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Amboseli National Park
Amboseli is a place of stark contrast. Meaning "salty dust" in maa, language of the Maasai. Amboseli, despite its sometimes dry and dusty appearance, has an endless water supply filtered through thousands of feet of volcanic rock from Kilimanjaro's ice cap. These underground streams converge into two clear water springs in the heart of the park. The endemic dust is volcanic ash which spewed from Kilimanjaro a millennium ago. During the dry seasons a curious feature is the shimmering dry lake bed where mirages of populated horizons, punctuated by real herds of zebra and gnu (wildebeest) hover in front of visitors. The principal attraction of Amboseli is its vast herds of elephant within the park. The bull elephants here have some of the largest tusks in Kenya. Plentiful game includes: zebra, wildebeest, giraffe, impala and leopard, caracal and serval cat can be seen. Birdwatchers can see pelicans, bee-eaters, kingfishers, African Fish Eagle, Martial Eagle and Pygmy Falcon.
Masai Mara National Reserve
The Masai Mara National Reserve was established in 1961 and was originally known as the Mara Game Reserve. It is approximately 1,812 sq km (700 sq miles) and its southern boundary is contiguous with Tanzania's Serengeti National Park. The reserve is divided into two sections, the inner reserve of 518 sq km (200 sq miles) and an outer area that remains undeveloped. The inside area is developed along the guidelines of a national park, where no human settlement is allowed. The outer area is undisturbed except for the grazing cattle of the local Maasai. The Mara is famous for its large herds of plains animals along with their associated predators. The largest populations of lions in Kenya can be found here. It is thought to be the only region left in Kenya where visitors may see animals in the same great numbers as existed a century ago. The area is a panoramic view of rolling plains, breathtaking vistas, acacia groves and dense scrub.
Samburu and Shaba Game Reserves
The Samburu Game Reserves are the most accessible of the Northern Frontier faunal sanctuaries. There are actually three reserves - - the Samburu Reserve, Buffalo Springs and Shaba Reserve. The Samburu Reserve covers 104 sq km (40 sq miles) on the northern bank of the Uaso Nyiro River, with a river frontage of 16 km (10 miles). Shaba Reserve covers approximately 130 sq km (50 sq miles) and borders the southern bank of the Uaso Nyiro River just east of the Buffalo Springs Reserve. This is a vast area that has changed very little over time. Permanent water is available from the 20 miles of river and ensures that an abundance of wildlife exists in the Reserves at all times. The main attractions are Reticulated Giraffe, Grevy's Zebra, Beisa Oryx, the blue-necked Somali Ostrich and crocodiles in the river. Elephant are plentiful and Black Rhinoceros, Lion, Leopard, Cheetah, Gerenuk, Buffalo and the two species of hyenas are to be seen.
Lake Naivasha is a fresh-water lake only 80 km (50 miles) from Nairobi and is a bird-watcher's paradise. It is also the most beautiful of Kenya's Rift Valley lakes with its fringing banks of feathery-headed papyrus, secluded lagoons and channels, blue water-lilies and the Crescent Island Wildlife Sanctuary. The bird life is both diverse and abundant. Just 13 km (8 miles) southeast of Lake Naivasha are the towering cliffs of Hell's Gate gorge where additional bird species can be found.
Lake Nakuru, the world-famous haunt of flamingos, is a shallow alkaline lake in Kenya's Rift Valley, some 62 sq km (24 sq miles) in extent, immediately south of Nakuru township. A tarmac highway connects Nairobi with Nakuru, the 156 km (97 mile) road link passing down the forested Kikuyu Escarpment with fine views over the Kedong Valley and Mounts Suswa and Longonot, then northwards past Lake Naivasha and Elmenteita. From Nakuru the route to the lake is well signposted. The landscape at Lake Nakuru is picturesque, areas of sedge, marsh and grasslands alternating with rocky cliffs and outcrops, stretches of yellow-barked acacia woodland and on the eastern perimeter rocky hillsides covered with a forest of grotesque-looking euphorbia trees - all set against a background of hilly, broken country.
Mount Kenya National Park
At 5,199 meters high, Mount Kenya is Africa's second highest mountain. It offers easy or challenging ascents with scenic beauty. According to Kikuyu folklore, it is the home of the Supreme Being: Ngai, a name also used by the Maasai and Kamba to describe God. In traditional prayers and sacrifices, Ngai is addressed by the Kikuyu as Mwene Nyaga: Possessor of Brightness. The name comes from Kere Nyaga the Kikuyu name for Mount Kenya, meaning Mountain of Brightness - Ngai's official home. Part of the mountain's fascination is the variation in flora, including Giant Groundsel and lobellia, and fauna as the altitude changes. The lower slopes are covered with dry upland forest, the true montane (mountain) forest begins at 2,000m is mainly cedar and podo. At 2,500m begins a dense belt of bamboo forest which merges into the upper forest of smaller trees, interspersed with glades. In this area the trees are festooned with high altitude lichen. These forest belts are host to many different animals and plants with at least 11 unique species. Game to view includes: Black and White Colobus and Sykes Monkeys, bushbuck, Rock Hyrax, buffalo, elephant and lower down Olive Baboon, waterbuck, Black Rhino, black fronted duikers, leopard, giant forest hog, genet cat, bushpig and hyena. More elusive is the bongo, a rare type of forest antelope. A number of other rare or endangered species can be found here: Suni Antelope, Mount Kenya Mole Rat, Skinks (lizard), Montane Viper and a variety of owls. Occasional sightings have been recorded of albino zebra.
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