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?
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.
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.)
Below 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Hard 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.
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.
- 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.
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.