Hell’s Gate was the outlet for the prehistoric freshwater lake that stretched from here to Nakuru and which, it’s believed, would have supported early human communities on its shores. Today it’s a spectacular and exciting area, the Njorowa gorge ’s red cliffs and undulating expanse of grassland providing one of the few remaining places in Kenya where you can walk among herds of plains game without having to go a long way off the beaten track. Buffalo, zebra, eland, hartebeest, Thomson’s gazelle and baboons are all usually seen, lions and leopards hardly ever, but you might just see a cheetah, and you’ll certainly come across their footprints if you scan the trail. There are also servals – one of the most elegant of cats – and, high on the cliffs, small numbers of klipspringer (“cliffjumper”) antelope.
The park is also home to Olkaria Geothermal Plant, the first productive geothermal installation in Africa. The underground temperature of the super-heated, pressurized water is up to 304°C, one of the hottest sources in the world, and the station is eventually expected to supply half of Kenya’s energy requirements. Although the whole complex is working at full tilt, the impact on the local environment appears to be small, and it certainly doesn’t spoil the landscape.
The best time to arrive is dawn, when most animals are about, and you should try to avoid the midday hours, as the heat away from the lake can be intense. You’ll need to carry plenty of water and some food (the only place to buy anything in the park is a simple staff kiosk in the Olkaria Geothermal Area).