Trip Ideas from Moshi and Arusha – Lake Chala on the Border With Kenya
Lake Chala in three words: simply breathtakingly beautiful!
Trip to Lake Chala was one of those “finding Nirvana” type of trips. Before I embarked on a journey had no idea what to expect, but upon arrival I knew I found a paradise. Being there in low season, the camp was almost empty, I felt like I owned the property!
It was a hot African day, sun was hot, skies were clear and the only annoyance were flies that occasionally bumped into my face. My driver and I pitched our tents on the camping site, unpacked and then I headed straight to the shores of Chala Lake.
It’s a short (about 15 minutes) but steep walk with slippery tree roots on the way. The colours of Lake Chala and the vegetation around it was just stunning. Emerald green lake was temping me to dip in and have a swim, but despite the fact almost everybody does it, I didn’t have the courage.
The shore of the lake is mainly rocks and stones. In early 2000 there were crocodiles present in the lake and even killed one person. According to the stories I heard, crocodiles were eradicated 100% throughout the years. It was a day for me with plans to chill out and do nothing and although I could go for a hike around the crater lake I decided to skip walking this time and just unwind and dive into a good book on the deck overlooking the entire lake. Yes, I came here to do nothing.
Activities on Lake Chala
If you are hyperactive type of traveller that needs a lot of action, be warned Lake Chala is quite isolated and dont expect much to be going on.
Along with perimeter hike around the Lake Chala crater where at one point you will find your self walking in Kenyan side of the lake, you can go for canoeing, swimming at your own risk (no life guards!), do some birdwatching and in the right season observe the elephants gathering at waterhole in the distance. Baboon monkeys are everywhere, if hiking around the Chala Lake, take a stick with you just in case. Hiking trail as I heard is not well cut so have a sturdy hiking boots.
Directions to Lake Chala
The best way to reach Lake Chala is by private car, preferably 4×4 with gps device and a driver familiar with the area. I got a safari car with driver and it took us about three hours to reach Lake Chala from Arusha. From Moshi with private car trip is shorter for one hour.
Those travellers that want to complicate their life can use public transport but in this case you will loose lots of travel time and overnight in Lake Chala is highly recommended, unless you want to risk travelling back in the night. There is no direct transportation to Lake Chala, travelling with public transport will require a lot of logistics and nerves, its for intrepid travellers only.
If starting the solo trip from Arusha or Moshi there are two options. The easiest way to go: hop on a bus heading to Rombo and step off at Mamsera. From Mamsera you can take mototaxi for the rest of the bumpy road to Lake Chala (boda boda or piki piki ) which will cost you 6000 TSH one way. To wait for you and drive you back prices go around 10 000 TSH. Always negotiate the price and conditions in advance and pay at the end of service.
The other option is taking a taxi from Mamsera, if going for a day trip only, its best if you seal the deal with taxi driver to wait for you at Chala Lake – cheaper than calling him again to pick you up!
In Moshi you can also look for “Noa” heading to Rombo and stepp off in Momsera.
Noah in Tanzania is name for shared car. The name is Swahili slang – usually shared cars are Toyota Noa cars, that’s why its got name Noa even though often times cars are different brands. Shared car collects people heading to similar direction, it stops on the way wherever you want, but leaves only once it is full. Waiting for car to get full might take hours of waiting.
Shared cars are driven by locals who own the car. Be sure the guys have driving license. And meaning full car, is usually a lot more people than fits the car! I once took Noa to some other city in Tanzania – in a car registered for 5 people we were staffed like sardines in a can, ending up 12 people sitting in the tiny car. Its an adventure! All alternatives to car hire with driver bring much more risk being involved in a car accident.
As I said, I brought my own tent although tents are available for hire at the property. In case you want to be self contained, make sure you shop for groceries in Moshi or Arusha. Toilets and showers are fairly clean. Hot water is available in the evenings and mornings. There is 25 USD entrance fee to Lake Chala mandatory for all – day visitors and overnight guests.
My day at Lake Chala was perfect until the night time when a group of noisy campers arrived and decided to have a drunken party till the morning hours with loud music. That totally spoiled my night which I expected to be a quiet sleep in the company of night birds. The huge minus goes to the management as in this case they didn’t bother to do anything about it as they live on the other side of the property.