6 Awesome acitivities for Lake Naivasha and Hell’s Gate National Park in Kenya

Last Updated on by Charlotte van de Sande

Just two hours away from the busy city life in Nairobi you will find the beautiful lake Lake Naivasha. But this lake is not the only reason why you absolutely must make a trip to this region called the Great Rift Valley. In this travel guide, I will tell you exactly what you can do in the area of Lake Naivasha! In the area of Lake Naivasha National Park, you will find Hell’s Gate National Park, a safari park where you can do a bicycle safari! You can also climb Mount Longonot volcano here. Read about this and more awesome activities and things to do in the surroundings of Lake Naivasha in Kenya in this blog.Lake Naivasha


How many days do you spend on Lake Naivasha?

Two days is enough to see both Lake Naivasha and Hells Gate National Park. However, if you want to see more of the area and do the activities below, stay near Lake Naivasha for at least four days.

Lake Naivasha owes its name to the sudden storms that occur here. Nai’posha (in the local Maasai language) means rough water. Fortunately, we only experienced such a storm in a mild form on our last evening, the other five days in the vicinity of Lake Naivasha the weather was good. Five days, by the way, sounds quite long, but there is so much to do here, that we could easily have stayed here for a week. We travelled through Kenya as backpackers and visited Lake Naivasha and Hell’s Gate National Park with a small budget.


↠ Travel tips: these things should not be missing from your packing list for Kenya



6 awesome activities and things to do near Lake Naivasha!

There are more than enough activities and cool things to do in the surroundings of Lake Naivasha. Below you will find an overview!

1. Thé number one activity at Lake Naivasha: take a boat trip on the lake!

Lake Naivasha is a beautiful lake full of birds and hippos. A boat trip on the lake is highly recommended. You will most likely spot hippos, herons, pelicans and dozens of other birds. With a little luck, you can even see a lost flamingo. These animals used to be found in Lake Naivasha, but due to the rise in water levels, they have been migrated to neighbouring lakes such as Lake Nakuru and Lake Baringo.

Most hotels offer boat trips, we booked a boat trip at Camp Carnelley’s and paid 3500 KES per hour. The boat can fit seven people and if you manage to find seven people, you will pay 500 KES (5 USD) per person.

What is the entrance fee for Lake Naivasha?

Lake Naivasha is free, so you do not pay an entrance fee! Perfect for budget travellers and backpackers!

Lake Naivasha

2. Fun thing to do in Hell’s Gate National Park: a safari on a bicycle or a hike!

Hells Gate National Park is one of the few national parks in Kenya where you can walk and cycle freely. Because there are no elephants, lions or leopards, the park is safe to move through the park without a ranger, guide and car. We decided to take a bike ride with our Canadian friends Carlann and Erin followed by a hike through the canyons in the park.

Budget tip: bicycle hire two kilometres from the Elsa Gate to Hells Gate National Park is cheaper than renting a bicycle at your accommodation. Check the bikes before taking off, they are not all in good condition. We paid 600 KES (6USD) per bicycle.

Biking through Hell’s Gate National Park!

The bike ride runs through dusty roads in about 8 kilometres to the canyon. Along the way, you will see zebras, giraffes, buffalos, impalas and wild hogs, with yellow and orange rocks in the background. There are three different hikes in the canyon that you can do, short, medium and long. We did the medium version and a short part of the long one, but the latter is poorly maintained and not recommended. You walk through a deep gorge where you sometimes have to climb up with ropes or walk through smooth rivers. This sounds more difficult than it is and you can easily do the medium walk in two hours*!

Budget tip: Both the bike ride and the hike in the canyon can be done without a guide. A guide during the hike is also not mandatory. We just followed the flow of other visitors and were able to do the medium hike on our own*. Do you still want to hike with a guide? Then know that the price is negotiable.

* Unfortunately, recently 5 tourists and their guide drowned in a sudden storm when they were hiking the canyon. Be very careful when it starts to rain, the canyon can fill up very quickly. It is a very dangerous place at that time.Hell gates National Park

Entrance fee for Hell’s Gate National Park

Park entrance is: 26 USD per person
Entry for the bicycles: 215 KES (2.15 USD) per bicycle

Hell’s Gate is a relatively inexpensive National Park for Kenya. Perfect for backpackers. However, keep in mind that the chances that you see large (dangerous) animals are virtually zero. So if you are looking for lions and elephants, then Masai Mara National Park is a better option. Take enough water, sunscreen and possibly a buf that you can put in front of your mouth against all the dust that blows off the road.Hells Gate National ParkHells Gate National Park

3. Climbing a volcano: Mount Longonot

The hike to Mount Longonot was a really cool experience! You climb the volcano and then walk around the entire crater. The way up is steep, but easy to do. Along the way, you will see footprints of monkeys and behind you lays the beautiful Lake Naivasha. Once at the top, you will see the deep crater of the volcano. This is completely filled with trees, a large green blanket underneath you. It is not advisable to enter the crater, there seem to be dozens of poisonous snake species.

After the climb to the top of the volcano, you can (and we can absolutely recommend this) walk around the entire crater in about three hours (7.2 km). This also requires a lot of climbing and you will be completely covered with dust, but it is more than worth it! From the highest point (2560 meters) you will look out over Lake Naivasha, you will see Hells Gate National Park and the rest of the Great Rift Valley.Mount Longonot

Park entrance Mount Longonot: 26 USD per person

We came by taxi from Camp Carnelley’s. This cost 2000 KES (20 USD) for four people (500 KES per person) one way. With public transport (a matatu) you can get to the village of Longonot, from there it’s a three-kilometre walk to the park entrance.

Tip: This hike can easily be done without a guide. There is only one path that goes up. If you are at the top of the crater, walk counterclockwise. This makes the descents that you sometimes have to make a little easier.Mount Longonot

4. Walk among the wildlife on Crescent Island in Lake Naivasha

A very cool thing to do is visiting Crescent Island. This is a small private island in Lake Naivasha. It is made into a nature reserve. Officially it is not an island but a peninsula. Here you will find wild animals such as zebras, giraffes, impalas and with great luck a leopard. Admission is 30 USD per person. You can reach Crescent island by car by driving through Sanctuary Farm. You can also reach the island by boat.

On Crescent Island, you can (if you are on time on the island) use a free guide. This guide can tell you everything about wildlife on Crescent Island. You can enter the park by car or take a walk.

Click here for more information about Crescent Island.

5. Admire the beautiful wildlife in the crater Crater Lake Game Sanctuary volcano

Just like Mt Longonot, Crater Lake Game Sanctuary is also a volcano, with a large lake in the crater. Around the volcano, you will find giraffes, zebras, 150 different species of birds and other animals. Crater Lake Game Sanctuary is located just west of Lake Naivasha and is an area that is perfect for a walk around the lake. There are guides available who can walk with you, but exploring the park on your own is also possible.

Some animals are best spotted during a night safari. The entrance fee for Crater Lake Game Sanctuary is $ 25 per person.

6. A multi-day thing to do near Lake Naivasha: Climbing Mount Suswa / Susua

From Lake Naivasha, it is also possible to go to Mount Suswa, a large volcano where hardly any tourists come. In just under three hours you walk to the top of the crater, from where you walk around it in eight hours. If you visit Mount Suswa, you will also spend the night here, camping on a flat piece of grass.

This tour is not recommended without a guide, so arrange a local Maasai guide in advance to take this two-day tour with you. For more information click here.


↠ Also a special destination in Kenya: Lamu. Click here for a free travel guide for Lamu in Kenya!


The best budget hotels near Lake Naivasha?

Most of the accommodations and hotels at Lake Naivasha are on the south side of the lake. The city of Naivasha is located just east of the lake, not on the lake itself. We stayed for two nights in the city before spending three more nights at the lakeshore. The latter is a lot more fun, but with public transport (a matatu) you can reach the lake or one of the other activities here relatively quickly from the city.

Lake Naivasha is not an easy destination for budget travellers or backpackers. There are hardly any budget hotels and most restaurants are not too cheap either. If you stay in Naivasha Town, there are several budget accommodations available, but you will have to take a matatu to get to the lake. Below some hotels at Lake Naivasha that we recommend!

Camp Carnelley’s €

Lake Naivasha

This is the campsite where we stayed. There are dorms, budget rooms and luxury cottages. The camp on the lakeshore. The accompanying restaurant is good but a bit pricey. From 30USD for 2 people in a budget room.

Book now

Fisherman Camp €

fishermans camp

This campsite is located next to Camp Carnelleys and has slightly cheaper rooms. You can camp here too. There is a restaurant that is cheaper than that of Camp Carnelleys. From 20 USD per night for 2 people.

Book now

Crescent Camp €€€

crescent camp

Crescent Camp is a bit more of a luxury hotel with beautiful cottages, but you can also camp here. It is close to Naivasha town and to Crescent Island. From € 190 per night for 2 people for a luxury cottage.

Book now

Eating in and around Lake Naivasha

The restaurant at Camp Carnelley’s is very good but relatively pricey, prices are not backpacker-friendly. At Fisherman Camp, the food is also tasty, much cheaper but the service isn’t great (long waiting times). The food at Matteo’s Italian Restaurant also seems to be very good.

In the city of Naivasha is a large shopping centre with, among other things, a Tuskys supermarket and a Java Coffee House (the Starbucks of East Africa). Here we ate some tasty burritos and great coffee.


Where are Lake Naivasha and Hell’s Gate National Park located in Kenya?

Lake Naivasha is a large lake northwest of Nairobi, in the middle of the Great Rift Valley. The Great Rift Valley is a series of long fractures that runs from Lebanon to Mozambique, along the entire line are lakes and volcanoes, some active. In Kenya, the Great Rift Valley runs from northern Lake Turkana to just south of Lake Naivasha. Hell’s Gate National Park is approximately 10 kilometres away from Lake Naivasha.

Map of Lake Naivasha and Hell’s Gate National Park in Kenya

kenya route itinerary

How to get to Lake Naivasha?

Lake Naivasha is located at 94 Km and only a 2-hour drive from Nairobi. Because it is so close to the capital of Kenya, it is the ultimate weekend getaway. If you want to avoid the crowds, then preferably go during the week and not at the weekend. There are direct matatus from Nairobi to Naivasha (400 KES per person).

How to travel from Maasai Mara to Lake Naivasha (or the other way around)?

We travelled from Maasai Mara to Lake Naivasha by public transport. First by shared taxi to the city of Narok (500 KES), where you transfer to a matatu (500 KES per person, they will try to make you pay for luggage but you can negotiate perfectly) that will take you directly to the city of Naivasha.

Mount Longonot

How to travel from Naivasha to Lake Naivasha?

Taxi: A taxi to most accommodations in Naivasha costs 1500 KES (15 USD), although it is perfectly possible to negotiate.
Matatu: From the city of Naivasha it is still half an hour to most accommodations on Lake Naivasha, indicate in advance to where you want to be dropped of. The price is 100 KES (1USD) per person, even though they will try to make you pay 200 KES.


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Travel guide Lake Naivasha, Hells Gate National Park and Mount Longonot


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