8 Days Romantic Ngorongoro crater & Serengeti Migration
Under the vast blue skies of East Africa, which are painted with wisps of white clouds tinged pink and gold by the rising sun, you awake to the sounds of the birds in Tanzania, where the Arusha Coffee Lodge welcomes you to Big 5 country.
There is, even more, to see and do on this 8-day holiday: venture to Lemala Ngorongoro on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater, one of Africa’s most famous places and a World Heritage Site. The crater’s caldera is filled with about 30 000 animals, making for some of the easiest game viewing anywhere on the continent and the place where you are most likely to see all of the Big 5 in a single game drive.
Then, between December and March, set up camp at Lemala Ndutu at the permanent marsh in Ngorongoro Crater, which boasts the best seats in the house for the Great Migration. From July to October the camp moves to Lemala Mara in the northern Serengeti, near the Mara River. Here, you get an uninterrupted view of the great herds of wildebeest and zebra splashing across the crocodile-infested river.
Days 1-2: Welcome to Arusha | 1 Night
Begin your East African sojourn at Arusha Coffee Lodge where you stay in the Plantation Room, hidden among the verdant rows of coffee bushes, studded with their cherry red beans. Arusha Coffee Lodge is set on a working farm and you are guaranteed the freshest cup of the finest coffee you can imagine.
You can also walk through the fields, inhaling the aroma, or learn more about the plant on the ‘Bean to Cup’ tour. For a relaxing start to your holiday, opt for a massage or treatment at Peaberries Therapies. The lodge was designed around the original farmhouse, which was built in the 1900s, and it echoes with the luxuries of bygone years.
Arusha is a popular spot to start or end the Tanzanian leg of a safari. Dominated by Mount Meru, it is a gateway to some of the country’s finest reserves. While here, visit Arusha National Park or some of the town’s highlights, like the thriving Maasai Market or the Tanzanite Museum, which is dedicated to the rare deep-blue precious stone found nowhere else in the world.
Days 2-5: An ancient world in the crater | 3 Nights
NGORONGORO CRATER, TANZANIA
The next stop on your epic adventure is Lemala Ngorongoro, pitched in the midst of an ancient acacia forest on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater. It is an intimate set-up in a less-visited part of the Ngorongoro Conservancy, next to the quiet Lemala access route. There are 12 tents in the camp, each offering privacy and intimacy – ideal for couples or honeymooners – and there are two tents for families with teens. Each is en suite, with a flush toilet and a bucket shower supplied with hot water. There is a generator but the 24-hour electricity is mostly solar, keeping the environmental impact as low as possible. The tents have gas heaters for the cooler nights.
In time-honored safari tradition, dining and socialising is in the large mess tent, which offers a comfortable lounge and a bar. Lemala Ngorongoro boasts quick access to the crater and the game drives set off as early as 6.15am. This means no waiting at the gate and you are on the astonishing crater floor within 10 minutes. This early start also gives photographers the best light. Take an escorted walk with a Maasai guide and an armed ranger along the crater rim and through the forest for a more intimate exploration of the reserve.
The crater boasts some of the easiest and most rewarding game viewing in East Africa. This is Big 5 country, all contained in the world’s largest caldera. Game drives can last all day – sit back and enjoy the spectacular scenery and abundant wildlife – especially the predators.
The area was declared a World Heritage Site in 1979. Based on fossil evidence, various hominid species have occupied the area for three million years. The Maasai pastoralists settled in the crater in the 1800s and today share their knowledge of the land with visitors.
Days 5-8: Time stands still on the Serengeti
Depending on the season, the last three nights of your safari are spent either at Lamala Ndutu in the crater or at Lemala Mara in the northern Serengeti. Ndutu has the ‘ultimate amphitheater’ seats to the Wildebeest Migration when more than a million gnu thunder across the plains in search of fresh grazing. The mobile camp is set up from November to April near the marsh in the Ngorongoro Crater. The calving season in February and March is a special time when millions of calves are born. Africa’s predators are attracted by the young calves and hunts are not uncommon.
There are 12 tents, keeping the camp intimate and allowing you to immerse yourself in the wild. Each is en suite, with a flush toilet and bucket shower. Electricity is mostly solar, although there is a generator. A convivial mess tent has a lounge and bar, for those down times when stories need to be swapped. In the evening, there is a campfire for pre-dinner drinks, followed by dinner either in the mess tent or under the stars. Picnic breakfasts and lunches can be packed for day-long safaris. From July to October, the camp moves to Lemara Mara in the northern Serengeti to make the most of the migration further north. It is set on an isolated hill overlooking the plains: front-row seats to watch the herds cross the crocodile-infested Mara River.
Large Euclea trees lend their shade to your relaxation and you can gaze at unrivalled scenery, unplugged from the hustle and bustle of the 21st century. By the time you fly out of Kogatende to catch your connecting flights home, you will have experienced some of the most unforgettable sights and sounds of Tanzania, one of the world’s foremost safari destinations.