As you can tell from the title, a lot of things have happened over these last few days. Coming from my safari tour, I was eager to get back on my feet and do something active in nature, and the past two days in Naivasha gave me that as well as the turning point/connection with Kenya I’ve been waiting for.
Day 5: Nakuru safari + biking and hiking through Hell’s Gate National Park + fresh fish at Lake Naivasha
After my safari in Masai Mara, I had one more half day safari in Nakuru as the final part of the tour. I originally wasn’t going to visit Nakuru, but since it is neighbors with Naivasha which I was for sure going to hit up, I decided to add Nakuru to the intinerary.
Nakuru is a small park and I honestly liked it more than Masai Mara. While Masai Mara is iconically vast and has the classic dry safari scenery, Nakuru is more densely filled with animals, water, and trees/plants left and right, making it quite an interesting safari spot. Many of the animals were the same as Masai Mara:
However the big one that most of us were eager to see were the rhinos – they were everywhere in the park!
We chilled at a nice and shady waterfall for a bit.
Now the main reason we were all in Nakuru was to see the flocks of flamingos that live at Lake Nakuru. I’d seen pictures online as well as on Planet Earth, and I was excited to see this magical site for myself! Unfortunately, the lake was pretty sad and the flamingos were very few for some reason…they weren’t even pink! Womp.
Yet, it was still calming just to be by the water, first time the entire trip.
One of the last animals we saw while leaving the park were these baboons. They all paired up to give each other flea checks. I laughed so hard as they were so adorable and human-like 🙂
We left Nakuru in the late morning and were off to Naivasha, a short one hour drive away. A few of us were staying in the same guesthouse which I got pretty lucky with finding. The previous night, I still hadn’t booked a place to stay in Naivasha and figured I could just get there and figure it out. Thank god one girl in my group, Alanna, warned me that most places in town were booked! She graciously connected me with the host of a guesthouse she found and I was able to secure a spot (along with our other friend Filipe, who I met at Masai Mara). I think I’m getting a little too confident with my spontaneous backpacking and hope it doesn’t bite me in the butt…
After lunch, we dropped off our stuff at the guesthouse and were off to Hells Gate National Park for the afternoon.
Hell’s Gate is a gorgeous park with biking and hiking trails, known for its scenic tall cliffs and gorges. I didn’t have high expectations going into Hells Gate since I didn’t find too much info online and not a lot of people come out to it, but within a few steps into the park, I immediately fell in love. As this blog knows, I think my excitement of being active again compounded with the natural beauty of the park to make me one happy gal 🙂
Alanna, her dad, Filipe and I rented mountain bikes to explore the park. I seriously could not contain my excitement as we explored the nooks and crannies of the park while the fresh air blew through my hair. Every 10 seconds there was another tall cliff or cute animal to “ooo” and “ahh” at.
One of the coolest parts of Hell’s Gate was that you could bike/walk WITH the animals! Even though we were probably the same distance as in the safari van, something about powering my own movement by biking made me feel much more one with nature and the animals.
At one point, we hopped off our bikes and went for a hike down to the Hell’s Gate gorges with a guide who told us we couldn’t go down alone.
The hike itself was SO much fun. We were climbing on all fours to get down the rocks and into the valley with water flowing through. I live for these kind of hikes 🙂
We came across a hot spring – the water was close to boiling point.
Finally we made it to the gorges. A truly unforgettable site. Being at the bottom of the earth and looking up to the endless layers of rock formations – I’ll never forget it.
After emerging from the gorges, we were back on all fours as our guide brought us up in elevation to see a viewpoint of the entire park.
As we were sitting on the rocks and looking out Hells Gate, I remember thinking, “wow…Kenya is a really beautiful country”. I never would have expected it to have so much diverse natural beauty. It’s seriously underrated on that front. Being in Hells Gate definitely gave me a spark of appreciation and connection to the country that I was so looking for up to this point.
One sketchy thing that happened afterwards: we were biking back and I ran into some friends from Masai Mara. As I pedaled over to say hi, our guide stopped me and said “don’t tell them I took you to the gorges…” I asked him why and he said that the gorges were closed by the national government after 7 people died a few months ago from flood/rain, and he didn’t want to get in trouble.
I guess that’s a Kenya scam for ya. 😛
We were all a bit sketched out, especially since we were down there while it was raining! Yet we agreed that it was still SO worth it; it was a truly unforgettable site. Also, our guide was actually a cool guy and he even gave us an awesome local’s recommendation for dinner afterwards.
And so after returning our bikes, we headed over to Lake Naivasha for a local’s experience. Lake Naivasha is filled with fisherman, and you can choose fish right at the lake and they will fry it on the spot – so special! There wasn’t a single tourist in site.
While we were waiting for our fish to cook, we enjoyed the sunset on the lake…I remember feeling so peaceful and happy to be in Naivasha. Water is always my happy spot, and the lake added another layer of appreciation for me.
Time to eat! We ate with our hands (no utensils) and devoured our picks of fish. It was so nice to share this experience with these new friends too. I feel like bonding happens quicker while your traveling, and in just 2 days, our group became so comfortable with each other.
After our satisfying dinner, we headed back to the guesthouse for much needed rest after a full day. My heart was so full from the entire day beginning to end.
Day 6: Lake Naivasha + hike in Crescent Island + no tourist in site in Naivasha + chill evening at the guesthouse
The following morning, the four of us shared one last breakfast together before saying our goodbyes. Alanna, her dad, and Filipe were all heading to Nairobi that day, and so I was left with my last day in Naivasha all to myself.
Adele from my Masai Mara safari highly recommended taking a boat out to Naivasha and hiking Crescent Island, which I figured would be a perfect, relaxing and active way to spend the day. I ended up getting a boat driver all to myself who gave me mini safari on the lake. From the moment we started moving through the lake, my happiness level shot up. I sound like a broken record but I just love the water and I loved everything about the vast and calming Lake Naivasha.
Lots of people were out fishing. They were all independent fishermen who didn’t have boats and would catch ~10 fish a day to sell/feed their families.
Lake Naivasha is filled with hippos. We got super close to them and it kind of scared me – hippos are the deadliest animals in Kenya!
Lots of pelicans and birds on the lake.
Then we made it to Crescent Island, a small island where you can walk with the animals seen throughout this trip. Fun fact: the island didn’t have any animals 40 years ago until the movie Out of Africa brought them onto the island to film there.
I took my time walking through Crescent Island. What I like about it was that it had familiar safari scenery but with the lake’s water backdrop, which was quite special. Also, similar to Hell’s Gate, being on my feet made me feel more one with the animals.
I declined having a guide for the hike because I didn’t think I needed it…well guess who got lost as I got a little too carried away with trying to follow some zebras. Thank god I had my boat driver’s number who ended up driving around the entire island to rescue me. Oops!
After the fun time on the water and island, I relaxed by the lake with an orange soda (for some reason, I love drinking orange soda when I travel despite never drinking it at home!). There were only locals around and I just wanted to soak in some last peaceful moments on the lake.
I took a break at the guesthouse to let the hot sun come down a bit, and then was back out to the city of Naivasha (~1 mile walk from the guesthouse). While the guesthouse is quiet and on top of the hills, the town was much more bustling, filled with street food, markets, small vendors, restaurants…I really loved Naivasha town compared to Nairobi. It had a very authentic and basic feel to it.
I ran some errands and had an early dinner at another local’s spot recommended by my host. You know it’s a good spot when you’re the only tourist sitting in it :). In fact, in all of Naivasha town I didn’t see a single tourist – they all tend to stay further from town on one street with all the nice hotels/resorts (I looked it up later and they were all minimum $300/night!). I felt so lucky to stumble across this guesthouse through Alanna and be right in the locals action.
After devouring a full plate, I took a walk in my guesthouse’s neighborhood at golden hour. I remember in that moment feeling so incredibly grateful for my amazing time in Naivasha. I felt like thing were falling into place and I was finally connecting with the culture.
The rest of the evening I spent enjoying down time to myself, blogging, and getting organized for my next stop. I’ll be heading to the Kenyan coast tomorrow for the second half of my trip, starting with Mombasa. 🙂
It’s bittersweet leaving Naivasha since I truly loved it here and I feel like I’m just starting to hit my stride. I’m really excited for the coast but I know the beach vibe is going to be very different from the inland vibe, and I’m hopeful that all this positive momentum is going to carry through to this next phase of my trip. ❤
2 thoughts on “Kenya days 5-6: Nakuru safari + biking through Hell’s Gate National Park + hitting my stride at Naivasha + Crescent Island hike”
The flamingos dont turn pink until they eat enough of their fish/shrimp diet that turns them that color — I think it hasnt truly hit rainy season in Kenya yet so in a month or two they will all be pink! And try the Grape Fanta…my lifeblood in Namibia
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Ah that makes sense! Haha nice I’ll try the grape sometime this week.