Everything about Amboseli is big.
It’s a land of giants, of vast dry plains where the horizons seem limitless, of huge herds of elephants and, most impressive giant of all, Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain. This magnificent, snow-capped mountain lies just over the border in Tanzania, but the most impressive views of its icy peak are to found in Amboseli. The sight of Kilimanjaro high above herds of game crossing the plains of Amboseli is a timeless African image.
At 19,340 feet, the ‘Shining Mountain’ is the highest freestanding mountain in the world and is topped by one-fifth of all the ice in Africa.
The park was listed as part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves under the UNSECO-MAB programme in 1991 as a place which seeks to reconcile economic development, social development and environmental protection, through partnerships between people and nature, and able to demonstrate approaches to sustainable development at a regional scale.
The 392 km2 Empuseli, (meaning salty, dusty place in the language of the Maasai) was originally known as Ukamba Game Reserve since 1899.
It later formed part of the Southern Reserve since 1906 until 1948 when it was designated as a Game Reserve, and handed over by the Royal National Parks of Kenya Organization to the local administration in 1961.
Due to its unique ecosystem, it was gazetted as a National Park in 1974.
The Enkongo Narok and Ol Okenya swamps receive their waters from Mt. Kilimanjaro through underground streams.
Ol Donyo Orok Hill forms part of the park’s unique features.
The park is home to more than just elephants; herds of wildebeest, zebra, and impala graze on the open plains and predators such as lions, cheetah, and hyenas are often sighted here.
The swamps are a center of activity for elephants, hippos, buffaloes, and the surrounding flat grasslands are home to grazing antelopes. Spotted hyenas are plentiful, and jackals, warthog, olive baboons, and vervet monkeys all occur.
At Normatior (observation hill), you can revel at the expanse of the park and also marvel at the herds of elephants raising dust as they cross the plains to drink and feed at the swamp, while the long-necked gerenuk is common just outside the park.
In and near the marshes African jacanas are abundant, and you’ll typically find several species of heron, such as squacco, grey, Goliath and black-headed, plus great white egrets, glossy ibises, Egyptian geese, and blacksmith and spur-winged plovers. Then list varies with the seasons and includes saddle-billed storks, white-faced whistling-ducks, African fish eagles, little egrets, red-billed teal and the migratory purple heron and flamingoes.
Amboseli is also home to less-commonly seen species including common redshanks, purple swamphens, and Eurasian thick-knees.
Among the various weavers that you should encounter in the wooded areas are white-headed buffalo-weavers and Grey-capped social weavers. Superb sterlings will help themselves to leftovers, and drongos, red-billed hornbills, and grey-headed sparrows are also common. Lilac-breasted rollers are likely to be seen perching and scanning for ground insects and lizards. Look out for grey-crowned cranes out on the plains.
Amboseli is one of only two places where you can see the Taita golden weaver.