Amboseli National Park
Amboseli Game Reserve, lies at the foot of Africa’s highest mountain, the Kilimanjaro (5895m) and is one of the most popular of Kenya’s National Parks. It is situated at some 240 km South-east of Nairobi, very close to the Tanzanian border. Gazetted a National Park in 1974 in order to protect the core of its unique ecosystem, it was declared a UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve in 1991. It covers only 392 sq km 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.
Amboseli encompasses five main wildlife habitats: acacia woodland, rocky thornbush country, swamps, marshland and the quintessentially East African open plains, extending as far as the eye can see. A part of the park is covered by a Pleistocene lake basin, now dry. Within this basin is a temporary lake, Lake Amboseli, which is usually dry, but when the heavy rains return so do theflamingos and the whole surrounding area becomes green and lush again. Swamps and springs, fed by underground rivers from Kilimanjaro’s melting snows, form permanent watering places for the wildlife through times of drought. These permanent waters support large elephant and buffalo herds, as well as the resident hippos. Wildebeests, zebras, giraffes and impalas graze the grasslands, hunted by predators including lions, leopards, caracals, cheetahs, jackals, spotted hyenas and servals. Over 400 bird species have been recorded in the Amboseli area.
The park is also renowned for its enormous elephant herds: the elephants of Amboseli have also been made famous by the work and wildlife documentaries of Dr.Cynthia Moss and the Elephant Trust, who have studied the elephants for over 30 years. Protected by the presence of tourists and researchers, the Amboseli elephants have led an unusually natural existence, hence this is one of the few places where you will see elephants of all ages in the population, including the iconic old bulls with their long tusks.
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. Perhaps more than any other community in Kenya the Maasai have learned to live in complete harmony with their environment and the wildlife which surrounds them. All round the park are occupied and abandoned manyatta – Maasai villages – quickly built out of bent poles and sticks and plastered with cow dung and equally swiftly abandoned when the grazing is finished and the herds must move on.
People from other parts of the country have settled here attracted by the successful tourist-driven economy and intensive agriculture along the system of swamps that makes this low-rainfall area one of the best widlife-viewing experiences in the world.