This is a continuation of my report from my 2-week trip exploring Tanzania. For an overview of the regions of Tanzania, start with this blog post first.
&Beyond is a experiential travel company that offers everything from luxurious properties to high-end touring experiences. They work in 15 African countries as well as India, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Chile, and Argentina. During my trip in Tanzania, I had the opportunity to experience 4 incredible safari lodges that are managed by &Beyond.
With &Beyond, hospitality is key. At each camp, we were greeted at the air strip with fresh coffee, hot chocolate, and Amarula (a local liquor similar to Irish cream that is absolutely splendid, you really must try it!). After a short drive, we met the entire staff dancing and singing to welcome us, and the experiences and service only got better from there!
Lake Manyara Tree Lodge
After a quick stop at Arusha Coffee Lodge the night of our arrival in Tanzania, we made our way to Lake Manyara Tree Lodge to spend 1 night. This is the only permanent lodge in Lake Manyara National Park set in a lush mahogany forest. The property is home to 10 stilted treehouse suites. Each suite is set off the main path, offering you a private serenity in the depths of the forest. The walls of each suite are all screened (except the bathroom, of course), so while you are in a permanent lodge you get the feeling of really being “in the bush”.
Quite honestly, I was in heaven! My only word of caution is that this lodge is for a specific type of traveler, perhaps the more adventurous. There is only an outdoor shower that opens right up onto the balcony; combining this with the screen walls one may feel it is too “open” for their tastes. Personally, I love that open feel, so it all comes down to your personal tastes. Check out this bathtub with the option for fresh air and treetop views!
The main house is extremely comfortable, offering the boutique bed & breakfast atmosphere where you can get to know the other travelers in the lodge. The front walls of the lodge are nonexistent, providing you with a wide panoramic view of the lush forest beyond. Combine this with the amazing service and game drives we experienced, it was the perfect “first stop” of a perfect safari!
Ngorongoro Crater Lodge
Just like so many of our safari clients, I am in love with Ngorongoro Crater Lodge! With 30 suites in all, the lodge is divided into 3 separate camps to retain the exclusive boutique feel for all guests. Each camp offers its own main house, but guests are welcome to travel throughout each camp to visit for dinner or stop by the gift shop. Perched atop the Ngorongoro Crater rim, the views from this lodge can’t be beat, and this was from my suite’s balcony!
Your private suite is a private cottage. The bed faces wide views over the crater and, throughout the suite, there are little windows that you can open to see what wildlife might be walking by outside. The bathroom is very open, with 2 vanities, a free standing tub, private water closet, and gravity shower. The décor is a very unique mix of the local arts with banana leaf roofs and intricately carved woodwork throughout the property.
The first night we entered the dining room to be met by a beautiful table surrounded by a carpet of rose petals. The cuisine was the epitome of fine-dining, a sure stop for any foodies! We woke each day to be greeted with coffee, biscuits, and a rose each morning to start our days. After our game drive, they even surprised us with a floral bubble bath and rose petal adorned towels waiting for us to come home! While the Ngorongoro Crater may be one of the most “touristy” destinations, it is absolutely a must-see natural wonder of the world. If you do get a chance, I would recommend staying at the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, hands-down.
Serengeti Under Canvas
Our first mobile tented camp experience was with Serengeti Under Canvas, and they truly set the bar high! Although we were technically camping, each tent includes a running toilet and electricity (each tent runs on it’s own battery, so don’t over do it and run out!). The gravity bucket-showers may not be for everyone, but set in a private canvased room with wooden floors and a beautiful shower caddy I really didn’t mind it at all.
The camp includes 9 tents total. The camp moves with the migration and the setting may change. During our stay, we were set atop a hill with all tents spread out to offer the optimal views of the plains. We spent our 2 nights in camp sharing stories around a warm campfire while viewing the stars. The occasional hyena would stop by (at a respectably safe distance!) to watch us and provide nightly entertainment listening to their silly laughter.
Each tent offers 3 walls of open screens that you can choose to either close or leave open throughout the night. My roommate and I decided to leave these open so we could enjoy the sounds of the night coming alive around us each night (in our case, hyanas galore and a grunting lioness as she strolled through camp). The décor of the camp is rustic, keeping with the classic safari styles.
Since the camp moves with the migration we experienced some of the best sightings of our trip on the game drives! The environment is very much the plains of the Serengeti you might imagine, with views over miles and miles of flat land to see the wildlife in their element. The game drives offered our first sightings of the migration and the first time we were able to see a cheetah, from 20 feet away no less!
Grumeti Serengeti Tented Camp
Grumeti Serengeti Tented Camp offers a very unique experience to other nearby lodges. It is set right next to the Grumeti River and game drives often experience the dramatic river crossings of the Great Migration. You may also be lucky enough to spot the shy Black and White Colobus monkeys (which we did!) hiding in the high treetops along the river. In a single game drive, you’ll transfer between river life, lush forests surrounding the river, and the plains of the Serengeti – really you can see it all in one day!
The camp is a semi-permanent tented camp, but in all honesty the rooms do not feel like a tent. In fact, I was in my suite for 10 minutes before realizing the walls were canvas! They are quaint little cabins set right next to the river’s edge, offering you spectacular views (and sounds) of the hippos that swim by. I loved the rustic-yet-colorful décor and private deck off the back of the suite, and the open screened wall to view the river from your bed was fantastic. I will say that the hippos are quite loud grunting and splashing throughout the night, so light sleepers may want to bring earplugs!