Published on May 17th, 2021
Most game drives and safaris in Kenya require you to be in a vehicle when travelling within the park. But due to its lack of predators, Hell’s Gate National Park offers a unique way to explore some of Kenya’s remarkable wildlife. Visitors can cycle within the park, taking in the views of the panoramic gorges and cliffs and be close to resident wildlife, such as zebras, gazelles, warthogs and giraffes.
Having harboured dreams to experience this unique adventure, Mark and I left Nairobi to spend our weekend visiting the park and camping in Naivasha. This trip would be Mark’s second visit to the park and my first. I was very excited, to say the least.
The first thing I was looking forward to was seeing the animals up close. The second was to see if the half-hour bike lesson I took that one time in my adulthood was sufficient enough for me to navigate the park on a bicycle with ease.
How to Get to Hell’s Gate National Park From Nairobi
After a two-hour+ drive from Nairobi and a few stops to drop off Blue and grab breakfast, we arrived at the Hell’s Gate National Park’s Elsa Gate. The park is located in the Naivasha area and is very easily accessible from Nairobi. The drive was straightforward and Google Maps was helpful to direct us straight to the Elsa Gate.
Hell’s Gate National Park Entrance Fees and Opening Hours – 2021
The Hell’s Gate National Park operates between 6:00 am and 6:00 pm daily. Kenyan Adult Citizens and Residents pay 250 Ksh to gain entry, while children pay 200 Ksh. For Non-Residents, the fee is $20 for adults and $15 for children.
Hell’s Gate Bike Rental Cost
There are additional fees if you choose to rent a bike or drive into the park. The daily rental fee for a bicycle is 500 Ksh per person and another 215 Ksh to ride within the park. For cars, it is 300 Ksh for a car with less than 6 seats. You can check out the full price details and categories on the KWS website here.
We paid our entrance fees after testing out our rental bikes and off we went!
Hell’s Gate National Park Animals
Minutes into cycling (or my version of it), we came across small herds of zebras, gazelles and buffaloes, a large troop of baboons and a few hartebeests. It was very exciting for me to see zebras walk right in front of us. My first goal was going so well and I was happy about that. The second, however, was turning out to be a nightmare. I never imagined that getting back on a bike would be so tough but it was quite difficult for me to maintain my balance for a long period of time.
Having expended all my energy trying to keep my balance on my bike, I was beyond exhausted and ready to head back to the gate after riding for about two hours. Sadly, I didn’t make it to the gorge or other areas of the park.
I was also really hoping to see a giraffe within the park. Mark had seen a few during his first but I wasn’t so lucky this time. Perhaps if we had gone further in, I might have been. Nevertheless, a surprise awaited us on our return trip to Nairobi that wiped out any disappointment I was harbouring. I was also quite content to be very close to the zebras, so all in all, it was a rather great outing.
After our time at the park, we left for Camp Carnelly’s – our accommodation in Naivasha. The last time we were here, we stayed in one of the bandas. This time, we opted to camp out and it was quite a lovely experience.
The next day, we set out fairly early in the morning for our return trip to Nairobi. Remember the surprise I talked about earlier? Well, on our drive home, we spotted several giraffes grazing very close to the main road! I don’t know why I still get excited about seeing these animals. I mean I’ve interacted with them up-close at the Giraffe centre. I guess I just find it fascinating to see them in seemingly ordinary places.
As we drove out of Naivasha town, we came across more giraffes, zebras and gazelles. The entire trip felt like a super affordable safari – without 4 members of the big 5 of course. I loved every moment of it!
A Few Tips to Help Optimize Your Trip…
- If you plan to visit Hell’s Gate National Park, the best time to do so is typically early in the morning or late evening. During these times, you’ll avoid the scorching heat and the dust raised by cars as they drive past.
- Carry enough water with you and if you plan to spend a longer time in the park, a packed lunch might also be a good idea
Hell’s Gate National Park Day Trip
Since Naivasha is only about 2 hours away from Nairobi, a day trip to Hell’s Gate National Park is easily doable. The key is to leave Nairobi as early as you can to optimize your time within the park. But if you aren’t pressed for time, there are a few other activities to do in Naivasha, such as taking a boat ride on Lake Naivasha or hiking Mount Longonot. So consider extending your trip to spend more time within the area.
On our next trip to Naivasha, I would love to visit Crescent Island and some of the sanctuaries close by. I have read the animal sightings and experience are even more phenomenal than Hell’s Gate National Park and the entrance fees to visit these places are not as steep (especially for foreigners). I am certainly looking forward to it!
Have you been to any of these places? Please share your experience with me in the comment section below!