A rugged landscape, hewn from millennia of volcanic activity and erosion, Hell’s Gate National Park offers visitors the chance to experience a place suspended in time.
Deep gorges twist and turn, cutting into rock that witnessed humanity take its first steps. Extinct volcanoes, though still standing tall against the African sky, have been whittled down by the passing of time. The sense of timelessness is heightened by the acrid smell of sulphur piercing the air – hot, bubbling springs finally giving up age-old gases.
As one of Africa’s smallest national parks, Hell’s Gate harks back to the prehistoric. Measuring just 26 square miles, it provides visitors with the opportunity to experience an area of profound geological interest, and immerse themselves in the distant past.
Guests are Loldia House can visit Hell’s Gate on a day trip, where they’ll have the option to be accompanied by one of our resident naturalists on a walk, learning not only about the area’s special geological features but also its captivating wildlife.
Hell’s Gate gorge snakes through the centre of the park, a tributary to an ancient lake that once existed. Visitors can explore the curving walls of the gorge with a guide, and experience the aptly-named sections – the devil’s sitting room, Hell’s clinic, and the devil’s mouth. There are several small waterfalls, both cold and hot, as well as stunning, multi-coloured rock strata and formations. You might even recognise some of the locations – they’ve been included in productions such as Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life, and inspired others such as The Lion King.
At 25 metres tall, Fischer Tower is a remnant of the park’s volcanic history. This craggy behemoth was formed when semi-molten rock was forced through a fissure and solidified around 35 million years ago. Accompanied by a guide, visitors can climb the tower and gaze over the surrounding area – a view that has changed little in a very long time.
Another vestige of volcanic activity are the obsidian caves, located along the Buffalo Circuit (a 14km track around the eastern part of the park). Entering the cool of the caves, you’ll notice the shiny, black and dark green surface of obsidian rock. This mesmerising gleam is the result of molten lava coming into contact with water and cooling rapidly.
Aside from the spectacular geology, Hell’s Gate is also home to a wide range of wildlife. Despite its relatively small size, the area’s wildlife includes giraffes, lions, leopards, buffalo, thomson gazelles, and eland antelopes. The high cliffs of the park are also ideal for nesting birds, which total around 103 species. Of particular note is the bearded vulture – a rare yet stunningly beautiful bird.