Lake Chala

Crater lake in Northern Tanzania


Region: Kilimanjaro

Category: Crater Lake

To-do activities:

Walking safari, kayaking, bird watching, and camping

Best time to visit:

Throughout the year. Hotter during the day between December and March


Available at Lake Chala Safari Lodge. Click here for more info

About Lake Chala

Lake Chala is a crater lake that is found in Tanzania – near the Tanzania-Kenya border in Taveta, Kilimanjaro. The lake can be found after a steep hike of about 20 minutes down a 150-meter-high crater rim and its water is fed by underground springs from Mount Kilimanjaro - disсhаrgеd аt аbоut 10 milliоn m³/yеаr - hence making the water safe and fresh for swimming, kayaking, and other related activities. Through further subsurface systems, Chala in turn supplies the waters of Lake Jipe, which is around 30 kilometers away.

Lake Chala is believed to be a caldera of a volcanic eruption that occurred millions of years back. However, all that is left now is a beautiful lake surrounded by a lush green forest, where a variety of monkeys and birds may be seen in profusion. 

Depending on the season, the color of the lake varies from deep blue to turquoise and green. The only native fish in this lake is the Lake Chala tilapia (Oreochromis hunteri), which is found nowhere else in the world. It is considered critically endangered and is now greatly outnumbered by other tilapia species that have been introduced to Lake Chala. 

Interesting facts about Lake Chala

  • Being 98 metres deep, Lake Chala is actually deeper than Lake Victoria

  • Subject to clear weather, one can see Mount Kilimanjaro from Lake Chala

  • Due to fresh streams supply of water underground, the water colour varies from green, turquoise to deep blue

  • Lake Chala has a rare tilapia fish species - Oreochromis hunteri, which is found nowhere else in the world

  • Lake Chala is a feeder lake to a nearby Lake Jipe

Our journey to Lake Chala

We drove to Lake Chala on the eve of 13th July 2019. It took us just about 6 hours to drive from Dar es Salaam to Moshi. To me, this was a special trip since it was my first one since I had intentionally decided to explore Tanzania and well, bought a car just for that - a 2004 mini Cooper. Though it was a risky drive because we started the journey just a few hours after I had bought the car, without servicing it nor changing the tires (they looked good). Thank God we arrived at Lake Chala safe and sound without any hiccups on the way

We arrived at Lake Chala Safari Lodge at around 10 am, and after checking the tents we went on to have our breakfast right away. We then went on for a walk around the plains, river bed, and a viewpoint for Lake Chala

Our walking safari was just amazing. We spent several hours walking - along the savanna, river bed, and rocky roads - sweating, getting information from our guide, taking pictures, asking questions, and worrying about snakes and reptiles. It may not seem much but it was enough to get us to the evening where we'd sit and just bond through stories, laughs, and food of course.

At night we had a bonfire and some stories from the locals. The scariest thing for me was, still, the snakes. This place has all kinds of snakes and God knows how much I love them. The guards and our hosts insisted that we do not react even if we come across one. They also insisted that we should not walk alone at night and that we needed to have out torches on whenever we are outside. My biggest concern however was what if one of these creatures slips into my tent when I'm asleep

Kayaking was the major highlight of our second day at Lake Chala. The hike down to the lake was a funny one, but going back was such a tedious task. The steep crater rim is estimated to be as high as 170 metres. We could have had the locals carry some of the gears for us but somehow we chose not - we almost regretted it at some point. Kayaking was really fun. It was the first time for most of us to do it, although one of our colleagues was very strict that he's not playing any games with water.

After we were done kayaking, we had our last meal – which was simply the best pork I have ever had. Three of us checked out of Lake Chala lodge, then altogether headed for a drive to the Taveta border, crossing a few kilometers to Kenya for some githeri and Kenyan food. We drove back to Lake Chala at around 6 pm to drop off the remaining friend who was staying for some more days. We then drove to Moshi to drop off some parcels before we started the journey back to Dar es Salaam at around 9 pm

PS: I had to drive someone to the bus terminal at 5 am and be at the office by 8 am the following day, all in Dar

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