Naivasha, Kenya: The Floating Rock of Hell’s Gate

Have you ever wanted to make a trip to the inspiration behind the opening scene in the Lion King? Karis from Don’t Dream Just Travel has been kind enough to take you on a journey with her through this incredible landscape!

If you ever find yourself in Naivasha, Kenya, one of the places you should definitely visit is Hell’s Gate National Park.

Hell’s Gate is located in Naivasha, around a 3 hour drive from Nairobi. Entrance fees for non-residents are currently set at $26, with an added fee for a car or a bicycle.

One of the great things about Hell’s Gate is that you are allowed to rent bikes at the entrance to the park and bike through. It is one of the few parks that is probably safe enough to do so, although you must stay on the road and not wander.

You can also camp overnight on one of the cliffs overlooking the park. I often made a weekend trip to Hell’s Gate to camp, hike, bike, and look at the wildlife.

It is a little known fact that Hell’s Gate inspired the Lion King (see the actual “Pride Rock” here!), and Tomb Raider with Angelina Jolie was also filmed here. I actually personally know the local videographer that got to work with the team for this film and taught both of his sons in one of the schools I worked at in the Rift Valley.

Another neat feature of Hell’s Gate is that it has a beautiful canyon that you can hike down. Because it is prone to flash floods it can be quite dangerous and the entrance is monitored by the Kenya Wildlife Service.

I lived and worked in Kenya for 9 years and Hell’s Gate has always been one of my favorite places to camp and hike, however, one day things did not go to plan.

I went on a day trip with some friends and we hiked down into the canyon that had recently been filled with flood waters, so the going was tough in the mud. We had quite a few small waterfalls to climb up and down, and at one point, we had a giant, stillwater mud puddle to figure out how to get across. We couldn’t walk through because after pushing a stick in we realized it was probably waist deep, and the canyon walls on either side were absolutely vertical with no way of climbing over them.

Right in the middle of the puddle, however, was a relatively large, flat rock. The first guy in the group decided to try and jump for it, took a running start, landed on the rock, and promptly went completely under the water.

The rock was not what we thought it was – it was a porous, floating, volcanic rock! It was literally floating in the middle of the water and wouldn’t sink. We had never seen anything like it!

The rest of the guys I was with decided to muscle their way across by putting their feet on one side of the canyon wall, and hands on the other, and shuffling across the puddle. They were all over six foot, and all five feet, eight inches of me (which I thought was a fair height) decided to do the same.

I got about halfway before I realized that being four inches shorter than the guys wasn’t going to work as I slipped on the rock and went straight in! Thankfully, this was before the days when we carried smartphones everywhere, so no equipment was lost – only my pride!

The only other girl in the group decided to save her dignity and charged straight through the puddle, which ended up coming up to her chest at the deepest point.

After half of our party emerged from that hike dripping and muddy. We were definitely looking forward to going home that evening and showering off the mud of Hell’s Gate, wishing that the floating rock had actually been solid so our hike wouldn’t have been so wet!

Whenever we drive by Hell’s Gate, we remember that crazy floating volcanic rock and wonder how it got there, many miles away from the closest volcano in Kenya … I think if it were alive, it’s probably still laughing at us.

Follow Karis and her adventures over on her blog and social media!

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