Travel guide Lake Naivasha, Hells Gate and Mt Longonot.

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!

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.Lake Naivasha

How many days do you spend on Lake Naivasha?

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. If you don’t have much time, you can see most of the highlights in the surroundings of Lake Naivasha in two days.

What activities do you do in the area of Lake Naivasha?

1. Do 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.Lake Naivasha

2. Cycling and Hiking in Hells Gate National Park

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.

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*!Hell gates National Park

Hell’s Gate is a beautiful park, but we were a little disappointed after our wonderful visit to Maasai Mara and the beautiful canyons we had seen in Madagascar. Bring enough water, sunscreen and possibly a buf to protect your face against all the dust.

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

Tip 1: bicycle hire two kilometers 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.

Tip 2: 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 carefully when it starts to rain, the canyon can fill up very quickly. It is a very dangerous place at that time.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 vulcano, 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 fee: 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-kilometer 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, there is a small private island that is made into a nature reserve, Crescent Island. Here you will find wild animals such as zebras, giraffes, impalas and with great luck a leopard. Admission is 30 USD per person.

5. Visit Crater Lake Game Sanctuary

This 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. We did not visit this park because we saw the same animals in Hells Gate National Park.

6. Climb 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 klik here.

Where do you sleep in Lake Naivasha?

Most of the accommodations 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 slept 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 travelers or backpackers. There are hardly any budget accommodations 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 places 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 lake shore. 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.

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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. 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 center 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.

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).

From or to Maasai Mara

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

From 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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