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Hell’s Gate National Park, Kenya

Situated south of Kenya’s Lake Naivasha, northwest of Nairobi is Hell’s Gate National Park. The reserve is named after a thin break in the mountains, once a branch of a pre-historic lake that ran into the Rift Valley.  The Park was founded in 1984 and though it is a small national park, it is widely renowned for its massive range of wildlife and incredible scenery.

In Hell’s Gate National Park, you can find the Fischer’s Tower and Central Tower columns, as well as Hell’s Gate Gorge. The reserve also contains three geothermal power stations in Olkaria, and boasts three basic campsites and holds a Masai Cultural Centre which provides education about the culture and traditions of the Masai tribes.

Mount Longonot erupted in the early 1900s, leaving ash to still be found around the Park. The Olkaria Geothermal Station was the first of its type in Africa and was established in 1981. The Station produces geothermal power beneath Hell’s Gate from the region’s hot springs and geysers.

Hell’s Gate National Park spreads over 68.25 square kilometres, which is rather small considering the other parks that Africa holds. However, what the Park lacks in size it makes up for in abundant fauna and flora. It lies around 1,900 metres above sea level and is situated within the Nakuru District with a relatively hot and dry climate.

Two extinct volcanoes can be found in the Park, Olkaria and Hobleys, as well as obsidian forms from the cooled molten lava. The Hell’s Gate Gorge lies within Hell’s Gate, and is lined with red cliffs containing two volcanic plugs (Fischer’s Tower and Central Tower). Off Central Tower is a smaller gorge which stretches to the south, and of which a path descends into hot springs (where, in certain areas, the hot rocks can burn you). Also, there is a reasonable amount of sulphur in the water that you will be able to feel.

There is a large range of animals in Hell’s Gate National Park, but most are rather few in number. Big animals that are a relatively scarce sighting include lions, leopard and cheetahs. However, the reserve has historically been a vital home to the rare lammergeyer vultures. There are more than 103 bird species in the Park, including vultures, Verreaux’s Eagles, Augur Buzzard, and swifts.  Other common animals in the area are Hyraxes,  African buffalo, zebra, eland, hartebeest, Thomson’s gazelle, hyena, and baboons. The reserve also holds serval and small numbers of klipspringer antelope and Chanler’s mountain reedbuck.

The Park is well-loved due to its close location to Nairobi, as well as its low entrance fees (compared to other National Parks). In the reserve, guests are encouraged to partake in various activities, such as hiking, bicycling, motorcycling and even camping, which is only permitted in two Kenyan National Parks.

The mountain climbing in Hell’s Gate is absolutely thrilling, and a visit to the Joy Adamson’s Centre is highly recommended, as well as boating on Lake Naivasha. Though camping is popular in the Park, there is nothing protecting you from the wilderness; therefore numerous lodges can be found around Naivasha Lake, which are extremely popular. At these lodges, guests can partake in watersports, bird and game viewing in private ranches, and some incredibly beautiful walks and hikes.

About Bronwyn Paxton

Article by: Bronwyn Paxton
on September 26, 2013
Filed under  Africa Blog • Destinations • Kenya 
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