Camping At Hell’s Gate – Suits, Spas & Sceneries

Remember when you finished primary school and your dad took you to the hottest tailor in town to buy you your first suit and you felt the warm glow of his pride? You wore it for ‘luck’ to pick up your exam results only to find you scored a solid C-minus? The suit no longer gave off that sheen of success but dulled in the shadows of your failure. That’s the kind of bitter sweet memory I felt as I headed to to Hell’s gate, a memory that should have been good but wasn’t for some reason. Would this be the trip that would change my mind?

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Getting There

I won’t waste time telling you about how to get there, I have covered that pretty exhaustively in my previous article. The park entrance is about a 15 minute drive from Camp Carenelly’s. Instead here’s something that might come in a bit more handy, a map of the park.

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Image courtesy of WebKenya

The Park

I’ve come to expect a few hiccups as I traipse through this country, unfortunately this trip was no different. Right off the bat there are issues with the ranger at the Olkaria gate, mara no tickets for camping here, mara go buy a ticket all the way at the other gate (kilometers away), mara no maps for sale, ah! There’s always that one guy who wasn’t paying attention during customer care class.

Anyway somehow it gets sorted out and I’m in. Not the sight you expect to see when you first enter a National park but hey, at least its not a coal factory right? (I’m looking at you Lamu.)

hells-gate-camping-kenya39Once I’m in in the park proper all is forgiven, I’m greeted by the beautiful sight of Central Tower also called “Embarta” (The Horse). 

hells-gate-camping-kenya3Below is the Ol Njorowa gorge that is very popular with hikers to the park, you’re even likely to find a traffic jam! The gorges popularity is due to it’s steep walls and beautifully water sculpted rock, I didn’t go in this time so no pics. Fail.

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So here’s the cool thing about Hell’s Gate, it immediately shows you what other parks should look be in terms of activity. People cycling along the roads, hikers hitting the trails, campers setting up, rock climbers getting their gear ready, lovers chewing grass stems as they put their hearts on the line, I don’t know how to say it but this park just has LIFE.

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I stop to watch a group of 10-year olds on a school trip conquer Fischers Tower and the resulting drama when one of them has a hard time getting back down. Hope you made down safe Abigail! Fischers tower is named for a German explorer Gustav Fischer, who the first European to come across it huko 1883.

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This is one of the few parks in Kenya you can explore by foot due to there being no dangerous animals so as you stroll or cycle along you can get up close and personal with zebra, eland, hartebeest, buffalo, Thomson’s gazelle, klipspringers and reedbuck. Niiice.

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Evidence of geothermal activity is all over the park. There is a proposed extension of the power generating plants, Hell’s Gate as we know it might be changing forever.

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The Campsites

The park has 3 main campsites Endachata, Naiburta and Oldubai, and I am so happy to say they are all awesome. There is also the Bird Hide campsite and the Lake View campsite (enquire about these as I’m unclear if they are special campsites).

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KWS still offering a home to retired benches.

There are shelters where you can prepare meals and showers and toilets as well but I wont comment as I used neither, make of that what you will.

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I chose Naiburta Campsite just because. The park is small enough that if you’re driving you can actually visit all the campsites and decide which suits you best. If you’re on a bike or walking you might have to choose one and just go for it.

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The main campsite had a large group there already so I set myself up a bit further away from them as camping etiquette requires. Hi neighbours!

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A series of unfortunate events (story for another day) have led me here with no food and no phone battery charge so it’s going to be an evening of reading and intospection. Not the worst situation.

hells-gate-camping-kenya18It’s a strange feeling listening to the roar of the geo-thermal wells all night. By night they look life something out of the Lord Of The Rings, a Kenya’s version of the Mines of Moria.

hells-gate-camping-kenya24Goodnight neighbours!

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The next morning I’m up bright and early and head to KenGen’s Geo-Thermal spa that’s inside the park (next to the Olkaria gate), I arrive too early but the askari is kind enough to let me hang out and pay later. Upside is the day crowds are yet to arrive, so I can splash about all child-like with no judgement.

hells-gate-camping-kenya33Hard to believe this water is heated miles beneath the surface, who is this great patriot at KenGen that came up with this idea? I would love to shake your hand. 2 hours of an extremely cold morning in a pool at bathtub temperatures? I’m game for that.

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There was a major opportunity missed here to offer wellness services like massages, healthy food and cleansing juices instead we’re saddled with a restaurant serving chips and sodas. There’s a business opportunity here for someone. If you would like to see more pics of the spa visit their horrific Facebook page.

Snapshot

  • Park entrance: Ksh 350 citizens/ Ksh 700 residents. Camping: citizens Ksh 200/residents Ksh 350. Spa costs are, citizens: Adult Ksh 400 Kids Ksh 100. Residents Adults: 1000 kids Ksh 500
  • No firewood available carry your own.
  • Besides Naivasha town there no supermarkets, if you are camping make sure you have brought ALL your supplies. There is a small shop at Elsa’s Gate for soft drinks and snacks.
  • Roads are very well maintained, no 4WD required.
  • Always carry your trash with you.
  • Even though there are no predators or large animals in the park (except buffalo) use common sense while walking in the park. Respect the animals.

Final Verdict

Campers definitely have the edge on day trippers at Hell’s Gate. Due to the safe nature of the park and the reasonable camping fees you have all 68sq. km to yourself in the late afternoon and early mornings. So you can avoid the masses of day trippers and have a quiet walk, a cycle or hit the spa before the hordes converge.

In hindsight I honestly don’t know why I previously had such a negative opinion about Hell’s Gate. This time around I loved it!

The sheen is back on my new suit.

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If you’re not tired after that long winded article and would like to see stunning Hell’s Gate photography from talented Kenyan photographers, bonyeza hapa na hapa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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22 thoughts on “Camping At Hell’s Gate – Suits, Spas & Sceneries

  1. Chris

    I love your commentary. Camped at naiburta some time way back and it was one of the most quiet and serene nights ever….that was before the geothermal plants became a major feature! I was there late last year and entered through the gate nearest Olkaria. My objective was to go to the spa only as i’ve been to the park numerous times. No one seems to have information about the spa and despite it being such a gem, my queries are: Why do I have to pay to enter the park if my objective is only the spa? and its just a walking distance from the gate? At the spa-poorest of poorest PR and customer care- lady at reception stayed on phone for over 5 minutes on a personal call and eventually served us while on another call!!!! Please carry cash-They don’t accept mpesa/airtel money, leave alone cards (at least in October 2015)! Carry your own food-The Restaurant doesn’t work, only a lady who comes at times to sell sodas and biscuits. And I didn’t find any reclining bed that was in shape, functional chairs were countable….true, KWS and now KENGEN are playing host to all dilapidated furniture. The spa is nevertheless a gem!!!!!
    To make use of the park payment, I opted to exit through Elsa gate after going through the park. Signage is a big issue in my opinion…tried taking different routes and got lost as directions fizzled out at some point. Guess the numerous roads made by the geothermal project are more than can be named! you are in a park but for a while you feel like you are in an industrial park. The gate to the park should be after the zone which is all cluttered with steam pipes otherwise it is a raw deal for some 15 or so minutes of driving! I also wonder what will become of the park as the geothermal project keeps expanding with every visit. At what point shall they decide that’s the limit or shall the park be swallowed up? I wonder….I visited several campsites for future camping trips and I noted some new ablution blocks with piped water coming up at one site-good! Will be back soon, now to camp.

    Reply
    1. thekenyancamper Post author

      Chris,
      If everyone gave feedback like you have, tourism in Kenya might look very different. You embody what this blog is about giving practical advice and yes, constructive criticism where it is required. I have come across some of the things you mentioned at the spa as regards the furniture and the ‘restaurant’ (this is too kind a word for what it is) on a previous visit. Unfortunately I can’t put everything in my articles so I’m glad that people reading your comment will get the info.
      On the geothermal expansion, I really don’t know where the park might be headed and it is indeed a concern. It begs the question, what is the trade off when it comes to development VS conservation (look at the SGR saga for example). Yet we are a country that is chock-full of conservation NGO’s, what is their role? We might never know.
      That being said, Hells Gate is still a great place to visit, maybe I should have mentioned people need to go now before it disappears!

      Reply
  2. valerieoutram

    I look forward to your posts – living in the UK its a nice reminder of Kenya and great to get up to date info for my next trip which I hope isn’t too far away. Always interesting.

    Reply
    1. thekenyancamper Post author

      Hi Valerie,
      As this website is self-funded, conversation with you guys is the only only ‘currency’ I deal in. I’m glad this blog gives you a window into Kenya even while you’re away. Next time you’re around lets have a coffee!

      Reply
  3. alfred mwale

    i once camped there, had a solo night in the park and an expedition from fischers tower to the top of mount longonot. ooh it was great and i can redo the same over and over again

    Reply
  4. Alice

    Loved & combed through this blog! Worth all the reads 🙂
    About the spa, it is a bit of a difficult find. Definitely with Chris on the signage. Been at the spa twice now, but needs the supporting services to come alive i.e. the restaurant, more seats, sunbeds & umbrellas, possibly a coffee shop. The reception could also do with better customer service.

    I am yet to explore the drive through the park as well as camping :-), so great bumping into this article.

    Looking forward to more posts!

    Reply
  5. thekenyancamper Post author

    Cheers, yes there are quite a number of things that definitely need looking into. Honestly the Chinese made furniture choice was strange to me, and as you mention its really not furnished with any kind of thinking behind it. Hopefully this changes in future.

    Reply
  6. Anonymous

    Your commentary makes it worth the read plus the wealth of info, will be heading there soon and the info is of immense help. would love to read up on more camping sites, thanks for keeping it real!

    Reply
  7. muoki

    Very informative and interesting article:

    Just some correction, There are supermarkets in Naivasha! If you’re unfamiliar with the town going slightly past Naivasha on Nairobi-Nakuru Rd is Delamare petrol station that has one that opens early 🙂
    otherwise a number of them exist on the road joining Nakuru Rd highway and Mai mahiu Rd through town centre.

    On a lighter note, what you saw on inside is the result of decisions being made far far away in a ka city by people whose eyes are not on you and “petty cash” but on my and your biGgeR monthly bills 😉 that enables us make entertaining comments here for more people to even pay bigger bills reading them…

    keep up the good work bro!!

    Reply
  8. thekenyancamper Post author

    Cheers for your comment Muoki, if you read carefully I did indicate there are supermarkets in the Naivasha town area. What I was emphasising was that once you are on South Lake Rd you options are severely limited.
    I do wonder what will happen to this park in future, hence why people should not keep putting off their visits there, there is no time to go like the present.

    Reply
  9. Soso

    Hi Kenyan Camper, visited this park only once but fell in love with it! So many different possibilities and sports. I wrote an article about it for my French readers, I’ve just linked to your map of the park which I find very useful for first-time visitors. Thanks for your camping tour around Kenya!

    Reply
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  11. denis micheni

    I saw some place in this post that there are Buffaloes. Are these animals not dangerous or how do they ensure that they dont attack the bikers or the campers. One day on my trip to Amboseli a guide just told us that Buffaloes are among the most dangerous

    Reply
    1. thekenyancamper Post author

      Dennis, like most wild animals buffalos will always try to avoid humans. As such there is never interaction between people and the wildlife in the park as long as you respect them and keep your distance. I hope the fear of the wildlife does not dissuade you from visiting, 1000’s of people visit without any incidences being reported.

      Reply
  12. love Bernadette

    I visited hells gate back then when i was in campus, though i didn’t know how to ride a bicycle I felt like I missed the cycling fun part but thank God the buffalo’s, zebras, girrafe and so many other animals made my trekking worth it. I will definitely go back soon especially now I know how to ride a bicycle 😁😁😁

    Reply
  13. Aqombernadette

    I visited hells gate back then when i was in campus, though i didn’t know how to ride a bicycle I felt like I missed the cycling fun part but thank God the buffalo’s, zebras, girrafe and so many other animals made my trekking worth it. I will definitely go back soon especially now I know how to ride a bicycle 😁😁😁

    Reply
  14. John

    Been to the park several times but never thought of camping,after this article i need to try it like so soon..i have seen all to carry,is the tent part of what to carry?

    Reply
  15. MamaMgeni

    We camped at Naiburta camp site at Hell’s Gate this weekend and loved it! The only thing I would add to your excellent post is this: baboons are jerks. Beware. We stowed away all of our food as we went out for a bike ride, but we foolishly left out a bucket with a lid, and all of our plates and utensils inside. The baboons had a good laugh and scattered it all over the campsite while we were away. We won’t make the same mistake next time! Thanks, as always, for the great post and all the info… Hope you guys are doing great!

    Reply
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