Trip Report: Exclusive Amboseli & Tsavo 2016 | Amboseli

Andrew Beck Andrew 14 Comments

Amboseli.

A destination which conjures up iconic images of elephant herds set in front of the majestic Mount Kilimanjaro, barren open plans and perhaps even the occasional dust devil.

The problem with these iconic scenes is that they are so dominating that one actually forgets just how diverse this region is. A satellite view courtesy of Google Maps sets the tone for this blog post which, rather than giving a day by day account of our incredible sightings, will look at what we saw in specific regions of Amboseli National Park using the Serena Lodge as our base.

Amboseli Map

Amboseli national Park and Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge

Amboseli has an endless underground water supply filtered through thousands of feet of volcanic rock from Kilimanjaro’s ice cap, which funnel into two clear water springs in the heart of the park – the green swamps that you see so clearly on the map.

However, the climatic pendulum can swing from drought to flood, and in the early 1990’s ceaseless rain changed Amboseli into a swamp. A few years later the rains failed and the grass-covered plains turned to dust. In contrast to my previous years (see the 2015 and 2014 trip reports), Amboseli had received good rains this year and regions which were previously covered in short green grass were now home to an incredible array of waterbirds.

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Elephant Bull Near Amboseli Serena safari Lodge

Longinye Swamp

OlTukai Swamp

Longinye Swamp – Amboseli National Park

Most of our time was spent around the large Longinye swamp which, as the largest permanent water-source in the region has always delivered excellent sightings. This region did not disappoint this time around. The fact that we were able to see lions almost every day if we were so inclined was a special treat as was being able to watch them hunt in the vast open plains around the swamp.

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This swamp really does breathe life into the heart of Amboseli and whilst elephant numbers may not have been as high as in previous years as a result of the good rains, the photographic opportunities were just as good if not better.

The Dum Palm Thickets | Ol Tukai Orok

Dum Palm Thicket

The Dum Palm Thickets | Ol Tukai Orok

This relatively small region of the park has to be one of my favourite areas for photographing wildlife. The birdlife is prolific and the texture and depth added by the deep green Dum palms just adds that little something special to every image taken here. From most of the northern areas of these palm thickets one has the unmistakeable blue backgrounds of Mount Kilimanjaro in the background, eliminating any distracting bright skies and highlights even on a crystal clear day.

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Rufous Chatterer

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White-Browed Coucal

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If I could set up camp in this palm thicket I’d be quite happy to spend a week photographing just in this environment. I absolutely love it and I think the guests that joined me feel the same after our special sightings here.

The Fever Tree Forest

Fever Tree Forest Excluson Site

Fever tree Forest | Exclusion Site

I’ve struggled to find details on the various areas of Amboseli which have been fenced off for research and rehabilitation purposes but my understanding is that these areas have been fenced off to exclude elephants from browsing on the young Acacia and from destroying older and more established woodlands. This particular zone has been fenced off for a while and supports an incredibly beautiful fever tree forest. Whilst one section of the fence has clearly been removed, presumably to quantify the impact of browsing by elephants on the woodlands by comparing it with the fenced off control site, there was a section where the fence had been broken down.

Not so good for Acacia’s but excellent news if you were a giraffe that happened to be passing by.

Even better news if you were a photographer…

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At the risk of sounding like a broken record, these are the types of scenes that excite me as a photographer that really enjoys portraying animals in their environment and i was glad to be able to share these incredible photo opportunities with our guests.

“Flamingo” Flood Plain

Flamingo land

“Flamingo” Flood Plain

This may not be the correct name for this particular region but seeing that we enjoyed such incredible sightings of flamingos here on this trip  think I’ve coined a new name for it! This was the first time Ive seen this region covered in shallow water and hosting such an array of birdlife.

In years gone by, this is what we’ve seen.

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“Flamingo Flood Plain” in June 2015

The scene was pretty different this year…

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Fulvous Ducks

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Lesser & Greater Flamingo

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IMM Common Greenshank

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Purple Heron

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Painted Snipe

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Common Greenshank

Lake Amboseli

Lake Amboseli

Lake Amboseli

The dry lake bed has always been a firm favourite amongst our guests. Not only does it allow one to get out and stretch the legs a bit but there are some interesting photographic opportunities all throughout the dry lake bed.

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Observation Hill Flats

Lookout Flats

Observation Hill Flats

Again, not the official name so please do let me know what this area is called if you know it! This region has always been good for catching the elephants moving towards the Sinet swamp/canal and the Enkongo Narok Swamp. Some of the variables that make this area so appealing for photography include the vast open plains, loads of fine dust, and a slightly sunken road which positions you between the elephants and the swamp providing excellent photographic opportunities.

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The Sinet Swamp/Canal

Sinet Swamp

The Sinet Swamp/Canal

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Collared Pratincole & Dragonfly

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Black-Winged Stilt & Chicks

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 There was an incredible amount of general game in the form of zebra and wildebeest which congregated all along this canal. At one point one of the guests suggested that the migration had perhaps taken a slight detour en-route to the Masai Mara!

The Loitokitok Main Road

Main Road

Loitokitok Main Road

Say it three times in a row, I dare you…

Loitokitok is a small town situated on the border with Tanzania and this road exits the park at the Ol Kelyunet Gate and makes its way east towards the town and then on to Tsavo West, which was our next destination. Whilst in previous years we have enjoyed seeing herds moving out from these acacia woodlands towards the Longinye Swamp, we didn’t see much of that this time around. What we did see along this stretch was still very impressive.

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Yellow Necked Spurfowl

Hopefully this post has given you an idea of what our guests experienced during our 5 nights in Amboseli.

Is five nights not too much time in one place?

Not if its Amboseli.

Isn’t Amboseli just about Elephants?

Not at all, there is SO much more!

And if this hasn’t been enough to get you excited to join me on safari Amboseli in 2017 or 2018, then perhaps the second part of the trip report covering our 4 nights in Tsavo West will help!

Oh, before I forget, we also saw a Martial eagle whilst we were there…

Pity about that mountain in the background though right?

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About the Author

Andrew Beck

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Very few people can tell you what their passion in life is. Even fewer will be able to tell you that what they do for a living is in fact their passion. My love for the bush and conservation took me on journey which would not only allow me to explore the continent which fascinates me so much, but to share my passion for photography and conservation with others. Be sure to check out my my website and instagram account.

Comments 14

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  1. Pingback: Trip Report: Exclusive Amboseli & Tsavo 2016 | Amboseli - Africa Freak

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  2. Mike Haworth

    Andrew you have a wonderful set of images from our trip in late June. Amboseli is a truly remarkable wildlife and photographic destination. I was astounded at the diversity of wildlife, scenery and birdlife. You gave your readers a small tantalizing taste of what we saw. I reckon we only scratched the surface of the diversity there so I will be going back with you next year. You always put your guests first and gave us wonderful interesting alternatives for shooting so many of the scenes. Thank you, I come away fired up for more!! Looking forward to reading your Tsavo trip report. Best wishes, Mike

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      Andrew Beck

      Thank you so much for the kind words Mike, I look forward to having you join us on safari again and have no doubt our next trip to Amboseli will reveal even more hidden treasures.

      Just putting it out there… 😉

  3. Geoff Leader

    Flipping awesome photos. Really does make one want to go and experience it for themselves. Do you have a special rate
    for retired SA residents??? Please????

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  4. Naomi

    These are such beautiful and stunning photos that take me right back to this outstanding and magical place…. If you’re reading this and thinking about going yourself, I say… if you can go you must go and when you go you must stay as long as you can!

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  5. Pingback: We hope you like Trip Reports! - Wild Eye

  6. Pingback: Trip Report: Exclusive Amboseli & Tsavo 2016 | Tsavo West - Wild Eye

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