Amboseli National Reserve, an hour’s flight or a 4-hour overland journey southeast from Nairobi, is renowned for its enormous elephant herds. Mount Kilimanjaro, which stands on the southern boundary of the park, provides a majestic backdrop for a safari.
The elephants of Amboseli have been made more famous by the work and wildlife documentaries of Dr. Cynthia Moss and the Elephant Trust, who have studied the elephants of the Amboseli for over 30 years. Protected by the presence of tourists and researchers and the backing of the local Maasai people, the Amboseli elephants have led an unusually natural existence, so 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.
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. The savannah is fed by underground water from Kilimanjaro’s ice-cap, filtered through the volcanic rock, as are the two permanent springs.
The permanent waters of the swamps and springs support the large elephant and buffalo herds, as well as the resident hippo. Wildebeest, zebra, giraffe and impala graze the grasslands, hunted by predators including lion, leopard, caracal, cheetah, jackal, spotted hyena and serval. Over 400 bird species have been recorded in the Amboseli area.
‘Amboseli’ derives from the word for ‘salty dust’, ancient volcanic ash creating shimmering mirages and forming dust devils in the dry season. These phenomena occur particularly around the seasonal Lake Amboseli.
The national reserve is just 392km2 and it is busy in high season. You will find the small camps and lodges we favour in the surrounding Maasai group ranches and wildlife sanctuaries, which are part of the larger Amboseli ecosystem and are crucial game dispersal areas.