Amboseli is one of the most popular of Kenya’s national parks, situated only 150 miles from Nairobi adjacent the Tanzanian border. The snowcapped peak of Mount Kilimanjaro dominates every aspect of Amboseli. The park itself is relatively small, only 150 sq. miles, but its fragile ecosystem supports a wide range of mammals (well over 50 of the larger species) and birds (over 400 species).
Amboseli is mostly an immense, usually dry soda lake. The edge of the park is a marsh and forest where the lodges are located, and this is what draws the considerable game. There are large numbers of plains species like zebra and wildebeest, and at the edges, good numbers of cheetah and lion. The park is where Cynthia Moss conducted her important elephant research and where the density of elephants is higher than in any other Kenyan park.
The central swamp and other marsh areas are as important for Maasai cattle as for the big game. Unlike Tsavo, which is a federal national park, the important game reserves in Maasailand remain owned by the Maasai. (In addition to Amboseli, Kenya’s Maasai Mara is such a Maasai owned reserve.) In Amboseli this has led to an agrarian conflict that has thrust Maasai community development into conflict with tourism. Amboseli’s striking beauty situated just beneath Mt. Kilimanjaro and its closest proximity to Nairobi of any big game wilderness has accentuated the conflict and drawn much international attention. One interesting outcome has been the construction of bore holes, or wells, at the outskirts of the park funded by international environmental organizations for Maasai stock. But the conflict only seems to grow worse with time and recently Maasai authorities threatened to unilaterally assume complete control over the park with the implication that federal as well as international officials would be ousted.