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Amboseli National Park – Kenya’s Most Iconic Unknown Destination

Kenya and Tanzania Itinerary

When you think of the classic safari image, what do you think of? Elephant standing in front of Kilimanjaro right? But where is that? The Serengeti? The Masai Mara? Nope!

It’s Amboseli National Park in Kenya!

It is a pretty small park at only 392 km² but with an elephant population of over 1500, it has one of the highest concentrations of elephant of all of the African national parks.

Amboseli isn’t on the traditional overland truck route so I hadn’t managed to make it there on my first trip to East Africa, but I was determined to get to it this time. But it almost didn’t happen.

I booked my safari from home, about a month or so in advance as I was travelling solo at the time, and worried that if I didn’t, I’d struggle to find a suitable trip. I was quoted varying amounts for the trip between $305 – $1385 for a 3 day trip, with a few of the safari companies telling me that Amboseli was difficult for them to arrange because not many people go there, despite it being Kenya’s second most visited safari destination.

I eventually went with one of the budget companies, mainly because they said I would be with a family of 4, which would make my trip cheaper, I’d have a guaranteed departure and also give me a little bit of company. I’d been on a solo safari in South Luangwa before and been paired up with a family and it had been really nice.

I arrived in Nairobi a couple of days before the safari was due to start, having spent the best part of the last 2 days travelling up by public bus from Bagamoyo on the Tanzanian coast.

That’s when they told me they’d been trying to reach me for a few days (via a message on my blog Facebook page which I couldn’t access on my phone) to say that the family I was going with had cancelled their trip to Kenya (due to the ebola outbreak, over 5000 km away in West Africa – what the hell?!?!), so they wanted to know if I wanted to go to the Masai Mara instead as they now couldn’t run the trip to Amboseli with just me on it. I was heading to the Mara in a few days anyway to see my friends Moses and Laura anyway and Amboseli was somewhere I’d been wanting to go for the last 5 years.

The next few hours were spent trying to find another company who could take me at the last minute – luckily Karibu Safaris in Kenya came to the rescue. Ben the driver and Kevin the chef picked me up the following morning and once we’d negotiated the horrible Nairobi traffic we were on the road, picking up the rest of our ‘group’, a lovely Spanish couple called Gabriel and Maria along the way, as they were coming straight from another safari at Lake Nakuru. Gabriel could speak a few English words, Maria could speak none and I can’t speak any Spanish but we actually had a really lovely time together, using a mixture of sign language and charades to communicate.

As we drove towards Amboseli, the lower slopes of Kilimanjaro came into view and although the top was shrouded in cloud, it had been a long time since I’d last clapped eyes on that beautiful mountain and I was happy to be back. And Ben promised me I’d see it more clearly in the morning and he was right.

Amboseli National Park
We were to go on 2 game drives, one on the afternoon we arrived, and then a full day out in the park the day after. I couldn’t wait to see the famous elephants of Amboseli who are the most studied in all of Africa, having been observed by the Amboseli Trust for Elephants for over 40 years now and much of what we know today about these beautiful creatures comes from the work of the trust.

Kimana Tented Camp, Amboseli National Park, Kenya.Kimana Tented Camp, Amboseli National Park, Kenya.

We stayed at Kimana Tented Camp, which is pretty basic with some static tents and huts and room for independent campers. I stayed in a hut called ‘Rhino’ which had a bed (with mosquito net), sink, toilet and shower. The water didn’t work all the time. There was nothing amazing about this camp, but it did the job and is the cheapest option if you are on a budget.

I did have a fabulous view of Kilimanjaro from my porch though!

View of Kilimanjaro from Kimana Tented Camp

On both days we saw tons of animals, especially elephants and within minutes of arriving in the park on our second day we’d spotted baboons, hyenas and a lone elephant. Stopping each time to take photographs.

Baboons in Amboseli National Park, Kenya.Hyena in Amboseli National Park, Kenya.An elephant in Amboseli National Park, Kenya.

We drove on and came to a massive herd of elephants who had just crossed the road when we arrived. Had we been a few minutes earlier, we would have seen all these guys lined up in front of Kilimanjaro, pretty much every wildlife photographers dream.

A herd of elephants in Amboseli National Park, Kenya.

At lunch we headed up to the top of Observation Hill, which gave us amazing and colourful views over the swamps the animals and the whole park. I’ve visited over 20 national parks in Africa and Amboseli is my favourite in terms of scenery.

View from Observation Hill in Amboseli National Park.View from Observation Hill in Amboseli National ParkView from Observation Hill in Amboseli National ParkElephant in Amboseli National Park, Kenya.Spotting elephants on safari in Amboseli National Park in Kenya.Elephants in Amboseli National Park, Kenya.Elephants in Amboseli National Park, Kenya.Elephants in Amboseli National Park, Kenya.

We got closer to elephants on this safari than I have anywhere else. Believe it or not, I didn’t even have a zoom lens for these photographs.

My favourite moment was when we came across a big herd. The elephants stopped in silent unison, the matriarch at the front. She watched us, weighing up the situation. We watched them. We were so close I could hear them breathing.

After around 5 minutes, she decided that she could trust us and the elephants plodded quietly onwards. The only sound the gentle crunch of gravel beneath their feet.

A herd of elephants in Amboseli National Park, Kenya.The elephants of Amboseli National Park in Kenya.Elephants in Amboseli National ParkSunset in Amboseli National Park, Kenya.

If it’s your dream to see African elephants in the wild, there’s no place more magical than Amboseli National Park.

Essential Info:

  • Park entry fees can be found here. You can book trips to Amboseli from both Nairobi (5 hours drive) and Arusha in Tanzania (3.5 hours drive).
  • I booked my trip through Karibu Safaris in Kenya, joining for the last part of their 6 day Masai Mara, Lake Nakuru & Amboseli Safari.
  • The 3 day, 2 night trip cost me approximately £258. This included all meals, guide/driver, accommodation, transfers and park entry fees.
  • Our guide/driver Ben and chef Kevin were great. Always chatty, knowledgeable and fun to be around.
  • We stayed at Kimana Tented Camp. The camp was pretty basic but did have a small pool. The biggest downside for me was that the bar was pretty much dry, so if you want soft drinks, beers, wine or snacks – I’d bring them with you from town.
  • I stayed in a static hut which had a bed (with mosquito net), sink, toilet and shower. The water didn’t work all the time. Wasn’t the best place I’ve stayed, but I did have fabulous view of Kilimanjaro from my porch. If I went back, I would consider paying a little bit more to stay somewhere a little nicer, although the prices can vary dramatically.
  • To get the best deals, shop around and get quotes from different safari companies and the hotels/lodges themselves as some will do safari packages with transport from major cities. It’s a bit of a pain as NO companies (that I’ve found anyway) put any prices on their websites (grrrrr), but you can save a lot of money if you do this.
  • Other hotels/lodges/camps you might want to consider: AA Lodge, Tortilis Camp, Amboseli Sopa Lodge, Tawi Lodge, Kibo Safari Camp.
  • If you have a few days in Nairobi/Arusha and are flexible on time and/or budget, you could arrange it whilst in country.
  • You can do a self-drive if you have your own transport.
  • Perhaps tag an Amboseli safari onto a Kilimanjaro climb.
  • Best time to visit: January, February, June – September. They say to avoid the rainy season in April, May, November and December as some of the roads may become impassable. I visited in October and it was fine for me.
  • Essentials to pack: sunglasses, scarf/hat to keep your hair dust free, a book, warm clothing (it can get cold in the evenings and early mornings), wet wipes and a good zoom lens. I didn’t have a zoom lens for this safari (what an idiot) but I still managed to get great photos as the animals were so close, but you might not always be that lucky!

Who wants to see some gorgeous elephants in Amboseli National Park?

About Author

I'm a travel blogger and tour operator with a passion for Africa travel. I love the great outdoors, going on epic trips around the world and helping others travel!

21 Comments

  • Jennifer Cooper
    December 30, 2015 at 5:37 am

    Good article – I like the information box at the bottom. I visited Tanzania about 8 years ago and spent a week on safari which I loved – hopefully I’ll get to go on safari again and I’ll bear in mind Amboseli National Park.
    Jennifer Cooper recently posted…10 Things You May Not Know About JapanMy Profile

    Reply
    • Helen
      December 30, 2015 at 5:51 pm

      Thanks Jennifer! Amboseli is a great park but not that many people seem to know about it! I didn’t before I started travelling in Africa! Thanks for reading!! 🙂

      Reply
  • Arn
    December 30, 2015 at 7:54 pm

    What a trip! What a pics! Love it. Huge jealousy… You need to write more often 🙂

    Reply
    • Helen
      December 31, 2015 at 12:27 am

      Thanks Amy! It was a great trip!! Thank you, that’s really ice of you to say!! My aim for 2016 is to write more!! 🙂

      Reply
  • Emma Cooper-Briggs
    December 31, 2015 at 9:10 am

    Love the pictures – looks an amazing trip.

    Reply
    • Helen
      December 31, 2015 at 10:45 am

      Thanks Emma, it was fab!!! Have you been to Africa? Or planning a trip?

      Reply
  • toubkal
    January 3, 2016 at 11:40 am

    Thanks for sharing this great post! It’s full of useful info! I will keep reading your new articles! keep up the great work!

    Reply
    • Helen
      January 3, 2016 at 12:17 pm

      Thank you!!

      Reply
  • Travel and Visit
    January 17, 2016 at 4:59 pm

    As always for African Safaris. They are amazing.. Highly recommended for family tour.

    Reply
    • Helen
      January 17, 2016 at 6:06 pm

      I agree!

      Reply
  • Debs
    January 19, 2016 at 2:04 pm

    Hi Helen. I am planning my first trip to Africa and as you have said it’s always been on my mind. Your page has helped me so much, it’s so informative.

    Reply
    • Helen
      January 19, 2016 at 10:37 pm

      Thanks Debs! Glad you’ve enjoyed it and found it useful! Hope you have an amazing trip to Africa. It’s a wonderful place! Where are you going??

      Reply
    • Helen
      January 14, 2017 at 8:09 pm

      Hey Debbie – just realised this was you – ha ha! 🙂

      Reply
  • Samantha Warham
    February 1, 2016 at 9:43 pm

    Im climbing Kili this year and would love to add this to my trip. Any ideas what the shortest trip is you can do as we’re also going to Zanzibar x

    Reply
    • Helen
      February 1, 2016 at 11:15 pm

      Hi Samantha! So cool you are doing Kili, it’s tough but AMAZING!!!

      To do Kili, Amboseli and Zanzibar, you’ll need 2/3 days for an Amboseli trip. Amboseli is a bit of a drive from Nairobi and Arusha. To do all 3, 2 weeks is a good amount of time!

      You’ll also need a Kenya visa for Amboseli, so you could either get 2 individual visas or apply in advance for the East Africa one – just check it definitely includes Tanzania.

      Hope that helps!

      Helen

      Reply
  • Samantha Warham
    February 2, 2016 at 1:46 pm

    Thanks for the reply Helen! and thanks for the super helpful Kit list you posted too 🙂 X

    Reply
    • Helen
      February 13, 2016 at 8:41 pm

      You are welcome Samantha! Have a fab trip!!

      Reply
  • […] Positioned in the Rift Valley, Amboseli National Park is just southeast of Nairobi and is the second most popular protected area in Kenya after the Masai Mara National Reserve. One of the best places to see wild elephants, the Amboseli National Park is a world famous protected area among wildlife lovers and safari goers. The park covers 39,206 hectares and is located across the Kenya-Tanzania border. The park is world famous for how easy it is to see wild African elephants, but there is a lot more to see here. The park provides great opportunities to see different iconic African animals, including the elephants, buffalo, impala, kudu, wild dogs, lions, cheetahs, wildebeest, hyena, zebra, and giraffes. Not only mammals, Amboseli is home to around 400 different species of birds, including kingfishers, raptors, and pelicans. In addition to incredible wildlife safaris, the park provides a great cultural experience where you can meet some of the Maasai and visit a traditional village. Of course, this is also a fantastic place to see the world-famous Mount Kilimanjaro. As the world’s highest free-standing mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro is the jewel in the park and makes a fantastic backdrop while on safari, which is actually located just across the border in Tanzania. The habitats to enjoy in the park include savanna grasslands, wetlands, and woods. The scenery of the park is incredible and although the mountain itself can be obscured with could cover, the mountain often reveals itself at dawn and dusk. You will have some fantastic wildlife experiences within the park and you can choose to explore the park on game drives, horseback rides, and walking safaris. There are a number of fantastic lodges in the park, including some very comfortable luxury options. Some travel bloggers who visited the Amboseli National Park are Seattle from Seattlestravels.com and Helen from Heleninwonderlust.co.uk. […]

    Reply
  • Buttons
    January 13, 2017 at 6:17 pm

    Hi Helen,

    Would you recommend Karibu ?
    Would love to know your pro’s and con’s if you could email me (if you don’t want to write them publicly!)

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Helen
      January 14, 2017 at 1:59 pm

      Hi there,

      Yes they were a good company. The campsite I stayed in wasnt that great though, not much happening and the bar wasn’t stocked. So maybe stay somewhere else if you can afford but the company itself, driver and chef were great!

      Reply
  • Okwakunda Emmanuel
    August 31, 2020 at 7:49 am

    Amboseli National Park is so amazing … I love this your article.

    Reply

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