Amboseli National Reserve, formerly Maasai Amboseli Game Reserve, is in Kajiado District, Rift Valley Province in Kenya. The park is 39,206 hectares (392 km2; 151 sq mi) in size at the core of an 8,000 square kilometres (3,100 sq mi) ecosystem that spreads across the Kenya-Tanzania border.
The local people are mainly Maasai, but people from other parts of the country have settled there attracted by the successful tourist-driven economy and intensive agriculture along the system of swamps that makes this low-rainfall area (average 350 mm (14 in)) one of the best widlife-viewing experiences in the world. The park protects two of the five main swamps, and includes a dried-up Pleistocene lake and semi-arid vegetation.
Amboseli National Park Reseve is the third most visited game area in Kenya after Maasai Mara National Reserve and Nakuru National Park and the visit can easily be done in a weekend. 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 is a land of giants.
This is a place of wide dry plains, where the horizons stretch into the furthest distance and become one with the sky. Amboseli is renowned for its elephant populations and large herds, including some impressively tusked bulls are drawn to a series of large, lush swamplands. But the most impressive giant of all is Mt Kilimanjaro. Africa's largest mountain lies just over the border in Tanzania, but the most impressive views of its snow-capped peak are to be found in Amboseli. The early light of dawn turns the mountain a dark hue of purple, and its snows into an ethereal pink. The sight of Kilimanjaro high above herds of elephant crossing the plains of Amboseli is a timeless African image. This area is home to many Maasai communities, centred around the Amboseli National Park Reserve.
The park is 400 sq kms, with its southern boundary along the Tanzanian border. The park is home to more than just Elephants, and herds of wildebeest, zebra and impala graze on the open plains.. There are areas of acacia forest that make for good birding, and are home to many small mammals. Cheetah are also often sighted here. The park is centred around a large hill, with fantastic views of the surrounding plains, often crossed by whirlwinds that send winding columns of dust into the sky. This open country is good walking territory, and many camps and lodges organise game walks, or trips to spend time in local Maasai villages.
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. The Park is run by the Olkejuado County Council and the Maasai tribe. There is a small airport in Amboseli, the Amboseli Airport. This seasonal swamp of 3,810 sq. km, is one of the finest areas in the country for big game photography, attracting a vast population of wildlife.