Amboseli National Park
- Size: 390.26 Sq Kms
- Established: 1968
- Gazetted as a National park: 1974
- Province: Rift Valley, Oloitokitok district
- Geographical Location: On the border with Kenya and Tanzania North West of Mt Kilimanjaro
- Altitude: 1,150 meters above sea level
- Distance from Nairobi: 250 Kms
- Distance from Namanga: 40 Kms
Amboseli National Park, at the foot of Africa's highest mountain, 5895m Kilimanjaro, is one of Kenya's most popular parks. It lies some 240kms. South- east of Nairobi, very close to the Tanzania border the snow capped peak of Mount Kilimanjaro rising above a saucer of clouds dominates every aspect of Amboseli. Gazetted as a national park in 1974 it covers only 390.26 sq kms but despite its small size and its fragile ecosystem it supports a wide range of mammals (well over 50 of the larger species) and birds (over 400 species).
Years ago, Amboseli was the locale around which such famous writers as Ernest Hemingway and Robert Ruark spun their stories of big game hunting in the wilds of Africa. It is also the home of the Maasai people, those tall, proud nomads whose legendary prowess in battle and single handed acts of bravery in fights with wild animals has spread across the globe. The Maasai have learned to live in complete harmony with their environment and the wildlife which surrounds them.
A part of Amboseli National Park is composed of a dried-up lake bed which in the shimmering heat produces mirages. Swamps and springs, fed by underground rivers from Kilimanjaro's melting snows, form permanent watering places for wildlife throughout times of drought.
The lake bed is subject to sporadic floods and noxious salts in the gravel bed are dissolved to serve as a deadly poison for what is left of the local woods; very few of the fine acacias, once a feature of this region, remain. The snows of Kilimanjaro, white and crystalline, form a majestic backdrop to one of Kenya's most spectacular displays of wildlife - lion, elephant, leopard, rhino, cheetah, buffalo and hosts of plains' game, creating Kenya's most sought after photographer's paradise. But the Park's popularity is also causing serious concern. The combination of wildlife, tourist vehicles and Maasai cattle are destroying the delicate but precious grassland. Park rules now insist that vehicles stick to roads and tracks.
The Park's best game runs are around swamps and there is a fine lookout on Observation Hill which offers views over the whole of the Park and beyond. The main route into the park is along the C103 from Namanga, on the Nairobi - Arusha (Tanzania) road, via Meshenani Gate. This road is sometimes corrugated and potholed in places. It is also possible to enter via Kelonyeti Gate on the C103 from the Chyulu Gate in Tsavo West National Park. Lemito Gate can be accessed from a road which joins the C102 road from Sultan Hamud on the main Nairobi - Mombasa road. The track from Namanga to Kitirua Gate goes through Tanzania and is not presently used.
Buses from Nairobi go as far as Namanga, and hitching would be necessary to get into the National Park. This is usually difficult, as most vehicles entering the park are safari company minibuses and walking within the park is prohibited.
Tours to Amboseli from Nairobi are frequent as the park is one of the most popular in the country.
The campsites in Amboseli National Park are run by Maasai communities. Although they are technically just outside of the park boundary, they can only be accessed from within the park. Payments are made directly to the Maasai communities.
There is only one Public Campsite in Amboseli, sometimes referred to as the Group Ranch. It is quite large but popular with low-budget camping safari companies so that it can get rather crowded and noisy at times. This site is just outside of the park boundary, south-west of Observation Hill. There are pit toilets here and a water supply which is not always reliable, so water has to be brought from one of the lodges at times.
The special Nairushari Campsite is used by higher budget camping safari companies, located in a secluded site through the south-west corner of the park near Ilmbireshari Hill. There is firewood here, but bring your own food and water
Mainly hot and dry as the park is in the rain shadow of Mt Kilimanjaro. Maximum average temperatures of the warmest month is 33 degrees Celsius during the day while that of the coldest is 27-28 degrees Celsius
Where to Stay/Accommodations
Lodging in the park includes the Amboseli Serena Lodge with 182 beds, the Oltukai Lodge, Amboseli Sopa Lodge and the Sentrim Lodge all within the park. Other various accommodations are available outside the park borders e.g. Tortilis Eco-Lodge, Kibo Tented Camp and the Kenya wildlife cottages and self help bandas.