The Amboseli safari lodge was definitely the fanciest accommodation we stayed in during safari (likely the fanciest we will stay in for most of our trip!) with awesome large tents, a very cool restaurant and bar area and pool. The view was the real selling point though, looking out towards Kilimanjaro. That evening, around the big camp fire, a group of local Masai came in to perform some of their traditional dances. The quintessential tourist ‘cultural experience’ but enjoyable none the less, with some fairly impressive jumping height from standstill on display. Me and Farah declined their offer to join them in their final dance, but the enthusiasm of the older lady who did was brilliant – almost as entertaining as the professionals.
Our first game drive at Amboseli had a reasonably late start 8.30am, again to work in with the breakfast schedule. Seemed a bit strange given that this was a safari lodge and you would think they would have better support for getting out the door early (the park opening at 6.00am, prime game viewing time). It worked out for the best though as soon as we entered the park we immediately ran into a massive group of elephant, easily two hundred animals, crossing the road around us. Apparently most of the elephant heards in the park move towards Kili overnight for water and then back towards Amboseli during the day for food. Really good fun to watch as they sand-bathed themselves, play fought and stampeded around. We also had a clear day with no cloud around Kili so we could get the cliche “elephant in front of the mountain” photo you see in all the tourism literature.
The excellent start was unfortunately the only noteworthy viewing of the morning with not much other than plain game on display, and even that not at the density of the Masai Mara. When we stopped off for lunch on one of the few hills in the park there was some information posters explaining why we were having such bad luck despite the parks stellar reputation. Apparently there had been a big drought in 2009 (following two previously dry years) that was absolutely devastating to game numbers – census from 2007 to 2009 showing zebra numbers falling from 7,000 to 2,000 and wildbeeste falling from 12,500 to 3,000. Needless to say, the park is still in recovery with many challenges around water rights still existing such as balancing the needs of the surrounding Maasai communities (also hit hard during the drought) with the those of the park. Definitely makes the water rights issues in the Waikato seem somewhat trivial. The park itself has a really interesting geography made up predominately of semi-arid areas but with isolated marsh areas caused by underground springs sourced from the slopes of Kili. Makes for some interesting landscapes with desert complete with dust devils right next to bright green marshland. In the afternoon we had a good view of some hippopotamus and a serval cat (although only at a distance), but nothing truly exceptional. With that in mind we called it quits a bit early and headed back to camp to enjoy a relaxing swim before a fantastic dinner and a couple of Amarulas.
Our final game drive was an early morning one (late breakfast on return) so we had some amazing views of Kilimanjaro as the sun rose, it’s white peak turning a bright shade of orange. Game viewing was mainly plain game and elephant with the highlight being a lion and her clubs playing together in addition to a couple of hyena. A good day to finish on, even if it didn’t quite match our amazing start at the Mara. After breakfast we were soon on our way back to Nairobi with our Kenyan safari complete. Both me and Farah had a really amazing time and were already talking about coming back sometime in the future.