HELL’S GATE INTRODUCTION :
Hell’s Gate National Park is a tiny park located between Naivasha Lake and Longonot and Suswa volcanoes and it is an ideal for clients who have ample time during their safari while staying in lake naivasha or the nearby areas
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).
THINGS TO SEE DURING TREKKING
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.
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
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
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
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
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.