A Taste of Heaven at Hell’s Gate
One thing I love and admire about Kenya is the highly developed tourism industry. The country has invested a lot in ensuring the growth and continuity of the industry. It comes as no surprise therefore, that there are so many places worth visiting and touring in Kenya, some of which we have previously written about, like the Nairobi National Park, the Giraffe Centre, Maasai Market and Ragia Falls just to mention a few. There is always something exquisite and worth remembering, with every trip or visit.
I recently had the chance to visit Hell’s Gate National Park in Naivasha and I had the time of my life. This is a place I would highly recommend, if you ever get to Kenya and are looking for somewhere with the best of Kenyan wildlife, natural scenery and historical caves at its best.
The Road Trip
The park is located in Naivasha, about 110km and a two-hour drive from Nairobi. It always feels good to get away from all the hustle and bustle of the city, and to drive through the cool and peaceful villages as you take in the beauty of the countryside. Nothing beats a good road trip with good company and great food. It is a great opportunity to bond. For such a trip, it is important to carry some snacks to eat along the way and lots of water, because it tends to get quite hot by late morning. Enroute to Naivasha there are great viewpoints, where you can look at the Great Rift Valley, stretching out far into the horizon. It is a fascinating sight.
Bike Rides to Different Parts of the Park
Entry into the park is about Kshs.400 (4 USD) for citizens, Kshs. 700 (7 USD) for residents and Kshs. 3000 (30 USD) for non-residents. Once you are in the park, you will notice that most attractions are quite a distance away from the entrance, over 10 kilometers. You can choose one of two options; either to have a drive-through to the attractions or cycle there. Where is the fun in driving quickly through when you can enjoy a nice bike ride out into the wild? Cycling is the better option because you can actually feel the cool breeze on your skin and feel completely engulfed into the beautiful scenery as you burn some calories. Talk about killing two birds with one stone!
The main path is covered by ashes from the eruption of Mount Longonot which occured 100 years ago. Consequently, you will need to ensure that the bike you hire is in good shape, with great tyres and working brakes. There are a number of circuits you could choose to go on while in the park, but we chose the Ol Njorowa Gorge one, which is the main attraction of the park.
The fascinating wildlife
I had never seen a giraffe until I got to Hell’s Gate, and I was dumb-founded when I did. Honestly, giraffes are underrated. She was so tall. Majestic. She just stood there looking at the hills as we cycled towards her. Then, just as we got close enough to take a picture, she started to run, going almost above my head. She was so gentle in her movement, fragile in a way that really captured my attention and blew me away.
At Hell’s Gate you get to understand why a collection of zebras is called a dazzle. They make quite the dazzling scene. There are so many of them all over the park. I learnt that zebras are not timid. Not in the very least. As you approach them they just raise their heads from the grass they are feeding on and stare. They just stare as you snap away and admire their beautiful black and white strips. There are also hyrax and buffaloes in plenty.
Beware of the monkeys though. The small ones are harmless and will probably scamper off the minute you take a step towards them. But the bigger ones will want a share of your drink or snack. Even your hat!
Water-gouged gorges and caves
Once you get to the end of the cycling/drive path, you finally get to Hell’s Gate Gorge, which is a series of caves and gorges which were created by all the steam and water activity. The gorges are so deep and beautiful. Did you know some parts of the movie Tomb Raider starring Angelina Jolie were shot in these gorges?
I would highly recommend that you get a tour guide to show you around the gorges, because it is easy to get lost and terribly difficult to know where to step and how to move around the rocky terrain. You will also need shoes with a good grip for this. Most of us wore casual shoes and we spent half the time trying to keep a steady balance so as not to fall over the slippery rocks, all through the 24 km long ravine. A tour guide would cost about Kshs.200 at least. It is important to note that these caves are prone to flash floods, so make sure to check with the Kenya Wildlife Service about the appropriate times to visit.
The HOT Springs
We were curious to know why the park was named Hell’s Gate, so our tour guide explained to us that the name originated from the intense geothermal activity within the famous gorge. A lot of geography is involved, but the general point that the geothermal activity results into hot water gushing out of rocks flowing down in a steady stream onto the gorge as it widens out. The water is so hot that it can actually boil eggs!
Breathtaking Viewpoint/ Fischer Tower
Fischer’s Tower is a 25-metre high volcanic plug that is great for first-time hikers. There is also beautiful view point which we made our way to and the view from up there was amazing!
When all the climbing and descending of rocks and cliffs is done, you have to pull yourself out of the gorge using a rope. It is a basic step-and-pull exercise that will have you channeling your inner Tarzan as you go up. The guides are there to hold your hand and help pull the rope in case you get stuck or are too tired.
So, after completely exploring of the 24-kilometre gorge, did we still cycle back to the entrance? That is the best part. If you feel too exhausted to cycle back like we were, you can leave the bikes wherever they are and jump into your car. They will be picked up by the park wardens. The park also offers camping packages if you plan on spending a few nights in the wild.
They say that you can always make money, but you can’t always make memories. Hell’s Gate would be the perfect place to make lasting memories with friends and family, as you cycle, rock-climb, camp, hike or bird-watch. Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more travel tips and stories!