We saw giraffes all throughout our time in Kenya and Tanzania, but our first encounters with them was in Amboseli National Park. Many of the giraffes that we saw weren’t actually in the parks themselves but outside of the parks where there were often more trees. Due to delays in our flight to Nairobi, we ended up getting to Amboseli at dusk and we ended up seeing our first giraffe with the sun setting behind the acacia trees. We were completely exhausted from being up for 48 hours, so we didn’t pull out our camera and capture the image. We did, however, have our guide, David, take us back out to the trees that surrounded our camp at sunset the following night in order to try and recreate the experience. We were lucky enough to see a family of giraffes amongst the trees as we watched an incredible sunset, one of many that we would end up seeing.
We’re sure that we drove our guide crazy as we had him move our Land Cruiser to different spots around the many giraffes that were enjoying a late dinner in order to catch them in different lighting and angles. At this point of our trip, we had no idea how many giraffes we would ultimately end up seeing, but the experience of watching the young giraffes with the sun setting in the background was certainly a highlight. We even got a photograph of a giraffe at sunrise on the following morning, which only added to our memories of Amboseli. Wherever we saw giraffes, it was clear that they kept a watchful eye on us to make sure that we didn’t move towards them, but that just gave us the opportunity to make eye-contact with them. It certainly made us wonder what they were thinking about us as we stood in our vehicle taking pictures of them.
We arrived in Nairobi about 15 hours later than we were originally scheduled to due to a variety of cancellations and flight changes. So, instead of arriving Sunday evening and getting a night of sleep before starting our safari, we contacted our guides, Perminus and David, and had them meet us at the airport to take us straight to our lodge at Amboseli National Park. Since we had been awake for over 48 hours at this point, we couldn’t have been blamed for drifting in and out of consciousness during the drive from Nairobi to the park. Since we didn’t leave Nairobi until early afternoon, it was near sunset when we approached the Zebra Plains Amboseli Camp where were to stay two nights. As we got close to the camp, animals could already be seen along the road, especially some wonderful views of giraffes as the sun set behind them. This would be the last time that we would not have cameras at the ready to capture every possible image, but we did take a few photos as we drove toward the camp.
As we checked into to our tent at the camp, we were informed that we must always be escorted by one of the camp staff and Maasai warrior guards if we were to leave our tent after dark. This would be true at almost every place we stayed during our safari and it became very evident as to why on our very first night as we heard an elephant trumpet near our tent and even heard a hyena on the porch of the tent. Although we were up early every day and stayed out until dusk, we really enjoyed the places that we stayed. Our days always started with some wonderful African coffee and a warm and hearty breakfast. The lodges also provided us with box lunches to take along as we spent the day driving throughout the parks.
Amboseli National Park is one of the smaller parks that we visited, but we literally seemed to come across different wildlife around every turn. The park is known for the elephants, hence the nickname “the Land of the Giants”, which are not only large, but also have some of the largest tusks that we would see on the safari. It was also the place where we would have our up-close interactions with the elephants and even had a playful baby elephant lift his trunk and try to smell us. We understand that the park can get quite busy because it is close to Nairobi, but due to the pandemic, there were not many other tourists or other Land Cruisers (the “official” vehicle of safaris) around us as we traversed the park.
In addition to the many different encounters with the elephants, we also saw hundreds of giraffes, zebras, and wildebeest. Amboseli would also provide us our first opportunities to see lions, of which we saw several times during our day and a half in the park. We also saw many different birds in the park including the ostriches, African Crowned Crane, pelicans, flamingos (which there are two types known as the lesser and greater), and hamerkop (also known as the hammerhead). As the sun set after our first full day on safari, we asked our guide, David, to drive us back to the area around the lodge where we had seen the giraffes at sunset the previous night. We wanted to capture them with the camera since we didn’t pull it out during the drive to Amboseli.
By the time that our first day and a half was over, we had seen three of the Big Five, elephants, water buffaloes, and lions, just leaving rhinos and leopards to be seen later. It truly was an incredible start to our safari as we so many different animals and we especially enjoyed seeing some of the baby animals. It was also mating season, which was quite interesting as well. On the second day, we drove through Amboseli National Park to see many more animals before making our way to the border of Kenya and Tanzania to continue south on our safari. The full safari is a giant loop that starts south, then heads west, and eventually goes north and finally back east. We can certainly understand why people might make this one of their only destinations on safari, but we would recommending extending it through the many other national parks as we did.