"Hell's Gate and other-worldly experiences ..." Top 5 Page for this destination Lake Naivasha by CatherineReichardt
Lake Naivasha Travel Guide: 82 reviews and 259 photos
Lake Naivasha (meaning 'rippling waters' in Maasai) may only be an hour or so's drive from the outskirts of Nairobi, but it feels like another world. As you drop down into the Rift Valley, the landscape changes dramatically, and you find yourself in a landscape of fascinating drama and diversity that was created only five minutes ago by geological standards.
The Naivasha region is a product of the explosive power of volcanoes and the way that water moulds and shapes the post-volcanic landscape. What is particularly interesting from a wildlife perspective is the juxtaposition of the fresh water Lake Naivasha with shallow saline soda lakes (such as Crater Lake) that accumulate in dormant craters, which support a broad range of ecosystems in a very small area. As a result, it's no great surprise that Naivasha is a 'birding hotspot', and you don't need to be a diehard twitcher to be enthralled by the region's amazing diversity of birdlife.
Kenya has many national parks, but it's easy for the world famous safari destinations of Masai Mara and Amboseli to overshadow the smaller, less glamorous parks. Yet the smaller parks have their own distinct charm, and this is particularly evident in the often-bypassed and much underrated Hell's Gate National Park, which abuts the southern shore of Lake Naivasha.
I am presuming that Hell's Gate is so named because of the geothermal vents that spew steam into the atmosphere, because there is absolutely nothing else hellish about the place! In addition to good game viewing, Hell's Gate also offers varied and excellent scenery (not a strong point of parks located on the plains) and the opportunity to explore obsidian caves, hike the lovely Ol-Njorowa gorge and see a geothermal power station located slap bang in the middle of a wildlife reserve. It is also unique among Kenya's national parks in that it allows visitors to explore by mountain bike (which can be hired) and also permits rock climbing. This combination of activities - combined with the waterborne attractions that Lake Naivasha itself offers - may be particularly attractive to families with older children who might otherwise become bored by an unremitting schedule of gamespotting (yes, I know that it sounds unlikely to those of you who would give your eye teeth for the opportunity to go on safari, but being ungrateful is considered a core competence by many teenagers).
If you're in the area, don't miss out on gorgeous Crater Lake (my top tip for somewhere to stay in the region) and up-close wildlife encounters on Crescent Island (see my respective travel pages).
- Pros:Beautiful landscapes combined with stunning animal and bird life - and all only an hour's drive from Nairobi!
- Cons:The traffic coming from Nairobi can be slow and frustrating - but now I'm quibbling!
- In a nutshell:If you're coming to Kenya, don't miss out on this region!
A visit to the Ol-Njorowa gorge is a highlight of any visit to Hell's Gate National Park, but be aware that you need to... more travel advice
Wherever you go in the southern Rift Valley - from livestock corrals in the middle of nowhere to large commercial farms... more travel advice
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