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The Elephants of Amboseli National Park, Kenya

elephant kenya amboseli africa klilmanjaro

When I visited Amboseli National Park in southern Kenya, I had only been on one game drive and was excited at the prospect of multiple trips in the safari car over a few days. With Mt. Kilimanjaro in the background and the promise of herds of elephants and excellent bird life, I was prepared to photograph until my index finger turned numb. But I had to pull back from the camera’s viewfinder quite often just to admire the elephants in silence. Here’s what I captured when not in awe of these massive creatures.

Amboseli National Park is located on the Kenya-Tanzania border and offers incredible views of Mt. Kilimanjaro when the clouds bare the peak. Hundreds of elephants call Amboseli home and a game drive will typically yield at least a dozen of the large mammals. The first ones we spotted were wading through some seasonal wetlands and towards the safari car. As they neared firmer land, their movements were smooth – I had always imagined the sounds of elephants to be thunderous, but they are in fact remarkably graceful.

elephant kenya amboseli africa klilmanjaro

elephant kenya amboseli africa klilmanjaro

elephant kenya amboseli africa klilmanjaro

While we watched in silence – excepting shutter clicks – a calf nursed. A grown elephant lingered in the swamp with a bird friend on its back. The elephants of Amboseli seem accustomed to the vehicles (or indifferent to them), which permitted some close-up shots.

elephant kenya amboseli africa klilmanjaro

elephant kenya amboseli africa klilmanjaro

elephant kenya amboseli africa klilmanjaro

elephant kenya amboseli africa klilmanjaro

As if directed, the elephants moved towards Mt. Kilimanjaro, providing a memorable image. The sight is one that will never leave me (because…I have a photograph of it) and is the type of experience that has one wishing for a permanent safari.

elephant kenya amboseli africa klilmanjaro

When walking across the drier portions of the savanna, a herd presents another fun shot with an acacia tree looming in the backdrop. Where are these elephants headed? At the time, they were most interested in bathing themselves then grabbing a drink in the water off the road.

elephant kenya amboseli africa klilmanjaro

elephant kenya amboseli africa klilmanjaro

elephant kenya amboseli africa klilmanjaro

elephant kenya amboseli africa klilmanjaro

My favorite part of the game drives at Amboseli was a close encounter with one of the larger elephants. The tusks on the male below were impressive and he was alone near the track. At a point, he decided to walk past the stationary safari car. The elephant stopped when parallel with us and less than thirty feet away. Before he moved again, I snapped a few enduring shots of this otherworldly being.

elephant kenya amboseli africa klilmanjaro

elephant kenya amboseli africa klilmanjaro

elephant kenya amboseli africa klilmanjaro

Planning a stay in Amboseli National Park? Be sure to read my review of Ol Tukai Lodge before you book!

{ 17 comments… add one }
  • One Modern Couple December 2, 2014, 5:24 pm

    Elephants are amazing creatures! You’re so lucky to see so many! When we head that way we will for sure check out your review on Ol Tukai Lodge! Thanks for the great post!
    One Modern Couple recently posted…Where We Found the Best Japanese Food in ThailandMy Profile

    • Dave December 5, 2014, 3:10 pm

      Thanks for stopping by! Amboseli is one of my favorite places I’ve visited, I’m sure you’ll love it.

  • Francesca (@WorkMomTravels) December 2, 2014, 5:56 pm

    These photos are stunning! I have fond memories (and many photos) of observing elephants when I was on safari. They truly are graceful, and even a bit intimidating. One came super close to our vehicle, too, and it made me slightly nervous :-)
    Francesca (@WorkMomTravels) recently posted…History and sophistication at Amway Grand Plaza Hotel – Grand Rapids, MichiganMy Profile

    • Dave December 2, 2014, 6:44 pm

      Thanks, Francesca! It really is a surreal feeling having everything so close and free. Our driver definitely started backing up at one point when one of the rogue males got a little close.

  • Christina December 2, 2014, 5:59 pm

    Beautiful pictures. This is one of my dreams. Hiking up Mt. Kilimanjaro and afterwards spending some time watching the wildlife. Not sure if I could do the first but definitely watching the elephants and the wildlife in the Amboseli National Park.
    Christina recently posted…The Best Christmas Markets in Salzburg, AustriaMy Profile

    • Dave December 5, 2014, 3:11 pm

      I still need to climb Kili, but I’ll be in East Africa for a while. It’s one of the more manageable highest continental peaks, so I think you should go for it!

  • Kaspars Misins December 2, 2014, 11:07 pm

    Awesome! I usually don’t go to anything with animals because usually it means, that they are locked, they are cages or someone beats them, so you can get better selfie. But there they are FREE! That’s cool to see animals in the wild. Btw, what camera are you using?
    Kaspars Misins recently posted…Crossing Americas. Story of Peter, Dace and AstridMy Profile

    • Dave December 5, 2014, 3:13 pm

      Hi Kaspars – thanks for stopping by and I’m glad you enjoyed the photos. I took these using a Nikon D3200 and most of them were captured at a focal point between 100-200mm.

  • Nathan Anderson December 3, 2014, 11:23 am

    Wow, these pictures are incredible! I don’t know if I can even narrow them down to a Top 3. Nice work on the shots! I spent an afternoon with Asian elephants in Thailand, and I can’t even imagine what it must’ve been like to see some African elephants roaming the wild. I really need to get over there and check it out. Thanks for sharing!
    Nathan Anderson recently posted…Seattle Peace Park in TashkentMy Profile

    • Dave December 5, 2014, 3:14 pm

      You’d love it, Nathan – seeing them roam around with so much space is pretty special. Hope you can make it soon!

  • Casey O'Connell December 4, 2014, 5:46 am

    Wow- these pictures capture so much detail- right up to the wrinkles on the elephants bodies! I find the black and white picture to be especially poignant. I really enjoyed these seeing pictures of elephants in the wild; living here in Thailand and seeing elephants led around by bullhooks and perform shows on concrete all day gets quite discouraging. They are such beautiful, graceful creatures.

    • Dave December 5, 2014, 3:15 pm

      Hi Casey – I’ve heard about the treatment of elephants in some spots in Asia like you mentioned – so sad. I’m happy that you enjoyed the photos!

  • Franca December 4, 2014, 4:47 pm

    What an amazing experience, I only saw elephants in Thailand and not into the wild, they were in a Nature Park where there was no riding or anything like that but still not in their own habitat. I love the fact that at some point all you could hear was just them and that you were able to watch them from far away without disturbing and interfering at all.
    Franca recently posted…How To Travel Long Term On A BudgetMy Profile

    • Dave December 5, 2014, 3:17 pm

      Thanks for stopping by, Franca! I haven’t seen any of the Asian elephants yet (or Asia, for that matter), but hope to get there soon. I’ll certainly be supporting any place that does its part for preservation without being cruel to the animals.

  • Kristen Sarra December 5, 2014, 7:41 pm

    Your pictures are wonderful and the elephants look so full of personality! I would love to go on a safari but haven’t had that pleasure yet. It would be great to see them in their natural habitat.
    Kristen Sarra recently posted…Lies My Travels Told Me – Luwak Coffee, BaliMy Profile

  • Charles McCool December 6, 2014, 1:09 am

    Remarkable photographs.
    Charles McCool recently posted…5 Minutes With Pola HendersonMy Profile

  • Anne Klien ( MeAnne) December 6, 2014, 1:06 pm

    Those photos convinced me more to go to safaris… its been on my list for along time . Hopefully soon :) Those impressive gigantic creatures their such a beauty 😉
    Anne Klien ( MeAnne) recently posted…Manchester: Markets & ConcertMy Profile

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