Lake Naivasha and Hells Gate National Park are one of the more fun areas for travellers to visit in Kenya. Mainly because on the lake you can relax and take a fun boat ride out to get very close to hippos and at Hells Gate you can cycle through it and get close to the wildlife.
If you’re heading to Kenya for a short break check out my 2 weeks Kenya itinerary (link opens in new window) from my time there. It combines Lake Naivasha with other destinations in Kenya.
The first thing to do when arriving at Lake Naivasha is to just relax by the lake in the afternoon and then take a boat ride out in the evening when the weather is cooler. Being on a boat with no cover in the blistering Kenyan heat is no fun after all.
Lake Naivasha Boat Ride
There are many bird species at the lake and they were easier to find than the hippos at first. Many more smaller birds can seen, as well as more big ones.
The hippos shelter in shallow waters in the day and feed at night. When you spot them the small boat will get closer but the hippos will eventually disappear before you get to close back under the water.
Did you know hippos are the most dangerous animal in Africa?
Eventually our trip we discovered found some more hippos on the surface and moved up close. In a small boat so near a group of big heavy hippos, that could easily charge and maybe capsize the boat, is a thrill! for sure.
When they disappear under the water you never know if they are approaching you, so you have to keep the boat moving.
They bobbed their heads above the surface and then sunk beneath the lake. We saw several such groups with one group being very entertaining, as they showed their massive teeth and appeared to be charging the boat.
You should have a similar experience if you go there.
It was a peaceful small ride out onto Lake Naivasha and we returned to relax at the guesthouse for the night and prepare our bicycles for the next days fun.
Hiking and Biking in Hells Gate National Park in Kenya
It’s not often that you get to do a walking safari in the African bush, never-mind a biking safari.
But that’s what you get at Hells Gate National Park.
The beginning is the biking before hiking in Hell’s Gate gorge.
This was our experience in the park.
After an early start and a short bike ride to the entrance we headed in.
With hyenas apparently in abundance in the area, and some leopards and cheetahs were said to be around, it was an exciting proposition.
We were wondering if they were just winding us up about the predators though and it seems they were. Maybe just rarely they see predators around.
The scenery was amazing with rocky escarpments and zebras, warthogs and antelope running from us as we biked along.
The riding was easy along a dirt road and the park is not so big, so we finished earlier than what we thought on the biking section. No dangerous animals were sighted, just the usual friendly ones like zebra.
It was great fun being on a safari with nothing between you and the animals. Next we came to the hiking part of Hells Gate National Park where we would go hiking through some gorges and descend into Hells Gate proper.
Leaving the bikes behind we went down.
After some debate on whether we needed a guide or not we decided to take one with us. It turned out to be a good decision as you could easily get lost in the gorge.
With steep ‘cliffs’ on each side it was very cool as you are shaded from the sun in parts.
The guide kept us entertained by telling us how many snakes there were, and leopard caves en-route.
Ugh, personally I hate snakes but we didn’t see any.
It was hard going at times as we had to climb and descend slippery slopes, sometimes quite steep, and the hot sun above adding to the discomfort when not in shade.
But it was a great workout and we were very thankful to have the guide show us the easier way.
Spending around one and a half hours hiking there we eventually climbed to the top of the gorge for a view the national park.
That’s where the guide left us and we straddled the bikes once more, cycling hopefully towards a hot spring pool to relax in from all the exercise. We had heard about it at our hotel in Lake Naivasha and it was apparently on the route back to the lake.
The entire area is volcanic and thermal water was seeping out of cracks when hiking the gorge.
Now we were on a mission to get to a massive geothermal plant on the way out of the park to bathe in its soothing waters.
It was a reasonably hard day exercise wise already and having spent a lot of energy in the other areas, we found out that a series of hills would have to be biked and climbed to get to the thermal pool, and get us eventually out of the park.
The strong sun was baking us and it seemed like forever until we finally came to the pool, and we were in for a well deserved treat.
The volcanic waters eased us as we spent two hours relaxing there. It was hard to leave and get back on the bikes, but we had to go before nightfall.
Things were not yet done however as one of the bikes got a flat tyre. A Dutch couple that was with us came to the rescue as they both could ride on the same bike. That way we could all leave together.
Being mostly downhill from then on, and the cool evening breeze blowing us along from behind, we reached the lake and biked with huge birds flying overhead.
We reached the guesthouse and downed cold Coca Colas that we had been dreaming of to quench the thirst. If ever there was an advert for Coca Cola that was it!
It was a very good day out at Hells Gate National Park.
Information for Lake Naivasha and Hells Gate in Kenya
You can easily find hotels in Naivasha and hostels down by the lake which is the best place to stay. The are plenty of cheap hotels in Naivasha as well.
Most places will be able to rent you a bike for the day.
For tourists in Kenya the Hells Gate park price is $26 for adults and $17 for children. It’s definitely worth it.
You could do a private tour but it’s much more fun to go by yourselves.
There’s also plenty of other activities to do in Hells Gate such as rock climbing and horse riding, but we didn’t have time for that.
Lake Naivasha is also only a few hours away from nearby Lake Nakuru which is famed for its large rhino population, so it’s great to combine the two.
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