Chemka Hot Springs in Tanzania: the best day trip from Arusha

Few people make it to Chemka Hot Springs in Tanzania! Many people visit for the safaris, the beautiful beaches of Zanzibar and maybe even Mount Kilimanjaro. While living in Tanzania, Chemka Hot Springs is one of my favourite day trips from Arusha. We have a lot of local friends and definitely travel in quite a local style when we go.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Arusha and Moshi are two of the most popular cities in Tanzania for tourists. Arusha is the starting point for most safaris in Tanzania, including those into the vast Serengeti and the stunning Ngorongoro Crater; Moshi, by contrast, stands at the base of the infamous Kilimanjaro Mountain. An easy day trip (less than two hours’ drive) from Arusha and Moshi lies Chemka Hot Springs.

The hot springs are a beautiful little haven just out of the cities, and the perfect spot for a post-safari visit. Equally, if you’re living in Arusha or Moshi, then it’s an easy day trip and one well-worth taking! Though perhaps without the wow factor of Iceland’s blue lagoon, Chemka Hot Springs are abundant with beautiful nature and lush jungle scenery.

Emma and Murray are taking a selfie in front of a jungle style oasis of water. They are both smiling and wearing swimming costumes. Emma is stretching out her right arm to the side.
Here we are at Chemka!

What is Chemka Hot Springs in Tanzania?

Chemka Hot Springs is, as it sounds, a hot water spring! In Swahili, it’s known as ‘Maji Moto’ (literally: ‘hot water’) and the area is also known as Kikuletwa. It’s not exactly a town but perhaps could be seen as a very small village off the main road between Arusha and Moshi. Though it’s still up and coming, there are a few things there now, including a campsite, the hot springs area, some waterfalls and even a small eco-lodge!

For locals, there is a school nearby and it’s also a residential area, which is good to bear in mind as visitors.

The springs themselves are in a stunning glade, which almost looks like a jungle oasis. This is honestly really surprising when you see that the surrounding area is quite arid dry! You can swim in the springs once you’re there and there is plenty of space. Since the area itself is basically an area of the river, you actually have quite a lot of privacy, and even if it is busy, you should be able to find somewhere without too many people.

A selfie of Emma and Murray in the water in Chemka Hot Springs with blurry water marks over both of their faces.
Can’t say we always get the best photos when we’re there, but at least we try!

How to get to Chemka Hot Springs

You have a few options to get to Chemka.

Driving

From Arusha or Moshi, you can hire a car and drive. It takes around 1 hour 45 minutes from Arusha or an hour from Moshi, and the road is smooth. You’ll drive the main road between Arusha and Moshi so, apart from a few potholes, it’s not too difficult. The last part of the road, where you turn off from the motorway, is bumpy and feels like off-road driving, so it’s best to get a sturdy car that can handle this kind of terrain. This last part is around 30 minutes’ drive total.

Private or group tour

You can very easily book a tour online from Moshi or Arusha. This is a good way to do it if you want a little extra support or aren’t confident with public transport/driving in Tanzania.

Public transport

  • From Arusha: Even if you’re not used to public transport in Tanzania, this is not too difficult. The first step is to take a dala dala (small public bus or taxi bus) from Mianzini or Sanawari crossing. These are the two main crossroads in Arusha, so they are easy to find, and basically just take a bus in the direction you want to travel. Many of the buses from Arusha will be going to Moshi. Your stop is Boma Ng’ombe.
  • From Moshi, you do the exact opposite. Head in the direction of Arusha from the main crossing, Majengo and get off at Boma Ng’ombe.

Once you reach Boma Ng’ombe, get off the bus, and you will need to take a bajaji (tuktuk) to Chemka. If you ask for maji moto, the drivers will know what you mean. You do need to haggle so as to be sure you don’t inflate prices for the locals in the area. We paid about 25,000 Tsz (around £10/$12) for the return trip.

Things to do in Chemka Hot Springs

The first time we went to Chemka Hot Springs, it was basically just the water. There were lots of natural trees and a couple of street food stalls, but that was really it. Even then, we think the street food stalls just happened to be there, it wasn’t exactly like they had set themselves up for tourists and you wouldn’t have been able to order much food from them without speaking Swahili. However, nowadays, the area has really developed.

At the springs themselves, there are locals hiring out rubber rings and pool toys. There are also rope swings and usually some local boys practising jumping and diving to keep you entertained. Just outside the hot springs, you’ll find restaurants, a small bar, street food stalls (kind of a barbecue set up) and even a souvenir shop. It’s not really somewhere you could spend the whole day still, but you could comfortably pass an afternoon here without going hungry or being bored.

There are some waterfalls nearby, which tuktuk drivers will often offer to take you to for a higher cost. Personally we haven’t visited, so we can’t comment either way if they’re worth it.

A photo of Emma and Murray. They are sitting with their backs to the camera but their faces looking back over their shoulder and they are in front of Chemka Hot Springs.
It is a beautiful area!

Price

At the time of writing, it costs 10,000 TSZ (around £3/$5) per person to enter the Chemka Hot Springs site. This is basically just a tourism fee to keep the area going. The shops and stalls near the springs are more expensive than those in the village, so if you are on a budget this is worth knowing.

Best time to visit

The springs open around 10am (opening times in Tanzania are generally loose), and morning is a nice, usually quiet, time to visit. We have been at a few different times of day and it never seems to get really crowded. When there are more people, it’s harder to get nice photos and you can feel a bit like you are fighting for space. This is only really the case in the first ‘pool’ area. After you swim past this, the crowds ease off and you have lots of space.

If you’re worried about this, we’d say go in the morning. The water is tepid most of the day, though it probably is a little warmer in the afternoons. There’s not much in it. The area is very shaded by trees, so there isn’t much sun (which is a good thing for those worried about sun burn!).

Emma is taking a selfie of her and Murray in the water. Murray is holding onto a tree branch so they don't float away in the current.
The quieter area past the first pool

Safety precautions

This is generally a very safe area, but here are a few things to bear in mind.

Small biting fish

There are some small nibbling fish in the water who will come and peck at you if you stay still for a while. They don’t hurt at all, but we like to avoid them, as they have been known to transmit blood-borne diseases. They tend to be at the edges of the pools and they’ll only nibble you if you’re still. They’re very gentle and it just feels like they’re tickling you. If you tread water, they wont bother you at all.

Occasionally, in still water in this area, there are water-borne parasites. If you develop a rash, stomach bug or any other unusual symptoms after visiting, consult a doctor. We’ve been many times and never had anything like this happen, but we have seen it happen to a couple of other people so it’s worth mentioning.

Pick pockets

We’ve seen a lot of people leave their things around the edges of the pools unattended. There are no lockers and while it’s generally fine, we have seen people lose the odd thing to pick pockets. The best advice is not to take anything very valuable with you when you go, or else try and water proof it and take it with you. We take a waterproof phone case/wallet with us when we go.

Water depth

Most of Chemka Hot Springs is too deep to stand and the current can be quite strong in places. Though there are usually plenty of people to look out for you, it’s sensible to take precautions if you aren’t a strong swimmer. For example, you can hire one of the rubber rings or just sit on the edge. Children should wear floatation devices.

Overall, Chemka is a lovely day trip from either of the two main Northern Tanzanian cities and well worth a visit.

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    Written by Emma

    Emma

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