Klaserie River Sands

The elephants of Amboseli

This year, the safari gods blessed me with the chance to visit Porini Amboseli in the Selenkay Conservancy, which shares unfenced borders with Kenya’s 392km² Amboseli National Park.

A luxury tent at Porini Amboseli ©David Winch

A luxury tent at Porini Amboseli ©David Winch

Just a four-hour drive from the vibrant capital of Nairobi, the dusty plains of Amboseli lie 1,150 metres above sea level and are home to over 50 mammals, including one of the most notable elephant populations in Africa. The backdrop of Mount Kilimanjaro does not just serve to provide a spectacular setting, but the water from the volcanic formation of Africa’s tallest mountain also sustains the park’s ecosystem.

A coffee break with a view of Mt Kilimanjaro ©David Winch

A coffee break with a view of Mt Kilimanjaro ©David Winch

The secluded Porini Amboseli Camp offered us the best of both safari worlds – not only could we watch from tarred roads as herds and herds of elephants wandered majestically to the marshy swamplands of the national park, but we could also get off-road in the more arid landscape of the Selenkay Conservancy where we chanced upon lone tuskers lurking inconspicuously in the bushes near camp.

A baby elephant crosses the road with its mum and dad in Amboseli ©David Winch

A baby elephant crosses the road with its mum and dad in Amboseli ©David Winch

An elephant surprises us near Porini Amboseli in Selenkay Conservancy ©David Winch

An elephant surprises us near Porini Amboseli in Selenkay Conservancy ©David Winch

Amboseli became a UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve in 1991 and is home to a few major league celebrities like the incredible elephant Tim, who has unwittingly become a world ambassador in the fight to protect big tuskers. And protecting tuskers is the park’s main focus thanks to the Amboseli Trust for Elephants, which aims to ensure the long-term welfare of Africa’s beloved pachyderms.

An elephant family in Amboseli National Park ©David Winch

An elephant family in Amboseli National Park ©David Winch

The trust’s main research arm, the Amboseli Elephant Research Project, began in 1972 when there were only 800 elephants in the park, and the programme has significantly altered the way elephant populations are considered and conserved. Thanks to good management and protection, the pachyderm population grew significantly over the course of the following three decades, so that by 2008 there was a healthy total of 1,600 elephants that could call the park their home. Since then drought has sadly killed more than 300 families but the park has still managed to maintain a population of about 1,200 elephants, which is no mean feat considering the current poaching crisis.

A herd of elephants wanders past in Amboseli National Park ©David Winch

A herd of elephants wanders past in Amboseli National Park ©David Winch

After spending three days watching some of these gentle giants go about their business with their families, I appreciate more than ever that they are sentient, intelligent and socially complex animals worthy of our respect and protection at all costs. And here are just a few things that make them so extraordinary.

Did you know?

– All they want for Christmas is their two front teeth. Elephants live to about 60 years of age and have about six sets of teeth during this lifespan. They eventually pass away from not being able to get enough sustenance without teeth to chew their food properly.

– Girls rule and boys drool. Male elephants get kicked out of the herd when they’re about 12 years old.

– Mother’s Day celebrations are in order. Elephants have a 22-month pregnancy, which is the longest incubation period of any mammal.

– They can give Usain Bolt a run for his money. Elephants can reach speeds of up to 30km/hour, which is not that far behind world record holder, Usain Bolt, who has hit the 48km/hour mark.

– A fifth leg. An elephant penis can weigh up to 27kg. No further comment required.

An elephant-astic experience in Amboseli ©David Winch

Prepare for an elephant-astic experience in Amboseli ©David Winch



Mei Capes
About

Travel junkie and cappuccino lover; a francophile trying to find her feet and the beauty in the world. Starting in Africa.

Africa Geographic