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KENYA: trek Mt. Kenya; safari Samburu, Nakuru, Amboseli, Tsavo West

In February 2024, circumnavigating Mount Kenya up to 15,765 feet elevation stretched our comfort zone with “Type 2 Fun” — the kind that is challenging in the moment but glows warmly in hindsight. Exotic giant groundsel plants reached to the sky on breathtaking crags. We next embarked on a fascinating 6-day Kenyan safari. A flat tire, sweltering 95° heat one day, and a rain deluge the next were compensated by deluxe lodging and wonderful wildlife viewing in Samburu National Reserve. Temperatures moderated from sweaty to pleasant in the captivating National Parks of Lake Nakuru, Amboseli, and Tsavo West.

In our first visit to Africa (February 4–March 7, 2024), we tackled two 6-day safaris, trekked two volcanos at 15,000 feet elevation, and explored Victoria Falls, as revealed in three articles: ■ TANZANIAKENYA (this article)VICTORIA FALLS

KENYA CONTENTS: MapNairobiMount Kenya: trek, itinerary, highlights, Austrian HutKenyan safari: Samburu NR, Lake Nakuru NP, Amboseli NP, Tsavo West NP

Republic of Kenya

Kenya attained independence in 1963 and is a British Commonwealth nation. A presidential representative democracy with multiparty elections governs this country of 54 million people, although with some corruption. The main rivalry is between the dominant Kikuyu and aspiring Luo people. Of the 69 languages spoken by Kenyans, English and Swahili (Kiswahili to its speakers) are the official languages. Folks here are 85% Christian and 11% Muslim. This vibrant civil society participates in a capitalist economy. Tea is Kenya’s main cash crop (the world’s third biggest producer after China & India). Kenya produces more coffee than any other African country. In 2017, Kenya’s education system was rated as the strongest among the forty three mainland countries on the African continent by the World Economic Forum. In 2018, the World Bank ranked Kenya as the top African country for education outcomes.

The developing economy of East Africa litters the streets and creates severe air pollution, which made me wear a mask outdoors in Nairobi and along the Mombasa–Nairobi highway, jammed with semi-trailer trucks spewing diesel exhaust. To reduce plastic pollution in 2017, Kenya admirably passed the world’s toughest ban on single-use plastic bags — the kind given by grocery stores and other vendors to hold your purchases — so don’t bring any plastic carrier bags into Africa. More than 95% of traders and end users have complied with the ban.

Although its president declared Kenya to be a “visa-free country” as of 2024, you must still apply online for Kenya’s e-visaelectronic travel authorization” between 3 days and 3 months prior to arrival, which cost $30 for Americans.

I customized our 27-day tour in Tanzania and Kenya for 4–5 travelers through PopoteAfrica.comTo avoid the 6-hour drive from Arusha, our group of four relatives flew for 1 hour from Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) to Nairobi International Airport (NBO) on the topnotch Kenya Airways. Google Maps shows our driving route in Kenya:

  • Add 11 hours to Pacific Standard Time (PST) to get East Africa Time (EAT), which covers both Kenya and Tanzania.


is Kenya’s capital city. Exhausted after an intensive 6-day safari and 4-day climb of Mount Meru in Tanzania, we rested for 2 nights at the comfortable Sarova Panafric Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya. Time and energy allowing, I would have added these sights:

  • Nairobi National Museum, Nairobi Snake Park, and botanical gardens.
  • Bomas of Kenya | Map | TripAdvisor: live traditional Kenyan music, dance, and cultural show in the largest auditorium in Africa, plus reconstructed tribal villages.

Weather forecast for Nairobi: In February, expect daytime temps in the low 80s °F and overnight lows in the 60s °F. An airconditioned hotel was essential to cool the tropical air and filter heavy air pollution. Nairobi’s 5580-foot elevation helps moderate the tropical heat, at 1.3 degrees of latitude south of the equator. In Nairobi, the global intertropical convergence zone produces two main rainy seasons: from March-May and October-December with specific wind directions. On Kenya’s coasts, easterly winds from the Indian Ocean create rain from December-March, April-June, and October-November, a pattern also found in the Lake Victoria basin. 

Fearing reoccurrence of her altitude sickness suffered for 24 hours at 11,700 feet elevation on Tanzania’s Mt. Meru, Danni stayed in Nairobi while the remaining three of us trekked 7 days on Mt. Kenya. She met us for safari afterwards.

The deluxe Sarova Panafric Hotel in Nairobi serves a delicious grass-fed hamburger.

A trekking adventure circuiting Mount Kenya

With impressive landscapes and ecological diversity, Mount Kenya National Park & Natural Forest are honored on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Hiking to Mount Kenya’s Point Lenana remains one of the world’s great undiscovered trekking adventures — taller Mount Kilimanjaro grabs prominence. No technical skills are required for either — just gumption.

Acclimatization on Tanzania’s tough Mt. Meru (three days earlier) made hiking on loftier Mt. Kenya much easier. On foot, we circumnavigated Mount Kenya for 37 miles, climbing and descending 11,000 feet over seven days. We slept in tents, plus one night in a hut to escape high winds, which damaged the dining tent. Each day we carried a day pack, while porters carried the dining tent, private tents, sleeping bags, pads, toilet tent, food, etc. Our support team of ten included 7 porters, 1 cook, 1 assistant guide, and 1 guide. Free rescue is included said Popote Africa Adventures, who arranged the economical trekking package for our group of 3 and our safari for 4.

The country of Kenya is named after Mount Kenya, the second-highest peak in Africa (exceeded by Tanzania’s Mt. Kilimanjaro). The two highest peaks of Mount Kenya are technical ascents requiring ropes for protection — Batian (17,057 feet) and adjacent Nelion (17,021 ft). Trekkers like our group aspire to reach the non-technical 3rd-highest summit, Point Lenana at 16,355 ft. Mt. Kenya lies 10 miles south of the equator and 90 miles north-northeast of Nairobi. Active 3.1–2.6 million years ago, volcanic Mount Kenya grew to ~21,000 feet high (higher than Kilimanjaro) before glaciation eroded it. Due to human-induced global climate change, its rapid glacial retreat threatens water reservoirs for much of Kenya. Mount Kenya’s glacial remnants lost more than half of their 2016 extent by 2021–22. We noticed little ice left in February 2024. Hundreds of miles of electric fences around Mount Kenya discourage poaching and illegal logging, and also keep the park’s wildlife from exiting and damaging adjacent crops.

Above: On Day 3 of trekking on Mount Kenya’s remote Timau Route, we pass under giant groundsel plants (Dendrosenecio keniodendron), in East Africa. Endemic to the high altitudes of the Afrotropics, this sunflower relative is a unique alpine attraction. 

Trek summary

We began walking on Mt. Kenya’s remote Timau Route then rounded 80% of the Summit Circuit counterclockwise. After reaching 15,715-foot Austrian Hut (Top Hut), trekkers can ascend 640 feet further to achieve impressive views from Mt. Kenya’s third highest peak, Point Lenana at 16,355 ft. But icy rain forced us to circumvent Lenana via the southeast trail, where we instead climaxed at 15,765 feet elevation. Descending the Chogoria Route included camps at scenic Lake Michaelson and unremarkable Lake Ellis.

In hindsight, I would have shortened the trek to six days, by ascending the equally scenic Sirimon Route, circling counterclockwise, then descending to Chogoria. Whichever route you pick, allow three full days of acclimatization (sleeping gradually higher from 10,000—14,000 feet) before attempting Point Lenana (unless you have already adjusted to ~15,000 feet on another mountain within the past 5 days). Descending can be as fast as you like. 

When to go: Trekking to Point Lenana is best mid-January–early March and late-August–September. The summits are often enshrouded in mist after 10:00am into late afternoon. The rainy seasons typically occur in April–May and November, albeit less predictably now due to ongoing climate change. In the past, rain and fog characterized mid-March–April–May and October–November–December.

Mt. Kenya itinerary: 7-day Timau to Chogoria Route — 37 miles & 11,000 feet gain
  • Day 1: Timau Route: trailhead (9,900 ft elevation) > Marania Camp (11,300 ft) = hike 5.3 miles with 1,430 ft up, 290 ft down.
  • Day 2: Timau Route: Marania Camp > Majors Camp (13,400 ft) = hike 8.8 miles with 2,360 ft up, 270 ft down.
  • Day 3: Timau Route: Majors Camp > Shipton’s Camp (13,880 ft) = hike 3.5 miles with 1,745 ft up, 1,280 ft down.
  • Day 4: Summit Circuit: Shipton’s Camp > Hausberg Col (15,040 ft) > Mackinder’s Camp (13,760 ft) = hike 4 miles with 1,800 ft up, 2,000 ft down.
  • Day 5: Summit Circuit: Mackinder’s Camp > Austrian Hut/Top Hut 15,715 ft elevation > bypass below Point Lenana (which rose 650 feet above us) and climax at 15,765 feet elevation > exit the Summit Circuit > Lake Michaelson (13,000 ft) = hike 5 miles with 2,300 ft up, 3,030 ft down.
  • Day 6: Chogoria Route: Lake Michaelson > Lake Ellis (11,400 ft) = hike 5 miles with 1,050 ft up, 2,600 ft down.
  • Day 7: Chogoria Route: Lake Ellis > Chogoria Gate (9,700 ft) = hike 5 miles with 180 ft up, 1,720 ft down.

Mt. Kenya weather at Among the five different elevations selectable (the summit at 17,058 ft starts as default), choose “14,765ft” to approximate the coldest trekking camp, which for us ranged from 20s to 30s overnight. Daytime temps in January–February were in the high 30s–50s °F. with risk of afternoon thunderstorms. During the trek, rain soaked us on two days out of seven and we slept as high as 14,000 ft. Point Lenana 16,355 ft (the 3rd highest summit on Mt. Kenya) can be 5 to 10 degrees colder than nearby camps plus significantly colder due to wind chill.

Photo highlights from Mount Kenya National Park

Images below are favorites gleaned from Tom’s PhotoShelter portfolios for Kenya: trek Mount Kenya | KENYA safari
Most images were shot on a 37-ounce Sony RX10 IV camera (Amazon) with versatile 25x zoom lens.

Day 7: At the end of the trek, we thanked and tipped our 10-person support team at Chogoria Gate in Mount Kenya National Park. Guide Nicolas is on the far right.

Day 1: Delphinium
is a genus of about 300 species of annual and perennial flowering plants in the family Ranunculaceae, native throughout the Northern Hemisphere plus the high mountains of tropical Africa, as seen here at 10,000 feet elevation on Mt. Kenya. All Delphiniums are toxic to humans and livestock.

At 10,000 feet of elevation on the Timau Route, flowers of the Helichrysum genus — commonly called everlasting or strawflowers — bloom with bright red on white. Their poetic name “everlasting” comes from their vibrant blooms retaining brilliance even after drying. Occurring in Africa, Madagascar, Australasia and Eurasia, the Helichrysum genus contains about 600 species of flowering plants in the sunflower family (Asteraceae).

After guide Nicolas led us on a wrong turn for 30 minutes, my smartphone’s GaiaGPS app reliably got us back on track. He last guided on the Timau Route many years ago.

Lying in a major rain shadow, Mt. Kenya’s Timau Route features a bleak landscape with little forest and decreased chance of rain — however, a rain shower soaked us on Day 1 and delayed the porters until dusk. For 2 hours, we three trekkers and our guide Nicolas worried about potentially overnighting at 11,300 feet elevation without shelter. Making a fire helped distract us and lift our spirits. In the higher camps with overnight temperatures in the low 20s–30s °F, we had to wear our jackets inside the inadequate sleeping bags that were provided. Luckily every night, the helpful support team provided hot water bottles to place inside our sleeping bags — doubly useful for washing in the morning.

Day 2: Below: A golden sunrise glows over our tents at Marania Camp.

Sunrise on Mount Kenya (17,057 feet), the 2nd highest peak in Africa.

A smiling, hard-working porter gives a thumbs up. Later on Day 2, a straggling novice porter — delayed by 2 hours — worried us and stalled the arrival of my sleeping bag and personal gear. Remaining calm, I invoked the universal Swahili refrain, Hakuna matata (meaning “no worries” or “take it easy”) and remembered pole pole (go slowly).

I was surprised to see elephant dung at 11,000 feet elevation. A mile away, we observed a herd of mixed eland and zebras, which raise their heads and immediately dashed further away, indicating that poaching must be common in Mount Kenya National Park.

The flower stalk of the Lobelia telekii plant resembles “Cousin Itt.” Lobelia telekii (in the family Campanulaceae) is found only in the alpine zones of Mount Kenya, Mount Elgon, and the Aberdare Mountains. After a few decades of growth, it produces a single large flower stalk up to 10 feet tall, then dies. A long hairy bract underlies each bird-pollinated flower and covers up the flower below, resulting in a funny overall appearance, leading to the nickname “Cousin Itt lobelia” — referring to the fictional character in the 1964 Addams Family television series and later films. The leaves and bracts are blue-green, and the hidden flowers purple. On Mount Kenya, Lobelia telekii occurs at elevations of 11,500–16,400 ft. Lobelia telekii inhabits the drier hill slopes, while its close relative Lobelia keniensis prefers the moister valley bottoms; partially fertile hybrids occur.

Day 3: Trek on the Timau Route towards Mount Kenya.

Forests of giant groundsel plants (Dendrosenecio keniodendron) thrive on the upper Timau Route.

Groundsels of several species are found throughout the world as common roadside weeds, but nowhere except in the highlands of Africa do they exhibit such large tree forms. The giant groundsel plant (genus Dendrosenecio, in the sunflower family Asteraceae) — is one of the most iconic plants of the world’s alpine zones. The silver-green leaves of these giant plants form rosettes that crown sturdy stems, which are adorned with soft, woolly hairs to protect against cold. The giant plants grow up to 20 feet tall at altitudes from 12,800–14,800 feet. In the alpine zone of Mount Kenya, Dendrosenecio keniodendron is the dominant woody species, forming evenly sized and evenly aged stands. The keniodendron grows at the higher and drier altitudes of Mount Kenya; whereas Dendrosenecio keniensis overlaps in lower altitudes of that species’ range, as does Dendrosenecio battiscombei, but only in wetter environments. Based on progressing knowledge, scientists have moved the Dendrosenecio genus OUT of the larger Senecio genus (their former classification).

Mount Kenya rises above iconic giant groundsel plants along the Timau Route’s descent to Shipton’s Camp.

Day 4: From Shipton’s Camp at 13,880 feet elevation we admire sunrise on Mount Kenya (17,057 ft).

Shown at the top of its range near Shipton’s Camp, a cute rock hyrax (Procavia capensis) forages at up to 14,000 feet elevation in vegetated areas along Mt. Kenya’s Summit Circuit. Also known as a rock rabbit, coney, dassie, or doop, this medium-sized mammal is native to Africa and the Middle East. Along with other hyrax species and the sirenians (sea cows), this species is the most closely related to elephants. It is one of the five living species of the order Hyracoidea, and the only species in the genus Procavia. Rock hyraxes weigh 8.8–11.0 pounds and have short ears. Usually most active in the morning and evening, they live in groups of 10–80 animals in habitats with protective rock crevices and forage as a group, using sentries to warn of predators. Over most of its range, the rock hyrax is not endangered, and in some areas is considered a minor pest. (In Ethiopia, Palestine, and Jordan, it is a reservoir of the leishmaniasis parasite.)

From Shipton’s Camp, we labored steeply up towards the extremely windy Hausberg Col at 15,050 ft elevation.

Iconic giant groundsel plants grow at Hausberg Tarns (14,300 ft elevation) on Mt. Kenya. At the center skyline is Hausberg Col (15,050 ft elevation).

Above and below: On the west side of the Summit Circuit, see Hut Tarn, Two Tarns Campground, and Tyndall Glacier. Rapid glacial retreat on Mt. Kenya threatens water reservoirs for much of the country. Global climate change has been induced by humans dumping carbon gas compounds into the atmosphere. Mount Kenya’s glaciers lost more than half of their 2016 extent by 2021-22. We noticed little ice left in February 2024.

Rebecca descends from Hut Tarn towards Mackinder’s Hut past some giant groundsel plants. The little white patch of Tyndall Glacier will likely disappear within 10 years.

Day 4 afternoon: On Mount Kenya lies Mackinder’s Hut (Teleki Lodge) at 13,760 ft (measured on my Gaia GPS topo) (atop the steep Naro Moru River Route via the Met Station). High winds at Shipton’s Camp had disabled our dining tent and continued at Mackinder’s Hut, where we comfortably slept in a dormitory room all to ourselves. Staying in dormitories can be more comfortable and sociable than tenting, if you don’t mind risking the presence of snorers (none encountered on our trip), which can be mitigated by sleeping with earplugs.

Day 5: We awoke at 3:00 am the next morning to attempt climbing Point Lenana. Two dark hours lit by headlamps were blasted by icy rain on a gasping and harrowing ascent into thin air. Our porters struggled behind. Since I was already wearing a raincoat, I lent my rain poncho to guide Nicolas who had forgotten his raingear. Our gloved hands got wet and overly chilled — next time camping I’ll bring warm, waterproof gloves! Icy rain coated the hopped rocks with treacherous black ice and stopped us at Austrian Hut for crucial warm-up.
(Photo by Ian Dempsey.) Rebecca, Ian, and Tom huddled for critical warmth and dryness inside the small Austrian Hut (Top Hut) at 15,715 ft on Mount Kenya’s Summit Circuit. After reviving for a couple of hours, we skipped Point Lenana via the lower trail. We three plus guide Nicolas crested nearby at 15,765 feet elevation then dropped through a confusing boulder field. After we lost the route for 50 feet of stumbling across loose large scree, my smartphone’s GaiaGPS app reliably got us back on track. After a slog up more scree, we quickly descended on a clearer path to welcome warmer regions.

Point Lenana tantalized us just 650 feet vertically above but was too icy for safe ascent. Clouds had blocked views for hours, until our descent from Austrian Hut.

In a soaking mist, we approach a dramatically narrow glacier-carved slot that descends steeply to Lake Michaelson.

The native red flower of Mackinder’s Gladiolus, aka Rift Gladiolus (Gladiolus watsonioides, in the iris family, Iridaceae) blooms near Lake Michaelson on Mount Kenya. In the wild, this species is restricted to the highlands of central Kenya and northern Tanzania, including Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya and the Aberdare Range. Gladiolus means sword in Latin. After the 1920s, the mistaken spelling “gladiolas” evolved the singular spelling “gladiola” — what etymologists call a back-formation term, adopted into common usage.

Lake Michaelson Camp at 13,000 ft elevation.

Above Lake Michaelson Camp, orange basalt columns formed by columnar jointing from magma cooling underground, then were exposed by glacial erosion.

The full Moon rises just after sunset.

Day 6: Lake Michaelson nestles within a valley scooped out by a glacier.

Trekking north of the glaciated U-shaped valley containing Lake Michaelson on Mount Kenya.

A yellow flower of genus Protea at 12,000 ft elevation, above Lake Ellis on Mount Kenya, in East Africa.

6-day Kenyan safari

At Chogoria Gate of Mount Kenya, we boarded a safari vehicle for a 6-day wildlife extravaganza. Note: due to limited time, we skipped Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve, since we had already experienced Tanzania’s similar Serengeti National Park — compare them at The Great Migration runs through both parks.

Buffalo Springs National Reserve

lies south of the Ewaso Ng’iro river and offers several safari lodges and camps. In this gently-rolling lowland plain of old lava flows and volcanic soils of olivine basalt, the climate is hot, dry and semi-arid. As is typical of Kenya, two major rainfall seasons occur, with April–May and September–November seeing brief rainy spells. Across the river to the north is Samburu National Reserve.

Reticulated giraffes are a unique giraffe species (Giraffa reticulata, formerly labelled as the subspecies Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata) native to the Horn of Africa, primarily within Kenya. Distinguished from other giraffes, its coat displays large, polygonal spots which extend onto the lower legs, tail, and face. A 2024 study revealed it to be a hybridization between northern and southern giraffe lineages.

Samburu National Reserve

is the adjacent park north of the Ewaso Ng’iro river which also hosts safari lodges and camps. Samburu National Reserve was one of the two areas in which conservationists George and Joy Adamson raised Elsa the Lioness, made famous in Born Free, a best-selling book and award-winning movie. Originally indigenous to the Nile Valley (nilotic), the Samburu people are semi-nomadic shepherds who live in north-central Kenya.

A juvenile common agama lizard (Agama agama, in the Agamidae family) was photographed at Samburu Sopa Lodge in Samburu National Reserve. Also known as the red-headed rock agama or rainbow agama, this lizard is found in most of sub-Saharan Africa.

The gerenuk or giraffe gazelle (Litocranius walleri — the sole member of its genus Litocranius) is a long-necked, medium-sized antelope found in parts of East Africa.

Reticulated giraffes are a unique giraffe species (Giraffa reticulata, formerly labelled as the subspecies Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata) native to the Horn of Africa, primarily within Kenya. Distinguished from other giraffes, its coat displays large, polygonal spots which extend onto the lower legs, tail, and face. A 2024 study revealed it to be a hybridization between northern and southern giraffe lineages.

Lake Nakuru National Park

was stablished in 1961 and is honored on UNESCO’s World Heritage List as part of the “Kenya Lake System in the Great Rift Valley.” Located next to Nakuru (population 600,000), the third largest urban area in Kenya, the park is fenced to block poachers and retain rare rhinos and giraffes. Nakuru means “Dust” or “Dusty Place” in the Maasai language.

Due to increasing crop production and urbanization, from 2010–2020, rising runoff into salty Lake Nakuru killed this forest and dislodged its famous flamingos. Its surface area spread drastically from 15 to 26 square miles, flooding parts of Nakuru town, 677 households, and some National Park areas. The shallow alkaline waters grow red algae that previously supported vast flamingo flocks. In 2013, high water levels forced the local flamingos to migrate to Lake Bogoria in search for food. As of 2024, Lake Nakuru is a major nesting and breeding ground for great white pelicans, which have turned pink from the algal diet. Within just a few decades, this ecosystem has fluxed dynamically — in the early 1990s, Lake Nakuru’s water level dropped drastically, but has since overflooded.

Rothschild’s giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis camelopardalis) were relocated from western Kenya to Lake Nakuru National Park beginning in 1977. Rothschild’s giraffe resembles the Masai giraffe but is paler, with less-jagged brown patches, a creamier hue for the connective channels, and white lower legs lacking markings, making them appear to wear white stockings. They have five ossicones (the two big noticeable head protuberances, plus one in the center forehead, plus 2 behind each ear). They reach up to 19.3 feet tall. Formerly classified as G. c. rothschildi, it has been DNA-classified as a subspecies of Northern giraffe (one of four distinct species) and is genetically identical to the Nubian giraffe subspecies (G. c. camelopardalis).

Two female lions (Panthera leo) grabbed our attention within the first five minutes of driving into Lake Nakuru National Park. Groups of female lions usually hunt and scavenge together.

A spotted hyena, also known as the laughing hyena (Crocuta crocuta) strides along a road in Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya, East Africa. The spotted hyena is widespread in its native sub-Saharan Africa and is the most common large carnivore in Africa, due to its adaptability and opportunism. It primarily hunts but may also scavenge meat, skin, bone and other animal waste. Once selected, their prey is chased over a long distance, often several miles, at speeds of up to 37 mph. In their matriarchal society, females are larger than males and dominate them. Though portrayed as cunning and cowardly, the hyena is actually a smart, caring, and cooperative scavenger, who cleans up the environment and contains the spread of disease. The IUCN’s hyena specialist group identifies the spotted hyena’s undeserved negative reputation as detrimental to the species’ continued survival, both in captivity and the wild.

Rain falls on a secretarybird, also spelled secretary bird (Sagittarius serpentarius). Its eagle-like body rides on crane-like legs, raising it up to 4 feet, 3 inches tall. Endemic to sub-Saharan Africa, this large bird of prey prefers open grasslands and savanna where it hunts on the ground, often stomping insects and small vertebrates for eating. After spending much of the day on the ground, it roosts in trees. The sexes appear similar. Adults have a featherless red-orange face and predominantly grey plumage, with a flattened dark crest and black flight feathers and thighs. Due to habitat destruction, the species is classed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The secretarybird appears on the coats of arms of Sudan and South Africa.

Amboseli National Park

was created in 1974 from a 1948 game reserve which was formerly a 1906 Maasai reserve. It’s now honored as a UNESCO “Man and the Biosphere Reserve.” Based on recommendations endorsed by UNESCO, Kenyan presidential directives in 2005 and 2023 transferred control of Amboseli National Park to the local Kajiado County Government, who will share park fees locally. The local people are mainly Maasai, plus others attracted by the tourist-driven economy and intensive agriculture along the system of swamps that makes this low-rainfall area a top wildlife-viewing experience.

A harmless cricket climbs on the mosquito netting protecting my bed at Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge, inside Amboseli National Park.

A vervet monkey (Chlorocebus pygerythrus) infant clings to its mother at Amboseli Serena Safari Lodge.

A herd closely protects this baby African bush elephant (Loxodonta africana) in Amboseli National Park.

A traffic jam of safari vehicles attempts to view a distant hidden cheetah in Kenya’s popular Amboseli National Park. Radio communication allows widely-dispersed drivers to gather at wildlife sightings. Luckily, we had already seen 3 cheetahs up close in Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Conservation Area on the Serengeti plains. Most African safari vehicles are Toyota Land Cruisers specially-converted with a pop top for game viewing.

Sunrise spotlights Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro topped with fresh snow, seen from Kenya’s Amboseli National Park. Kilimanjaro is the world’s highest single free-standing mountain above sea level — 19,354 feet (2014 measurement). It’s the highest mountain in Africa and the highest volcano in the Eastern Hemisphere.

Flamingos feed in a pond in Amboseli National Park.

A safari SUV is lit by sunrise in Amboseli National Park.

A troop of olive baboons claim a sign in Amboseli National Park, with Tanzania’s Mt. Kilimanjaro as a backdrop. Kilimanjaro’s rapidly shrinking glaciers and ice fields are projected to disappear by 2035.

The olive baboon (Papio anubis) is the most wide-ranging of all baboon species, being native to 25 countries throughout Africa, inhabiting savannahs, steppes, and forests. Most baboons live in hierarchical troops containing harems. During daylight hours, olive baboons roam actively on the ground, but from dusk to dawn they roost in trees or cliffs for overnight defense. Baboons are among the largest non-hominoid primates and have existed for at least two million years. All baboons have long, dog-like muzzles, heavy, powerful jaws with sharp canine teeth, close-set eyes, thick fur except on their muzzles, short tails, and nerveless, hairless pads of skin on their protruding buttocks called ischial callosities that provide comfort when sitting. Their omnivorous diet includes a variety of plants and animals. In turn, they are killed and eaten by leopards, lions, hyenas, and Nile crocodiles. Baboons live in the wild from 20 to 30 years — or up to 45 years in captivity.

Tsavo West National Park

The Nairobi-Mombasa A109 road and a railway divides Tsavo West National Park from the adjoining Tsavo East National Park. Together with adjoining ranches and protected areas, they comprise the Tsavo Conservation Area. Tsavo West is a more popular destination due to its magnificent scenery and the Mzima Springs, the rich and varied wildlife, a good road system, a rhino reserve, rock climbing potential, and guided walks along the Tsavo River. Tsavo remained the homeland for the Orma and Maasai pastoralists and Waata hunter-gatherers until 1948, when it was made a national park. Indigenous populations were relocated to Voi and Mtito Andei and other areas within the nearby Taita Hills. Following Kenyan independence in 1963, hunting was banned in the park and management of Tsavo was turned over to the authority that eventually became the Kenya Wildlife Service.

A rough road connects Amboseli National Park, with Tsavo West National Park, Taita-Taveta County, Kenya, East Africa.

Usually nesting in tree holes, the European or Eurasian roller (Coracias garrulus) is the only member of the roller family of birds to breed in Europe. Its overall range extends into the Middle East, Central Asia and Northwest Africa. This long-distance migrant winters in Southern Africa, primarily in dry wooded savanna and bushy plains. Some populations migrate to Africa via India.

African bush elephants
(Loxodonta africana) cross a road Tsavo West National Park. Unusual rains spurred an explosion of dense greenery, coated by morning glory vines and flowers, which were gobbled enthusiastically by a young elephant we saw in February 2024.

Sunrise spotlights Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro, seen across the border from Kilaguni Serena Safari Lodge in Tsavo West National Park in Kenya. Of its three volcanic cones, Mawenzi (16,890 ft in photo left or east) and Shira are extinct, while the tallest cone, Kibo (19,354 feet in photo right or west) last erupted 360,000 years ago and could erupt again.

Mt. Kilimanjaro is the world’s highest single free-standing mountain above sea level. It’s the highest mountain in Africa and the highest volcano in the Eastern Hemisphere. Its rapidly shrinking glaciers and ice fields may disappear by 2035.  In the 1880s, the mountain became a part of German East Africa and was called Kilima-Ndscharo in German. In 1889, Hans Meyer reached the highest summit on the crater ridge of Kibo and named it Kaiser-Wilhelm-Spitze (Kaiser Wilhelm peak). That name was used until Tanzania formed in 1964, when the summit was renamed Uhuru Peak, meaning “Freedom Peak” in Kiswahili.

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