Momella Lakes and Canoeing



In the north east part of Arusha National Park lies the area known as the Momella Lakes. Fringed by green hills, seven lakes nestle in valleys and depressions punctuating the post-volcanic landscape. Their sodium rich contents and the formation of algae make the lakes alkaline, especially the big Momella Lake and Lake Reshateni – therefore all year round a favourable feeding and resting areas for flamingos.

Common Question: “Why is the lake so pink?”

Right Answer: “Because there are thousands and thousands of flamingos spreading across the lake, their voices producing a sound that resembles a river flowing somewhere.”

The Description:

The  area  around  the  Momella  Lakes,  which  is  located  in  an altitude of 1400 m, extends over the north-eastern part of the Arusha National Park and is surrounded by green hills. Here you find lakes, surrounded by bush savanna and acacias. Several hollows were formed by the last eruption of Mount Meru, which have porous ground like a volcano, allowing water to come to the surface and offer enough water for the lakes. The  biggest  and  also  most  interesting  ones  are  the  big  and small Momella Lakes, together they covering an area of 4 km. Flamingos prefer the Small Lake because of the high amount of alkali.

Just next to the big Momella Lake nestles the elongated form of little/small Momella Lake in a valley of green, dotted with islands and secretive bays, where buffalo, water and bushbuck, hippos and a variety of waterfowl are seen. It is the second largest in the park – by volume after big Momella, losing only due to its shallow depths of 4m and 10m for its shallowest and deepest points respectively – compared to that of 10 m and 31 m for big Momella. Its water (big  and small Momella Lakes) comes from a combination of rainfall and underground streams and sports various animals such as hippos, ducks along with other water birds such as the little and great crested grebes, southern pochard, Maccoa duck, Sacred ibis and many others. The hippos spend most spend much of their time near the lake’s islands.

To the north of the two Momella Lakes, tucked away in valleys of their own, are the little and rarely visited lakes Lekandiro and Tulusia which are ideal places to relax under the shady trees.

Lake Kusare, small and swampy during the big rains is a favourite spot for waterbuck. Lake El Kekhotoito surrounded by green hills dries up in the autumn months to become a pan with little streams, attracting plenty of buffalo, giraffe, zebra and smaller forest antelopes. The most intense and dramatic way of exploring all this diversity is on a canoeing safari. “Our” Hippo-Pool can be visited on a short walk from Hatari Lodge.


After lunch you are driven to the Momella Lakes as a halfday activity. Gets the chance to see hundreds of flamingos rising to the sky with their pink colour. You may also see hippos and giraffes and watch them in their natural habitat. The day ends with a drive to the viewpoint – Boma la Megi, where you enjoy a sundowner with a magnificient view of Mt. Kilimanjaro. We say good night to the last sunrays of the day, while enjoying delicious snacks and drinks.

Hatari Lodge

Hatari Lodge is a grander accommodation that is located on the northeastern edge of Arusha National Park. It is situated on the border of Arusha National Park overlooking the legendary Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru. It is a 90 minutes transfer from Kilimanjaro International Airport making it an alternative overnight destination on the night of arrival in Tanzania. The scenery of the snowcapped Mount Kilimanjaro and magical sunsets over Mount Meru in the distance are simply spectacular.

The owners of the lodge drew their inspiration from the John Wayne movie, Hatari!, that was filmed nearby in 1960’s, and the movie’s influence is tastefully incorporated into the design and experience. Hatari Lodge is decorated with retro artwork & modern African sculptures. Surrounded by acacia trees, you have stunning views of Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru, and a boardwalk leads you into the Momella grasslands where you may find many types of fauna that visit the meadow to graze, and, at night, bush babies may come out of hiding.

Activities include Arusha National Park game drives and walks and canoeing on the Momella Lakes. Lake Silver is a short walk from the lodge and hippos may be seen in the water and along the banks. Canoeing along the waters of Momella Lakes is not only relaxing, but also allows you to see the flora and fauna from a different perspective. You may also choose to visit a local village where you learn about the traditions and community projects of the Momella Village funded by the Momella Foundation.

Accommodation At Hatari Lodge

The décor of the country-style cottages with 9 rooms at Hatari Lodge is reminiscent of the time when the Hatari! movie was filmed. When you walk into your room, you feel as if you have not only stepped into another era, but also another world as you transition from the natural beauty of Arusha National Park to a whimsical and comfortable space.

Each room is individually designed with dark woods, circular wall patterns and color palettes that are inspired by the 1960s and 1970s. Large platform beds, wicker circle chairs on wrought iron pedestals, cowhide ottomans and teardrop lightings are just some of the furnishings that you will find, as well as all of the modern conveniences that you need during your AfricanMecca trip to Arusha National Park. The full bathroom has organic design elements of local wood and stone, as well as vessel sinks, roomy shower and flush toilet. Some bathrooms have Jacuzzi style tubs (whirlpool) too. The rooms are cleaned every day, and laundry service is available for a small fee.

Outside your room are spectacular views that envelop you while relaxing on a peculiar veranda with retro seating and small table, a perfect place to watch the sunset, read, journal about your glamorous holiday visit in Africa or visit with your accompanying friends and family. The main building, the oldest on the property, is where you find the lounge and restaurant. Rich brown square floors, open beam ceilings and fireplaces give the space an intimate and welcoming atmosphere, and the small library has a selection of reference books for your use.

Dining At Hatari Lodge

The appetizing meals at Hatari Lodge are a fusion of international dishes that are prepared with a hint of African influence. As the sun rises, you enjoy a cup of Tanzanian coffee, tea or hot chocolate. The breakfast buffet is certain to give adequate energy for your wildlife tour of Arusha National Park, and your choices may include sausage, freshly baked yeast bread, banana nut bread, yogurt, muesli, waffles, crepes, eggs prepared to order and much more. Your mid-day meal is comprised of lighter fare, such as salad, soup, vegetarian dishes and a sweet dessert, and, you may request a picnic lunch for your Hatari Lodge safari outings that may consist of salads, bread, meat pie, vegetable samosas, muffins, fruit juice, coffee, tea, mineral water and many other options.

In the afternoon, you savor a cup of tea accompanied with a piece of cake. The evenings are a special time during your relaxing vacation visit in Tanzania as the landscape is painted with the warm glow of a setting sun. Before your dinner, enjoy a refreshing cocktail around the fire as the kitchen prepares a family-style meal that is served at a large table, or you may request a private table. If you have special dietary needs, the staffs are able to prepare meals to your satisfaction; however, this must be requested prior to arrival. Beverage options include mineral water, fresh fruit juice, soft drinks, select regional red and white wines, spirits and other choices.

Alkaline Lakes Background in Tanzania

Lake Natron is the sole breeding ground for millions of East African Lesser Flamingo. It is located in one of the lower points of the Great Rift Valley, in a primeval landscape with thorn trees and brush, near Tanzania’s only active volcano, Ol Donyo Lengai, the “Mountain of God”, which occasionally spills lava rich in sodium carbonate into the lake, increasing its salt concentration. To the lesser flamingos, this raw harshness is paradise. The birds do not breed every year and only lay one egg that both parents take turns incubating. Their feeding, breeding and nesting habits depend on the abundant algae, a particular soda content, precise water levels and solitude. Their grey feathered chicks stay in the shallow waters in huge groups, under the watchful eye of a few adults, until they are able to feed themselves and fly. When this time has come, they leave Lake Natron and, in smaller groups, roam the vast lands in search of smaller alkaline lakes as their temporary home, among them the momella lakes – walking distance from Hatari Lodge!

The Momela Gate in Arusha National Park

The Momela gate is one of the northern entrance points into Arusha National park that is located near the rural suburb of Momela and the northeastern foothills of mount Meru. It serves as an administrative checkpoint for TANAPA (Tanzania National Parks), where permits for everyone or vehicle entering or leaving the park may be checked or acquired.

There actually are four security gates at the site, one headed in each of the compass directions – south to Ngongongare gate and the rest of the park; another one east to the Momela lakes; the third a smaller trekkers only headed West to mount Meru; and the last north exiting the park it has a large parking area, a modern office for TANAPA, a ranger’s post, a souvenirs shop, flushing toilets (W.C.’s), a good supply of water, quarters for the rangers, lunch benches for resting or eating and a cafeteria that serves both hot and cold drinks, along with a limited food menu. At the time of writing, there is no power supply to the area, thus most equipment runs on solar energy.

What to do there?

Register and acquire any permits, gather information and resources you may need from TANAPA before or after entering the park. You normally just have to tell them what you intend to do inside the park whether it is canoeing, a safari or hiking and the rangers at the site would tell you everything you need to know as well as what you need to pay. At the time of writing (2018), payment is done electronically using either credit cards, visa cards or TANAPA pay cards so make sure to have one before getting there or at least consult with TANAPA offices.

The gate also is where you may collect keys to some of the park’s facilities such as campsites and rest houses – so make sure to check in here before heading out to them. The souvenir shops offer great memorabilia to remind you of your time inside the park, but if you are exiting through other gates, then don’t worry as there is another one at the southern Ngongongare gate (south).

For those climbing mount Meru, then the gate is also where you would meet your crew before or after heading out. Other than that you could visit the rest of the park’s attractions.

Location of Momela gate

The Momela gate is located on the northern border of Arusha national park, near the rural suburb of Momela. It is also near the north eastern foothills of mount Meru and less than a kilometre away from the uwanja wa mbogo (buffalo’s glade), Tululusia waterfalls and the park’s public campsites.

Altitude: 1580 metres above metric sea level (m.a.m.s.l.)

Getting there.

Getting to the gate itself can be done by public transport as well, either a chartered car or a bus from Arusha bus terminal heading to Momela; However, you may need vehicular transport depending on which part of the park you would like to go. From the gate, most of the public campsites and nearby attractions can be reached via a short walk.

Best time to visit

The gate itself can be visited anytime throughout the year as the Momela road is used by passenger buses or vehicles as well; however, the rest of the park would be rather less interesting if visited in the rainy season of March to June as unexpected showers may limit your mobility.