"On the foot of Kilimanjaro" Top 5 Page for this destination Amboseli National Park by Homanded

Amboseli National Park Travel Guide: 120 reviews and 376 photos

Elephants, Dust Devils and Snow Capped Splendor

Ever since I was a little boy and saw the movie "Snow's of Kilimanjaro", written by Ernest Hemmingway and starring Gregory Peck and Susan Hayward, I dreamed of someday seeing the beautiful scenery that is this park for myself.
I remember seeing the beautiful snowcap of this imposing mountain, dripping down it's sides like frosting on a bundt with the teeming wildlife, mainly it's elephants, living on it's base.

Sadly, much of the snow is gone now, mainly due to global warming; but Kilimanjaro still impresses.
Driving into the park (if you're fortunate enough to do so early evening) you can see it just begining to peek out from under the cloud cover which shrouds it during the day.
And what a beautiful sight it is!

Driving into the entrance to the park, the contrast between stark landscape, mainly Acacias, shruberry and rock, you realize Amboseli is mostly a barren, dryer habitat than other parts of Kenya, broken up only by the greener pastures surrounding the immediate area of Kilimanjaro which has provided swampy areas by the slow melt of it's frosted cap.

Ever driven by instinct to find food, this is where the majority of the animals congregate. Hundreds of Elephants (in fact, Amboseli's Elephant herds are the most studied in the world), zebras, wildebeest, gazelles, Impalas, Lions, cheetahs, and many others all share the immediate area surrounding Kili.
Against this lushness of green areas and refreshing water, are dancing Dust Devils. Curious - and sometimes imposing dust twisters which suddenly occur when updrafts create an unusual phenomenon; a swirling vortex of air and dust. Tornadoes by comparison, form from a downward draft!

Animals seem to take these pesty, swirling anomalies in stride and you often see zebra and wildebeest grazing and turning away from the flying dust particles until it has passed their feeding area, only to continue, non the worse in wear for it.

Rather than migrate, animals move to & from

We saw very few signs of animal activity when we first entered the park. Unlike Masai Mara, the animal sighting consisted mainly of the ocassional giraffe in the distance, the Thomspon's Gazelle happily grazing as we drove by or the 1 or 2 zebras who ignored our car much as horses would during a drive in the country. Only the quick glance towards our vehicle as we drove by.
In fact, the main activity during the bumpy, dusty 45 minute drive from the entry gate to the actual park that we saw were Masaai tending to their goat and cattle herds.
Children would run out of their homes, frantically waving and yelling for us to stop and give them candy, pens or other such western "goodies" which they have apparently come to expect from the "rich" tourists who pay to see this land they call home.

The Road in and out of Amboseli is torturous, to say the least. All the roads in Kenya for that matter, but Amboseli in particularly, even according to the guide books, is known for the many potholes and general bad condition. It did not dissapoint!
We are still amazed that, having such a large tourism basis, places such as the Mara, Amboseli, Tsavo and the such have not done more to improve their access into the parks.

We finally arrived at the Oltukai Lodge, our base camp for the next 2 nights.
A virtual oasis amongst the dry landscape complete with a beautiful pool area which overlooks the transgretional path between day and night habitat for the many animals who are constantly on the search for food and water.
Our cabin (towards the end of the front row of cabins) had unobstructed views of Kilimanjaro. As we arrived late in the afternoon, the cloud shroud had just begun to clear with the cooling of the day and the moisture was begining to settle towards the ground. I caught my first sight of the ice glaciers on 19,000 + foot tall stratovolcano.
"Kili" is actually a triple volcano, and the largest in a belt of about 20 volcanos in the Southern end of the East African Rift Valley.
It is also the largest Volcano in Africa and amongst the largest on earth. Just standing before it's sheer size made me thankful to have gazed upon it.

There are two ways to see Amboseli...

Oltukai lodge made a perfect base for exploring the Amboseli area. We originally chose it for it's unparalled views of Kilimanjaro, reportedly, the best in the park. We were not dissapointed.
As I mentioned, our cabin had direct, unobstructed views of the mountain during early morning, late afternoons.
One can sit outside the cabin's comfortable porch, order coffee or tea and watch the herds of Elephants, zebras and wildebeest move between feeding gounds within yards of your comfort zone. Only thing that separates these magnificent animals from you is a double electric fence which is kept on at all times.
One night, just having gone to bed with the windows open for the enjoyment of the cool breezes that come with evenings, we heard a male lion roaring and calling to mark it's territory.
Our group (and others) quietly stepped out of our cabin doors, promptly sat back on our porches and listened for over 1/2 an hour as the lion kept calling out to other males that may have been wondering too near his hunting grounds. An experience we'll never forget!

There are two ways to see Amboseli, and two choices, depending on which ground operator you choose as your tour guide and depending on how they divide the trip. Either at the begining of your Kenya safari or at the end. This is due to the vast distance and the logistics of visiting between say, the Masai Mara and Amboseli.
Due to the lack of abundant animal life, such as in the Masai Mara, if you do this portion of the trip first, Amboseli will leave you hungering for more and yearning in anticipation for things to come as you continue on to other places. Each park being different, you will continue with your check list searching for more animals to spot.
Giraffes for instance, were not as numerous or approachable as in the Mara, nor were there Rhinos as in Nakuru. Zebras and Wildebeest, although plentiful were much more greagarious in the Mara making for a larger impact on your eye and camera lens.

Amboseli, to us, was more about scenery and relaxation. We did it at the end of the trip and prefer it that way.
After having spotted all the game we could possibly spot during the past 8 days, it allowed us the chance to sit back, take in the grandeur which is Kenya, write in our journals, socialize with old and new found friends.
Compose our thoughts, reflect on our vacation and actually study the animals we saw during game drives w/out the objective of searching for a new "photographic trophy" to add to our ever growing list.
Somehow, you're able to enjoy breathing the air here. Appreciate the sounds of the bush, the ocassional "neighing" of a passing group of zebras, grunting of the wildebeest, trumpeting of the elephant and late night roaring of a territorial male lion seeking to establish his dominance as king of this living movie set.

We loved Amboseli, may The Snows of Kilimanjaro remain for others to enjoy for many years to come.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Incredible scenery, wonderful lodges, BIG SKY
  • Cons:Terrible roadways! Snow is dissappearing too quickly
  • In a nutshell:One can get lost in the scenery and the elephants
  • Last visit to Amboseli National Park: Oct 2006
  • Intro Updated Nov 5, 2006
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Reviews (13)

Comments (6)

  • Wafro's Profile Photo
    Nov 2, 2011 at 2:49 AM

    Love you special pics and great info. I hope to go back soon after a periode of more than ten years.

  • uglyscot's Profile Photo
    Jul 9, 2010 at 11:26 AM

    Wonderful account of your experiences.

  • ellsasha's Profile Photo
    Jan 5, 2009 at 4:21 PM

    Wonderful shared experiences. Brings back fond memories of Kenya. I love your elephant photos! Ellsasha.

  • grets's Profile Photo
    Jul 6, 2007 at 12:56 PM

    Just getting myself in the mood...;-)

  • Krumel's Profile Photo
    Nov 8, 2006 at 4:50 AM

    Homer, your pages are a joy to read and you really bring Africa to life with your stories and your photos. Keep me updated on your progress :-).

  • Jeannette1's Profile Photo
    Nov 6, 2006 at 9:14 AM

    $180 a night? why did I think hotels would be cheaper there? LOL


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