I have visited all natural lakes in Kenya save for two, Lake Chala and Lake Jipe.
So when my friends proposed the idea to go down to Lake Chala, located on the border of Kenya and Tanzania, I grabbed it.
On average, the journey to Taveta town should take an average six hours but ours was lengthened by a trailer accident causing a massive traffic jam near Sultan Hamud.
That coupled with a few pit-stops saw us arrive at Loitoktok well after dust, missing the magnificent sunset view over the snow-capped Kilimanjaro.
We put up at River Lumi Resort, named after a river that flows from Kilimanjaro. The resort has rooms that currently go for sh2, 500, a fee ideal for a budget traveller.
They also offer camping options. We settled in for the night after dinner served al fresco in breezy gazebos.
When dawn broke, we joined the amicable proprietor Jonson Mwawasi on a guided tour of Lake Chala about three kilometres from camp. The fascinating lake has a forested 100m-high crater rim. After a 10-minute walk from the lodge, we caught the awe-inspiring view of the lake.
Nothing prepares you for the picture perfect lake with sparkling waters that oscillate from deep blue to turquoise and green depending on the time of year. To get to the foursquare kilometre water body, you have to bear a steep descent to the lake. So wear comfortable shoes.
Lake Chala, also known as Dschalla, has one shore in Kenya and another in Tanzania.
The lonesome beauty
Despite her obvious charm, the lake is rarely visited. We bump into some friendly fishermen who regale us with tales of how an entire Maasai village disappeared into the lake and how their spirits haunt the lake to date. So deep-seated is the folklore that few Wataveta dare venture near it. We however decided to swim near the shores and it was really refreshing.
A little digging reveals that the lake is fed by some underground streams flowing from Mount Kilimanjaro. The surrounding area is just as interesting, and not just because of the mountain that can be seen on clear days towering in the background but also because of the wildlife. Walking around we spot plenty of birds (about 200 species including Peregrine falcons, which nest in Chala’s cliff-faces), and blue monkeys, Colobus monkeys, baboons, monitor lizards dik-dik, bushbuck and kudu.
Being so close to Tsavo National Park, you might see large herds of elephants that migrate back and forth between Kenya and Tanzania. Other activities you can on the lake include canoeing, swimming and fishing.
Make sure to ask for a taste of Lake Chala tilapia (Oreochromis hunteri), a species found only in Lake Chala. It will definitely make you go back there for more.