Park,

As we only had a short time to explore Amboseli before sunset our drive took us through some bush areas and across the savanna. The nice thing about this park is that you don’t have to go far to find wildlife, and we loved seeing the Grants gazelles. Also, we got to see our first gnus (aka wildebeest) and the crazy-looking ostrich.

A Grant's gazelle
A lone gnu (or wildebeest)

Despite the area being mainly dry savannah one of the amazing things about the Amboseli eco-system is the water that seeps up through the ground creating extensive areas of wetlands that are there even during the dry season.

This is one of the reasons that Amboseli supports such a large herd of elephants.

When we arrived at the marshy wetlands, there were a large number of elephants enjoying the water including some small calves. There was a carcass of a gnu lying just by the road, with a male lion next to it. Initially, we thought the lion was dead … it didn’t look too good … but after a few minutes it stirred from its slumber (it had just been sleeping off a large meal). The water also attracts a lot of waterfowl, and we got to see our first flamingos in Kenya.

Elephants in the marshy area in Amboseli
A rather sleepy lion waking up after its post feeding nap
Flamingos in the marsh at Amboseli

The following day we were heading out at dawn for an all-day game drive. Before setting off we had a quick bite of breakfast and were stunned when we got to the lawn outside of the restaurant. We had the most amazing view of Kilimanjaro in the early morning sun.

Mount Kilimanjaro from the Amboseli Sopa Lodge gardens

As we entered Amboseli there were many animals wandering close to the road, including antelope such as the impressive eland (the largest African antelope), Grants gazelle and waterbuck, and some lofty giraffes.

An eland - the largest antelope in Africa
A grants gazelle in the bush in Amboseli
A male bushbuck

The main attraction of Amboseli is the large number of elephants that live here and it was not long on our travels through the park before we came across a herd of elephants including cows, bulls, and calves. We could have spent all day watching these elephants, but they had other ideas and moved on. This left us with a small group of zebras to amuse us. We learned the collective noun for zebras is a ‘dazzle’.

Elephants moving towards us with the top of Kilamanjaro poking above the clouds
Elephants approaching
The cute baby elephant

We left the elephants behind and headed to the other side of the park, passing by the airstrip – which is a popular stopping off point.

Amboseli is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve
Our game drive vehicle

Whilst most people come to the parks in Kenya to see the ‘Big Five’ there are plenty of other things to see around Amboseli. The marshes and Amboseli Lake attracts a huge number of birds, particularly waterfowl. We enjoyed seeing these almost as much as the mammals. 

An African jacana in the marshes of Amboseli
A spoonbill resting
A group of vultures gathering over a carcass
A flight of pelicans arriving
The secretary bird is unusual looking but is a beast at catching snakes
Tawny eagles on the ground

Most of Amboseli is flat but there is one place that offers a viewpoint across the park and that is Signal Hill, which is where we took our lunch.

Whilst we were up there we were joined by a wedding party, which made it a whole lot more fun! 

A hippo out of the water grazing at the base of Siganl Hill
A wedding party on Signal Hill
I must get better at these selfies

After seven hours of driving around Amboseli, we headed back to the lodge. On the way out we had one final treat a sighting of a gerenuk.

Long legs, long necks, and large eyes distinguish gerenuks from other African antelope. Unlike many other four-legged herbivores, these petite animals often dine balanced on their hind legs. Using this adaptation, gerenuks can eat leaves from high on bushes and shrubs that almost no other animal can reach.

The strange but beautiful gerenuk

In summary …

Amboseli is a great place to start or end a safari tour of Kenya. There is a lot of wildlife to see – you don’t have to go far to see plenty of animals.

We saw lots of elephants, giraffes, antelopes etc. Whilst we saw a lion we did not see a lot of big cats – they are there but not as easy to find as in other parks in Kenya. 

About Amboseli

The name Amboseli comes from a Maasai word “Empusel” meaning salty, dust. The ancestral inhabitants of the area are the Maasai people. 

Amboseli National Park is the Second most popular national park in Kenya after Maasai Mara. The park covers about  39,206 hectares (392km, 151sq mi) with a core 8,000km (3,100 sq. mil) ecosystem that spreads through the Kenya-Tanzania border.

Amboseli national park was originally a game reserve with its name Maasai Amboseli game reserve in 1906 for the Maasai. To protect this unique ecosystem, it was established as a national park in 1974, and later became recognised by UNESCO in 1991.

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.

Wildlife:

Leopards, Cheetah, Wild dogs, Buffalo, Elephant, Giraffes, Zebra, Lion, Crocodile, Mongoose, Hyrax, Dik- dik, Lesser Kudu, and Nocturnal Porcupine

Prolific birdlife features 600 species

Planning your visit to Amboseli

By Road: 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.


By Air: Airstrips: The park has a single airstrip for light aircrafts at Empusel gate. Other airstrips exist at Kilimanjaro Buffalo Lodge and Namanga town

Address:Loitoktok District, Rift Valley, Entonet
Website:https://www.amboselipark.org/
Telephone:T: +254726 788779
 6.00 a.m. – 6.00 p.m
Admission Fees

Adults: $70

Children:$20

Best time to visit Amboseli

Amboseli national park best time to visit varies on a few underlying factors , during the dry season , several wildlife gather around the water holes in order to tap into the lightly scarce water during the dry season , But as the rain seasons come through, they start dispersing because of the numerous water access points. We will delve into information that could potentially affect your decision making when you plan on traveling to Amboseli national park together with the activities one intends to conduct while in the park. Amboseli park’s temperatures are average and they are moderate throughout the year. In as much as the temperature are moderate throughout the year, we recommend you carry light jackets and a fleece for conducting the morning activities such as the game drives as well as the evening or night for the activities. During the rainy season, one ought to carry a rain coat and a poncho to be able to counter the effect of rain while doing the activities. There is little or no rains during the dry season therefore the dry season is practically the best time of the year to visit Amboseli national park. The dry seasons run from the months of July to October. The close of the month of June sees the rains subsiding and welcoming the dry season and the as the end of October nears, it flags off a few showers.

In the dry seasons, it quit easy to locate the wildlife because the grasses are shot and scotched resulting from the dry spell, the dry season also sees the several water holes dry hence leaving a few that attracts several wildlife from the different parts of the park to come to drink water in the few of the remaining oases. The dry season is also has less precipitation , therefore there are few insects such as mosquitoes that make ones stay complicated. During the dry season, the skyies are clear and blue and the days are simply awesome hence making it the best time to visit the park on a safari. During the dry season, the Masai Mara national reserve also hosts one f the biggest wildlife migration dubbed the annual wildebeest migration, because of the wildebeest migration , several travelers make their way there thus after the Masai Mara experience they head to Amboseli national park to have the experience there too, hence causing a little price increment in the accommodation in what can only referred to as peak seasons.

Brief rains kick off in November and December and as January and February kicks in , the short dry season prevails until April, May, June kicks in with heavy rains. During this rainy months, life springs back bringing a whole new greenery and well as fresh wildlife as the old ones give birth. There you will capture rewarding view of the little white stripped zebra , as well as the little Thompson gazelles trying to hide in the tall grass to elude the predators. The greenery all brings several migratory birds species that make their way from as far Europe to Amboseli national park. As fresh wildlife as the old ones give birth. there you will capture rewarding view of the little white stripped zebra , as well as the little Thompson gazelles trying to hide in the tall grass to elude the predators. the greenery all brings several migratory birds species that make their way from as far Europe to Amboseli national park.

On the disadvantage note, the heavy downpours during the month of May to July render it challenging to navigate to the park as some roads become impassable. Needless to say. The challenging roads during the rainy season can be overcome by flying to the park from Nairobi or from another park to amboseli national park.

Amboseli Sopa Lodge

There are many lodges and places to stay around Amboseli. We were booked into the Sopa Lodge, which is a hotel group with several lodges around Kenya. The lodge is located about 20km from the gates of Amboseli and has great views of Kilimanjaro (clouds permitting)

The accommodation was cute cottages (or chalets) with thatched roofs. Inside the rooms were quite spacious with some nice decorative features.

The grounds are lovely with some large lawn areas. Here you can relax, just be aware you may get visits from black-faced velvet monkeys and baboons. There is a large pool area and some large public spaces, including a bar and a restaurant – where they serve food buffet style.

The cottages at Amboseli Sopa Lodge
The inside of our room at Amboseli Sopa Lodge
The lobby of Amboseli Sopa Lodge decorated with local craft

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