Hot, Wet and Natural! (Olkaria)

Sunny morning at Cray Fish Camp.

Sunny morning at Cray Fish Camp.

During my recent short stay in Naivasha ( a market and tourist town located north west of Nairobi), I remembered reading an article in the Business Daily back in 2012 about a natural spa that was being built by KenGen at the Olkaria Geothermal fields which are located about 33km from the town, and only 13km from Cray Fish Camp where we were putting up. It was a must visit!

Mash

Mash at Olkaria spa

After a rushed breakfast at the Karuturi Club House, we all boarded the vehicles and proceeded down the Moi South Lake road towards the Olkaria geothermal fields. The road is smooth, without many vehicles and it can be tempting for one to speed. This was however not the case this time, as we were captivated by the panoramic view of Lake Naivasha on the right side of the road. The visible wide expanse of the lake, combined with the soothing warmth of the early afternoon sun and the lazy breeze seeping through the open car windows  gave one a feeling of deep tranquility!

Beautiful Lake Naivasha

Beautiful Lake Naivasha

After leisurely driving for about half an hour, we arrived at the Olkaria Gate where we had to pay a park entry fee of Kshs. 300.00 per person albeit the fact that the tickets we had purchased in the late afternoon of the previous day read that we were allowed entry for the next 24hrs!

Olkaria Gate into the Hells Gate National Park

Olkaria Gate into the Hells Gate National Park

To avoid paying additional park entry fees for the vehicles, we parked outside the Olkaria Gate and opted to walk in to the Geothermal Fields which were several hundred meters away from the gate. We packed what we thought we needed at the spa in backpacks and within minutes were off, walking towards the Olkaria Natural Spa whose construction was partially done but was now open to the public. This will be the biggest natural spa in Africa and it is built to accommodate about 500 people at a go!

Olkaria natural spa bath under construction. (File photo courtesy of Nation Media Group)

Olkaria natural spa bath under construction. (File photo courtesy of Nation Media Group)

The natural spa has four interconnected hot water lagoons. The first, second and third lagoons have diameters of 30, 40 and 70 meters while the fourth, a child’s pond measures 10 meters wide.  It is also said that the spa which is to be known as the Direct Use Centre,  could also host a geological and geothermal museum tracking the development of geothermal resources in Kenya as well as progression of global technology for converting steam into economic activities.

A building under construction on the site

A building under construction on the site

Happy people walking to the Olkaria spa from the main gate

Happy people walking to the Olkaria spa from the main gate

On our arrival an attendant at the natural spa walked up to us and gave us a quick introduction to the site. He advised us that only those who promised to adhere to the rules of the spa would be allowed to sign in on the visitors’ book and also use the spa. We were a well mannered group and we listened to the attendant keenly as he read out the spa regulations. There was nothing he read that was out of this world, so we all signed in and off we went into the spa! 🙂 Of note is that;

– No visitor is allowed to go to the hot spring reservoir which emanates smoke (an indication that it holds super heated water from the bowels of the earth) and is enclosed with mesh wire to keep everyone well at bay for safety reasons

– Users of the spa are not allowed to dive into the hot water as the bath pool is not conducive for this due to its shallow depth

Elaborate Signage

Elaborate signage on some of the spa regulations

The spa is wide and full of inviting baby-blue coloured water. On one of the sides, there is a temporary shower in the open through which each visitor must go before entering into the waters of the spa.

Mash with the wide Olkaria natural spa in the background

Mash with the wide Olkaria natural spa in the background

I quickly changed into my swimming shorts and went on to discover how the hot natural spa would feel to the body. As I went into the pool, the water was hot and I estimated it to be at about 30 – 35 degrees celcius. As soon as my toes came into contact with the water, the rest of body was sure it wanted to feel the warm caress of these waters! 😉 As I went further in, I found out that the lagoon has stairs to the depth of the pool.

Mash inside the Olkaria Spa in Naivasha

Mash inside the Olkaria Spa in Naivasha

I watched my friends get into a ‘contained’ thrill as they themselves ventured into the spa! It was evident in their faces why the spa regulations had to be so boldly announced; because on setting foot to the tantalizing water, one would be easily tempted to rush in with a dive so as to have the entire body enjoy this feeling!  Once inside the spa waters, the regulation that ‘Swimming Costumes Must Be Worn’ is not too welcome a rule, but we worked hard to abide! 🙂

The wide and beautiful Olkaria spa

The wide and beautiful Olkaria spa

As I immersed myself into the spa, I felt proud that on completion of this facility my country Kenya will have joined the leagues of other nations that have attracted tourists over time through their natural spas. These are countries like Turkey which has the Hamam spa, Costa Rica which has the Thermal Baths and New Zealand which has the Wahkarewrewa natural spa. Once the Olkaria natural spa is complete, it will have a steam bath and sauna in addition to the hot water pools.

My friends and I enjoying time in the Olkaria spa

My friends and I enjoying time in the Olkaria spa

It is said that the spa has good natural skin treatment elements that have been known to heal some skin diseases like psoriasis. Therefore, as much as we were here to have fun, our bodies were also gaining protective qualities from these waters!

Whie inside the spa, one didn’t feel the urge to leave as the engulfing warmth felt like a massage being conducted allover the body at the same time! I walked around the entire pond with my entire body (to the neck) immersed in the water. It was a great feeling!

Julie enjoying the natural treatment in the spa. The smile says it all! :-)

Julie enjoying the natural treatment in the spa. The smile says it all! 🙂

Kama & Trish share a moment at the Olkaria spa! ;-)

Kama & Trish share a moment at the Olkaria spa! 😉

As we floated by in the spa, laughter could be heard and jolly faces seen! Time flew by faster than we wanted it to, and this was an indication that we were definitely having a blast! The sun was fast retreating behind the hills and as much as we wanted to stay, it was time to leave the spa and head back to Nairobi before nightfall. This was quite a treat to our adventurous selves and I would definitely recommend the experience for you, your family and friends!

The children's spa bath at Olkaria

The children’s spa bath at Olkaria

Location: Olkaria Natural Spa, Naivasha

Distance: About 110km from Nairobi

Accommodation: There are several campsites within the Hells Gate National Park, and many camp sites and hotels along the Moi south Lake Road

Parke entry fees: Kshs. 300.00 per adult (Kenyan citizen) and 15USD for foreign tourists

Spa entry fees: A minimal fee to be introduced on completion of the spa facility

What to carry: Sun glasses, Sun screen, Light clothing, flip-flops , a swimming costume, towel and a camera to capture the moments

-MASH-

Cycling Through The Gates of Hell!

At the main gate of Hells Gate Park

At the main gate of Hells Gate Park

In the month of October 2013, the Rotaract Club of Milimani in Nairobi invited me to a cycling adventure to raise funds for their charity projects. Following my weakness to adventure, and my intention to give back to the community whenever I can, I jumped on this invite like a cheap suit! 😉

We all met in the central business district area of Nairobi. We split up into the several vehicles available, and we set off towards Naivasha. Excitement was evident in the group, it was obvious that everyone of us was looking forward to the experience.

I imagined cycling down a scenic landscape, coming across some wildlife, listening to the humming buzz of the insects in the grass, chirping of the birds in the trees and the whistling of the wind. I couldn’t wait to have this experience and also try to document it in photos to share with you all! I wasn’t disappointed.

We drove down from Nairobi via the Mai Mahiu road whose meandering corners, sliced rock ascends and portions of road providing view to the Rift Valley base make it one of the most scenic routes in Kenya. The road is cut in a gradual descend into the Rift Valley floor. As we traveled this road, we were treated to the sight of the imposing Mt. Longonot, the vast Lake Naivasha silvery under the sun and the steep mount Suswa.

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We finally arrived at a time when the clouds had gathered and were hanging low ready to pour. It was a dull late afternoon, but nothing was going to dampen our spirits. We prepared ourselves, the bikes and proceeded into the park after paying the entry fees at the KWS manned gate. As we begun to cycle out into the park, it started drizzling and I immediately knew that I wouldn’t have a chance to capture good shots in natural light as I had hoped to. I however in a deviant way strung my camera across my shoulder and packed a plastic bag in my pocket to protect it from getting wet should the rain get heavy.

The road ahead, below the heavy clouds

The road ahead, below the heavy clouds

Cyclists and Fischer's Tower in between two cliffs

Cyclists and Fischer’s Tower in between two cliffs

The earth road into the park welcomed us to a beautiful scenery of volcanic rock features that were just heart warming! The group of riders were keen on getting to the end of the 10km stretch. I on the other hand was more interested in capturing the moments and the beautiful surroundings of this national park. Before long, the entire group was cycling way ahead of me. I was somehow glad that I could now enjoy the beauty of the park in silence, a slow paced ride, an occasional whistle to an imaginary tune and a stop here and there to click away on my camera! This was awesome! 🙂

A pose right below Fischer's Tower

A pose right below Fischer’s Tower                                 (notice the rain droplets on the lens)

The cyclists. Members of the Rotaract Club of Milimani

The cyclists. Members of the Rotaract Club of Milimani

Everybody cycled with zest and I wondered if they took time to enjoy the nature surrounding us. As much as I was having fun cycling in the sporadic instances of speed and rough terrain maneuvers, I reached those I could and either captured their shots in action or requested them to pose.

Ozem , a member of the Rotaract Club cycles past a beautiful cliff

Ozem , a member of the Rotaract Club cycles past a beautiful cliff

Kamalee, Nelly and Kago pose with a beautiful cliff in the back ground

Kamalee, Nelly and Kago pose with a beautiful cliff in the background

We cycled down from the main Elsa gate of Hell’s Gate park and down to the Olkaria geothermal power station and into the Hell’s Gate Gorge main entrance. Along the way, some of the cyclists got too tired and opted to push their bicycles. As is often in adventure cycling trips, we also witnessed an accident where a lady fell of her bicycle after being startled by a reckless driver in the park. Luckily, she only sustained minor injuries. There was one instance I captured where a lady cyclist had trouble with the bicycle chain. One of the fellows was kind enough to stop and assist her, which showed good sportsmanship and care!

When the going got tough

When the going got tough

Bike problem and a gentleman at hand to help

Bike problem and a gentleman at hand to help

Cycling injuries. Ouch!

Cycling injuries. Ouch!

On arrival at the Hell’s Gate Gorge gate, it was quite late in the evening and this made it not possible for us to take a hike through the gorge since we needed to be out of the park by 7:00pm as per the regulations and also if we wanted to be safe from being gored by the wild animals! We however managed to get an introduction talk on the park and the several natural features in it from a very interesting and friendly game warden, Mr. Joseph Seret. He informed us that the park was established in 1984 and it has several campsites, a Masai cultural centre and several geothermal stations at Okalria. He told us that a majority of the features in the park and the ash that can still be felt in some sections of it were formed when Mt. Longonot erupted in the 1900s. The features mostly have ‘hellish’ names owing to the volcanic activity witnessed in the past. There is the ‘Devil’s Kitchen’, the ‘Devil’s Bathroom’ among others.

Hell's Gate Gorge

Hell’s Gate Gorge

Resting on arrival at the Hell's Gate Gorge

Resting on arrival at the Hell’s Gate Gorge

Mr. Seret the game warden giving a talk on Hell's Gate

Mr. Seret the game warden giving a talk on Hell’s Gate

Mr. Seret shared stories of the many safaris he has had in and out of the park, and the several encounters he has had with dangerous wildlife like poisonous snakes and lions. He told us of trips that can be organized from the park down to Olduvai Gorge, as well as a 15 day experience of the Masai culture within a real village. This got me thinking that I should plan to experience it. I hope to find time and eventually do this!

Mash, Mr. Seret the infrmative game warden, Alex, and Becky

Mash, Mr. Seret the informative game warden, Alex, and Becky

Mr. Seret with the Rotaract Club of Milimani members

Mr. Seret with the Rotaract Club of Milimani members

I touched the rock pillar! ;-)

I touched the rock pillar! 😉

The dark was now creeping in and so we set out on our way back to camp. On the way back, some of the cyclists decided to try their hands at ‘acrobatic’ cycling.

bicycle 'acrobats'. Ozem, Kamalee and Kago

bicycle ‘acrobats’. Ozem, Kamalee and Kago go hands free!

We also encountered some wildlife grazing in the plains, just as the game wardens had warned. The buffaloes were out in their herds and we were careful not to agitate them into a charge. I also happened to spot a gracefully tall giraffe hiding in the trees, a heard of zebras and a few antelopes grazing by a cliff. I also saw a community of baboons but by then it was too dark to take any clear photographs.

Pose and smile, with herd of buffaloes in the background!

Pose and smile, with a herd of buffaloes in the background!

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The cycle back to the main gate found us caught in the dark and some of the animals were now coming out to hunt. We couldn’t stay inside the park to watch as it is dangerous and against the park regulations. We had to retire back to camp (Cray Fish Camp) and prepare for the following day when we would make a visit to the Olkaria natural spa.

Darkness creeping in, a creek in the back ground.

Darkness creeping in, a creek in the background.

A heard of zebras and the Fischer's Tower in the background

A herd of zebras and the Fischer’s Tower in the background

Before we left the park, I took time to document my visit to the Hell’s Gate park, and to honour my ‘baby’ Black Giant. She was very cooperative on the long trip, patient when I pushed her to the limits and looked pretty for me through the thick and thin!

Mash and Black Giant resting on the park directions post

Mash and Black Giant resting on the park directions post

My 'baby', Black Giant. Isn't she a beaut!

My ‘baby’, Black Giant. Isn’t she a beaut!

This is an incredible way to enjoy a weekend out and away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The best way to enjoy nature at a pace that allows you to soak in all the beauty and the magnificence of all creation. If you are looking for an adventure spot or you are an adventure junkie like I am, I would highly recommend a cycling tour of the Hell’s Gate National Park!

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Location:

Hell’s Gate lies south of Lake Naivasha and north west of Nairobi, in Kenya.

Approximately 109km from Nairobi City Centre, about 1hr 30min drive.

Park Entry Fees:

East African Citizens: Kshs. 300.00 (Adults) Kshs: 200.00 (Children)

Residents:                   Kshs. 500.00 (Adults) Kshs. 300.00 (Children)

Non Residents:           USD. 25.00 (Adults) USD. 15 (Children)

Where to stay:

Hell’s Gate Park has some campsites (Oldubai, Nairburta and Endchata)

One also has the choice of staying at the many hotels and campsites along the South Lake Road, Naivasha. (Cray Fish Camp, Fisherman’s Camp, Sopa Lodge, Enashipai among others)

Activities available in the park:

Biking, Hiking, Rock Climbing, Bird Watching, Wildlife Watching

What to Carry;

Drinking water, camera, binoculars, hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, walking boots, guidebooks  and camping equipment if you intend to stay overnight

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-MASH-