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Let's talk Amboseli National Park. (Kenya)


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#1 Game Warden

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Posted 03 July 2011 - 02:30 PM

So who has been, where did you stay, how was the accomodation and tourist infrastructure? What sightings did you have? What are your recommendations for Amboseli National Park? Feel free to post anything which you think will be of interest to those visiting below, including photos. Matt.

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#2 Super LEEDS

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Posted 03 July 2011 - 04:34 PM

Hi

Following on from my Tsavo lowdown, the Game Warden was quick to open this thread so I could show-off some more wonderful photography skills B)

(insert proper description from Safaridude here)

On our way into the park and the lodge, we passed through a Maasai village and were shown a little of their way of life. Our driver, (Glorious Safaris) Patrick, asked us if we wanted to visit the village and was very open and gave us the low-down: all money helps the village (e.g. school fees for the kids), there is no restriction on photos or videos so feel obliged, etc. Honestly, I wasn't too keen, as I didn't want any kind of pushy or hard-selling but the wife was adamant :( I'm glad she was as it was a wonderful experience with none of my worries coming into fruition :)

I can't remember how much we paid but it was more than Patrick said it would be - around 1500 KSH each I think. After a short while, the villagers came out in a line singing a welcome song and then stood in a line into which the missus also got dragged into, right in front of Kili

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We were then taken into the village itself and shown a little of the Maasai way of life, including how to start a fire (which I was useless at) and also a chat with the chief in his house - amazing how small these are. We had quite a good discussion and he explained the problems they face with the local wildlife when herding their livestock. Surprisingly, he said they encounter cheetah quite a lot but jackals are the worst in terms of taking animals. I also brought up the Maasai tradition of killing lions when reaching a certain stage in a man's/boy's life and that this couldn't help the dwindling numbers of lions already. He was insistent that this practice no longer takes place.

After we left the village, we were (inevitably) asked to go around their market by the chief who made it clear no one would push us - and they didn't. We walked around out of respect really and left as nothing caught our eye.

To go off track slightly here, I know other places are not like this hence my inhibitions earlier, its important not to right off all the villages as being the same. Also, having seen the recent BBC program, which showed where the money goes (the driver's pocket!), it further brings to light the issues faced by the local peoples who, we (I) as tourists, maybe take for granted and expect them to stay out of the park for free.

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Short, self-praising interlude here whilst we admire the owl I spotted on the side of the road as we hurtled away from the village to the park gate as we were late for lunch (see Tsavo thread for info on our need to eat :lol:). If anyone know what type of owl this is then please feel free to tell, otherwise it will always remain the "kenyan road-side owl"

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I found Amboseli to be a very good park indeed, with a lot going for it. If its not the ever-looming presence of Kilimanjaro

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that makes for some really nice snaps

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then its the open plains and swamp area that caters for the positive overload of elephants here. If you love elephants, then after Tsavo, this is your place. When we first arrived around midday there were hundreds of elephants all round the lodge which overlooks Kilimanjaro on one side and the swamp on the other, which is home to hippos too

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Its quite a small park so 1 night should suffice - 2 nights would be great though. Even though we were there at the hottest time, it was quite cold in the park throughout the day, even more saw in the morning, perhaps due to Kili. I made the mistake of wearing shorts and was freezing!

Ol Tukai is a very big and busy lodge with rooms rather than tents but is very luxurious and most importantly, INSIDE the park. The food and night's sleep here was glorious but as its close to Nairobi, you get people either on the safaris coming from the beach (Mombasa, like us) mixing it with Tsavo or those combining it with perhaps Nakuru and the Mara so it gets very busy and that personal touch or feel can be lost - more of a hotel.

The lodge is fenced so no larger game can get in but the place is run by the local baboon mafia, supported by the vervets! Quick story: I was paying the bill (!) after lunch and the wife went on ahead to the room to use the bathroom. When the wife got to the room, she was met by the biggest baboon ever (her words) that then sat on one of the 2 chairs outside of our window whilst looking very menacing. It had spotted some snacks we had brought through the window and as it turned its head to look at them, 'r lass opened the door and quickly managed to close it before the baboon was banging on it, quite loudly!! It was close, but she also remembered that these stupid doors don't have latches and to close them, you have to lock them to close them otherwise they swing freely :blink: anyway, safe and sound she was in the room. A few minutes later she heard some knocking on the door, and thinking it was me was about to open the door but then thought against..... it was the baboon back again!

Lessons learnt: don't be stupid and leave food on display, even in a locked room; send the wife without the key next time :lol: just kidding, the baboons wouldn't want someone who eats more than them, anyway.

Scene of the crime

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We saw quite a lot of wildlife here, apart from the obvious elephants: there was abundant zebra, giraffe, thomsons and grants gazelle as well as our only sighting of hyaena too.

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Good scratch

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Maybe the biggest tusks we saw

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Sleeping laughing boys on the morning safari

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More sleeping beauties who didn't move an inch other than to look up for a few moments....

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Just as it was approaching 6.30pm, we could see all but ourselves and another van, heading to the lodge or out of the park. Patrick's like this, sometimes there's no immediately obvious point to his madness but time and again it pays off. This time, we hung around and then we came across this beauty, our first of the trip (Tsavo East was after this)

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Sorry for not having the pics for this - I was using my video camera. the story here was the cheetah looked like it was ready to hunt/stalk some nearby impala but then it spied one of the hyaena we saw earlier and as soon as it did it really did take a fright and took as a fast pace. Perhaps it had a past encounter with them or the obvious point is they would steal anything it caught.

We managed to follow it, even passing by a small family of impala, with a very young one, within about 50 distances but it wasn't interested and kept heading away from the hyaena. We lost the cheetah in some heavy bush for a few minutes but Patrick's instinct paid off again so we could catch the beautiful cat crossing the road

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We discussed this later, that if we had returned like everyone else, we would have missed all of what went on. The majority of the other vans were from big companies like pollmans and we found out that there was an agreement with all the drivers to return at a given time no matter what as it would save squabbles from different groups saying why couldn't we stay out longer!

Couple of funny ones to end with :)

Neither the heron (egret?) nor the zebra moved a muscle for a good 15 minutes

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Ndovu finds a cure for elephant boldness

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Cheers,

Leeds

Edited by Super LEEDS, 03 July 2011 - 04:37 PM.


#3 Marvels

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Posted 03 July 2012 - 07:50 AM

Amboseli National park is a the hub of elephants in Kenya..... It is a great place for the elephants lovers and also a home to the 'Big Five'
In addition ijt is a great spot to get a good glimpse of Mt. Kilimanjaro which is located in Tanzania
As for accommodation I will highly recommend the Ol Tukai Lodge which is an Eco-rated lodge having excellent outdoor and indoor facilities with its unique collection of African art.
The lodge has 80 luxury chalet-style twin rooms, all with an uninterrupted view of the wetlands or Kilimanjaro. Stylish and comfortable, the rooms have private bath rooms and individual terraces.

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Edited by Marvels, 03 July 2012 - 07:52 AM.


#4 AKR1

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 08:36 PM

In 2010 we stayed at Tortilis Camp and really enjoyed Amboseli park. This being my one and only visit to the park, I cannot compare it to how it was in the past. Amboseli suffered terribly from a historic drought the year before but we were told had recovered considerably due to the abundant rains in 2010. Gnus and zebra were decimated in 2009- we saw their bones all over the park. The elephants tend to be the Amboselis strong point and we saw large herds that appeared to be thriving. Amboselis main attraction for me was seeing the animals juxtaposed by Kilimanjaro and for the 2 days we were there, Killi was visible clearly for roughly one day- one full afternoon and the next morning till noon. We many elephants, lion, giraffe, buffalo, ostrich, zebra, Wilderbeests etc. Tortelis was a very good camp, a bit large with about 30 tents, but well run and with great italian food as the owner of the camp is Italian.

From my 2010 notes on Tortelis:
The bar area is beautiful directly overlooking Kilimanjaro and an illuminated waterhole about 150m away at the edge of the property. The clouds parted as if to greet us and there was Kilimanjaro. The mountain is truly awe inspiring and one look made me happy we had decided to come here. The dining area is right next to the bar also with direct views of Killi. A number of famous people have stayed at Tortelis and the library has dozens of books and periodicals featuring Tortelis camp. I read Michael Palin’s chapter in his "On the trail of Hemingway" book where he stayed at Tortelis and drank his first Tusker beer in Africa, the same brand Hemingway had drunk when he pitched a tent in Amboseli not far from Tortelis. I opened a Tusker and sat there contemplating the mountain. The tents are great with zip up fronts and a nice bathroom- the inside is well thought out with plenty of storage and flat surfaces to place stuff on. We had a view of Killi from the tent but there was a large bush obscuring it- I did’nt understand why they did not trim the bush. It’s a long walk up from the tent but given the amount of food we were eating, good exercise. The food at Tortelis is Italian and they have an excellent reputation- Stephano Chelli the founder came from a family of chefs.Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image

#5 AKR1

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 08:45 PM

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View from Tortelis Camp
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#6 Atravelynn

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 09:04 PM

Tortilis looks familiar, AKR1 and Ol Tukai is where I'd stay next time. Nice array of photos! What month do you think maximizes the following?

1 views of Kili
2 eles hanging around
3 not too many people
4 clear air/skies for photos
5 best pricing

As I recall I'd rate July when I went as
1 C+
2 B
3 B
4 A
5 D

I think a 3-4 nt stay would boost all of those grades, except maybe 5, unless there was a deal for a longer stay. But 3-4 nts really isn't long, unless combined with other similar properties at other places.
When you think of a rhino, think of a tree (African proverb)

#7 AKR1

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 09:10 PM

Tortelis tents.
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Tortelis Bar area
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Bush breakfast in Amboseli
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Bush Walk- the Park has a lot of dust.
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Sundowners in Amboseli- our guide Simon is on the right
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On a dried lake bed.

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Beautiful vistas
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#8 AKR1

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 09:16 PM

Tortilis looks familiar, AKR1 and Ol Tukai is where I'd stay next time. Nice array of photos! What month do you think maximizes the following?

1 views of Kili
2 eles hanging around
3 not too many people
4 clear air/skies for photos
5 best pricing

As I recall I'd rate July when I went as
1 C+
2 B
3 B
4 A
5 D

I think a 3-4 nt stay would boost all of those grades, except maybe 5, unless there was a deal for a longer stay. But 3-4 nts really isn't long, unless combined with other similar properties at other places.


1. Late June when we were there A, but its really mostly luck.
2. A, many elephants. The photographer Nic Brandt, whose work in Amboseli (and elsewhere) I really admire, was in Tortelis when we were there and I saw how he lies down low in a vehicle with no seats, except for the drivers, and uses a medium format camera with no zoom. His technique takes tremendous patience.
3. B
4. A
5. B, we started in Kenya late June as high season starts July 1 and then moved to Tanzania, where high season starts June 1.

#9 Game Warden

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 09:38 PM

Fabulous images AKR1. Be interesting to compare with photos taken in similar locations from 10 or 20 years ago... BTW, you've read my Safaritalk interview with Nick here?

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#10 AKR1

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 09:46 PM

I have Matt and really enjoyed it.

#11 AKR1

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 10:48 PM

In the link below from the Smithsonian Museum is a picture of Amboseli in the mid- 1970s with fever tree woodlands and a black rhino, both long gone
http://www.mnh.si.ed...ofAmboseli.html

A magnificent black rhino in Amboseli (1957)
http://www.rhinoreso...&sort_key=added

An interesting Africa Geographic article on Amboseli with some background on the park
http://www.africageo...904/A110904.htm

#12 Atravelynn

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Posted 05 July 2012 - 12:38 AM

Nice, but sad photos. I was thinking June too. The big photos really make it seem like we are right THERE, AKR1!
When you think of a rhino, think of a tree (African proverb)

#13 twaffle

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Posted 05 July 2012 - 06:11 AM

Lovely views of Kili. Interesting Smithsonian photo of Kili and the rhino where the snow cover looks much the same as today! Mmmmm

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#14 africapurohit

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Posted 05 July 2012 - 08:49 AM

I've been to Amboseli at various times of the year but my favourite has to be April (2004). Amboseli was green and there was a mass congregation of elephant herds (300+) making its way towards Kilimajaro - an amazing spectacle.

I have some video footage of this, so will try to find it.

#15 africapurohit

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Posted 05 July 2012 - 11:08 PM

Here's some footage of the elephant "migration" that I witnessed during April 2004. This is just one of a few columns of elephants that was forming (other columns were forming further back, out of shot). It was around 6pm, so light was poor and it seemed as though every vehicle in Amboseli dropped what they were doing to witness this event. There is no audio with this footage.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tcC8_wKbJjI&feature=plcp

Edited by africapurohit, 05 July 2012 - 11:10 PM.


#16 AKR1

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Posted 06 July 2012 - 02:49 AM

Beautiful video, africapurohit. so this was April 2004. The park seems much less dusty than late June. Also, the number of elephants in one "column" is amazing. We did not see as many 6 years later. The one thing that I noticed that was positive was a lot less vehicles in Amboseli in June 2010. We saw virtually no other vehicles than our two Tortelis vehicles the entire time we were there. Certainly not a Mara river crossing style minivan rush shown on your video. Also, do you remember the orientation of the mountain (Kili) from where the elephant column was heading.

Thanks for digging this out so many years later.

#17 Sangeeta

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Posted 06 July 2012 - 05:37 AM

Those are definitely iconic pics, AKR1. Great thread - thanks to all of you who have taken the time to post here.

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#18 africapurohit

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Posted 06 July 2012 - 06:40 AM

Beautiful video, africapurohit. so this was April 2004. The park seems much less dusty than late June. Also, the number of elephants in one "column" is amazing. We did not see as many 6 years later. The one thing that I noticed that was positive was a lot less vehicles in Amboseli in June 2010. We saw virtually no other vehicles than our two Tortelis vehicles the entire time we were there. Certainly not a Mara river crossing style minivan rush shown on your video. Also, do you remember the orientation of the mountain (Kili) from where the elephant column was heading.

Thanks for digging this out so many years later.


Yes, it was a lot less dusty and the poor light doesn't justify how green it was. At about 2:10 into the video, the elephants start crossing the road - if you imagine continuing in their line of direction, you would be heading to Kili. I've been to Amboseli during April, June, July and September but only witnessed this elephant "migration" in April. I assume they are taking advantage of new growth of one of their favourite food sources close to the foothills of Kili, following the rains. You were lucky with the lack of vehicles - I've always seen a few vehicles during all of my visits.

#19 Orca Fan

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Posted 06 July 2012 - 03:16 PM

I think the hyenas in Amboseli are the most laid back in Kenya!Posted Image
Untitled by Seamoods, on Flickr

#20 AKR1

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Posted 07 July 2012 - 06:46 PM

A few more pictures.

Amboseli Airstrip

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Elephants at dusk under Killimanjaro

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Elephants in the dust and close of of the parched ground in June 2010

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Panoramic view from Tortelis Camp

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Warthog in Amboseli

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Sundowners with a view

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Dust bath Amboseli

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One of the best breakfast tables anywhere!

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Amboseli Plains- lot less dust on this side of the park

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View of Elephants from high ground

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Animal bones scattered around from the great drought of 2009

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Beat up male lion- we saw him being chased by a big male

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Close-up of the top of Kilimanjaro - the glacier is just about visible, far smaller than the past. We saw the same vista from the Tanzanian side a few days later and the ice fields seemed larger from that end.

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