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Peak 8.5 Rating
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in Southeast Kenya is one of the most iconic safari areas in Africa. There are few better known landscapes than the classic image of elephants and giraffes crossing vast open plains against a backdrop of the snows of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Amboseli National Park was created in 1974 to protect a the core of a remarkable wildlife ecosystem from the threat of agriculture. At 392 square kilometres, this is a relatively small national park, but it lies at the core of a much larger 8000 square kilometre ecosystem which straddles the border between Kenya and Tanzania.

This area is largely comprised of undulating grasslands which sustain good but widely dispersed populations of wildlife during the Dec/May green season. However during the Jun/Nov dry season these plains become parched and the wildlife is obliged to converge on a network of marshes created by a ring of springs around the lower slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Wildlife viewing in these core areas can be very productive, most notably for elephants, notably some particularly large male 'tuskers'. Other animals commonly sighted here include zebras, buffaloes, giraffes and wildebeest.

Predators are surprisingly elusive, with sightings of lions, cheetahs, leopards and even hyenas being quite few and far between, largely due to the pressures put upon them by the indigenous Maasai pastoralists. There are some interesting projects operational in the area which are seeking to alleviate this human/wildlife conflict, notably Lion Guardians, which seeks to empower local people to protect rather than persecute their wildlife.

Unfortunately Amboseli rivals Etosha in Namibia for the undesirable privilege of being the worst managed and most disappointing wildlife area in Africa. The core areas of the park are often overrun with safari traffic, with budget minibuses crowding around the core swamp areas in high season. Unfortunately the landscape is very open and the vehicle traffic is very visible. Furthermore the park hosts a number of very large mass-market lodges, two of which are sited in the heart of the core wildlife areas. Additionally the airstrip, roads, fences and other park furniture conspire to further remove any residual sense of wilderness.

So a safari to Amboseli needs to be planned very carefully if it is to deliver sufficient quality. The best way to do this is to stay on one of the private conservancies around the periphery of the main park, where the wilderness is much more pure and guests are free to undertake vehicle safari, walking safari and cultural interactions without any of these traffic issues. From there it is possible to carefully raid into the core reserve in ways which minimise the negatives.

More often that not we tend to omit Amboseli from most trips, there are so many fine safari areas in Africa, most of which do not come with such a long list of negatives. But we do still love the underlying majesty of the place and are more than happy to recommend, especially to those guest for whom the lure of that majestic view of Kilimanjaro is simply too much to resist.

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