​Overview – Amboseli NP

Anthony Ham
Expert
By Anthony Ham

Anthony is a renowned Africa expert and author of many Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the guide to Kenya.

Anthony is a renowned Africa expert and author of the Lonely Planet guide to Kenya.

Anthony is the author of the Lonely Planet guide to Kenya.

Amboseli National Park is one of Kenya’s safari icons, a world of big-tusked elephants and big cats (lions, and sometimes cheetahs), all set against the backdrop of Africa’s highest mountain, Mt Kilimanjaro. It’s a beautiful, compact park with lots of wildlife, including flamingos and an easy-to-find hyena den. And there’s real safari magic in the air in the early morning or late afternoon when the clouds part to reveal Kilimanjaro’s summit.

Best Time To Go June to October and January to February
High Season December to March and July to October (Busy)
Size 390km² / 151mi²
Altitude 1,124-1,169m / 3,688-3,835ft

Pros & Cons

  • Excellent wildlife viewing
  • Outstanding elephant sightings
  • Good sightings of lion and cheetah are possible
  • Views of Kilimanjaro
  • Excellent birding, especially waterbirds in swamp habitat
  • Good range of accommodations catering to different budgets and styles
  • The park gets very busy, especially in the high season
  • Dust can reduce visibility when the winds blow

Amboseli NP Safari Reviews

  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

Wildlife

Amboseli offers great wildlife viewing, and four of the Big Five are present. Rhinos are absent, and leopards are very rarely seen, but big herds of elephants reliably move to and from the marshy swamps in the center of the park. Buffalo, wildebeest, plains zebra and gazelle are all very common. Lions are the easiest to spot of the big cats, but cheetahs are also possible.

Scenery

At its best, Amboseli is magnificent, and it’s the beautiful mix of landscapes and habitats that enables the park to shelter such amazing wildlife. Amboseli inhabits a vast basin with deep-green swamps in the heart of the park, stands of acacia forest in the east, and expansive savannah grasslands stretching all the way to distant hills and mountains. Mt Kilimanjaro (actually in Tanzania) towers gloriously over the park to the south.

Activities

The main activity in Amboseli is the guided game drive, which will take you around the park to look for animals and birds. Hot-air ballooning is a brilliant alternative. It’s an incredible experience to fly at dawn over the park with Mt Kilimanjaro hopefully free of clouds. The only place you’re allowed to leave your vehicle is at Observation Hill. Climb it on foot and enjoy a picnic with stunning views.

Weather & Climate

In Amboseli, the average daytime temperature sits around a hot 28°C/82°F, while at night the average doesn’t go much lower than a warm 15°C/59°F. Temperatures peak in the Wet season (November to May), with the February heat being particularly fierce. Things cool down a little in the Dry season (June to October).

Best Time To Visit

The two drier periods of the year, from January to February (between the area’s short and long patches of rainfall) and June to October (in the Dry season proper), are the best times to visit. Your game drive won’t be ruined by rain, and the animals can’t hide in the thin vegetation. The park does get very busy at these times, however. The best time for birding is from December to March.

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Amboseli NP Safari Reviews

  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding
Most Helpful Expert Review
Expert
Emma Gregg  –  
United Kingdom UK

Emma is an award-winning travel writer for Rough Guides, National Geographic Traveller, Travel Africa magazine and The Independent.

Busy park, overlooked by Kilimanjaro
4/5

Those wonderful photos of Kilimanjaro rising majestically above a thicket of acacia trees, with elephants ambling past and perhaps a hot air balloon floating serenely overheard? They’re taken in Amboseli. Kili’s snowy cap may be much...

Full Review

Latest User Review
Ilunia  –  
Estonia EE
Reviewed: May 6, 2024
5/5

(we went in April)
It was flooded a bit so the big cats were hiding.
Lots of elephants in big herds.
Lots of birds.
The early morning walk was 10 USD extra, but we did not do it, as we wanted to enjoy the sunrise by ourselves.

Full Review