I have been meaning to visit the Olkaria spa since I spotted a photo of the spa pools online. The color of the water is reminiscent of the blue lagoons in Iceland and since I won’t be going to Iceland in the foreseeable future, why not settle for the local version.
Olkaria geothermal spa is located right at the heart of the Hell’s Gate National park. The Centre is a product of Power Projects at Olkaria where Kenya Electricity Generating Company Limited (KenGen) owns and operates four Geothermal Power Plants.
There is ample parking, and the spa is a short walk from the parking lot.
The spa consists of 3 cascading ponds that receive geothermal water collected from various wells inside the Olkaria geothermal field. The first is the receiving pond. It receives hot geothermal water with temperatures of approximately 90 degrees centigrade. It is unsuitable due to its high temperatures. The Second pond fills up from the overflow of the first pond and has temperatures of about 60 degrees centigrade, also unsuitable. The third and largest pond receives the overflow of the second pond and overpass from the first pond. Its temperatures range between 30-40 degrees.
The first thing that will hit you once you get to the spa is the overwhelming odor of hydrogen sulphide which smells like rotten eggs. The smell is not at all pleasant but you get used to it once you have been in the spa pool for a while. A quick shower will get rid of the scent once you’re out of the pool.
Spot my partner in crime
There is a smaller shallower kid’s pool right next to the larger pool so you can comfortably watch over your little ones while you relax.
The changing rooms are well maintained and clean. The showers are functional but there is no hot water.
Caveat! Do not enter with jewelry. The sulphur in the water reacted with my silver ring and a dark coating of silver sulphide formed on top. It faded after a few days.
The spa is said to be rich in minerals such as sulphur and silica known to cure diseases such as psoriasis, fibromyalgia, arthritis among others. I had no ailments I am aware of, but what I can tell you is that I left the spa feeling the most relaxed and reinvigorated I have felt in a long while. I really do not have the words to describe the experience. Have you ever had a bath after a long stressful day at work? Multiply that feeling times 10, that is how awesome being at the spa felt.
Finding the perfect spot took some exploring. The outer edge of the pool closest to the changing rooms is cooler, for me the sweet spot was about 2-3 meters from the edge of the pool where water from pool #2 trickles into pool #3.
Relaxing at the spa had been the only thing we had planned to do for the day but we ran into a hitchhiker who convinced us to take a short hike through Hell’s Gate’s famous gorges.
Hell’s Gate is a very popular hiking destination, “The Lion King” setting was heavily modeled after this park. It is also the setting for several other movies such as Lara Croft and The Cradle of Life: Tomb Raider 2.
Wear suitable footwear, some parts of the hike entailed walking up slippery narrow rocks. Several times the guide had to give me a helping hand. Be careful about the small streams you run into, some of them containing boiling hot water.
Hell’s gate offers a kind of rare wildlife experience. One of the only national parks where it is safe to explore by bicycle or on foot. Large game animals roam openly, but the park remains free of predators, so you can cycle or walk freely among grazing zebras, giraffes, impalas and buffaloes.
At the southern end of the main Hell’s Gate gorge, close to the Central Tower, another walk descends into the Lower Gorge, Ol Njorowa the most fascinating attraction in the park. Parts of this section can be quite dangerous particularly during rainy weather, as the floor is subject to flash-floods.
The hike is not difficult but neither is it for the faint hearted, towards the end of the hike I was on all fours, panting with exhaustion. In hindsight I would have gone for a hike then relaxed my sore muscles by visiting the spa.
Due to time constraints we had opted for the shorter hike so I wasn’t able to see as much of the park. I would definitely go back, given how close Naivasha is to Nairobi one can easily drive down for the day and get back home before dark.
The park is accessible via tarmac road from Nairobi (90kms) via Naivasha Town on the Lake Road South at a junction 5km south of Naivasha.
You need to first pay to access the National park as follows: Citizens;Ksh 350 for adults and Ksh 250 children, Residents Ksh 700 adults and Ksh 350 for children, USD 30 for adults and USD 20 for nonresidents.
You can rent a bike for Kshs 700 and if you choose to hire a guide it will set you back Kshs 2500.
Once you get to the spa you pay Kshs 400 to access the swimming pool. You can rent swimming trunks and even a costume for a towel for Kshs 200 each.