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Amboseli National Park, formerly Maasai Amboseli Game Reserve, is located at the foot of the Mount Kilimanjaro in the Rift Valley Province in Kenya.

The park is 392 km2 , spreading across the Kenya-Tanzania border. The local people are mainly Masai, but people from other parts of the country have settled there attracted by the successful tourist-driven economy and intensive agriculture along the system of swamps. That makes this low-rainfall area one of the best wildlife-viewing experiences in the world with 400 species of birds including water birds, pelicans, kingfishers, crakes, hammerkops and 47 types of raptor.

In 1883, Joseph Thompson was the first European to penetrate the feared Maasai region known as Empusel (meaning 'salty, dusty place' in Maa). He, too, was astonished by the fantastic array of wildlife and the contrast between the arid areas of the dry-lake bed and the oasis of the swamps, a contrast that persists today.

Amboseli was set aside as the 'Southern Reserve' for Maasai in 1906 but returned to local control as a Game Reserve in 1948. Gazetted a National Park in 1974 in order to protect the core this unique ecosystem, it was declared a UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Reserve in 1991.

The Masai are a Nilotic ethnic group of semi-nomadic people located in Kenya and northern Tanzania. They are among the most well known of African ethnic groups, due to their distinctive customs and dress and residence near the many game parks of East Africa. They speak Maa, a member of the Nilo-Saharan language family, and are also educated in the official languages of Kenya and Tanzania: Swahili and English. The Masai population has reported as numbering 840,000 in Kenya in the 2009 census.

The Tanzanian and Kenyan governments have instituted programs to encourage the Masai to abandon their traditional semi-nomadic lifestyle, but the people have continued their age-old customs. Recently, Oxfam has claimed that the lifestyle of the Maasai should be embraced as a response to climate change because of their ability to farm in deserts and scrublands. Many Maasai tribes throughout Tanzania and Kenya welcome visits to their village to experience their culture, traditions, and lifestyle.

Sources: Amboseli , Masai

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Additional Photos by Erdem Kutukoglu (Suppiluliuma) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 266 W: 105 N: 604] (3931)
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