Located in the Loitoktok District of Kenya’s Rift Valley province, home to the Masai, Amboseli National Park—previously known as Masai Amboseli Game Reserve—is located 140 km (87 miles) south of Nairobi and just northwest of snow-capped, free-standing Mount Kilimanjaro. The Kilimanjaro-adjacent park is known for its elephants and proffers 392 km² (151 miles²) of remarkable scenery.
Part of a larger ecosystem surrounding the border of Kenya and Tanzania, Amboseli is a study in contrasts, mingling the browns of savannah and elephant with the blues of mountain and sky to grand effect and plentiful habitat. Plains, woodland, bush country, swamp and marshland dot the park, and impala, cheetah, hyena, giraffe, wildebeest and zebra ramble alongside the big five, beneath hundreds of flitting bird species and against the background of majestic Mount Kilimanjaro. Underground water supplied by the mountain’s ice cap and filtered through its volcanic rock pools in two clear-water springs within the park.
Amboseli doesn’t allow safari by foot, but safari by vehicle, horseback and hot air balloon each provide extraordinary views of animal, vegetable and mineral, and the park’s Observation Hill overlooks mountain and mammal alike.
January through March and July through October are the best times to visit, with July through October coinciding with the dry season. It is during the dry season that the animals are forced around the remaining water supplies and make for some great game viewing. That said, the dry season is also peak tourist season and, given Amboseli's small size, can mean crowds. The long rains come in March and run through the end of May, but also mean lush, green scenery and flowers. Very few lodges close during the rainy season, so budget-hunters may wish to consider the off-season.