Hell’s Gate National Park is a tiny park located between Lake Naivasha, Mount Longonot and Suswa Volcanoes. The park covers an area of 68.25 square km which mainly comprises of savannah ecosystem that inhabits a wide variety of wildlife, unusual flora and many species of birds. Hell’s Gate National Park is characterized by diverse topography and geological scenery. It’s an important home of the lammergeyer. The park has two gates that are used by visitors – the main one is Elsa Gate and the other is the Olkaria Gate. Covered by ashes from the Mount Longonot eruption which occured 100 years ago, the park is famous for its geothermal station, Lower Gorge and spectacular sceneries (cliffs, volcanoes, gorges, geothermal steam).The Olkaria Gate serves the Olkaria Geothermal Station.
Despite its name “Hell’s Gate” given by the explorers Fisher and Thomson in 1883 after their defeat against the hostile Maasai warriors, the park is a peaceful area where climbing, walking and biking are allowed. The park is an ideal getaway place en-route to Lake Nakuru National Park or the Maasai Mara Game Reserve. Visitors here have the choice of driving while game viewing, camping, cycling and rock climbing. Also the park has very good and well equipped camping sites and there is a large choice of accommodation around Lake Naivasha which is one of the largest freshwater lake of Kenya and being close to Nairobi. The lake offers lot of attractions such as the Crater Lake, the Crescent Island and other sport activities.
At only an hour’s drive from Nairobi, Lake Naivasha and Hell’s Gate National Park are great places to forget the Nairobi urban life or you can travel from wherever your home is and do some sport activities such as hiking, walking, biking and/or game viewing. It’s also a popular weekend retreat for the local and international tourists.
Major attractions of Hell’s Gate National Park.
Wildlife: The grassy plains guarded by the towering cliffs are safe places to walk alongside you will see giraffe, eland, hartebeest, buffalo, gazelles, antelopes, small troops of klipspringer and rock hyrax. Lion, leopard and cheetah are very rare. The park counts 103 species of birds and the cliffs are home and nesting places for birds, which are abundant at Lake Naivasha.
Fischer Tower; These 25 meters (75 ft) high rocky tower formed by semi-molten rock forced to a fissure, cooling and solidifying as it extruded is located near the main entrance of the park. Both the Fischer’s tower and the Central tower were formed the same way at the same time. Picnic site available and for climbers, climbing the tower is great fun.
Central Tower: This rocky tower is much larger than the Fischer’s Tower. The Central tower is hardly seen along the road, it can be viewed from very far along the Buffalo Circuit.
Obsidian Caves : The Obsidian caves-and its distinctive black glass-like obsidian rock are located on the Buffalo Circuit and have a track that take you to a lookout over the near Fisher Tower and Kedong plains around the Mt Longonot. Obsidian is the result of rapid cooling of molten volcanic lava coming in contact with water while being poured into a lake or ocean. This resulting to the glassy texture of the rock. Iron and magnesium give the obsidian a dark green to black color. Obsidian can contain small air bubbles that are aligned along layers. These bubbles can produce interesting effects such as a golden sheen. Picnic site is available.
Ol Karia Geothermal Project : Standing over the lava flow of the Ol Karia extinct volcano, is exploiting the super-heated steam locked 1,500 meters (4,500 ft) below surface (one of the hottest sources of the world) and is providing 25 % of Kenyan’s electricity from its giant turbines. From the geothermal station, you can continue up to the Ol Karia Gate exit which emerge in the flower farms near the lake or you can continue the circuit to admire steam vents and recent lava flows around the Ol Karia and Hobley’s mounts.
Lower Gorge/Ol Njorowa Gorge: The Lower Gorge is the main attraction of the Park. Picnic sites, toilets, refreshment and local guides are available at the main parking. From this point, you can walk up to the Central Tower or go down to the Lower Gorge-slightly steep. Walking in the gorge is an amazing experience as you will see during the expedition water eroded walls, so narrow that they almost block out the sky, several hot and cold waterfalls, hot water springs and colorful strata and rock formations. The place is also popular for film production as the Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life, King Solomon’s Mines and Mountains of the Moon used the gorge as backdrop of their movie.
Hell’s Gate Cliffs: These spectacular towering cliffs were formed by columnar basalt. The best time to drive within the cliffs is late in the afternoon as the game comes out of cover and you may see herds of buffalo and eland drinking at the waterholes and hundreds of birds flying and nesting in the rocky walls. The large white droppings on the rocky cliffs indicate nests of vulture. The Naiburta or Ol Dubai campsites offer splendid views across the cliffs and the waterholes.
How to get there
By Road: Hell’s Gate National Park is accessible by either of the two roads we have, the “truck” road which go down along the escarpment and continue towards Narok or Uplands road which continue towards Nakuru. Its approximately 100kms from Nairobi.
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