"Hell's Gate and other-worldly experiences ..." Top 5 Page for this destination Lake Naivasha by CatherineReichardt

Lake Naivasha Travel Guide: 98 reviews and 302 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.

If this is Hell, then where's my deterrent?

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).

For other attractions in the Lake Naivasha area, follow these links:

My Crescent Island page
My Crater Lake page
My Lake Bogoria page

Pros and Cons
  • 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!
  • Last visit to Lake Naivasha: Jul 2011
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (18)

Comments (6)

  • CDM7's Profile Photo
    Aug 1, 2013 at 12:55 PM

    Thanks for bringing back the memories of this amazing part of Kenya,I will never forget the drive up to Hells Gate! Lucky we had a 4 wheel drive as it was the roughest road I have ever been on.

    • CatherineReichardt's Profile Photo
      Aug 2, 2013 at 4:24 AM

      Hi Clive
      Thanks for your kind comments! I'm glad to be able to assist you in 'virtually revisiting' this very special part of the world, which seems to be unfairly eclipsed by Kenya's other tourist attractions.

  • balhannah's Profile Photo
    Jun 7, 2012 at 4:27 AM

    Cathy, this area is wonderful! Great opening shot of Hells gate and of the birds and wildlife. Golly those ducks have really pink legs! The scenery here is fantastic, lucky you being able to go and explore this area, and lucky me being able to virtually able to tour it, thanks!

  • aussirose's Profile Photo
    Feb 7, 2012 at 2:44 AM

    Oh Cathy...this is an amazing page! Wow...too many things to comment on here! :o) Bird life - just lovely! My first sight of pumice in the wild!! haha..WoW! :o) Love your description of the hot air vents puffing ;o) Hubby and I would love to visit here! Mate, this page was a pleasure to read. Hugs xx

  • wise23girl's Profile Photo
    Jan 19, 2012 at 1:09 AM

    That lead photo is really magnificent....and I came via your link.

  • Wafro's Profile Photo
    Sep 26, 2011 at 9:37 AM

    Great info about a wonderful place.

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    Aug 17, 2011 at 9:43 AM

    I hadn’t realized you were a "lapsed geologist" but I do appreciate your clear explanations e.g. of how obsidian is formed. (I had one semester of geology in college, but that just whetted my appetite.)


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