Expert Reviews – Hell's Gate NP

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Hike or bicycle through a valley full of wildlife
Overall rating
4/5

Don’t come to this small park near Lake Naivasha expecting a full-on Big Five experience. The main attraction here is the opportunity to stretch your legs – whether you walk or bicycle – through a scenic gorge in the heart of the Rift Valley. Buffalo, giraffe and many smaller ungulates are likely to be seen, a far more thrilling experience on foot than from a vehicle, and lion and cheetah are also very occasional visitors. But it is the volcanic landscape that most impresses – ancient volcanic plugs, fuming hot springs and glassy obsidian rocks, all overlooked by the perfect cone of dormant Mount Longonot.

Walk with Giants
Overall rating
4/5

Hell’s Gate National Park is one of the more overlooked of Kenyan parks. On a standard two week safari it might, at best, be quickly tacked onto the end of a trip if time allows. This is a real shame because there are plenty of plains game (antelope, zebra, giraffe, buffalo, baboons and vervet monkeys and others), the scenery, a mix of classic savannah landscapes hemmed by impressive cliffs and volcanic plugs, is beautiful and access is quick and easy from Naivasha.

Unfortunately (but sensibly!), in most national parks you’re not allowed to get out of the vehicle and, if you’ve never been on safari before, you might be surprised to hear that spending days in a jeep on bad roads looking at animals can quickly get very tiring. What makes Hell’s Gate special is that this is one of the few parks that allows you to dump the jeep and walk or, better, cycle, with African megafauna. It’s an opportunity not to miss. The first time I went to Hell’s Gate was some twenty years ago. I’d only been in Africa a couple of weeks and so far had only seen animals from the safety of a vehicle. Suddenly here I was on a clanky old bicycle gingerly cycling past buffalo and wondering whether it was safe to cycle through the middle of a group of baboons who were blocking the road. I still recall the excitement and exhilaration of feeling that I was now a part of the food chain (there are very few large predators in the park so it’s highly unlikely that you really will become somebodies lunch). Today I still prefer to walk in the bush rather than view it from a car and so on every Kenyan trip I will always try to make time to visit Hell’s Gate. Other plus points for the park are that it’s an ideal family-friendly park and it’s considerably cheaper than many other parks.

Average Expert Rating

  • 3.3/5
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

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