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Hiking to Ngozi Crater Lake in Tanzania

This is a step-by-step travel guide for hiking Ngozi Crater Lake in eastern Tanzania, a beautiful trek and the perfect activity for stretching your legs in the middle of the overland journey from Tanzania to Malawi or Zambia.



Why did we hike to Ngozi Crater Lake?

We didn't do much in Tanzania.

That's not to say there's nothing to do, in fact, Tanzania is one of the most popular countries in Africa for international tourists. That being said, most travellers tend to stick to the Northern highlights of Kilimanjaro, The Serengeti, and Zanzibar.

We did not visit any of these places, the reasons being; that the Kilimanjaro climb costs at least $1000USD per person, the Serengeti is the same swathe of land as the Maasai Mara which we had already visited (read more about that in my post: How to see the Great Migration on a Budget), and Zanzibar is super touristic, so not really our bag.

What we did do in Tanzania was spend a few days of R&R in the vibrant city of Dar es Salaam, and take the TAZARA train across the country. For details on enjoying this epic railway journey, see my article: How to take the TAZARA train across Tanzania.

The TAZARA train journey across Tanzania
The TAZARA train journey across Tanzania

The TAZARA train actually goes from Dar es Salaam all the way to Kapiri Moshi in Zambia, with a total journey time of 48 hours (add X amount of hours for delays, T.I.A.) We actually hopped off after about 23 hours, in the south-eastern Tanzanian town of Mbeya.

You'll only see Mzungus (Westerners, get used to your new name) in Mbeya if they are passing from Malawi into Tanzania by land, or vice versa, as it's the main border post between the two countries. This is precisely what Joe and I were planning to do.

However, after the long train journey and before the next bumpy leg into Malawi, we wanted to get our bodies moving and at the very least, do one activity in Tanzania. The first attraction in Mbeya on Tripadvisor is the Ngozi Crater Lake hike, so we gave it a shot.


Not sure what to pack for your African adventure? Check out my article:


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Arranging a Guide for the Ngozi Crater Lake

After finding a recommended guide in the Tripadvisor comments called James Bond (+255752227220) we contacted him to arrange a tour. After some Whatsapp exchange, we agreed on the longest hike, which is 6 hours, including a visit to the market to buy fruits for lunch and all public transport to and fro.

The price he quoted was beyond our budget and when we explained what we could afford he graciously agreed. Never be afraid to negotiate in these circumstances, or anywhere in Africa, it's not rude, it's just the way, as long as you are respectful and good-humoured about it.

I Dream of Mangoes and our guide James Bond at the Ngozi Crater Lake View point
Us with James Bond at the view point


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Where to stay in Mbeya

We stayed at La Domek Traveller's Home which we found on It's about 30 minutes from the TAZARA railway station, the correct price for a tuktuk is 10,000Tsh. It's a little out of the way but very comfortable, the host cooks meals to order for $2 a pop.

She, and James Bond in fact, quote prices in USD but actually prefer receiving Tanzanian Shillings. Be aware you need to buy your own bottled water and there's no phone signal, there is Wifi but it's not very good. - so keep that in mind when thinking about planning onward travel.


What to Expect from the Ngozi Crater Lake Hike

(For all of the hikes we did in Africa, I wore my Hoka Goatspeed - and I love them! They are really sturdy but also lightweight, ideal for hand luggage-only travels.)

James Bond collected us at our arranged time of 8am, and we took a tuktuk to the market for fruits, which was a nice experience. The market ladies were clearly quite entertained by us white people in their midst!

Joe at a fruit market in Mbeya
Joe at a fruit market in Mbeya

After that, we took a public bus to the village where the hike began, you can buy water and snacks from here, or bring a packed lunch from La Domek as we did. The first two hours of the hike are through dusty villages and up a dirt track. James knew a lot about the local flora and fauna and he was generally an interesting guy to talk to.

Once you get to 2.5 hours into the hike, you actually reach the forested (and most beautiful) trail. For less mobile people, you can get a boda-boda and begin your hike from here. Then the forest clears, and the lake arrives – it is very very beautiful! We stopped at the crevice and had our fruit picnic on a bench, while James hacked down a banana tree and taught us how to drink water from the stalk.

There is a surprising amount of clean, banana-flavoured water stored in these trunks, a great survival tip and a super refreshing moment! After our rest, we stomped back down to the village and feasted on some well-deserved Mandazi.

I Dream of Mangoes drinking banana water directly from the tree
The water in a banana stalk is clean enough to drink!

Mandazi is a common street food in all the East and Southern African countries I've been to, it's kind of like a fried bread-doughnut ball, sold by street vendors for a few pennies, and Mandazi has been an absolute life-saver for a calorie boost on long journeys. They have stopped me from going hangry and feral on many occasions.

All together the hike registered as 20km on on my phone fitness tracker, not bad for a random excursion in rural Tanzania, and with views like this – who could complain?

You can actually hike all the way down to the lake, which we heard was a two-hour tricky climb that is not entirely worth it, so whatever floats your boat. If you have a love for wildlife, be sure though to keep an eye out for the Black and White Colobus Monkey and Three-Horned Chameleon!

Joe at the entrance to the final leg of the Ngozi Crater Lake Hike
The Ngozi Crater Lake Hike was well worth it!


On to Malawi

The following day, all tuckered out and ready for a day on the road, we took a public bus to Malawi, which was 7000Tsh from Mbeya to the Songwe Border Post.

This journey took 2.5 hours, and then we walked on foot for the last 15 minutes to cross into Malawi. You can read the exact details of how to do that in my upcoming post: How to cross from Tanzania to Malawi by land, via the Songwe Border Post.

I Dream of Mangoes at Ngozi Crater Lake Hike
No filter needed at Ngozi Crater Lake!


Thank you for reading my guide on hiking to the Ngozi Crater Lake in Tanzania. If you enjoyed the read, please consider subscribing to my blog where I post 1-2 times per week about mine and Joe's current travels around the world.

For more Africa inspiration, check out my post: A packing list for backpacking the African continent.

Happy Travels




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