In Amboseli, demystifying a park's inexplicable charm with information panels

IFAW staffer reads a panel at the Amboseli Park Airstrip.Visitors to Amboseli National Park react differently, depending on the time of day or year that they tour - and with good reason.

Amboseli could either be hot and dry, with astounding dust storms that leaves one wondering if there’s more to it than the dusty plains. On another visit, you may find it green and chilly, with most of the elephants absent having gone to forage in the neighbouring community lands.

On a good day, Mt Kilimanjaro - the snow-capped, life-giving mountain for millions of people and wildlife in Kenya and Tanzania - towers majestically in the sky.

On other days, it is grey, gloomy and shrouded.

One of the panels at Noomotio Observation Hill in Amboseli.During the dry seasons, you can drive through Lake Amboseli. But when it rains, it fills up for a couple of weeks, and, on rare occasions, attracts the colourful lesser flamingo.

But one thing that remains constant is Amboseli’s mystical and inexplicable charm, never ceasing to amaze even those who have lived here for decades.

This is one of the reasons that the International Fund for Animal Welfare and Kenya Wildlife Service partnered to produce information panels that would interpret some of the phenomena in the Park and larger area for the visitors, and enhance their experience.

Information about Amboseli can fill a library but this can only be constructive if it is shared widely through the Internet, books, information centres and, of course, panels.

Written in friendly, captivating prose and ethno-based graphics, the panels unveil Amboseli’s factual tidbits yet retain a sincere tone and appeal for everyone to safeguard the ecosystem. There are interesting anecdotes and gentle reminders of what to do and what not to while in the area. 

The panels detail the history of the area, geology, Mt Kilimanjaro, the wetlands and key wildlife such as the elephant, hyena, lion, baboons, and bird life.

Park visitors pose with panels after reading them.A good number of the panels have been set aside to inform visitors about the local Maasai community and their indisputable critical bond and role in the ecosystem, Amboseli as a Man & Biosphere Reserve, and the role of all stakeholders, including visitors, in ensuring that their actions in this fragile area do not lead to its destruction.   

With a lifespan of at least ten years - if well maintained - the panels have been installed using local materials that will withstand the harsh and erratic weather conditions in the area.

Amboseli remains a treasure trove, not only for those who live and work in the area, but - like many rich and fragile ecosystems - for all of mankind.

A quote by unknown person used in the panels captures the very essence of Amboseli: Teach your children what we have taught our children, that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves.

Indeed, for many, Amboseli is our mother. It must not be lost.

- EW

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