Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge

Near Ngorongoro, Northern Circuit, Tanzania Book from

Reviewed by Liz Simpson
A charmingly simple hilltop lodge in a great location near Ngorongoro, with a real community mission
As we bump off-road and wind our way up a steep dirt track, past traditional cottages, farmers' fields, sleeping dogs and clusters of waving children, we see Rhotia Lodge at the very top of the hill. Perched proud, with stunning panoramic views of the valley below, its rural location is amazing - and all the more so for being a mere 30-minute drive from the Ngorongoro Crater. Most hotels near the Crater charge an arm and a leg for the privilege of staying there. Not so Rhotia, which is both a lodge and a community project all in one, its mission to provide a home for local children who have none.

Built from indigenous hardwood, in traditional African style, the main building is wrapped by an open veranda, with stools and easy chairs to soak up the glorious view over a sundowner beer. Staff are instantly wonderful, rushing out to welcome you with big smiles, cold towels and freshly squeezed juice; it feels good to be here. Out back are 15 Tented Houses: simple but attractive, with bright linens and private verandas. They are not luxurious, but life’s little pleasures are all in place: hot showers, comfy beds, even hot-water bottles at night. And after you rise to a delicious organic breakfast and piping hot coffee before an early-morning game drive in the Crater, you'll leave with a smile on your face - even at 5.30am.

Highs

  • A great budget option - including this lodge in your itinerary will lower the cost of your overall safari holiday
  • The Ngorongoro Crater, a UNESCO site with the highest density of animals in Africa. The Serengeti migration passes through here May-October, and we saw masses of lions, hippos and zebra, and, thrillingly, a rhino
  • Good, imaginative food, most of it from Rhotia’s organic vegetable garden or supplied by local farmers
  • The cosy lounge with its wicker sofas and open fireplace, which you’ll appreciate in the evenings as you’re 1700m above sea level so it can get chilly
  • By staying here you directly contribute to The Rhotia Valley Children’s Home, which sits on an adjacent hilltop. It’s genuinely heart-warming to see the kids out playing, and you can visit if you want

Lows

  • You may get some creepy crawlies in your tent. We had a scary large spider, but staff cheerfully removed it for us
  • Noise travels between the tents; bring earplugs if you’re a light sleeper
  • Much more basic than our other safari lodges - this is by no means luxurious - but you’ll be very comfortable, and it's great to know that the lodge's profits help such a fantastic cause

Best time to go

June to September is dry season, and the weather is less hot and less humid, but still warm. It's a good time for game viewing as animals start to congregate around shrinking water sources. Temperatures become increasingly hot through October, with heavy concentrations of game around lakes and rivers; we visited during this month and it was superb. Rainy season is November to May, during which things get increasingly wet and sticky, with April and May having the heaviest rainfall. This is the 'green season' with lush vegetation, full rivers and lakes, and abundant birdlife and wild flowers.

Our top tips

Be sure to pack binoculars - we wouldn't have seen a rhino in the Crater without ours. Suncream and sunhats are an absolute must too, as if you're standing in the Jeep hatch all day (which you will be), you'll burn to a crisp if it's sunny.

Great for...

Eco
Family
Great Outdoors
Honeymoon
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Tented Lodge
  • 15
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Bicycles Available
Room:

Rooms

The 15 Tented Houses (stilted, thatch-roofed platforms with a tent inside) are set along winding paths, beside the organic vegetable garden. At night, these paths are lit by paraffin lamps, but staff will escort you to and from the main lodge, in case there are animals around.

Inside, each tent is identical. There’s a large main bedroom area with beds and a wicker armchair, plus a veranda with 2 planter-style chairs and a wooden log table, and a partitioned-off bathroom area. Most tents have 1 or 2 double beds, but there are 2 family tents with a double and 2 singles. Beds are comfy, covered in hand-sewn linens and strewn with fresh flowers on your arrival. While you eat dinner, a hot-water bottle will be tucked between your sheets, and there are blankets to keep you warm during the colder months. There are solar-powered electricity points, so you can charge your camera and phone, and there are bedside lights, plus torches in case you need them. We loved sitting out on our veranda, soaking up the incredible view.

Bathrooms are spacious, and although they are not luxurious, you do get a hot-water shower, locally-made soap, piles of orange towels and a flushing toilet.

Features include:

  • Cots Available
  • Hot water bottles
  • Internet access
  • Terrace

Eating

Meals are served in the lovely dining room in the main lodge and you can opt for full- or half-board options. In the evenings it looks gorgeous; candlelit tables, little braziers, and the flickering firelight from the lounge beyond. There are blankets to wrap around yourselves if you get cold. Tables are set up for groups of 2-12 (there are often safari groups staying), and are laid with white napkins and cool animal-print salt and pepper holders.

The food is largely organic from the lodge’s own garden, or from local farms. Whilst it’s not gourmet it’s very good, and imaginative; a 3-course set formula. Perhaps root vegetable soup to start, a spicy meat stew with potatoes for main, and a fruit tart for dessert.

Breakfast can be taken as early as you want, so you can get on the road for your dawn game drive. We loved the banana pancakes, and the Tanzania omelette, with its chilli kick. Juices are freshly squeezed, and there are big Thermoses of tea and coffee to help yourselves to.

Lunches are packed, eaten out on game drives. These consist of a number of tasty treats - a box of juice, water, a boiled egg, pieces of fruit, a calzone or samosa, pancakes, quiche or pizza, and a sandwich.

Features include:

  • All meals included
  • Bar
  • Organic produce
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • You’re here to see the magnificent Ngorongoro Crater, a 30-minute drive away. We spent a day in this volcanic caldera, from dawn to 4pm, and saw a vast range of animals, including elephant herds, masses of lions, giraffes, zebras, wildebeest and scores of flamingos on the lake. The highlights? 2 lions chasing off a wild dog, hippos basking in mud, a lioness on the prowl, and a rhino in the distance

  • Lake Manyara is close (30 minutes), home to a host of migratory birds, including flamingos, eagles and kingfishers. Its National Park is also good for spotting wildlife - we saw lots of impalas, wildebeest, and elephant families with 2-week old babies

  • Further afield, but do-able on a day trip, Tarangire National Park is fantastic. During the dry season, heaps of animals throng the river (waterbuck, giraffes, elephants, zebras) and the landscape is diverse and unusual, with Baobab trees, dense bush and high grasses. However, Tarangire is probably most famous for its tree-climbing lions, an unforgettable sight

  • Back at the lodge, take a guided walk into the Ngorongoro Forest, and hike down to the Crater rim (a tough but rewarding 6-hour walk) or follow the river to find bush waterfalls. If you’re lucky, you might spot wild elephants and buffalo on route (the guides are armed!)

  • Or take a guided cultural walk to Rhotia Village and get an insight into local customs and traditions, family and farm life. The local kids love meeting wazungu (white folk)

  • Visit the Rhotia Valley Children’s Home on the adjacent hilltop and join in a soccer match or help them with their homework. By staying at Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge, you directly contribute to their welfare and education

  • After all that exploring, laze by the large infinity pool which overlooks the valley

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Mountain biking
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Private guided tours
  • Safaris
  • Traditional cultures
  • Wildlife

Kids

Children of all ages are welcome at the lodge, but you'd need to keep a close eye on toddlers as the tents are on raised platforms. Safari is best suited to 6+ year olds. Children aged 6-12 are charged 50% of the adult rate when sharing with 2 adults.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

There are 2 family tents with a double bed and 2 single beds.

Baby equipment:

Baby cots are available

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Kids Activities nearby:

Older children can play football with the orphans

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

This hotel has not yet been reviewed by guests

Rates for Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge