Cycling with zebras is not something you are likely to forget in a hurry. At Hell’s Gate National park, its high time you did away with your safari stereotype, put down the North Face khakis, slip on your trainers and get on your bike. Located just an hour and half from Nairobi, this national park is home to zebras, giraffes, elephants, birds, the endearing hyrax and a host of wild deer and antelope. While you won’t see any of the big cats that roam other parks, their absences means you are free to explore by bike. For the adventurous, there are night safaris, rock climbing and a long gorge to climb down. Be careful in the rainy seasons when flash floods can make the gorge a deadly trap. However, its just as rewarding to cycle down the dirt path, stopping to take in the rock cliffs that served as the inspiration for Lion King. After you realize that, its hard not to sing Hakuna Matata at all the warthogs. Try not to… you’ll probably offend them with your awful Kiswahili! And there’s nothing worse than an offended warthog!
Further from the lake is Mt Longonaut, an extinct volcano that towers over the flat landscape. It’s a beautiful hike that goes from the base of the volcano and then circumnavigates the crater. While no guide is necessary for the summit walk, it is worth hiring one to explore inside the crater, where thick vegetation and crumbling rock faces constantly hide the path. Book well ahead if you wish to camp in the crater and be sure to check all camping equipment is good quality as it gets cold at night. The hike is not a challenging one, but good footwear is necessary. Be aware that in the rainy seasons, flashfloods can degrade the trail further. Bring plenty of water, as there is no shade during the walk.
When your legs get tired, head towards the lake for a boat ride amongst the hippos. If you don’t fancy waiting for a boat to fill or are on a tight budget, just sit by the lake long enough, a hippo or two will drift by. Near the lake, everyone knows someone who knows someone who’s been eaten or partly eaten by hippo. After a while it gets to sound a bit like an urban legend, but the dangers are real. Be sensible and listen to your guide. Even if you don’t see a hippo, there are hundreds of birds wandering its shores, making it a favourite spot for bird watchers. Enjoy a drink (try a Stoney Tangawazi!) at one of the food stalls that dot the shores of the lake along the more popular access points or follow a random path to see locals going about their daily life in their wood salvage houses.
There is a range of accommodation options- from camping in the national park or lakeside to luxury resorts. The Sanctuary is a remarkable venue for lunch or a few nights stay. Safari animals brought in to star in the film Out of Africa were never returned to their natural habitat. Finding their new home blissfully free of predators, what was once handful of animals took the “discovery channel” route and now roam in herds across the hotel grounds. If you are on a tighter budget, the camping is excellent and there is a selection of hostels, including the YMCA. Most of the resorts will offer food at a price, but there are few local restaurants around the lake. For a good feed, at a good price, head to Naivasha Town. Meat lovers will love the disco nyama choma (barbequed meat) spot on the main street- just look out of the disco lights and listen out of the pounding bass! While hardly picturesque, this a good spot to shop for supplies, as well as catch matatus to and from Nairobi and the rest of Kenya.
Whether you are after a hippo or a nightclub in a greenhouse, you will find it around Lake Naivasha. Its close proximity to Nairobi makes it a popular spot for travellers and locals alike. It’s the perfect spot of an active weekend, followed by a luxurious massage and watching the moon rising over the lake. What are you waiting for? On yer bike…Zebras, giraffes and the odd hyrax are waiting!
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