We started our Kenyan safari experience in the heart of Amboseli National Park. Elephants were the main reason for our choice. The park located at the foot of Kilimanjaro is probably the best place in the world to observe free-ranged elephants in big numbers.
It turned out to be an excellent decision.
The National Park
Amboseli is a unique swamp-savanna ecosystem at Tanzania’s border, right in front of Kilimanjaro. Because of the relatively small size (390 square kilometres), the concentration of different species seen together at swamps and water holes is overwhelming.
The most powerful image, however, is the sight of mighty Kilimanjaro guarding the park and its inhabitants from above. During the dry season, most of the time, it’s only visible very early in the morning when there’s no dust in the air.
Best time to visit: Dry season from May to October and from January to March. Be aware that during a long dry period, some parts of Amboseli turn into a desert, and dust is everywhere.
We stayed at Kibo Villa, located in a separate garden of Ol Tukai Lodge in the middle of the national park.
Besides the villa, the lodge has 80 chalet-style rooms, all with a view of the savanna.
The food is nice, and there is plenty to choose from. Three meals a day are served in the form of a buffet at the restaurant or on the veranda.
The lodge has a swimming pool. You can take a dip while observing elephant herds passing by!
Good to know: Electricity in the lodge is available from 5 to 9 am, from 12:30 to 14 pm and from 6 pm to midnight.
The lodge still runs on diesel generators, but more solar cells are coming. They are committed to environmental conservation, responsible resource use, and education of the local children through classroom sponsorships. For more information, visit here.
The Kibo Villa offers three bedrooms with separate bathrooms. The stylish wooden décor perfectly fits into the wilderness surrounding it.
The highlight undoubtedly is its master bedrooms’ terrace equipped with comfy patio chairs with a stunning view of the park and with Kilimanjaro in the background.
You can enjoy your drink or listen to music while observing herds of zebras, buffalos, and elephants passing by.
The game drives
Safari drives in Africa are referred to as game drives.
Ol Tukai Lodge offers two game drives per day. The early morning game drive starts before breakfast around 6 am and the evening one around 4:30 pm. Each of them takes about three hours. They use open Land Cruisers. Our driver knew the area very well.
At Amboseli, cars are not allowed to leave the tracks. You won’t get very close to the animals unless elephants decide to cross the road right in front of you, which happens quite often. But, don’t forget your binoculars for the other species.
The distance doesn’t really matter. The variety of species and their numbers alone are remarkable.
A word of advice: Check if there is water (and other drinks) provided for the game drives.
Maasai land borders to Amboseli National Park. If you want to get a glimpse of the traditional life of the Maasai, visit one of their villages.
Our driver took us to one just before an afternoon game drive. It was interesting to hear tribal songs and learn about their nomad life. For the Maasai, it is a way to earn a little money. The contribution fee to the village was 20 $ per person.
After the visit, they will try to sell you handmade jewellery and other souvenirs. Decide for yourself if you want to buy something. If you don’t want anything, just say no.
In our Opinion
We think Amboseli National Park is an excellent place to start your safari trip. You’ll be amazed by the diversity of African wildlife surviving in such harsh conditions.
At Ol Tukai Lodge, you will ease into the experience slowly with the comfort of a hotel before continuing to a tented camp somewhere. Stay tuned for places we visited next.
They asked us to pay a 50% deposit to confirm our booking. We paid the rest about 4 weeks before departure. After the full payment was made, they booked our Safarilink flight tickets, which were sent to us via email. The payment was managed online through a generated link (similar to PayPal) using a credit card.
The booking was uncomplicated via email. But, we needed to ask for details several times, and more contact persons were involved. Altogether, it went rather smoothly.