Hell’s Gate National Park

Naivasha
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Things to do in Hell’s Gate National Park include rock climbing, cycling, hiking and game viewing. It is a magical place.

Fancy a Weekend Knocking on or Climbing Hell’s Gate? Visit the Hell’s Gate National Park

Kenya is a country with many blessings. And one of them is a great gash in the earth geologists dubbed ‘The Great Rift Valley‘ – a massive tear in the earth’s crust, starting from the Middle East (Northern Syria) and ending somewhere near Lake Malawi. Dotted with lakes, imposing geological formations and breathtaking vistas, the circuit is yet to disappoint anyone seeking the ultimate safari experience.

A few kilometres from Lake Naivasha, and only 2 hours away from Nairobi, is the Hell’s Gate National Park. It has become more popular because of its proximity to Nairobi. Christened by intrepid explores Fischer and Thomson in 1883 and described by The Daily Nation as ‘thrilling’, Hells Gate is one of only two parks in Kenya where you can watch Thomson’s gazelles prancing around from your motorbike, bicycle or on foot- that’s right, you can leave your car at the gate.

Hell’s gate is very popular for its unique geographical features. So popular, in fact, those scenes from the last Angelina Jolie Tomb Raider flick were shot there. Neighbouring Mount Longonot last erupted in the early 1900s, leaving natural steam vents rising from the fissures left in the volcanic rock and obsidian (a shiny rock formed when molten lava cools). The area boasts springs and mud pools so hot that the Olkaria Geothermal Station was established in 1981, the first of its kind in Africa.

Electricity production aside, local guides delight in boiling eggs and maize for tourists as a practical demonstration of just how hot the water is. Be careful where you step too because some of the mud pools are remarkably hot. There are two extinct volcanoes within the park- Holbeys (where you can climb to the top and take a steaming, communal geyser bath) and Olkaria.

Hell’s Gate National Park owes its name to ”Hell’s Kitchen”, which is a natural break in the cliffs, and was a tributary to a lake that fed prehistoric rift valley dwellers. It is advisable to follow the crack in the earth with a local guide, as the path seems impossible to the common eye.

A short walk through some nondescript shrubbery descends into a fascinating trek down into the bowels of the earth- a slippery, otherworldly and gorgeous trail cut by the tributary. Considerable parts of the walk consist of wading through streams with some slippery rocks for footholds, but your guide will be able to keep you safe. If it is early in the day, you can explore several caves hewn out of rock by water movement. These caves were essential to Mau Mau fighters during the fight for independence in the 1950s and 1960s.

Apart from steaming fissures and mud pools, Hells Gate’s is a treat for ornithologists, with at least 103 species of birds. But the greatest treasure is the cliffs, which are nesting ground for birds of prey- including the rare Lammergeyer eagles, Verreaux’s Eagles, Augur Buzzards, and several species of swifts.

The park is home to the African Rock Hyrax, Klipspringer antelope and Chandler’s Mountain reedbuck; some species that most Kenyans are unaware exist in this park. The African buffalo, zebra, eland, hartebeest and your ubiquitous Thomson’s Gazelles graze in the park’s large, grassy stretches. Lunch stealing baboons abound, and the occasional ostrich and cheetah can be spotted.

Adventurous hikers can take a shot at Fischer’s towers, formed after the volcanic eruption. For fantastic, panoramic views of the area, Central Tower and Njorwa gorge do not disappoint.

Close to the Central Tower Ranger station is the Ol Karia Maasai cultural centre, a communal imitative by the local Maasai community, that showcases Maasai culture, including dancing, cultural artefacts and jewellery. Hell’s gate is great for Rock Climbing, Abseiling and Hiking – a great outdoor adventure.

If you are planning on spending the night, there are excellent hotels in nearby Naivasha including Lake Naivasha Country Club and Lake Naivasha Sopa. There are also three campsites to choose from, all with basic amenities. (Oldubai, Endchata and Nairburta) Standard KWS rates apply- Ksh 150 per night to pitch tent. Another popular option is to stay at the Crayfish camp, on Moi South lake road, about 18 kilometres from Naivasha town. One night with your own tent is Kshs 500 while for Ksh 1 000 you get a tent and bedding. It also has a restaurant and two bars. To book your descent into hell, visit Journey Kenya for the ultimate travel experience.

Park Fees:

Kenyan citizens: Kshs 200 for adults and Kshs 100 for children and students.

Non-Residents: USD 25 for adults and USD 10 for children and students.

Residents: Kshs 500 for adults and Kshs 250 for children and students.

Map of Hell’s Gate National Park

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