Amboseli National Park is beautifully packed with glorious sightings. Dubbed the “Home of the African Elephant”, it’s one of the safari destinations in Kenya to experience the unbeatable touristic activities.
It’s also one of the two premium national parks in Kenya and is located in the south-eastern region of Kenya near Tanzania. Its beauty is unknown to many and valued by few, but once you visit you will forever be in love with this destination.
Famed for its outstanding elephant herds—the park’s elephant population estimated at 1600. The majestic creatures are set with a backdrop of the snow-capped Mount Kilimanjaro in neighboring Tanzania. Vegetation in the park is dominated by acacia woodland, rocky thorn bushes, marshland and a Pleistocene Lake Amboseli.
Apart from the guaranteed wildlife sightings in the park, one can delve deeper into the sphere of wildlife conservation that adds up to Kenya’s elite wildlife experiences. National Parks in Kenya are a great selling point for Kenya’s tourism industry and many people indulge in safari experience with a steely determination to marvel at the Big Five. Nonetheless, the Amboseli National Park offers more than wildlife and you are guaranteed a great experience.
In this article are some of the best activities to do in Amboseli National Park. We also share information on how to get to Amboseli National Park, operating hours and entrance fees, and some of the top accommodation options for you.
Also check out: Nairobi National Park: The Only National Park in a Town
Here’s what to look forward to:
How to get to Amboseli National Park
Amboseli National Park has four gates: Iremito, Meshanani, Kimana, and Kitirua.
The park is easily accessible by road from Nairobi, Kenya’s capital. The park is approximately 240km from Nairobi, which translates to a 4-hour drive via the Nairobi-Namanga route via its Meshanani gate. This route is quicker as it has minimal traffic and is a lot more scenic.
Alternatively, one can take the Nairobi-Emali route via Mombasa road, which will be a 3-hour drive without traffic. However, this route can be slower as Mombasa road is among the busiest roads; thus, bound to experience heavy traffic especially during peak hours. Accessing the park from Mombasa is mainly through Tsavo National Park, approximately, 7 hours drive.
The park’s proximity to Nairobi makes it accessible for visitors who want to enjoy a drive along Kenyan roads. It is also great for day trips; however, to get the best out of the destination, I would recommend a two-day stay to exhaust all its products.
By train you can board the SGR at Nairobi or Mombasa and alight at Emali terminus. From Nairobi, the train takes 1 hour 30 minutes to get to Emali while from Mombasa, the train takes slightly under 5 hours. From here, Amboseli is 91km away and you will need to arrange for pick-up through Amboseli camp or car hire services.
Notably, for a luxury experience, visitors can get to Amboseli via domestic chartered flights from Nairobi’s Wilson Airport that land in the park’s airstrip or Namanga Airstrip, in the nearby Namanga town. The flight is approximately 90 minutes.
Amboseli National Park operating hours and entrance fees
The park operates between 6 am – 7 pm all year round inclusive of public holidays. No entry is allowed past 6:15 pm.
As of 2023, Kenyan citizens and residents visiting the park, pay an entrance fee of ksh 860 for adults and ksh 215 for children, while non-residents are charged ksh 8,469 ($60) for adults and ksh 4,940 ($35) for children. All fees are valid for 24 hours.
More detailed information on the cost overview and other charges can be accessed through the parks management website, the Kenya Wildlife Service. When visiting the park keep in mind that all payments are cashless and they accept Mpesa, Visa, and direct bank deposits.
Insider Tip: While the park can be visited all year round, the best time to visit Amboseli National Park is during the dry season beginning June to October and December to February. At this time, the park roads are easily accessible and in good condition for game drives.
What to do in Amboseli National Park
1. Game drive
Amboseli National Park has diverse species of wild animals that inhabit the park’s open plains, rocky thorn bushes, and marsh land. It is a safari wonderland characterized by the solemnly matching matriarchs and hippos. While game drives can be conducted all day long, the best time to spot most of the wildlife is early morning and late evening. This is because during the day, when the sun is hot, the animals stay in the hideouts and only come out to drink water in the watering holes.
Some of the other animals to see at the park include; hyenas, giraffes, lions, waterbucks, buffalos, leopards, grant’s gazelles, and zebras among other animals.
Insider Tip: While exploring the Amboseli National Park, it is vital to be a responsible tourist and prioritize the preservation of wildlife and their habitats. Respect the animals by maintaining a safe distance, refrain from feeding them, and obey the park rules.
2. Cultural tours
A visit to Amboseli National Park is incomplete without partaking in a cultural tour. Surrounding the park is the Maasai community, one of Kenya’s reigning indigenous community. The Maasai are famous for their culture and cultural elements like dance, souvenirs like beaded jewelry, woven baskets, clothing popularly known as the Maasai shuka and crafts.
While enjoying the Maasai culture and heritage, visitors can engage and participate in the community’s sustainable development initiatives like afforestation and other voluntourism activities in the community.
Insider Tip: Be a responsible tourist and support the local community by buying their goods and services and respecting their culture and heritage.
Camping can be frolic and fun and I cannot imagine a better way to enjoy it by camping outside a lodge overlooking the majestic African giants and the beautiful view of Mount Kilimanjaro. Camping at the Amboseli National Park costs approximately $50 for adults and $25 for children at special campsites; $30 for adults and $25 for children at public campsites. I would suggest making prior enquiries about the availability and state of the campsites because they are hardly maintained.
The park has three common campsites, all of which are located outside the park. These include:
- Kimana Camp Amboseli: the most common in Amboseli run by the Kenya Wildlife Service. It is located just outside the park’s Kimana gate. Set under huge acacia trees that provide shade from the scorching sun. The camp is a tented camp as well as a campsite.
- Olgulului Camp Amboseli: this campsite provides a marvelous view of Mount Kilimanjaro. It about five minutes away from the park’s Meshanani gate. The camp provides all the basic amenities; though, you may be required to look a little harder for firewood.
- Kimana Sanctuary: this campsite is privately owned as it is located in the nearby conservancy. It is half an hour away from the park gate and has slightly different costs that are inclusive of conservancy entrance fees.
4. Guided nature walk at the Observation Hill
Amboseli National Park is naturally endowed with scenic vegetation, swamps, and elevated view of the park’s plains and animal species at the pyramid-shaped observation hill. The observation hill is one of the places within the park, where visitors are allowed to disembark from their vehicles and proceed on foot.
Atop the hill, you can get a panoramic view of the park’s plains and diverse animal species. At the observation hill, you have access to the information centre, where there are pasted boards with facts about wildlife like baboons, lions, and birds at the park. Similarly, you can view the scenic Lake Amboseli with its beautiful flamingoes on one side and the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro on the other.
5. Bird watching
The park provides a home to over 400 species of birds that can be spotted in the marsh area, grasslands, and woodlands. Some of the unmissable birds here include the greater flamingo, lesser flamingo, long toed lap claw, Rufous chatter, Spike-heeled heron, Tavete golden weaver, common redshank, and Dickinson’s kestrel. Birds can be difficult to sight when at a distance, therefore, having your binoculars is necessary.
Insider Tip: To get the most out of this activity, bird watching is best done during the wet season (April to June and November to December) when migratory birds are in the Amboseli region.
6. Hot Air Balloon Safari
A hot air balloon ride is one of the most fulfilling activities. Taking a hot air balloon ride allows you to fly the Amboseli skies while enjoying an aerial view of the park. You can see elephant herds and buffalos across the plains while mingling with birds of the air.
With a scenic backdrop of the snowcapped Mount Kilimanjaro, Amboseli National Park is a delight for nature lovers. It provides the best contrasts, terrain, and landscapes to capture the best of flora and fauna. The great experiences are worth capturing on your lenses for good memories and nostalgia. Amboseli is also known as a spectacular spot for wildlife photography and film-making.
8. Wildlife Conservation and Research at the Elephant Research Camp
The African elephants at the Amboseli are among the most studied elephants in Kenya and globally. The research camp is located within the park under the guidance and leadership of the Amboseli Trust for Elephants.
While the research camp is not open to casual visits, visitors can make prior arrangements for interactive sessions with the researchers to learn about their research work and the issues associated with elephant conservation. It’s also a great opportunity for you to be involved in conservation tourism by making donations to support elephant conservation efforts, participating in the elephant naming ceremony, and becoming a member of the Elatia family.
Where to stay and eat at Amboseli National Park
Amboseli National Park offers diverse accommodation options ranging from mid-range to luxury accommodation. These are available both inside and outside the park. While staying inside the park you pay more, you get the benefit of experiencing beautiful sunrise and sunset and not having to rush to get out of the park before closing time.
Some of these options include:
- Kibo Safari Camp: It is the most recommended accommodation facility in Amboseli and ranking in first place on Trip Advisor. The camp has a secure fence to keep off wildlife. It has 73 self-contained tents for single, double, triple and family accommodations. Each tent is equipped with flush toilets, showers and washbasins. Among other amenities is a lounge and bar, dining area, swimming pool, art gallery, spa, conference facilities, open terraced restaurant and a souvenir shop. Prices per night are upwards of $250.
- Kilima Safari Camp: Located adjacent to the park, the camp offers spacious accommodation in a 4-poster bed fitted with mosquito net and other amenities. All rooms in the camp have a seating area and private bathroom. A night’s stay here will cost you $400.
- Amboseli Serena Lodge: This is a private large group hotel and its brick and mortar model provides the conventional accommodation experience for visitors who are not used to the nighttime roar of the hunting lioness. Its hunkered down prime position in the park allows it to boast of the spectacular views of the Kilimanjaro. The standard cost for a night stay is approximately $290. The facility also provides special offer packages for tourists all year round and during specific seasons.
- Porini Amboseli Camp: This camp is owned by the famous Porini Safari Company and it is located outside the park in the Selenkay conservancy. It has a total of nine en-suite tents with traditional safari design, simple furnishing, spacious rooms and comfortable thick rugs. Accommodation per night is $640 and this is inclusive of guided game drives, bush walks, sundowner, and access to the viewing platforms over watering holes.
- Elewana Tortilis Camp: This 5-star private tented camp is to the south-west of the park adjacent to a private conservancy—Kitirua Wildlife Conservancy. Accommodation here entails 16 luxury makuti- thatched (sundried leaves of the coconut palms) tents, each with twin or double beds, en-suite baths, and verandah. It is slightly above up-market prices for the luxury experience. Facilities here include lounge and bar, swimming pool, spa, free Wi-Fi, gift shop, guided bushwalks, birding, children activities, sundowners, and cultural community visits.
- Ol tukai Lodge: This eco-rated lodge is at the heart of the park presenting unique outdoor and indoor facilities. It is a getaway for a charming contemporary retreat. It is the prime spot for watching the elephant herds with the backdrop of the Kilimanjaro. Thus, the most preferred by visitors visiting the park. This facility is designed to create comfort for its visitors by prioritizing their safety and convenience while moving around the park.
- Kilimanjaro Guest House: This is another accommodation facility in the park at Iremito gate managed by the KWS. This facility hosts up to 7pax and this is ideal for a family set-up. You can enjoy activities like camping, game viewing and picnicking at the banda. Notably, the banda is on self-catering basis. What better way to enjoy family time than cooking together while enjoying the panoramic views of the wild!
- Simba Cottages: This banda is also managed by the KWS and hosts two people. Similar to the Kilimanjaro guest house, you can enjoy a picnic setting, game viewing, and camping here. It is also on self-catering basis.
- Get a local Safaricom Sim with activated Mpesa (mobile money service), as this will help you in conducting cash transactions as getting access to some banks outside Nairobi can be challenging. Besides, Safaricom has great network coverage across the country.
- Learn a few Swahili words like greetings makes great conversation starters especially when interacting with the local community (also check out these cultural greetings in Africa). For example:
Sasa – Hi/ Good morning
Asante/ nashukuru – thank you
Karibu – Welcome
Last but not least, remember to carry a re-usable water bottle for rehydration. Our parks do not allow single use plastics. Let’s grow the #BringYourOwnBottle challenge and stop plastic pollution.
See also: Kenya eVisa: Everything you need to know