A guide to Kenya's second most popular wildlife park

Amboseli National Park, the second most popular animal park after Maasai Mara, is 260km (160 miles) from Nairobi, on the border with the neighboring country of Tanzania. Its magnificent situation at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, combined with its excellent opportunities to view Kenya's animals, make it one of the most-visited safari parks in Kenya.

Kenya elephants in Amboseli

Amboseli is renowned for its large herds of free-ranging African elephants. There are over 900 African elephants in Amboseli, as well as huge herds of wildebeests and many other animals including giraffes, African lions, monkeys, zebras, hyenas and antelope.

Amboseli National Park Facts

Amboseli history and overview

Amboseli was declared a national reserve in 1968. It became a national park in 1974. However, in 2005, President Mwai Kibaki transferred control from the Kenya Wildlife Service to the Olkejuedo County Council and its residents, the Maasai tribe. This is still being contested in the courts because of its implications that could jeopardize Kenya's other national parks.

Amboseli National Park covers 392km² (151miles²) and has a mixed topography of plains, acacia woodland, rocky thorn bush, swamps and marshes. This diversity, along with a long dry season, ensures excellent viewing of the large concentrations of African animals living in this natural habitat.

With its awesome view of Mount Kilimanjaro (Africa's highest mountain at 5,895m), Amboseli National Park offers a unique and breathtaking backdrop for viewing Africa's animals. It also has a dry Pleistocene lake basin that houses a temporary lake, Lake Amboseli, after the rains.

Mount Kilimanjaro sunrise in Amboseli park
Mount Kilimanjaro at Sunrise in Amboseli

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.

It can be a long, hot day on a Kenya wildlife safari, so wear cool, comfortable clothing and a sunhat. Remember to bring your camera, binoculars, sunglasses and water to drink.

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Weather and climate in Amboseli national park

The climate in the Amboseli region is hot and dry. The national park is in the rain shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro, as it lies on the northwest side. Average temperatures vary only slightly throughout the year. The minimum average daily temperature is 27°C and the maximum is 33°C. Drought is typical in this area, and evaporation is high. A total annual rainfall of just 300mm is expected during April and May, and again during November and December.

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How to get to Amboseli national park

By Road: Use your own vehicle, take public transportation, or book an open-topped minibus or safari van tour with a tour guide.

The road from Nairobi to Namanga (240km/149 miles) is tarmac, but becomes rough with potholes from Namanga to the Meshanani Gate. Access from Mombasa is generally best through Tsavo West National Park via Kimana (Olkelunyiet) Gate. Amboseli National Park has gates at Kelunyiet, Iremito, Ilmeshanan, Kitrua and Airstrips.

By Air: A chartered light aircraft may land at the airstrip at Empusel Gate. Other airstrips exist at Namanga and Kilimanjaro Buffalo Lodge. You can also book a scheduled flight departing from Nairobi to Amboseli.

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What to see, what to do at Amboseli national park

The main purpose of a wildlife safari is to see Kenya's wild animals in their natural state. Many people are surprised when they see birds perched within the reach of predators, or gazelles grazing near big cats. The truth is that predators generally only kill to eat, and for the rest of the time both predators and prey live harmoniously together.

Amboseli National Park is known for its large herd of over 900 free-ranging elephants. This is the best national park to visit to see these wonderful and huge creatures.

Elephants in Amboseli National Park
Herd of Elephants in Amboseli

View or even climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest freestanding mountain in the world.

Visit Observation Hill, which overlooks the park, swamps and, of course, the herds of free-roaming elephants.

Meet the Maasai people and learn about the Maasai culture and their indigenous lifestyle.

Bird watching is best between October and January if you want to see Kenya's migratory birds, including African skimmers, red and yellow bishops, goshawks, buffalo weavers and palm nut vultures, to name a few.

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Accommodation in and around Amboseli park

Safari lodges include Oltukai Lodge, Amboseli Serena Lodge, Amboseli Sopa Lodge, Kimana Lodge and Tortilis Camp a luxurious and award winning eco-tourism lodge.

Campsites have no facilities and you must provide all of your own camping gear. They include Nairushari Special, Olgulului Public Campsite, Abercrombie and Kent Tented Camp, Ker and Downy Tented Camp, Chyulu Tented Camp, Kimbla Campsite, Cottar's Tented Camp, Leopard Tented Camp and Tortilis Tented Camp.

>>>See more Kenya safari lodges available in Amboseli
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Best time to visit Amboseli - rates and fees

January and February are good months to visit Amboseli, as well as June through September. Avoid April and May, which are the rainy season. There may also be some rain from November to December, which may make the roads in Amboseli impassable.

Temperatures year round are 27-31°C (81-88°F) in the day and 22-24°C (72-75°F) at night. For Kenya birdwatchers, the best months to see migratory birds are October to January. The best times for viewing are early and late in the day, as animals tend to sleep in the hot midday sun.

Park entrance fees and opening hours: - you can view the latest Amboseli national park fees for both citizens and non-citizens. The Kenya wildlife administration offers reduced fees for Kenyan citizens and residents.

Where to book your Amboseli wildlife Safari tour

There are many reputable options and travel agents to book a Safari tour to Kenya, and one of the best option we recommend our site visitors is to book one of these Kenya tour and travel safari packages designed for individuals and group tours. The packages normally include accommodation, travel to the park, park fees, English-speaking tour guides, food and other activities to capture that memorable experience in Amboseli and other Kenyan wildlife safari parks.

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