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Hells Gate and Mt Longonot National Parks Get Major Face-Lift

Date Published: 22 Sep, 2009
Hells Gate and Mt Longonot National Parks Get Major Face-Lift

Hell's Gate Branding

Forestry and Wildlife Minister Hon Dr Noah Wekesa EGH MP will on Friday September 25, 2009 preside over the branding Hell’s Gate and Mt Longonot national parks in Naivasha.

The branding of the two parks 100 km north west of Nairobi marks the 16th such event since 2005 when the Kenya Wildlife Service started the high profile marketing blitz aimed at promoting national parks as a world-class tourist destinations and an important areas of conservation.   This is in line with Vision 2030 development blueprint that seeks to make tourism a leading sector, making it among the best tourist destination in the world offering a high-end, diverse, exclusive and distinctive visitor experience.

The complete makeover of the Hells Gate and Mt Longonot park, includes not only the rehabilitation of infrastructure but also a comprehensive community outreach programme.  The refurbishment of the park facilities was extended to the construction of administration block at Ereri Primary School,   the rehabilitation of Narasha Cattle Dip in order to improve livelihoods of the surrounding pastoralist community as well as the purchase of 60 pieces of beehives communities in the dispersal area to provide alternative livelihoods to communities and to curb bush meat and promote tolerance to problem animals. The Narasha – Suswa road has also been repaired in collaboration with Narok County Council to serve as a new tourist circuit to Maasai Mara game reserve.  This will surely enable visitors from Nakuru, Aberdare and Naivasha access the Maasai Mara within a short time. 


Background

KWS has been branding its national parks and reserves to improve service delivery, increase park visitation as well as provide a unique identity for each protected area.  Other branded parks include Lake Nakuru, Amboseli, Tsavo East and West, Meru, Nairobi, Kakamega Forest. Other are Saiwa Swamp, Mt Elgon in Trans Nzoia, Ruma in Homa Bay and Ol Donyo Sabuk in Thika. The current phase of the branding includes Impala Sanctuary in Kisumu, Ndere Island in Lake Victoria and Mt Kenya.
The process involves refurbishment of various facilities, including signages, roads, buildings as well as support to community projects.

The Hells Gate national park management has started a number of initiatives to improve visitor experience. For instance, in December a festive season bus shuttle service targeting local tourists was launched at the park. The package by Kenya Wildlife Service to the ideal getaway 68 km square-park includes a 37-seater bus to ferry visitors from Naivasha town (between Naivash Supermarket and the council offices) to the park on weekends and public holidays. The first trip begins from 8 am to 2 pm while the second runs from 3 pm to 7 pm.

The charges of Sh400 for adults and Sh250 for minors include transport and park entry fees for a three-hour trip. However, for residents and non-residents (foreigners), pay a constant bus fare of Sh300 and separately pay the normal park entry fee applicable to them.

In June, a fun-cum-fundraising named To Hell on a Wheelbarrow on a tricky 5km circuit through the Park raised Sh2.8 million to support community projects.   
Despite the rather alarming name, the park 100 km north-west of Nairobi, provides an ideal venue for a day trip from Nairobi and Nakuru, a truly panoramic picnic spot or evocative camping stopover. Cleft deep into the floor of the Rift Valley, this relatively small park provides endless biodiversity and is one of the only two Kenyan national parks to allow walking or cycling without an official KWS escort. The park offers some of the most scenic and well-equipped campsites in Kenya. The facilities include picnic benches, sheltered picnic areas, shower blocks, water taps, pit latrines and litter bins.

However, the park has no self-catering accommodation but there is a variety in Naivasha town and on Moi South Lake Road, near the park.
The towering cliffs and undulating grasslands provide one of the few remaining places where tourists can walk alongside herds of buffalo, zebra, eland, hartebeest, mountain reedbuck, hyrax, Thomson’s gazelle and giraffes. There are also troops of baboon, serval cat and some klipspringer antelope. If lucky, a tourist can spot a lion, leopard or the elusive cheetah or merely find their tracks in the dry dust of the roads.

One of the park’s key attractions includes the 25-metre jagged volcanic plug named after a German explorer Gustav Fischer. The rock offers excellent climbing tool and is home to a colony of rock hyrax, one of the closest relatives of the elephant.

The park also boasts of an incredible 103 different species. Its massive cliffs also provide a home to thousands of swift as well as a unique breeding ground for vulture, augur buzzard, the elusive Verreaux’s eagle and the rare Lammergeyer vulture.
Sporting pursuits in the park include walking, rock climbing, hiking and mountain climbing (bicycles available for hire at the park’s Elsa Gate).
 

Tourism Activities and Visitor’s Experience

  • Leisure walk- trails: (gorge, obsidian, hell’s kitchen, Narasha & Hobley volcano). It’s the most unique aspect because unlike other parks in the country this is a walk in park.
  • Rock climbing - towers & cliffs. It’s used as a training ground for mountain climbers across the world
  • Game viewing - open grassland & viewpoints as the wildlife drink from the troughs within the park
  • Cycling- one of the unique aspects in hell’s gate. Visitors can cycle through the park 
  • Bird watching - ornithological safaris & bird hide (to be introduced soon 
  • Photography - The Park has scenic beauty for photography. The animals can be easily photographed
  • Filming- more memorable film shot in the park: (sheena queen of the jungle, Born free, King’s Solomon mines, where no vulture fly, Elephant boy & Magambo) 
  • Picnic sites - The park has almost ten picnic sites e.g. Maibeni, Fischer’s tower, hobley’s volcano  
  • Camping- public campsites: (oldubai, Naiburta, Narasha, olkaria)  special campsite: Endachata 
  • Research & Education- Educational & Research institutions
     

Parks’ Major Attractions

  • Central tower - volcanic plug, 30m high and popular site for experienced climbers
  • Ol-Njorowa gorge- hot springs, bird life, picnic site, devil’s shower & devil’s bedroom
  • Fischer’sTower - named after a Germany explorer (Gustaff Fischer) & alleged story Maasai community that there was a chief’s daughter who was going out for marriage then she had a last look of her home against their taboos. She turned to a rock. Rock climbing  
  • Obsidian caves - obsidian caves, picnic site, stalagmites & stalactites  
  • Hell’s kitchen - a lot of steam & fumaroles, sulphur emitting from red soft rocks & burning all through hence the name. 
  • Hobley volcano- big holes emitting steam from almost 40 ft deep, nature trail about 3km, view point of: lake Naivasha, Aberdares ridges & Mau escarpment. Also, a picnic site, crater & natural sauna 
  • Olkaria hill- The highest point & landmark in the park used by Maasai to mark their direction of collecting red ochre. 
  • Cliffs- breeding & nesting sites for various bird species. 
  • Geothermal power station- Supports 15% of country’s electricity 
  • Maasai cultural manyatta / centre- entails maasai cultural beliefs, taboos, arts & performance 
  • Infrastructure - Signage’s, roads, trails, picnic& campsites etc  
  • Curio products- African attires and products 

 

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