Hell's Gate National Park Safari Guide

safarigo   Kenya  

This small park near Lake Naivasha contains a nice variety of plains animals, but it lacks most of the flagship species. The appeal lies more in the scenery with impressive sandstone cliffs and volcanic outcrops. Rock climbing, hiking and mountain biking are some of the activities available.



Pros & Cons


Great day trip from Lake Naivasha
Stunning volcanic scenery
Unguided walking and cycling permitted
Inexpensive accommodation in nearby Naivasha
The park is very under-utilized and never gets busy
Many major safari animals are absent
There is only a small game-drive circuit


Wildlife & Animals

Hell’s Gate is not a Big Five destination. Aside from buffalo there are no dangerous animals, which makes walking and cycling excellent activities. Burchell's zebra, Coke's hartebeest, Thomson's and Grant's gazelle and impala are the main grazers. Giraffe and defassa waterbuck can also be encountered. Olive baboons are all over the cliffs.

Wildlife Highlights


The plain-looking Chanler's mountain reedbuck is one of the more unusual antelope species that can be seen in the park. The park is also good for some of the small antelopes, such as Kirk's dik-dik and steenbok. Predators aren’t easy to spot, but cheetah is here, while spotted hyena and black-backed jackal can sometimes be seen at dusk. Lucky visitors might also come across the elegant serval.

Birds

More than 100 bird species have been recorded at Hell’s Gate. It was once famous as a breeding place for bearded vultures (lammergeyers), but these beautiful vultures are now only occasional visitors. The cliffs still attract several nesting raptor species including Egyptian and Rüppell's vultures. The Verreaux’s eagle can often be seen soaring above the cliffs looking for rodents. Migratory birds are present from November to April.

Best Time to Visit

Hell’s Gate offers reasonable wildlife viewing throughout the year, but the rains might interfere with your activities during the main Wet season months (March, April and May).

June to October – Dry Season


It is sunny and dry, but rarely hot
Dry days are excellent for walking and cycling
Grass is short, and animals congregate around water, making them easy to spot
It never gets crowded
A lot of dust in the sky and the scenery is less spectacular


November to May – Wet Season


Skies are clear of dust, the park is green, and there are lots of flowers
Many newborn animals
Wildlife viewing is still fine in the Wet season as the park isn’t very big
Bird watching is excellent, migratory birds are present, and raptors are nesting on the cliffs
March to May can be very wet and rain can interfere with walking and cycling activities


Weather & Climate

Due to the relatively high altitude, the climate is mild throughout the year. Daytime temperatures are pleasant in the mid to upper twenties, while it cools off at night. The main Wet season (‘long rains’) is from March to May while there is a shorter wet period (‘short rains’) peaking in November. The short rains aren’t as pronounced as in other places in Kenya.

Dry Season – June to October


The weather is very pleasant in the Dry season. Days are usually sunny, but not too hot. It seldom rains, but there can be the occasional shower. It is recommended to wear winter clothing on early morning game drives.
June, July & August – It is mostly sunny and dry, although there might be some rain in June. Afternoons are pleasant, with temperatures reaching 22°C/72°F, but evenings and early mornings are cold with temperatures of around 9°C/48°F.
September & October – It is still mostly dry, although there might be a bit of rain some days. It warms up a bit in October. Temperatures reach up to 25°C/77°F and higher. Early mornings stay chilly, with temperatures around 10°C/50°F.


Wet Season – November to May


There is a drier period in January-February separating the ‘short rains’ and ‘long rains’. However, the really wet period is only a short spell from March to May, peaking in April. Morning temperatures are around 10°C/50°F, so warm clothing is necessary.
November & December – 'Short rains': The rains usually break sometime in November. Afternoon temperatures are around 25°C/77°F.
January & February – There is a drier period between the short and long rains. The exact timing is difficult to predict, and it will still rain a bit.
March, April & May – 'Long rains': April is the wettest month. It often rains, but not for the whole day. Afternoon showers are common, so visiting the park in the morning is recommended.

Getting There

Hell’s Gate is located 100km/62 mi northwest of Nairobi and 18km/11mi west of Naivasha. As there is no accommodation in the park, most people visit as a day trip from Lake Naivasha. Naivasha is easily reached by car via a tar road from Nairobi. Alternatively, there are daily flights to Loldia airstrip on the western side of Naivasha.

Getting to Nairobi is easy as this is one of the biggest transport hubs on the continent. International flights arrive in Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO), 15km/9mi southeast of Nairobi.

Naivasha is a convenient stop-over between Nairobi and the Masai Mara. The distance from Naivasha to the Masai Mara is 170km/105mi and the driving time is about 3½ hours.