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Lake Chala

The Fascinating Lake Chala in East Africa

One of the unexplored water bodies in Kenya is Lake Chala. Found at the border of Kenya and Tanzania, the Lake Chala is a fascinating crater lake on the eastern side of the great Mount Kilimanjaro. The lake is situated 5 miles north of Taveta in Kenya and 34 miles east of Moshi town in Tanzania. It is 30 kilometers on the southeast direction of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Features of the crater lake

Lake Chala came into existence 250,000 years ago after volcanic activity on Mount Kilimanjaro. It is one of the oldest volcanic lakes in the country. The crater rims are 560 feet tall. The water in the lake majorly comes from groundwater on the montane forest part of the mountain. Lake Chala covers an area of 4 square kilometers and is 98 meters deep. It surpasses the Lake Victoria in terms of depth.

 The water color in the lake varies from green, turquoise to deep blue. The color changes are as a result of fresh water streams found under the crater. The lake feeds Lake Jipe, found 30 kilometers away, through its underground channels. Rainwater collecting on the crater contributes about 20 percent of the lake’s volume. However, due to massive climate change, the evaporation rates on the lake pose a threat to the lake’s normal volume and the surrounding wildlife.

Wildlife at Lake Chala

Wildlife found around Lake Chala comprises of 200 species of birds including the Peregrine falcons, baboons, colobus monkeys, dik-dik, Vervet monkeys, blue monkeys, kudu, monitor lizards and bush-bucks. Elephants are visible crossing through the Amboseli National Park and the neighboring Tsavo National Park Lake Chala is unique in that it hosts a rare tilapia fish species in the world, Oreochromis hunteri. Predominant flora near the lake includes thorny shrubs, giant trees and the Aloe Penduliflora Baker.

Falcon at Lake Chala
Peregrine falcon

History of Lake Chala

An American explorer, May French Sheldon, explored and wrote about Lake Chala. In 1964, soldiers from the British army helped in the creation of a path to the lake. A limelight was cast on  the developments around the lake in the year 2002. Amy Nicholls, a British student, was mauled and killed by a crocodile while swimming in the crater lake. Her demise attracted a lot of attention to the Chala area. However, the attention it brought appeared to create fear among locals and tourists as it was claimed the waters were dangerous.

The superstitious locals often believed that the souls of previous Maasai inhabitants were trapped in the waters and surrounding wild animals. The death of the Briton only exacerbated their fears. As a community, the locals held prayers and offered animal sacrifices at the lake. Led by the Njama, a council of elders, the community enshrined the Chala lake.

The Lake Chala Area

The area surrounding the lake is served by the Chala-Rombo road in the county of Taveta. Amidst the thorny wild bushes run narrow and isolated paths that lead to the crater lake. Chala area may seem rugged to the eye but the lake gives it a whole new and refreshing look. Adjacent to Lake Chala is a seasonal river. The soil erosion on the river walls gives a picturesque scenery that every tourist loves. It’s almost similar to that found in Hell’s Gate Park.

The common activities that take place at the Chala area include swimming, canoeing and fishing at the lake. Lake has deep blue waters that are alluring. There are designated shores for swimming for a safe tourism experience. The magnificent view of Mount Kilimanjaro on a clear sunny day is a spectacular experience.

The people in the Chala area come from clans such as the Suya, Mnene, Ruttu, Zirai and Ndingiri. The fear of locals visiting Lake Chala is advised by an old folk tale that claims a whole Maasai village got lost in the lake. As such, the Taveta people avoid visiting the “haunted lake.”  As a result of the inherent fear of spirits hovering around the lake, the locals have managed to refrain from destroying wildlife in the region.

The renewed interest in the lake comes as a welcome distraction for tourists visiting the southern part of Kenya. The urge to explore all the hidden treasures in Kenya now makes tourists add Lake Chala to their travel bucket lists. It is no doubt that Kenya has untapped resources. But with the right tour company, you can enjoy one of the most breathtaking crater lakes in East Africa. Book with Zunguka Africa Safaris and experience the majestic and beautiful Lake Chala. Stay informed about our latest offers on safaris and day trips.