We left Jungle Junction around 6:30 in order to avoid Nairobi’s rush hour, but the traffic on Mombasa road was quite dense even at that early hour. Luckily, we could turn off the Mombasa road after around 30 kilometers, at Athi River. The road A104 toward Namanga was excellent with almost no traffic. We topped up our fuel tanks in Namanga an then turn left into a gravel road C103 to the east toward Amboseli national park. That road used to be seriously bad and very slow going in not so distant past, but now it is very good gravel. It has also been graded very recently and despite me being prepared for a painfully slow drive, it turned out to be one of the best gravel roads we have done in the entire trip. We have reached Meshanani gate on the northern border of Amboseli NP at around 11:30, payed our entrance fees and began a leisure drive through the park toward Kimana gate on the eastern side.
As soon as we entered the park, the road became terribly corrugated. After the initial dry and and arid section, as we approached more swampy areas, the surroundings became unbelievably green and lush. Amboseli really offer feast for eyes during non-dry season. Green, green, green. Countless birds, buffaloes and elephants wallowing in the swamp, wilderbeasts, zebras and antelopes grazing in lush pastures…. We took our time, enjoying animals and vistas.
Although we were eager to experience that iconic view of Kilimanjaro towering above the Amboseli, Africa’s highest mountain was persistently covered with clouds. But later on, when we were in the camp, the peak did uncovered itself for few moments in all its glory. Staring at it, I was flooded with waves of warm memories of an unforgettable experience of accessing its summit three years ago. I was hoping that Kili will reveal itself again the next day in the morning light, but unfortunately that didn’t happen.
We camped at Kimana Community Campsite, just out of park, about 2 kilometers from Kimana gate. It is run by local Masai community, has plenty of trees that offer dense shade in the heat of the afternoons, clean ablutions and nice bar with cold drinks. They provided us with the firewood and lit our fire in the evening. But the stay there left us with similar feelings as in Mara Oldarpoi community camp – not really a wildlife type of experience, but OK for one night stay. It wasn’t crowded, us being the only campers and only one of two of their meru tents occupied with other visitors.
Next morning we pack our things and entered the park early in the morning. The plan was to spend whole morning inside the park and then leave toward Tsavo West national park.
And already after the first few kilometers into the park, we were rewarded with a nice cheetah sighting. Two of them were resting not far from the road and we stayed with them for about 15 minutes. After that, it became rather crowded, as more and more vehicles with early morning visitors came to the sighting. We left them and continued our drive tovard Ol Tukai, the park’s central point.
Luck was with us and not even two minutes after we left cheetahs, we spotted three lions crossing the road. We had them all by ourselves for a couple of minutes until they disappeared in long grass.
We covered quite a few loops in the central part of the park. We enjoyed the park tremendously. The plains are incredibly open, with endless views across the lakes and swamps. And surprisingly few vehicles.
The funniest sighting that we had in the park was observing a Great White Pelican, struggling to store an enormous fish (probably a sheatfish) into its bill-pouch. It simply wouldn’t fit inside. He struggled with it quite some time until he finally succeeded storing it inside.
The only thing that was slightly inconvenient wast the fact that is was just a little tiny bit too wet. At one point we spotted a large flock of flamingos in the lake beyond the Observation Hill, however when we tried to get there, there road was flooded with suspiciously deep water. As there were no other vehicles seen around, we didn’t dare to wade over it and to reach Observation Hill from other direction would simply require too much time. As we still had a longish drive to Tsavo West to do, we slowly turned back toward Kimana gate, taking few other loops along the way. Although our visit to Amboseli was a bit short (only one full day), it left us with really deep impression. I hope we will be back there some day.