East Africa is famous for iconic reserves such as the Serengeti and Masai Mara. Here you can expect a classic safari experience: rolling savannah, huge herds, plenty of predators and (if you get your timing right) the annual wildebeest migration – dubbed the greatest wildlife show on earth!
Africa Travel Expert Lisa Griggs and Team Leader Nikki Theron recently visited 30 luxury lodges and camps across Kenya and Tanzania’s top reserves. We asked them to select a few of their favourites which, when combined, would showcase East Africa’s highlights in an unforgettable safari circuit.
Legendary Lodge: Touch Down in Arusha
Legendary Lodge lies on a coffee plantation about 20 minutes’ drive from Arusha Airport. This place is a little slice of heaven and an excellent choice for a pre- or post-safari stay.
The rooms are ginormous, each with a fireplace and a beautiful garden setting. Plains game is often seen grazing the lawns (no dangerous wildlife though), and there’s a recreation centre and a spa on the property. A real highlight here is the food! Brian, the chef, is amazing; and Ramah, our waiter, had an excellent knowledge of wine and ensured our glasses were always topped up.
We’d recommend two nights at Legendary Lodge, leaving a full day to relax. There are activities on offer but really this is the sort of place you won’t want to leave (just maybe pack a pair of larger pants – the food is that good!).
Why we love it: Gently ease into your safari. Probably the best cuisine of our entire trip!
Ngorongoro: Fit for Royalty on the Crater Rim
andBeyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge is phenomenal! Set right on the crater rim (you can’t stop looking at that view) with a style that can best be described as Bohemian luxury. Suites are housed in mud huts, but step inside and you enter a world of plush furniture and magnificent chandeliers.
Main Camp consists of North and South Camp, and then there’s the 6-suite Tree Camp. The attention to detail here is wonderful: crystal wine glasses, fresh roses everywhere, an awesome dessert trolley after dinner and – on return from your safari – a petal-strewn bubble bath. There’s also a beautiful wine cellar where they offer private dining.
As for the safari experience, the game viewing is impressive as it’s contained within Ngorongoro Crater (although there can be a lot of other vehicles too). Among the animals we saw were black rhino, elephant, hippo, zebra, plains game, and our favourite sighting was a lioness that came straight for us and then flopped down in the shade of our vehicle!
Why we love it: The spectacular crater-rim setting and quirky décor. Honeymoon-perfect with a style that’s difficult to sum up – but it works! Definitely one for the bucketlist.
One Nature Nyaruswiga: Absolute Luxury in the Serengeti
One Nature Nyaruswiga lies in the Seronera area of the Central Serengeti. Our mornings here started with coffee on the veranda, staring out at the savannah views and hot air balloons in the distance. This time of year (late April / early May) is known for short afternoon thundershowers, and it was very dramatic watching them over the plains.
The tented suites are next level, from the high-quality Egyptian cotton linen to your own lounge area with a wood-burning fireplace and the copper freestanding bathtubs. At the end of the camp is a beautiful sala area with a pool, jacuzzi and bar. Although ultra-luxurious, the atmosphere here is warm and welcoming with amazing staff.
The game viewing vehicles too have all the bells and whistles: comfortable seating for a maximum of four guests, wifi and charging stations, a cooler box, your own set of binoculars, ponchos etc. This is a camp that really has thought of everything! You can even request a silent movie to watch under the stars.
One Nature is very aware of their environmental impact. The camp is fully supported by solar and there’s no plastic (only glass bottles etc).
Why we love it: Next-level luxury surrounded by the Serengeti Plains. The staff here are amazing!
Angama Mara: Views Across the Mara Plains
At Anagma Mara we once again had the most incredible views – this time right across the Masai Mara. This award-winning lodge has two camps of 15 tented suites each. The tents are stunning, very open plan with floor-to-ceiling glass to make the most of the views. Once again, the attention to detail is excellent down to the pair of binoculars in each suite.
For keen photographers, Angama Mara partners with wildlife photographer Adam Bannister, who’ll help you get the most out of your safari pics. While staying there, we were also treated to an amazing bush dinner. Food is flavourful and simply presented with many ingredients freshly picked from the lodge’s Shamba (kitchen garden).
Along with game drives in the Masai Mara you have the option of a dawn hot air balloon safari. Other activities include a guided walk with a Maasai warrior and a picnic on the crest of the famous hill that features on the “Out of Africa” movie poster.
Why we love it: The tented suites are beautiful but it’s the view that really catches your attention!
Hemingways: Lovely Hotel in Nairobi
Round off your safari at Hemingways, a lovely hotel in Nairobi. We only stopped in for breakfast but would certainly recommend a stay.
The hotel is close to the Giraffe Centre and Elephant Orphanage. At the Giraffe Centre the giraffe only approach you if they want to, while the rescued elephants at the orphanage are being rehabilitated for release back into the wild. The Karen Blixen Museum is also worth a visit.