AMBOSELI NATIONAL PARK
Amboseli is situated 250 kms from Nairobi, at the foot of the highest mountain in Africa, Mt Kilimanjaro (5.895 metres). It is mostly fairly dry with 160 mm falling in the rainy season (March through May) and 80 mm in the short rains (October to December).
The western section of the park is an ancient lake bed which for most of the year is a dry, flat stretch but becomes flooded during the rainy season. Visitors to Amboseli always wonder how such a dry country can support such a large concentration of wildlife. This underground water supply to the swampy regions provides the answer. Elephants stand waist deep in the water and hippos love the deep poles. Today, Amboseli supports the widest variety of birds and wildlife in the country, so there is always plenty to see. In 1883, Joseph Thompson was the first European to penetrate the feared Maasai region known as Empusel (meaning 'salty, dusty place' in Maa). He, too, was astonished by the fantastic array of wildlife and the contrast between the arid areas of the dry-lake bed and the oasis of the swamps, a contrast that persists today.
Amboseli was set aside as the 'Southern Reserve' for Maasai in 1906 but returned to local control as a Game Reserve in 1948. Gazetted a National Park in 1974 in order to protect the core this unique ecosystem, it was declared a UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Reserve in 1991. On September 29, 2005, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki declared that control of the park should pass from the Kenya Wildlife Service to the Olkejuado County Council and the Maasai tribe. Some observers saw this as a political favor in advance of a vote on a new Kenyan constitution: legal challenges are currently in court.
The degazetting would divert park admission fees directly to the County Council with questionable spread of benefits to the Maasai immediately surrounding the park. It would set an unfortunate precedent that could jeopardise the status of other parks in Kenya. The park is famous for being the best place in Africa to get close to free-ranging elephants. Other attractions of the park include opportunities to meet Maasai and spectacular views of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest free-standing mountain in the world.
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