Expert Reviews – Amboseli NP

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Amboseli: In the Shadow of Kilimanjaro
Overall rating
5/5

Mt Kilimanjaro may lie in Tanzania but the best views of Africa’s highest mountain are from Amboseli. Elephants, long-tusked and large, are an Amboseli specialty – I’ve never been as close to elephants as I have in Amboseli – and the sight of them crossing the plains or wallowing in the swamps with Kilimanjaro behind is an iconic East African safari image. Lions, too, are commonly sighted, often within a short distance of the lodges in the centre of the park, as are giraffe, zebra and various antelope species; the open plains are classic cheetah country and I was lucky enough to see a family of five last time I visited. For a park of its size, Amboseli hosts astonishingly rich birdlife with 370 recorded species, almost one for every square metre of the park. Added to the drama of mountain and mega-fauna is the oft-sighted presence of the Maasai – Amboseli lies deep in Maasai land – draped in blood-red blankets and striding across the plains.

One of Kenya’s most picturesque parks with spectacular views of Kilimanjaro
Overall rating
5/5

I creaked into Amboseli after a frantic break-neck drive with the military convoy from Tsavo in a near-dead Suzuki Vitara hire-car. I had a soldier riding with me and the cartridge of his AK47 wore a hole through the dashboard because of all the spine-jaggling potholes. The Suzuki’s suspension finally gave up altogether when I was already alone somewhere near the lakes in Amboseli and I began to think about spending a long night sleeping in the car deep in lion territory. Eventually staggered into camp about dusk though and was rewarded with one of the finest sundowner spots (and sweetest G&T I could have imagined) overlooking a waterhole with Kilimanjaro as a backdrop. One of the highlights of Amboseli is surely the elephant herds which spend a lot of their time up to their bellies in the lakes and can be very entertaining to watch. This is also prime Maasai country though and apart from wildlife you should take a chance to enjoy a cultural trip to one of the local manyattas.

Guaranteed wildlife-viewing at the foot of Kilimanjaro
Overall rating
5/5

Amboseli has instant likeability and although it can be crowded with game-viewing vehicles, there are plenty of good reasons for its popularity. For a start, it’s a straightforward drive from Nairobi via the newish C102 road – the horribly rutted Namanga road can be avoided altogether now. Once there, it’s easily navigable and there’s a great choice of accommodation from Kenya Wildlife Service campsites to 5-star safari lodges. More importantly, animals are everywhere and well-used to vehicles, and there’s a variety of landscapes from sandy dust bowls with endless horizons to glistening lakes and swamps fringed with lush foliage. Highlights for me are watching the (many) elephant and buffalo half-submerged in the reed beds of the marshes, thousands of tail-flicking herbivores scattered across the open plains around Ol Tukai, and views of the emerald-green Enkongo Narok swamps from the top of Observation Hill. Predator numbers are low but they are there so look hard – I’ve seen a lioness escort her young from a thicket to drink in a stream and a family of cheetah emerge from woods to eye up prey on the savannah. While animal action is guaranteed, the sight of Kilimanjaro is not – except for occasional glimpses at sunrise and sunset, the formidable mountain is usually shrouded in a thick shawl of cloud.

Average Expert Rating

  • 4.1/5
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

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