Cycling Through Hells Gate National Park Kenya
Kenya is a country of stunning natural beauty, with 22 National Parks and 28 National Reserves. Hell’s Gate is a rather small park that covers an area of 68.25 square kilometers in Kenya. This National Park is approximately 10 kilometers away from Lake Naivasha. Hells Gate is an inexpensive national park in Kenya. You can see Zebras, Giraffes, and countless species of Birds. It is famous for its terrain and canyons. To do this adventure on a cycle is out of the other world experience. This park appears in many well-known movies like Tomb Raider and Lion King of Hollywood.
Why it is called Hells Gate?
How did this national park get the name of Hells Park? There are two viewpoints about this name.
- It is said, many years ago an unexpected eruption of Mount Longonot started. Due to this eruption, many of Masai people were buried alive under this eruption. So, the name that did Masai people give to this place was translated as Hell by European Settlers.
- According to Some other sources Hell’s Gate was derived from a Dutch phrase “Hellegat” which means “a clear opening”.
- In recent years due to casualities from flash flooding in Gorges it is also related with Hells.
However, in 1883 when Fisher and Thomson visited this place they named it Hells gate which referred to a narrow break in the cliffs.
How to get to Hells gate from Nairobi?
We can reach Hell’s Gate from Nairobi. It is about 20km from Naivasha town and about 5km from Lake Naivasha. So, to reach there first we have to go to Naivasha. Then we can reach directly to Hell’s gate or to our Hostel before going to Hell’s Gate. However, you can follow the same sequence for travel purposes.
- From Nairobi Accra Road to Naivasha town by Matatu for 200~400KES.
- Naivasha Town to Lake Naivasha by Boda Bodas(500~800KES) or Taxi(1000~1500KES)
- From Lake Naivasha to Hells Gate by Cycle, jeep, car etc.
How I reached to Hells Gate?
I get up early in the morning as I hadn’t pinned the place of Naivasha Matatus. However, it was near Accra Road beside the Bakers Inn. Finally, I reached Accra road which was full of matatu vehicles. While going towards my actual place, I noticed big cardboard with the writing “Naivasha 200 KES” on a matatu. Furthermore, it was almost full of passengers. So, I instantly got a ticket and saved 200 KES as last night I read 400 KES. Indeed, you can check with both the options to decide.
On the way, a few passengers dropped at their respective destinations. Finally, in 2 Hours we reached Naivasha town. Importantly, the Naivasha town is on the east side of the lake and most of the lodges are on the south side which is about 20km away from the town.
While I wanted to take a matatu to reach my campsite( Camp Carnellys). Whereas, I opted for a Boda Bodas, as there were a lot of Moto Taxi riders at the Naivasha Bus Terminal. Inevitably, I picked up one of them for 500KES. However, if you want a matatu then the fare is 100 KES. In less than 30 minutes we reached our campsite. On our way, we spotted a few zebras and giraffes that was a pleasant moment.
Finally, I got a cycle for 800KES for a full-day activity to my Hells Gate Cycling Safari.
How to Get Around Hells Gate?
Hell’s Gate is a national park and you can visit it on a safari. Roads are very well maintained, no 4WD required. However, the available sources of getting around in Hell’s Gate are Bicycle, A jeep, A safari Van, or your own car. In between you can do many activities of walking, hiking, climbing that you can perform solely on your feet. You can choose your Cycle rent for Hells Gate Safari from the below options
- 800KES per day per cyscle, if you take your rental from your hostel or from the town. In addition, you have to pay 215KES park entrance fee.
- 500KES, if you take your rental from Elsa gate. In addition, you have to pay 215KES park entrance fee.
- You can get your cycle rental from inside the park too. In that case, rental per day is again 500KES but you don’t need to pay an entrance fee to the park.
Where to Stay in Hells Gate?
Here you have very limited options. Either you will stay outside the Hells Gate around Lake Naivasha. More conveniently, you can stay at Sulmac Village of budget resort options like Camp Carnelly’s or Fisherman’s Camp. Alternatively, you can camp at the designated places within Hell’s Gate. There are three camping sites where you can camp and feel the vibe of the park. Each of these campsites has toilets, picnic shelters, and showers to use. These sights include,
- Naiburta Camp site
- Endachata camp Site
- Ol Dubai Camp Site
Entrance Fee to Hells Gate
The entrance fee for Non-residents to Hells Gate is $20 per person. In addition, you have to pay 215KES for your cycle to enter into the Hells Gate National Park Kenya.
Things to do in Hells Gate
Cycling Safari Through Hells GAte
Cycling safari through Hells Gate was a wish list to me. So, I got my cycle for the day’s ride and started my ride at about 08:00 in the morning. I can differentiate the different patches of my ride into segments as
- Camp Carnelly’s to Elsa Gate Turn is about 3km and you have to cover this distance on a carpeted road.
- Main road to Elsa Gate. It is a 2 km segment and you have to go uphill direction on a gravel road. But you can easily do it. In addition, on your return leg it will be a paddle less segment for you.
- Elsa Gate to Fisher’s Tower. It is a smooth sailing of about 1.2km
- Fischers Tower to Obsidian Cave. It is a 5km to and from ride from Fischers Tower. If you want a challenging ride then instead of coming back to Fischers Tower you can continue your ride to your next point of Gorge Walking. From here you can reach to or pass by Ol Dubai Camping site.
- Fischers Tower to Ol Njorwa Gorge. It is about 9km easy ride. On the way, you can stop at many places to spot different wild animals of Hells Gate Kenya. On the way you can take your ride to Naiburta Campsite or Endachata campsite.
- Gorge to Olkaria Gate or back to Elsa Gate. Now it will be test of your cycle riding skills. You have to go back by cycling the uphill on either of the direction. This 10km ride will test your capacity too. So, in many cases, group of bikers, hire a a transport for their return journey back to their lodging.
Our first stop was the spectacular Fisher’s Tower that was about 1.2km from Elsa Gate. Just after a few minutes’ ride we take a right turn and saw this spectacular tower. Just after the turn, you are about to locate the different species of Impalas and Zebras. So, by taking your pictures you reached Fischer’s Tower. It is the place where the adventurous can choose to ascend the 45m tower. Furthermore, you can rent the climbing gear from its base. I went to the backside of the tower where I saw my best scene of Impala’s gathering.
Hiking and Trekking
This hiking and trekking activity involves three main parts
- Hot springs visit
- Hells Gate Gorge Walk
- Climb to View point and Central Tower
After Fischer’s Tower, we took a long scenic ride to our next stop. That was the Hells Gate Gorge beside the Central Tower. So, after a few Km of the bike ride, we saw this central tower from a distance. Finally, we reached the main stop of Ol Njorwa gorge where we are greeted by the beautiful sight of Central Tower.
From the main information center of the great Canyon, you will take your guide for the Gorge trekking. Previously, it was an option to hire a guide but now the rangers at the information center made it compulsory to take a guide for the gorge hike. They did it due to the reason of flash flooding that is prone to happen while gorge trekking. You can hire a guide for 20$. However, you can negotiate this rate.
So, at the start of the trek, you will descend down to the ground level. After a few minutes of walking, we reached hot springs, where you can take a bath or inhale hot steam. It is at the start of the gorge. So, our next stop is view point.
But after visiting these hot springs we came a bit back and started our hike towards the viewpoint and central tower. This tower also called “Embarta” means The Horse. It is a volcanic tower and we can see the signs of amalgam on its outer side. Not to mention that we reached this tower after climbing for 15 sweat minutes. From the above, you have a beautiful view of the Great Cayon of Hells Gate Kenya.
Hells Gate Gorge Walk
To trek and climb the river bed narrow gorge is one of the top activities while visiting Hells Gate Kenya. Njorwa gorge has steep walls and beautifully water sculpted rocks on both sides. Although it is not the Gorge of Petra or Numaira. However, it was more remotely located than its Jordanian counterparts. No doubt, why it is called Jewel of the Hells Gate? You can find the answer, but after visiting it.
After visiting the viewpoint, my guide took a deep descend right into the center of the gorge near the Devil’s Bedroom. There was a fixed rope for additional assistance to trekkers. It was equally a fun thing to the cycling through animals. Then by taking a route along the river bed will show you the remoteness of the Gorge. On many occasions, you have to take a jump down or guided climb/Descend to reach down to the next steps.
There are two options for trekking.
- A longer one will take you to the secrets of gorge for a couple of hours. This route was close due to security reasons.
- Second one was a short hike that is less than an hour.
Finally, we ended our trek near the hot springs which we have already visited at the start of the trek. From where we took our last step to ascend to reach our starting point from the Main road.
Animals of Hells Gate
While on our cycling Safari, we were able to spot the following animals and birds in the Hells Gate National Park Kenya.
- Many Dazzles of Zebras
- A few towers of Giraffes
- A couple of herds of wild buffaloes
- Many sounders of Warthogs
- Different species of Impalas
- A few troops of monkeys
- A countless species of Birds
Geothermal Spa at Ol KAria Spa
Kenya is a leader in Africa who used geothermal energy for its electricity requirements. Thanks to Hell’s Gate that is a pioneer in its numerous hot springs. In Hells gate, you can visit a couple of geothermal Spas to enjoy the hot bathing. So, it will be a unique thing for you to take a bath in the mineral-rich waters produced from the condensed steam here in Ol Karia Spa Hells Gate.
Activities in Hells Gate
Hells Gate provides abundant activities to adventure lovers. Most of the tourists mark the activities like cycling, trekking, and spotting animals. However, if we enlist the activities then we can find the list is a fair long one. So, a few selective activities might be
- A cycling safari through wild animals
- Gorge Walking
- Hiking to view points
- Geothermal Spa
- Spotting the animals
- Bird Watching
- To experience the game veiwing
- Camping at Hells Gate
- To watch sunset and Sunrise while camping
- Walking and relaxing
- Climbing to Fischer’s tower and Central Tower
- Cave visiting
Other Activities around Hells GAte
Hell’s Gate is situated near two volcanoes that are Longonot and Suswa. So, these two are good options for a day hike from Naivasha town or from Hells Gate. In addition, you can visit Lake Elmentita, Lake Nakuru, and Lake Bogoria too after visiting before/ After Lake Naivasha/Hells Gate. Furthermore, it is very close to the Masai Mara for an Iconic Kenyan Game Drive Safari.