Hell’s Gate National Park is a spectacular otherworldly landscape that is home to a range of big game species including giraffe, zebra, Cape buffalo, and warthog. The dramatic cliffs of the park used to be a tributary to a prehistoric lake that fed early humans in the Rift Valley. More recently, they have been rumoured to be the inspiration for the Lion King!
Safaris can be arranged at most hotels and campsites although it is a really easy place to self-drive. If you have access to a vehicle this is the best way to cover the most ground. If you’re feeling energetic, you can hire a bicycle at the main entrance. Aside from Cape buffalo, there are no dangerous animals in the park which makes it a great place for cycling and walking. There is a spectacular gorge that you can hike through to reach the Devil’s Bedroom and a seasonal waterfall – guides can be hired at the start of the hike (highly recommended if it is your first time). Be careful if you are visiting during the rainy season as flash flooding can occur.
Average rating: 4.5 (very good)
Average cost: entrance to the park costs around $30.
Best time to visit: Hell’s Gate offers good wildlife watching throughout the year although the rains can interfere during the main wet season from March to May. Wildlife is at its best in the dry months from June to October – although the scenery is often more spectacular during the wetter months.
How to get there: Hell’s Gate is around 100 km from Nairobi and can be easily accessed from the city. As there is no accommodation in the park, most people visit as a day trip from the nearby Lake Naivasha.
Typical activities: 4×4 safari, cycling, hiking, self-drive safari, walking
Number of reports: 2
WILDLIFE IN Hell’s Gate
According to reports submitted to WildSide, the species visitors most want to see here include:
Giraffe – 100% of visitors (2/2) reported sightings
The world’s tallest mammal can be found in the area. The Maasai giraffe is the tallest subspecies of giraffe – reaching up to 5.5 metres tall! The area is home to the northernmost population of Masai giraffe in Kenya. Hell’s Gate is a great spot to take a mountain bike safari through the incredible landscape. While you’re pedalling you can look out for giraffes as you go. It’s a rough but rideable track that gives you a chance to think about the history of the area and the current challenges it faces.
zebra – 100% of visitors (2/2) reported sightings
Hell’s Gate is home to a significant population of Burchell’s zebras and they are easily spotted by most visitors to the park. The lack of predators means you can come face to face with zebras on your own two feet (or wheels). Taking a mountain bike safari through Hell’s Gate provides a great opportunity for spotting them. With visitors reporting fields full of zebras standing out against the spectacular landscape.
Cape buffalo – 50% of visitors (1/2) reported sightings
Cape buffalos are also found in the park – the only member of the ‘Big Five’ and the only one to watch out for in terms of safety. Give them plenty of space if you do see one. Cape buffalos have a reputation for suffering a severe lack of humour, taking on anything they dislike. They can charge at great speed when they feel threatened – making them the most feared animal on any walking safari!
Warthog – 100% of visitors (2/2) reported sightings
Warthogs can be seen throughout the area year-round. They are conspicuous and easy to spot with their upright tails, erect manes, and regal bearings. Warthogs are herbivores that spend most of the day foraging for food. Their keen sense of smell allows them to uncover roots, plants, and bulbs. Between 2007 and 2014, the warthog population in Kenya experienced a steady increase up to 16,000 before nose-diving to 13,500 following a prolonged dry spell.
Photo credit: WildSide user Chris Eves