There is a hidden paradise some 40km between Arusha and Moshi. The drive there takes you through dry almost semi desert like landscape, with a few settlements here and there. At first you think you must be lost; there is no way one could find a green paradise here. Then in the distance you see the lush green palms and fig trees that fence out this paradise.
It has many different names, some call it “chemka”, “maji moto” and also the “Kikuletwa hot springs”
Once you get through the thick cover of palms and figs, you will be surprised to find a tranquil pool. The turquoise water is crystal clear – you can even see the bottom. There is an opening at the front of the pool where the water pumps out and it really does look as if the water is boiling.
That is the reason why people call it ‘chemka’ which in Swahili means to boil, but the water is far from hot, rather lukewarm. After driving along the dusty road that leads to the springs, all you want to do is jump in.
There were rumours of crocodiles in the water but there is no evidence to prove this. I can imagine that locals have seen big monitor lizards and thought they saw crocs. The pool has many ‘doctor fishes’ that feed on the dead skin on ones your feet. Some find the sensation of being nibbled on unnerving at first but end up enjoying the ‘spa’ treatment. You might be lucky to see groups of vervet monkeys and troops of baboons frolicking in the trees or monitor lizards lounging on the water’s edge.
A strong current flows through the pool and you really need all your energy when swimming otherwise it is easy go get swept along, but there are plenty of roots and tree around to hang onto. The depth of the water differs but in parts it can be as deep as 6m!
The source of the water is most probably from underwater streams coming from Mt. Kilimanjaro. On clear days the mountain can be seen from the springs – a stunning photo opportunity. The water continues downstream and ends up in the large dam known as “Nyumba ya Mungu” (the house of God). A lot of the people in the area use the water for farming but high levels of fluoride render the water unsuitable for drinking.
The springs have become more and more popular since it’s only an hour or two from the cities making it the perfect day trip or safari-stop. Food and cool drinks are available from a small kiosk.