Amboseli has a lot to recommend it as a safari destination, not least its reputation as the best place in Africa for getting up close to free-range elephants!
Neighbouring this park, is Chyulu Hills National Park, dividing the plains of Amboseli and Tsavo National Park. The Hills comprise a mountain range topped with hundreds of volcano cones. It is still considered an active volcano site, although the last eruptions occurred in 1856. With terrain that includes highland forest and woodland savanna, Chyulu Hills provides dwelling for a host of wildlife!
The Amboseli area has an interesting history, beginning with providing a home for hunter–gatherers exclusively until the arrival of Chagga and Kamba tribes many centuries ago. These peoples set about farming the land and were joined by Maasai cattle herders in the early seventeenth century. European discovery of the region came in 1883, through the explorations of Joseph Thomson, whose name is honoured in the Thomson’s gazelle. Thomson had been requested by the Royal Geographical Society to establish a safe route for British Empire traders from Africa’s eastern coast to just north of Lake Victoria, a route unknown to other traders in the area. He succeeded in this mission and his accounts sparked interest in Amboseli. Colonial settlers moved in.
The next significant date is 1899, when colonial government created the Southern Maasai Reserve, essentially restricting the Maasai people to a region of no use to colonial farmers. This restriction was removed in 1948, when, keen to preserve the wildlife by creating the Amboseli Reserve, government at the same time permitted the Maasai people access to the entire area. Later still, in 1961, Kajiado District Council took control, only for the land to suffer due to tourism and encroachment. In 1974, President Jomo Kenyatta opted to protect the area by granting national park status. Most recently, in 1991, Amboseli became a UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Reserve. Chyulu Hills became a national park in 1983.