The endangered African Elephant is the largest land mammal. The tallest and heaviest recorded stood at about 4 meters (13.0 ft) at the shoulder and weighed a massive 10.4 tonnes. They are a sight to behold. There is no better place in the world to view these magnificent pachyderms in their wild habitat than the Amboseli National Park.
Amboseli National Park is located in Kajiado south constituency in Kajiado county of Kenya. It is a four-hour drive (216Kms) from Nairobi’s central business district. The name Amboseli is derived from a Maasai name “ampuseli”, which means a saline area or salty soil. The park has an area of 392km2 which is considered part of 27,700km2 Maasai land founded by the British back in 1906.
It was gazetted in 1974, and in addition to being the best place to see Elephants, it offers stunning views of the tallest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro.
The park also hosts other large herbivores that graze in the swampy green areas. They prefer these areas due to heightened human pressure from the areas adjacent to the park where agricultural and livestock development is rising.
Elephant Research at Amboseli
The park has about 1,200 elephants, and for the last 40 years, it has proven to be the best elephant research location in the world.
Most of the pioneering research has been conducted by an American conservationist, Cynthia Moss. She built a small research centre, which also serves as her home, in conjunction with park administration. The centre is tucked in a doum palm area of the park between the Amboseli Serena Hotel and the Oltukai lodge.
As part of the research, the elephants have code names. For example, one elephant family is known as EB, with its matriarch being an elephant known as Echo. (Code EB refers to family “B”, located on the East part of the park).
The researchers chose this family due to the uniqueness of the family members. Echo members have extra-long curved tusks. The famous Echo died of natural death in May 2009 aged around 65 years. Most elephant research is based on this matriarch. She had strong genes, good mothering ability, and she’s believed to be a mother or sister of many elephants in the Amboseli ecosystem. Tim, the famous male elephant who died of natural death in 2020, and Greg are possible relatives due to their immense curved tusks. Other unique big bulls are Paulo, Tostroy and Ulises.
Little Known Facts about Amboseli National Park
- Animals and humans have lived together for over 100 years with minor conflict. Centuries ago, elephants would migrate as far as the Nairobi National Park where the “Lunatic Express railway line” workers would encounter them near the current Athi town.
- There is a seasonal lake to the northwest known as Lake Amboseli. It usually bone dry but with heavy rain, you can view lesser flamingoes and pink pelicans.
- The famous black rhino Morani was originally born and grew in Amboseli national park in 1974 and was the last rhino to be translocated from Amboseli national park back in 1989 to Ol Pejeta Conservancy, where he died of natural causes in 2008.
- About 15 Kudus and 20 gerenuks are found along the Meshanani and Kitirua gate.
- More than 15 movies were filmed in Amboseli National Park.
- There is one airstrip inside the park close to Ol Tukai lodge.
- The usual park entrance fee is $60 for non-residents adult and $35 for children. Citizens pay Ksh. 830 per adult and Ksh. 415 per child. However, during COVID-19 rates reduced to $35 for non-resident adults and $20 for children.
- There are several extra activities that you can undertake while in Amboseli. These include a visit to the Maasai village, a hot-air balloon flight, a night game drive, or a short hike to Observation Hill.
Accommodation Properties in and out Amboseli National Park.
There are two operating lodges inside the park:
- Amboseli Serena lodge
- Oltukai lodge
Camps/lodges near the park are:
- AA lodge
- Kibo safari lodge
- Mada tented camp
- Sentrim camp
- Tortilis Camp
- Kimana camp
Camps/lodges far from the park:
- Sopa lodges
- Zebra plains camp
- Olerai Satao camp
- Porini camp
- Tawi camp
The park is accessible through three main gates:
- Kimana gate from Loitoktok border.
- Iremito gate from Emali town.
- Meshanani gate from Namanga border.
Note: One can check out through the Kitirua gate to the bordering Kitirua conservancy.