The image of elephants wandering across grass plains with the snowy peak of Mt Kilimanjaro in the background is one known even to armchair travellers. This epitomises Amboseli National Park and highlights the stark contrasts Africa has to offer.
In Amboseli's case it is big skies and far horizons combined with swampy springs and dry and dusty earth trammelled by hundreds of animals. 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. 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.
Amboseli's dust is ancient volcanic ash, whose salt crystals shimmer on the surface of the parched lakebed during the dry season. This creates hazy mirages which make you question just what is real. Surrounding Amboseli are ranch areas where the Maasai share the land with the wildlife. Wild animals tends to avoid the village areas as it there are far too many people and the grazing has already been eaten by the Maasai's all-important cattle.