HELLS GATE NATIONAL PARK
Hell’s Gate National Park is in north west of Nairobi and it lies south of Lake Naivasha in Kenya. The park is named after a narrow break in the cliffs and once a tributary of a prehistoric lake that fed early humans in the Rift valley. Hell’s gate National park was established in 1984 as a small national park and it is known for its wide variety of wildlife and for its scenery which includes the Central Tower columns and Fischer’s Tower and Hell’s Gate Gorge. Hell’s Gate National park is also a home to three geothermal power stations at Olkaria and the park is equipped with three basic campsites and includes the Masaai Cultural Center which provides education about the Masaai tribe’s culture and traditions. The Hell’s Gate National park is equipped with equipped with three basic campsites and here camping is safe in the park even though there are no guns or fencing between you and wildlife.
The best time to visit the National park is on the dry season between the months of January to March and July to October which is the best time for the outdoor activities and wildlife watching.
The park was named after a narrow break in the cliffs which once a tributary of a prehistoric that fed early humans in the Rift Valley and in the year of 1883, it received the name “Hell’s Gate” by explorers Fisher and Thomson.
Mount Longonot erupted in the early 1900s and ash can still be felt around the Hell’s Gate and in the year of 1981 the first of its kind in Africa Comprehensive Olkaria Geothermal station was established and generates geothermal power underneath Hell’s Gate from the area’s hot springs and geysers. Officially the Hell’s Gate National park was established in 1984 and then two more geothermal stations were added after 2000 that is Olkaria II and Olkaria III.
Geography and wildlife
The Hell’s Gate National park is relatively small by standard and it covers an area of 68.5 square kilometers “26 sq. mi” and is at 1,900 meters (6,200 ft) above sea level. The park is within Nakuru County near Lake Naivasha and approximately 90 kilometers or 50 mi from Nairobi. With a warm and dry climate, the park is located 14 kilometers “9 mi” after the turnoff from the old Nairobi – Naivasha highway and the two extinct volcanoes located in the park Olkaria and Hobley’s can be seen as well as Obsidian forms from the cool molten lava. In side the Hell’s Gate National park is the Hells Gate Gorge which is lined with red cliffs that contain two volcanic plugs which include the Central Tower and Fisher’s Tower and off the central tower is a smaller gorge which extends to the south with a path that descends into hot springs which have rocks that are hot enough to cause burns and sulfuric water.
The National park has got a wide variety of wildlife and though many are few in number. The little seen wildlife includes the Leopards, lions and cheetahs. The national park however has been historically an important home for the rare lammergeyer vultures and there are over 103 species of birds in the park including vultures, augur buzzard, Verreaux’s eagles and swifts, the African buffalo, zebra, Hyraxes, hartebeest, eland, baboons and Thomson’s gazelle which are also common. Hell’s Gate National park is a home to several and small numbers of Chanler’s mountain reedbuck and Klipspringer antelope.
Accessibility – How to reach there
The park can be accessed by a tarmac road from Nairobi which is approximately 90 kilometers via Naivasha town on the Lake Road South at Junction which is 5 kilometers just off Moi south of Naivasha and on Gorge road via Elsa and Olkaria gates. It can also be accessed by air via Naivasha airstrip.
Attractions of the park
This is a 25 meters “75 ft” high rocky tower which is located near the main entrance of the park was formed by semi-molten rock forced to a fissure solidifying and cooling as it extruded and the tower is a Masaai girl according to the Masaai community who was turned into stone after disobeying the family before her wedding and it is approximately 7kilometer long.
Lower gorge “Ol Njorowa”
This is the main attraction of the park and it is a 2 hours expedition of geographical experience of beauty and function while walking in the gorge and is an amazing experience and the water eroded walls which are so narrow that they almost block out the sky and the place is popular for film productions such as the King Solomon’s Mines, Tomb Raider, Cradle of Life and Mountains of the Moon which used the gorge as a backdrop for their movies.
These are distinctive black glass like obsidian rock which are located on the Buffalo circuit and the rock is a result of rapid cooling of molten volcanic lava coming into contact with water while being poured into a lake or ocean and resulting into the glassy texture of the rock. The obsidian caves contain small air bubbles that are aligned along layers which produce interesting effects such as a golden sheen known as Sheen Obsidian or a rainbow sheen called Rainbow Obsidian.
Central Tower Gorge
This gorge is the main creek coming from the left-hand side while walking the Hell’s Gate Gorge and since there was a deadly accident with seven Kenyan University students because of flooding waters, most guides pass this way.
Activities done by tourists
The main Hell’s Gate Gorge is relatively flat and this activity is the favorite way to explore the park and the distance from Elsa gate to the lower gorge is approximately 7 kilometers.
Walking safaris/ Hiking
This activity helps you to walk in the wild alongside zebra, eland, gazelle and giraffe and also spot other different wildlife within the park such as the Leopards, lions, cheetahs, African buffalos and also spotting bird species such as the vultures, augur buzzard, Verreaux’s eagles and swifts.
This activity is done at the Hell’s Gate sheen rock walls which are made for climbing which gives you an adventurous time safari.