Small enough to explore easily in two or three game drives over a couple of days, Amboseli is mostly open country with good visibility. A good first stop is Observation Hill. Early in the morning, with Kilimanjaro a pervasive sky-filler to the south, the swamps of Enkongo Narok, replenished underground from the mountain top, are looped out in a brilliant emerald sash beneath. You can get out and walk around up here, and chat with the rangers posted on-site.
There’s always a concentration of animals around the swamps and along the driveable tracks which follow their fringes. These marshes are permanent enough to keep hippos in Amboseli all year, and the park is also home to hundreds of elephant and buffalo and a raucous profusion of birdlife. Lake Kioko, between Lake Amboseli and Ol Tukai – most easily seen along the track between junctions #21 and #26 – is a particularly worthwhile oasis, and similarly Olokenya swamp, with its seasonal lakes north and east of Ol Tukai, is always worth slow exploration.
Lions are quite rare, but cheetahs are seen fairly frequently in the woods a little further south, and there are often dozens of giraffe among the acacias. Look out, too, for the beautifully formed, rapier-horned fringe-eared oryx antelope, and for gerenuk, stretching their long necks up to forage in the trees.
The open plains are scoured by zebra and haphazard, solitary wildebeest. The two species are often seen together – a good deal from the zebras’ point of view because in a surprise attack the predator usually ends up with the less fleet-footed wildebeest. There are tail-flicking gazelle out here, too, of both species: the open country provides good protection against cheetah ambushes.