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Safari in Style in the Serengeti National Park

Anne Guest

Contributor

Some places in the world have a profound effect on your senses with their sheer awesomeness. The Serengeti nature reserve, spanning Kenya and Tanzania in East Africa is such a place. The Olduvai Gorge, the Rift Valley, Pride Rock in the Lion King - it’s all here; not to mention the overwhelming abundance of jaw-dropping wildlife from the humble rock hyrax to the majestic elephant. All the Big Five are present (lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino) living in fragile harmony with the landscape and each other. To visit the Serengeti is to help maintain this precious ecosystem and ensure the animals’ survival. The perfect end to a long day on safari (which means ‘journey’ in Kiswahili) is a comfortable lodge, nestling in the landscape, where you can watch the dusk-time action at your leisure and then retire to bed, lulled to sleep by the sounds of the night-time hunters. Here are four of the best luxury lodges in which to soak up the atmosphere.

The Four Seasons Safari Lodge

A great way to start your day here is by floating gently above the vast savannah in a hot air balloon. The animals are most active at dawn and dusk, so be prepared for an early start. The fact that your balloon is quiet and unobtrusive will enable you to see all the feeding, watering, hunting and playing that goes on at this magical time of day. Take your time to marvel at the spectacle and feel privileged to witness the private life of wild creatures before descending slowly to a delightful champagne breakfast in the bush.

The accommodation at the Lodge is extremely comfortable, offering a variety of rooms and suites, all with a veranda en plein air overlooking the bush and a nearby watering hole, where elephant families regularly make an appearance. Some suites have their own infinity-edge plunge pool too and all are finished with local textiles and artwork which enhances your African experience.

Guided walking tours by local Masai guides and park rangers will further immerse you in the environment, enabling you to get up-close and personal with animal tracks and medicinal plants. The animals themselves are never far away.

&Beyond Lake Manyara Tree Lodge

True to its principles of Care for the Land, Wildlife and People, &Beyond has created a sustainable, luxurious camp of nine stilted treehouse suites which blend into the mahogany forest on the fringes of Lake Manyara. Each spacious cabin is built from local wood and palm fronds along traditional lines and is designed to have minimal impact on the environment. You can truly feel yourself part of the forest as you gaze into the shady branches from your veranda, listening to the tropical birdsong.

Birdlife, tree-climbing lions and passing elephants are the principal attractions here, so be ready with your binoculars and camera. There’s plenty of expertise on hand to help you identify the 600 species of birds resident, while Safari game drives into the park will take you to the tree lions’ favourite haunts. Equally thrilling is a visit to the magnificent soda lake of Manyara which attracts huge flocks of flamingos and more than 400 species of waterfowl and migrant birds. To see the dazzling pink cloud of flamingos rise into the air as they take flight is truly breathtaking.

Treetop canopy walks, guided bicycle rides, night game drives and cultural tours all combine to make this a memorable place to stay.

Elewana The Manor at Ngorongoro Crater

The jewel in the crown of the Serengeti has got to be the Ngorongoro conservation area. An extinct volcano, self-sustaining eco-system and World Heritage Site, it’s an absolute marvel. An abundance of animals and plants co-exist in uninterrupted harmony in a 610m deep, 18km wide caldera formed two and a half million years ago. The steep sides deter the animals from climbing out and protect them from other predators climbing in. Tours take you down into the crater via a designated track and, once down, you are likely to see an incredible diversity of wildlife, including the endangered black rhino and black-maned lions. Leopard, cheetah, warthog, elephant, hyena and impala are also common sights in the crater.

The Manor at Ngorongoro Crater invites you to step back in time to the grandeur and elegance of a magnificent coffee plantation farmhouse, surrounded by 18 luxurious cottages, each with a log fire, and Dutch Cape style decor There’s an intimacy and cosiness here which underpins East African hospitality. After a game drive, lunch on the crater floor or horse-riding through the coffee estate, finish the day with a massage, some sundowner cocktails followed by a superb dinner in the Manor farmhouse. Bliss.

Singita Mara River Camp

No trip to the Serengeti would be complete without the possibility of witnessing the migration of more than a million wildebeest and the Mara River is the place to see this amazing spectacle.

6 luxury tents at this permanent camp sit at a bend of the river where there are fantastic views of hippos, crocodiles, wildebeest and other plains animals coming to drink, play and hunt. The site has impeccable sustainability credentials, using solar panels for all electricity and only biodegradable materials where possible. Its guiding principle is conservation and it pursues the ideal of ‘touching the earth lightly’.

Accommodation is in the form of spacious, traditional canvas tents which pay homage to the classic East African safaris of old, without compromising on chic furnishing and home comforts. There’s a plunge pool to cool off in after a hot day’s game viewing or guided walk and the provision of a gourmet dinner under the stars. There a sense of splendid isolation about this camp and you’ll find its immersion in the environment hard to beat. The smells, sights and sounds of the bush are sharper and more vivid here. You’re likely to see giraffe, leopard, cheetah, eland and zebra amongst many others that visit the river, and you will return home energised by the magnificence of nature and its works.

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