“An immaculate privately-owned lodge set in lush, subtropical gardens within easy reach of Lake Manyara and the Ngorongoro Crater”
The guest suites and cottages fan out around the original coffee lodge, which feels straight from the pages of Karen Blixen: polished terracotta and screed floors, high garden-facing French windows, Planter-style furniture, whirling overhead fans and masses of African memorabilia like carvings, wall hangings and watercolours of the bush. The mood is cool and measured, one of respite and retreat: Plantation Lodge offers a perfect foil to the exertion and exhilaration of a Tanzanian safari.
Why we chose this partner
- Just a 30-minute drive to Lake Manyara and 20 minutes to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, one of Africa's most stunning wildlife parks
- Rooms - more like cottages, really - are big and airy, with plenty of space between you and your nearest neighbours
- German owner Renata and her staff run a tight ship: impeccably maintained grounds and friendly staff
- Wildlife aside, this is a great spot for cultural insight and much-needed downtime: perhaps a morning visit to a Maasai village or a Hadzabe hunt, then an afternoon by the pool
- It's also family friendly: there's a group house with children's facilities
Please be aware
- Because it's booked as part of a safari package, including all meals, transfers, private game drives and (hefty) park fees, prices work out pretty high - but you can be sure of a tip-top experience
- It's outside the park, but only a short drive (and this means no park fees on any 'down days')
- Larger groups sometimes book several suites and cottages, but you can always find a quiet spot if you prefer your own company
- WiFi can be patchy
- Needs to be booked well in advance
Best time to go
Our top tips
The configuration of rooms and suites varies a great deal (see below) - but the finish and comfort is top notch throughout. Expect diaphanous spaces with polished black screed floors, high ceilings and masses of windows that draw your eye out to the gardens. Watercolours of Tanzanian wildlife, Indian bedspreads, vases of cut flowers and bright silk cushions add colour to the white, black and brown palette. Bathrooms are in the same generous, functional and pristine vein.
Best for families are the Zanzibar and Bamboo Houses: both have 1 double and 1 twin room, which share a bathroom. Plantation House, with 2 interconnecting rooms, could comfortably accommodate a family of 5.
Best for couples are perhaps the Forest House or Eucalyptus House: we liked how secluded and private they felt, though they do have twin mattresses.
Best for small groups are the Garden House, with 4 ensuite doubles, and the Coffee House, with 2 enormous suites. Each house has its own dining and sitting room.
Meals here are moveable feasts. There are 5 different dining rooms spread out amongst the different houses and main lodge, as well as a number of alfresco eating areas. And wherever you choose to eat you'll have attentive service lavished upon you by uniformed staff.
Breakfast kicks off early: most guests want to make sure they're one of the first through Ngorongoro's main gate. In addition to a buffet of cold meats, cheeses, carton juice, a choice of cereals and a seasonal fruit salad, there are eggs cooked to order.
Guests tend to be out on game drives at lunchtime so box lunches - you get a couple of sandwiches, a slice of quiche, some kind of cold meat, fruit and a juice. But if you're picnicking in the Crater or beside the Manyara Lake your meal will still be a memorable one. Lunch back at the lodge is a light repast of salad, pasta, or perhaps an omelette.
Dinner always feels like a special occasion. Your table will be candlelit and beautifully dressed in all-white linen and crockery then strewn with petals of frangipani or bougainvillea. Dinners follow a 4-course formula. Ours began with seafood tagliatelle, followed by roast beef accompanied by veg which had been picked the same day in their garden. The meal ended with a scrummy dessert of grilled pineapple and mango topped with homemade ice cream. Award-winning Tanzanian coffee provided a perfect finale.
- The Unesco-listed Ngorongoro Crater (20-30 mins drive) has over 25,000 animals living in its crater: keep your eyes peeled for zebra, buffalo, antelope, lions, black rhinos, hippos and elephants, as well as the Maasai who graze their cattle here. Two daily game drives are included in our safari packages - normally 1 in the morning and 1 in the late afternoon.
- Lake Manyara park (20-30 mins drive) is great at night with porcupines, civets, bushbabies and perhaps leopards.
- Explore the lodge's gardens and surrounding coffee plantations - guided tours will teach you about the lifecycle of a coffee bean - or visit the local market for a less closeted take on Tanzania
- Birdwatch from the privacy of your terrace or from a corner of the gardens: Fischer’s lovebirds and yellow-bellied sunbirds are regular visitors, or the staff can give you a tour of the gardens and point out birds en route
- Take a hike through the Empakaai Crater and take in spectacular lake views, teeming with flamingoes and pelicans. Other hikes lasting from 1 - 3 hours follow the edge of the Great African Rift Valley
- Visit a Maasai village, or the hunter-gathering Hadza (Hadzabe) tribe on the shores of Lake Eyasi - you may need to add an extra day for these
- Indulge in a bit of R&R by the pool, then treat yourself to a neck and shoulder massage with the lodge's masseuse
- Shopping / markets
- Traditional cultures
- Well being
Kids are welcome at Plantation Lodge - though (if booking a package) bear in mind that many other safari lodges require a minimum age of 5. Kids would get good measure out of the extensive gardens and pool, and there are rooms which have been designed specifically with families in mind.
Children up to 2 years old stay for free, 2 - 6 year olds are charged 50% of the rate if sharing with parents, 6+ year olds in in own room full pay adult rate.
We've rated it best for kids aged 4 and up largely because the game drives are better if you're quiet and can concentrate...but we know there are exceptions out there.
Children (4-12 years)
Family friendly accommodation:The Zanzibar Suite and Bamboo Family Unit both have a double and twin bedroom; The Plantation House has interconnecting bedrooms, and can sleep up to 5.
Babysitting: Babysitting is available by arrangement.
Children's meals: You may need to request an early dinner for smaller kids or something less extravagant in the evening in general for them; otherwise, breakfast, packed lunches and afternoon tea are all perfectly child-friendly.
Kids Activities on site:
Kids Activities nearby:
Families Should Know: Kids need to be good at travelling to tackle this kind of safari trip - ideally, you'd stay here for 3 days then move on to another stop. The pool is unfenced and some balconies have wide slats along the rails so aren't ideal for tinies.
- Airport: 190km (Kilimanjaro International Airport)
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited and can sometimes go astray, so if it is crucial to you, please check with the hotel that it is still available
The game drives and most camp-to-camp transfers are in comfy 4WD Toyota Landcruisers, with either 5 or 7 seats. All seats are by the window, with extra large windows for photography and driving comfort. They also have a pop-up roof for enhanced game-viewing in the parks, as well as a coolbox stocked with soft drinks, wildlife- and bird reference books, Maasai blankets, and a camera/phone charging point (with UK adapter).
The transfer back to Kilimanjaro Airport is normally in a light aircraft - typically a 12-seater Cessna caravan.
Plantation Lodge is 10 mins' drive north of the market town of Karatu on the lower slopes of Ngorongoro Crater. It's 20 mins' drive from Lake Manyara airstrip, and around 3 hours' drive from Arusha / Kilimanjaro airport.
Because of the complexity of getting there, the camp can only be booked as part of a safari package. Our featured safaris generally feature 1-2 nights at The Plantation Lodge, or you can request a tailor-made trip to suit your timing and interests.
Safaris start and end at at Kilimanjaro International Airport near Arusha - served by some international flights as well as frequent hopper flights from Dar es Salaam - or in Arusha itself if you prefer.
Detailed directions will be sent when you book through i-escape.
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