Hells Gate National Park Kenya
Hells Gate National Park is one of the Marvels of the rift valley. The park covers an area of about 68.25 square kilometers and is located in Naivasha, about a 2 hours’ drive from Nairobi.
Baptized Hells Gate by Explorers Fischers and Thomson in 1883, the park was officially established and opened in February 1884. It is one of the most visited parks in Kenya and one of the two national parks where walking and cycling safaris can be done without the escort of a ranger. This factor makes it a convenient gate away for an excursion.
This African park was the inspiration of some of the most popular Hollywood movies; The Lion King Movie together with Tomb Raider movie acted in the gorge found in the park. The national park also surrounds four geothermal power generating plants in Olkaria, supplying about 50% of the electricity of Kenya making it the 7th largest producer of geothermal energy in the world. Hells Gate is popular with mountain bikes, rock climbing, and those who love bird watching.
Main Activities in Hells Gate National Park
There is a wide variety of wildlife in the national park. These include Grant’s and Thomson’s gazelle, zebra, lion, giraffe, African buffalo, klipspringer antelope, and warthog. These can be seen during the game drive or still during your walking and cycling safari in the park. Lions and Cheetahs are also more heard than seen here.
Hells Gate National Park remains one of the key birding areas with abundant unique savannah bird species. Amongst them are the rare Mottled Swift and more bird species like Sharpe’s Claw, Shelly’s Rufous Sparrow, White-crested turacco, Northern-white Crowned Shrike. The park itself remains a central figure for the parallactic migrants like European bee-eater, Common Buzzard, Whinchat, Siberian Stonechat, Isabelline Wheatear. The same park inhabits Intra-Afro migrants like Abdim’s Stork, Southern Pochard. On a lucky day, you can tick off about between 70-130 bird species although it’s believed that the park has a record of 165 bird species including the rare Boran Cisticola.
Due to the rarity of very aggressive wildlife species such as the lion and cheetahs, the park is quite safe for camping so long as you correctly follow all the camping and park protocols put in place by Kenya Wildlife Services as well as the park’s management. The park has three main campsites where most of the visitors prefer to sleep at. These are; Ol Dubai, Naiburta and Endachata. Several other campsites are found within the park where you can have an overnight.
Hells Gate National Park is one of the only two parks in Kenya where Mountain biking is safe alongside baboons, zebras, buffalos, and many other animals in the park.
This very rewarding activity brings you up close to the array of wildlife in this magnificent protected area. Bikes can be hired at the park entrance.
Hiking the narrow but scenic gorge gives access to the various sections of the gorge which are; devils’ bedroom because of the so many shafts there which look like a bed, devils shower with water flowing from a narrow outlet. The water when used to shower is believed to have medicinal uses such as treating skin diseases, the Hell’s kitchen section is believed to be a place where the devil prepares his food. The kitchen has a small hot spring where one can boil eggs from and devils mouth.
- Rock Climbing
This is one of the unique activities to engage in while in the park. Climbers can ascend the pointy rock formation called Fischer’s tower, 75 foot-high (25meters) and named after a German Explorer Dr. Gustav Fischer who was sent to find a route from Mombasa to Lake Victoria. This place is recommended for beginner-level climbers. The second rock formation, the Central tower also locally referred to as “Embarta” in the Maasai language is much larger than Fischer’s tower and only experienced climbers are advised to scale it. These volcanic plugs of hard igneous were formed at the same time when semi-molten rock was forced into a fissure, cooling and solidifying as it extruded. However, a Maasai community folktale claims the rock tower is a petrified figure of a Maasai girl who turned into a stone after disobeying her family before her wedding.
A visit to the geothermal health spa is a much-needed one and truly relaxing after a strenuous day adventuring in the park. The spa has three cascaded lagoons, the first one serving as receiving pond for hot brine of 90 degrees gathered from the different wells in the geothermal field. The second lagoon is an overflow from the first, designed in an aesthetic manner, and has both shallow and deep ends. It’s a little bit cooler than the first with a temperature of about 50 degrees.
The third lagoon is the largest. It contains warm water and can take up to about 400 people. The lagoon also has an extension of a children’s pool where children as young as 3 years can enjoy the warm bath under the care of lifesavers as their parents relax in other pools. The health spa offers a bouquet of adventures like bathing for balneological effects, steam, and sauna bathing with a spice of comfort, luxury, and true African hospitality.
When to visit Hells Gate National Park
The dry season, (June to October) is the best time to go wildlife viewing as the animals are easily seen in the thinned out-bush. Due to the little rain in this season, more outdoor activities such as cycling and rock climbing are less interrupted. Visitors coming for bird watching can best enjoy their experience between November and April when migratory birds from Europe and North America are present.
How to get to Hells Gate National Park
By road, visitors coming to Hells Gate National Park can drive through the Nairobi-Naivasha road (approximately 90km) and access the park through Elsa Gate.
By air, you can fly to Naivasha airstrip and a short drive will lead you to the park
Where to stay at Hells Gate National Park
Even though Hells Gate National Park is common with day visits, visitors coming for a longer stay can sleep in the several accommodation facilities in the park to choose from. Some of them include Lake Naivasha Sopa Lodge, Naivasha Kongoni Lodge, Fish Eagle Inn and Campsite, Elsamere Lodge, Simba Lodge, Enashipai Resort located about 12km from the park entrance and Camp Carnelley’s.