Amboseli National Park UNESCO-MAB Biosphere Reserve
Amboseli National Park, Kenya
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Amboseli National Park, formerly Maasai Amboseli Game Reserve, is in Kajiado District, Rift Valley Province in Kenya. The park is 39,206 hectares (392 km2; 151 sq mi) in size at the core of an 8,000 square kilometres (3,100 sq mi) ecosystem that spreads across the Kenya-Tanzania border. The local people are mainly Maasai, but people from other parts of the country have settled there attracted by the successful tourist-driven economy and intensive agriculture along the system of swamps that makes this low-rainfall area (average 350 mm (14 in)) one of the best wildlife-viewing experiences in the world with 400 species of birds including water birds, pelicans, kingfishers, crakes, hammerkops and 47 types of raptor.
The park protects two of the five main swamps, and includes a dried-up Pleistocene lake and semi-arid vegetation.
240 kilometers (150 miles) southeast from the capital city Nairobi, Amboseli National Park is the second most popular national park in Kenya after Maasai Mara National Reserve and the visit can easily be done in a weekend.
In 1883, Joseph Thompson was the first European to penetrate the feared Maasai region known as Empusel (meaning 'salty, dusty place' in Maa). He, too, was astonished by the fantastic array of wildlife and the contrast between the arid areas of the dry-lake bed and the oasis of the swamps, a contrast that persists today.
Amboseli was set aside as the 'Southern Reserve' for Maasai in 1906 but returned to local control as a Game Reserve in 1948. Gazetted a National Park in 1974 to protect the core this unique ecosystem, it was declared a UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Reserve in 1991. The park earned $3.5 m (€2.9 m) in 2005. On 29 September 2005, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki declared that control of the park should pass from the Kenya Wildlife Service to the Olkejuado County Council and the Maasai tribe. Some observers saw this as a political favour in advance of a vote on a new Kenyan constitution: legal challenges are currently in court. The degazetting would divert park admission fees directly to the County Council with shared benefits to the Maasai immediately surrounding the park.
The park is famous for being the best place in Africa to get close to free-ranging elephants. Other attractions of the park include opportunities to meet Maasai and visit a Maasai village. The park also offers spectacular views of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest free-standing mountain in the world.
Amboseli offers some of the best opportunities to see African animals because its vegetation is sparse due to the long dry months. Amboseli National Park is home to wild animals, which include the African elephant, cape buffalo, impala, lion, cheetah, hyena, giraffe, zebra, and wildebeest among other African animals. There is also a host of Kenyan birds, both large and small, to see if you keep your eyes open and stop at every sighting.
The park has several rules to protect the wildlife: do not get out of your vehicle, except at designated spots; do not harass the animals in any way; keep to the tracks; no off-road driving; and animals always have the right of way. The roads in Amboseli have a loose surface of volcanic soil that is dusty in the dry season and impassable in the wet season.
There is a small airport in Amboseli, the Amboseli Airport (HKAM).
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