The only way to explore any of Kenya’s wildlife parks is by game drive, right? Wrong. In Hell’s Gate National Park you can roam as free as the big game that reside here. Thanks to large carnivores being so rare, a walking – or biking if you fancy it – safari is where it’s at. This is the definition of a back to basics safari.
But basic is pretty beautiful, as you’ll soon discover. In fact, the scenery is so incredible here that the park was even the inspiration for everyone’s favourite Disney film – yep, you’ve guessed it – The Lion King. It turns out that Pride Rock really is a place. And, as if that claim to fame wasn’t enough, any Lara Croft fans may recognise Hell’s Gate’s dramatic gorge as the setting in which some of Tomb Raider II’s dramatic scenes were filmed. Hollywood is obviously a fan, so we’re pretty sure that you will be too.
The park itself was established back in 1984 and named ‘Hell’s Gate’ due to the intense geothermal activity that occurs within its boundaries. So, it’s not just the towering cliffs, water-gouged gorges and stark rock towers that make this park’s topography so staggering, but its natural geysers too. Probably a word that you associate more with Iceland’s icy landscapes, the natural hot springs of this Kenyan national park are actually very much reminiscent of the world-renowned Blue Lagoon. With its steaming cobalt waters, the all-natural Olkaria Spa is a great spot for soaking those aching limbs after all the action-packed activities on offer in the park. Seems more like heaven than hell to us.
Trampling, scampering or prancing the dry and dusty landscapes alongside you will namely be African buffalo, giraffe, zebras, elands, hartebeests, gazelles, baboons, klipspringers and warthogs. And, as a known breeding ground for both eagles and vultures, it’s likely that keeping an eye on the sky will reward with a fair few sightings too.
With the unique capability to wander the Kenyan wilderness, Hell’s Gate National Park offers up an adventure that is hard to match. ‘Bush walks’ you may have heard of, but the complete freedom to roam landscapes that are reminiscent of a time long left behind by the modern world makes for a real “pinch me, I must be dreaming moment”. It’s a place where up-close-and-personal wildlife encounters are the norm.
Herds of zebra graze in the long grass just metres away from you, unperturbed by your presence. A warthog grunts its way across the dirt track that you’re following and a giraffe is only interested in you for a mere second before a tasty looking tree calls for its attention once more. Ok, so you don’t get the big cats, but that doesn’t take anything away from the park. Here, without the threat of a lion wanting you for dinner, you really are at one with nature.
For those who love a good hike, the gorge should be your go-to. Although fairly challenging, it is suitable for all abilities and very rewarding once you’ve completed it.
South of Lake Naivasha, Kenya
Your best safari gear. And remember, you’ll be on the ground a lot for this one so dust off those hiking boots because you’ll be needing them here.
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