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Introduction - Road - Park & Map - Places/Things to see - Pictures - Park fact - Wildlife - Fees - Climate - Camping - Lodges

Hell's Gate National Park is a tiny park located between Naivasha Lake and Longonot and Suswa volcanoes and it is an ideal venue for a weekend retreat far from the urban life of Nairobi.

The park provides a variety of wildlife, unusual flora and many species of birds and is one of the two only kenyan parks where climbing, walking and biking are allowed. Covered by ashes from the 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).

Also, the park has very good and well equipped camping sites and there is a large choice of accommodation around Naivasha lake which is popular for watersports, bird and game viewing in private ranches and walks at Crescent Island, Crater Lake and Mt Longonot.

How to go there :
There are two roads to go to Naivasha, the "truck" road which go down along the escarpment and continue towards Narok, or the A104 Uplands road which continue towards Nakuru. The first one is much shorter (20 km) but the final part (after Maai Mahiu town) has lots of potholes. The second road is in very good state and much faster.
Distance Nairobi-Naivasha : 90 km

Despite its name, Hell's Gate, given by the explorers Fisher and Thomson (1883) after their defeat against the hostile Maasai warriors, the park is a peaceful area where you can walk or do biking alongside towering cliffs and wild animals.

Few meters after the Elsa Gate, there is a spectacular view over the main cliff with Fisher Tower in the foreground. At the tower, you can turn left to go to the Central Tower through the Buffalo Circuit which is a two hours circuit offering magnificient view over the Kedong valley, the Naivasha lake and Longonot and Suswa volcanoes, and down to the gorges and their waterholes, waterfalls. Doing the Twiga Circuit (also on your left) and going to the Central Tower by the main road is a shorter alternative.

At the Central Tower point, your excursion just starts as there is possibility to walk into the Ol Njorowa gorge (24 km) or continue driving towards the Ol Karia gate to visit the Ol Karia geothermal power station.
 HELL'S GATE NAT. PARK      Flash (full size) --- GIF (full Size)
Flash Tip - Click left in the map to zoom or to print


 FISCHER TOWER :  This 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. The German explorer, Gustav Fischer, who was sent by the Hamburg Geographical Society to find a route going from Mombasa to Lake Victoria, gave his name to this high volcanic plug rising out of the valley. For Maasai community, the tower is a Maasai girl which has be turned to stone after disobeying the family before her wedding. Around the base and scuttling among the rocks are dassies (or rock hyrax), quite unperturbed by visitors. Picnic site available. For climbers, climbing the tower is great fun..

 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. Picnic site available. 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, known as Sheen Obsidian or a rainbow sheen called Rainbow Obsidian. Small nuggets of obsidian that have been naturally rounded and smoothed by wind and water are called Apache Tears.
Reference :
"The Mineraloid Obsidian" by Amethyst Galleries, Inc.

 CENTRAL TOWER :  Also called "Embarta" (The Horse), this rocky tower is much larger than its predecessor the Fischer's Tower. The Central tower is hardly seen along the road, it can be viewed from very far along the Buffalo Circuit. To access the tower, continue towards the Lower Gorge and park your car at the main parking - which marks the halfway point of the main road. Once at the parking, the tower is easily seen from benches of the picnic site and there is a track leading to the tower (see map of Lower Gorge below).

 OL KARIA GEOTHERMAL PROJECT :  Located few kilometers after the Central Tower, this geothermal power station, 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 Oserian and Elsamere farms near the lake) or continue the circuit to admire steam vents and recent lava flows around the Ol Karia and Hobley's mounts.

 HELL'S GATE CLIFFS :  The main road from Elsa Gate sits between Hell's Gate spectacular towering cliffs formed of 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 offers splendid views across the cliffs and the waterholes - Read also the East Africa Mountains website for a climbing guide describing all cliffs and towers at Hell's gate National Park..

 WILDLIFE IN THE PARK :  The grassy plains guarded by the towering cliffs are safe places to walk alongside giraffe, eland, hartebeest, buffalo and other small gazelles and antelopes. Lion, leopard and cheetah are very rare. Note also the presence of small troops of klipspringer and rock hyrax, both living in rocky area. The rare Chanler's mountain reedbuck is very hard to spot. The park counts 103 species of birds and the cliffs are home and nesting places for birds, which are abundant at Naivasha lake. The large white droppings on the rocks indicate nests of vulture, eagles and augur buzzard. Rare species are the Verreaux's eagle and the Lammergeyer, Ruppel's griffon and hooded vultures - See full list of wildlife seen in the park - Print a checklist for your next safari !!

See map Flash - Gif
 LOWER GORGE/OL NJOROWA GORGE :  Located on the main road, 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). The first ½ kilometer is the most difficult as you follow the spring and it is sometimes slippery. But once you arrive at the main junction, the walk is easy. Stout stick, non-slip shoes and clothes for wet conditions is recommended and you must keep an eye on the weather (specially during rain seasons) as there are risk of water flood. Nevertheless, walking in the gorge is an amazing experience as you will see during this 2 hours 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 - See the Flash map.

 OLOOK KARIA MAASAI CULTURAL CENTER :   Experience the traditions of the Maasai culture as they sing, fight, dance and demonstrate jewellery making. Opening times vary, so check with the Information center as you enter the park. More than 100 years ago, Hell's gate was in the heart of the Maasai land and Lake Naivasha was a traditional refreshing point for Maasai herds. Nowadays, maasai people are hardly seen in Naivasha town and lake but they still inhabit the unpopulated area surrounding the lake. Visiting a manyatta is a good way to learn more about Maasai people and culture and you may have the chance to watch moran (young warrior) fighting, throwing their rungu (wooden stick) to hammer down animals or to see traditional dance - women singing and tall moran jumping as high as an antelope.


 MOUNT LONGONOT NATIONAL PARK :  Hills climber should not miss the opportunity to climb the immense Mt Longonot (2,776 m - 8,328 ft) rising in the arid plains of the Rift Valley. You need to count one hour to access the top of the lowest rim and 3 hours to follow the path around the narrow edge of this almost perfect conical shape crater filled with dense bushed and wooden vegetation. The Mount Longonot is part of the conservation project of the K.W.S. as it is an official Kenyan National Park (52 km2) and game abounds on the slopes of Longonot, particularly on the west side - Read also the East Africa Mountains website for a walking guide at Mount Longonot.

 LAKE NAIVASHA REGION :  Lake Naivasha is one of the largest freshwater lake of Kenya and being close to Nairobi, the lake is the favourite destination for Nairobians. The lake offers lot of attractions, such as the Crater Lake, the Joy Adamson house, the Crescent Island and other sport activities... Follow the Naivasha link to visit Lake Naivasha and its surrounding.

.  PICTURES GALLERY - DIAPORAMA.        See the picture's list for Hells Gate       SEARCH: in
Attractions (0 pic.)
Fischer Tower (0) - Obsidian Caves (0)
Central Tower (0) - Power Station (0)
Hell's Gate Cliffs (0) - Njorowa Gorge (0)
Olook Karia Maasai Cultural Center (0)
Landscape (7 pic.)
Naivasha lake (0) - Mount Longonot (7)
Animals (0 pic.)
none yet Mount_Longonot_and_Rift_Valley none yet

 Altitude : 1,560 - 2,187 m (4,680 ft - 6,561 ft)
 Area : 68 km2
 Localisation : 10 km from Naivasha town - District of Nakuru (Rift Valley Province)
 Distance : 100 km from Nairobi
 Entrances : the park has one main entrance (Elsa Gate), two secondary gates (Ol Karia and Narasha gates). Note that at the main entrance, there is a retail outlet where you can purchase water, maps and souvenirs. For a sport circuit (biking, cliff climbing, hiking), you can get good information and hire bikes at the Elsa gate.
 Historic : Opened in February 1984.
 The Warden : P.O. Box 234 Naivasha. Tel: +254 (0)50 20284 - Email:hellsgatenp@africaonline.co.ke.
 Attractions :
   o Scenic landscape (lookouts, rocky towers).
   o Unique bird viewing and nesting in cliffs.
   o Spectacular excursion of the gorges and cliffs.
   o Geothermal Power Station.
   o Hot springs, steam jets, waterfalls and hot springs.
   o Traditional Maasai culture.
   o Splendid views on the Longonot and Suswa volcanoes and Lake Naivasha.
   o Possibility to go for walk, bike, horse riding and hiking in the park.
   o Visit of the Lake Naivasha region.

 WILDLIFE/VEGETATION  --> Just click on the name to see snapshots and a fact sheet of the animal...
!! Print a checklist for your next safari !!
Antelopes and gazelles (per alphabetic order) :
Bushbuck - Dik-dik (Kirk's) - Duiker (Common) - Gazelle (Grant’s) - Gazelle (Thomson's) - Gnu (White-bearded) - Hartebeest (Coke's) - Impala - Klipspringer - Reedbuck (Bohor) - Reedbuck (Chanler’s mountain) - Steinbok - Waterbuck (Defassa) -
Other ungulates and mammals :
Buffalo (Cape) - Giraffe (Maasai) - Hyrax (Bruce’s) - Hyrax (Eastern Tree) - Hyrax (Rock) - Hyrax (Southern Tree) - Zebra (Common) -
Carnivores :
Aardwolf - Civet (African) - Fox (Bat-eared) - Genet (Large-spotted) - Genet (Small-spotted) - Hyena (Spotted) - Jackal (Black-backed) - Jackal (Common) - Mongoose (Marsh) - Mongoose (White-tailed) - Otter (Clawless) - Serval - Zorilla -
Primates :
Baboon (Savannah) - Monkey (Green Vervet) -
Others (rabbits, hares, insectivores) :
Hare (Cape) - Hare (Spring) - Porcupine (Crested) -
Vegetation :
The vegetation is mainly grasslands and shrublands dominated by several species of Acacia and Euphorbia. There are also a wide variety of succulents in the area and some unique plants capable of withstanding high temperatures.
Birds :
Maasai Ostrich - Secretary Bird - Ruppel's Griffon Vulture - Peregrine Falcons - Verraux Eagle - Steppe Buzzard - Bateleur - Lammergeyer - Oxpeckers - Augur Buzzard - Hildebrandt Francolin - Guinea Fowl - Speckled Pigeon - Laughing Dove - Bee Eater - Hoopoe - Mottled Swifts - Sunbirds - Rufous-naped Lark - Richard Pipit - Black Marked Babbler - Anteater Chat - Cisticolas - Fiscal Shrike - Wattled Starling - Blue-eared Starling - Red-winged Starling - Superb Starling - Rufous Sparrow - Speke WeaverSchalow Wheatear - Isabelline Wheatear - Yellow Bishop - Purple Grenadier - Yellow-rumped Seedeater, etc…

Smartcard is NOT needed to enter (August 03).
Entry may be paid in cash (US or Kshs).

Do not hesitate to consult the K.W.S. website for up-to-date information
as more and more parks are included in the K.W.S. Smartcard scheme

Source : K.W.S. park tariffs
Adult resident - 500 Kshs
Children resident - 200 Kshs
Adult non resident - 15 US
Children non resident - 5 US

Less than 6 seat - 200 Kshs
6 to 12 seats - 500 Kshs

The park has lot of campsites which are excellent places to camp if you are planning to stay more than one day. The Ol Dubai, Naiburta and Endachata campsites include picnic benches, sheltered picnic areas, shower blocks, water taps, pit latrines and rubbish bins. There are also camping sites near the Ol Karia gate, the Narasha gate and the Hobley's volcano. The number of local people visiting and camping in the park surpasses the number of foreign visitors, so do not be surprise to see large communities swarm into the park's campsites.

 LODGES, TENTED CAMPS & HOTELS (in/around the park) Report broken link - Keep me up-to-date

There are no other accomodation in the park.
To see lodges and hotels located near the Hell's Gate, visit our Naivasha webpage...

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for Web Kenya Development
South Kenya : Amboseli - Maasai Mara - Nairobi - Nairobi Safari Tour
Shimba Hills - Tsavo West - Tsavo East - Magadi lake
Rift Valley : Hell's gate - Naivasha lake - Nakuru
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