AMBOSELI NATIONAL PARK
Amboseli National Park,
formerly Maasai Amboseli Game Reserve, is in Kajiado
District, Rift Valley Province in Kenya. The park is 39,206
hectares (392 km2; 151 sq mi) in size at the core of an
8,000 square kilometres (3,100 sq mi) ecosystem that spreads
across the Kenya-Tanzania border. The local people are
mainly Maasai, but people from other parts of the country
have settled there attracted by the successful
tourist-driven economy and intensive agriculture along the
system of swamps that makes this low-rainfall area (average
350 mm (14 in)) one of the best wildlife-viewing experiences
in the world with 400 species of birds including water
birds, pelicans, kingfishers, crakes, hammerkops and 47
types of raptor.
140 kilometres (87 mi) South of the capital city Nairobi,
Amboseli National Park is the second most popular national
park in Kenya after Maasai Mara National Reserve and the
visit can easily be done in a weekend.
In 1883, Joseph Thompson was the first European to penetrate
the feared Maasai region known as Empusel (meaning 'salty,
dusty place' in Maa). He, too, was astonished by the
fantastic array of wildlife and the contrast between the
arid areas of the dry-lake bed and the oasis of the swamps,
a contrast that persists today.
Amboseli was set aside as the 'Southern Reserve' for Maasai
in 1906 but returned to local control as a Game Reserve in
1948. Gazetted a National Park in 1974 in order to protect
the core this unique ecosystem, it was declared a UNESCO Man
and the Biosphere Reserve in 1991. The park earned $ 3.5 m
(€ 2.9 m) in 2005. On September 29, 2005, Kenyan President
Mwai Kibaki declared that control of the park should pass
from the Kenya Wildlife Service to the Olkejuado County
Council and the Maasai tribe. Some observers saw this as a
political favor in advance of a vote on a new Kenyan
constitution: legal challenges are currently in court. The
degazetting would divert park admission fees directly to the
County Council with questionable spread of benefits to the
Maasai immediately surrounding the park. It would set an
unfortunate precedent that could jeopardise the status of
other parks in Kenya.
The park is famous for being the best place in Africa to get
close to free-ranging elephants. Other attractions of the
park include opportunities to meet Maasai and spectacular
views of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest free-standing
mountain in the world.
Amboseli offers some of the best opportunities to see
African animals because its vegetation is sparse due to the
long dry months. Amboseli National Park is home to wild
animals, which include the African elephant, buffalo,
impala, lion, cheetah, hyena, giraffes, zebra, wildebeest
among other African animals. There is also a host of Kenya
birds, both large and small, to see if you keep your eyes
open and stop at every sighting.
When you arrive at the park, the warden will give you
several common sense rules: do not get out of your vehicle,
except at designated spots; do not harass the animals in any
way; keep to the tracks; no off-road driving; and remember
that the animals always have the right of way. The roads in
Amboseli have a loose surface of volcanic soil that is dusty
in the dry season and impassable in the wet season.
There is a small airport in Amboseli, the Amboseli Airport (HKAM).