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Amboseli National Park: A Kenyan Safari Adventure
Amboseli National Park:
The East African nation of Kenya has many exciting sites for visitors to check out. The Kenyan national park system has a number of great options for those vacationers who want to observe African wildlife in its natural habitat. One of the leading national parks in Kenya is the Amboseli National Park, which is located near the Kenya/Tanzania border just 140 kilometers (87 miles) south of the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, although the actual drive is closer to 240 kilometers.
The park itself sits on a relatively flat plain, but the main topographical feature that is evident to all visitors is the towering peak of Mount Kilimanjaro, which rises 5,895 meters (19,341 feet) above sea level. The park is noted for its large packs of elephants. On a visit in 2006, I personally counted 31 pachyderms within sight at one time. In addition to the sizable elephant population, the park also includes many other exotic African animals and birds including:
- Leopard, Cheetah, Wild dogs, Buffalo, Rhino, Elephant, Giraffe, Zebra, Lion, Plains Game, Crocodile, Mongoose, Hyrax, Dik- dik, Lesser Kudu, and Nocturnal Porcupine
- Prolific birdlife features 600 species (source: Kenyan Wildlife Service)
The main gateway into Amboseli comes through Nairobi. Many foreign visitors fly into Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, although there is a small airport that services the park. The Nairobi-Arusha Road and the Nairobi-Mombasa Road also provide access into the park.
2012 Entrance fees vary by country of origin. East African citizens and residents can obtain access to the park for 1,000 Kenyan shillings (KSh)/person. Non-resident adults must pay $80 U.S. dollars. Students and children receive a discount. East African citizens may enter for 200 KSh, East African residents for 500 KSh, while foreign nationals must pay $40 USD per child. The current exchange rate (March 2013) is 85KSh = 1 USD.
When to Visit
The best times for viewing the wildlife at Amboseli is during the dry season. The long rains occur in March and April, while the short rains generally occur in November and December. According to my tour guide in 2006, some of the roads are impassible during the rainy season, which can inhibit the ability of visitors to view the entire park. According to the Kenyan Wildlife Service, the average temperature ranges from 20-30 degrees Celcius (68-86 F) year-round. The coolest months of the year in Kenya are June-August, while the warmest period of the year tends to be February-March. The temperature is generally quite comfortable throughout the year, however. The roads are generally relatively dry in June, which is a bit before the high season. Visitors are more likely to get better rates before July.
What to Do and Where to Stay
What to Do
There are several unique opportunities in which visitors to Amboseli National Park can engage. Among these activities are:
- Large Herds of Elephants
- Mt. Kilimanjaro
- Big Five
- Observation Hill which allows an overall view of the whole park especially the swamps and elephants,
- Swamp below observation hill hosts many elephants, buffaloes, hippos and a variety of water fowls like pelican, Egyptian goose
- Contemporary Maasai culture and indigenous lifestyle (source: Kenyan Wildlife Service)
Where to Stay
There are multiple options within the park when it comes to overnight accommodations. While the Kenyan Wildlife Service lists a few options, I can definitely recommend the Amboseli Serena Lodge. This particular hotel has guest rooms that include a Maasai-inspired theme that provides a true African experience, complete with your very own mosquito net. The rooms are quite nice, but the most impressive part of a stay at the Serena Lodge is the dining experience. Guests have the opportunity to partake in an exceptionally good buffet in an open-air (yet covered) dining room, which comes complete with bats flying along the ceiling after dark. In spite of my apprehension over these furry flying creatures, the food is excellent. Members of the Maasai work at the lodge and contribute to the authentic Kenyan feel of the stay, as well. Room rates begin at $110 USD, although they rise to over $200 in the high season.
On a lighter note, one of the most memorable parts of the stay at the Amboseli Serena Lodge was the encounter with a black mamba snake as my group stood around talking in the parking lot after exiting our vehicle. All I remember hearing was "snake." An African man who was standing outside then proceeded to stomp the snake's head with his heel. Fortunately it was getting dark and cool so the snake was a bit lethargic. Elephants and lions--I wanted to see them. Bats and black mambas--not so much. Regardless, a trip to Amboseli National Park provides a great African safari experience.