What you need to know:
- The scenic gorge is the only evidence of a tributary that once fed a prehistoric lake in the Rift Valley.
- The main entrance to Hell’s Gate National Park, Elsa Gate, and the nearby Elsamere Farm and Conservation Centre, are named after Elsa the lioness.
- One of the hills surrounding Lake Elementaita is known locally as The Sleeping Warrior or Delamere’s Nose.
- Folklore from different communities regarded the crater and its infamous cave as a place of darkness and evil spirits.
Established in 1984, this national park is named after a narrow gorge in the cliffs that early explorers thought resembled an entrance to an abyss.
It was named in 1883 by Joseph Thomson, after whom Thomson Falls in Nyahururu was named, and Gustav Fischer. Fischers Tower in Hell’s Gate is named after the latter.
The scenic gorge is the only evidence of a tributary that once fed a prehistoric lake in the Rift Valley.
One section inside the gorge is called the Devil’s Bedroom.
Early explorers thought the unearthly noises by monkeys that congregated there at night sounded like what might emanate from the devil’s quarters.
The gorge has provided scenes for numerous movies, most memorably Tomb Raider, Cradle of Life, and King Solomon’s Mines.
Elsa Gate and Elsamere
The main entrance to Hell’s Gate National Park, Elsa Gate, and the nearby Elsamere Farm and Conservation Centre, are named after Elsa the lioness.
Elsa was one of the most famous of Kenya’s cats.
Adopted and raised by George and Joy Adamson, Elsa’s life was documented in several books and movies. She died in 1961 after contacting a tick-borne disease similar to malaria.
This volcano is named after a British colonial administrator, C.W. Hobley, who served in Kenya between 1894-1921.
The Hobley Valley on Mount Kenya is also named after him.
Kekopey is the name of a famous stop-over on the Nairobi-Nakuru highway, where travellers enjoy roast meat and other delicacies.
It gets its name from the larger Kekopey Ranch, which once covered the entire area.
Owned and named by its first white settler owner, Galbraith Lowry Egerton Cole, Kekopey Ranch was a 30,000 acre gift from his brother-in-law, Lord Delamere. Cole named Kekopey after what he claimed was a Maasai word for “where green turns white”, in reference to the diatomite and sodium salts found near Lake Elementaita.
Soysambu Ranch and Conservancy
The Delamere family has farmed the most famous colonial settler farm in Kenyan history, Soysambu, for more than a century.
According to the Soysambu Conservancy website, Soysambu has two possible etymologies. It is close to the Maasai phrase for “the place of striated rock”.
Sambu is used to refer to a cattle colour. It is also a possible origin of the name.
Soysambu has hosted prominent personalities, such as Winston Churchill and Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.
The Obsidian Caves
The Obsidian Caves are named after the distinctive obsidian rocks found inside.
The black glass-like rocks are formed by the rapid cooling of molten lava after coming into contact with a large water body.
Sleeping Warrior, Delamere’s Nose
One of the hills surrounding Lake Elementaita is known locally as The Sleeping Warrior or Delamere’s Nose.
The former reference is derived from the shape of a warrior lying horizontally and has already been adapted by a nearby lodge.
The latter reference to the third Baron Delamere’s nose, was most likely given by the local Maasai community.
They saw the hill as resembling the pioneer settler’s narrow, aquiline nose.
In full, the Loita Forest is known in Maasai as Loita Namina Enkiyio, which translates to “The Forest of the Lost Child”.
According to Maasai folklore, a young girl followed wandering calves into the forest and never returned.
Mount Satima or Lesatima
One of the highest peaks in the Aberdares is known as Mount Satima or Mount Lesatima.
It retains the original name of the Aberdare Range, the Satima Range.
The Maasai named the ranges, Ol Donyo Lesatima or the Mountain of the Bull Calf.
The Aberdare Range was so named by Joseph Thomson after Lord Aberdare (Henry Bruce) in 1884.
Aberdare was the president of the Royal Geographical Society and the Royal Historical Society.
He had earlier served as the Home Secretary (1868-1873) and the first chancellor of the University of Wales.
The Dragon’s Teeth
This rock formation on Mount Satima is shaped like dragon’s teeth with jutting sharp volcanic cones.
The first rock formation in the series is called Alex’s Incisor.
The etymology of this famous crater is disputed.
The presence of the Kikuyu word for supreme deity, Ngai, makes many researchers think that it originated from a Kikuyu phrase.
Some sources claim that it was a corruption of the pidgin phrase, “Many Ngai”, to mean many gods.
To the Kikuyu, the mountain was known as Kirima kia ngoma, meaning “the mountain of devils”.
However, some sources claim that Menengai originates from the Maasai word for corpse or, more closely, the dead.
Folklore from different communities regarded the crater and its infamous cave as a place of darkness and evil spirits.