E Unoto Retreat

E Unoto Retreat: Our full report

Rooms
25 bungalows
Traveller's rating
Good (90%) From 8 reviews
Open
All year

E Unoto Retreat sits atop a foothill below the Rift Valley Escarpment, overlooking the small Lake Miwaleni. It is a peaceful location, about 12 miles from Lake Manyara National Park, and is reached by traversing a track past Maasai villages. The lodge was created in 2000 with admirable plans of working together with the local Maasai communities: it was to offer visitors the opportunity to experience Maasai culture while their stay would create employment for the surrounding community and generate provision for improved health care and education. When we first visited E Unoto in 2007 we were impressed with its ethos and standards, but by 2011, accommodation standards had slipped and the Maasai community was hardly involved in the project at all.The name ‘E Unoto’ refers to a joyous, month-long Maasai ceremony when warriors choose their wives and enter into junior adulthood. On our first visit, the lodge lived up to the implications of its name with a cheerful and positive atmosphere. The staff were mostly Maasai and we enjoyed uncontrived interaction with local community members – at one point the staff were even giving local schoolchildren swimming lessons in the lodge pool! When we visited again in May 2011 the manager was Kenyan and there were no Maasai staff. The lodge was quiet and lacking in atmosphere, and although the manager did what he could to make us comfortable, our experience of E Unoto this time was far removed from its goals.

Despite its current disappointing status, E Unoto remains open and offers a relatively economical option for travellers to the Lake Manyara area. The lodge was constructed along traditional lines, using as many locally sourced materials as possible. The main restaurant and lounge, built to resemble two traditional Maasai manyattas (large huts), overlook the lodge’s swimming pool and the lake beyond. The restaurant hut is set out with tables and chairs and the lounge hut is furnished with comfortable seating and a bar. Both are simply decorated, with polished stone floors, high thatched roofs and open sides so that you can enjoy the views.

Reached along an increasingly steep path up from the main area, E Unoto’s 25 bungalows are individual, thatched, round manyattas. When first built, these spacious en-suite rooms had a rustic charm created by hand-made furniture and beautiful carvings. By 2011, however, the rooms had begun to fall into disrepair, and many of the soft furnishings, such as bed linen, needed replacing.

A range of activities is advertised from E Unoto Retreat including visits to a Maasai village, walks through the surrounding farmlands and plantations, more strenuous walks to a waterfall or up onto the Rift Valley Escarpment (recommended only for the sure footed), and cycling in the countryside. In the evenings, acrobatic shows and Maasai dancing can be arranged at the lodge. During our most recent stay we took a guided walk to the waterfall and enjoyed the exercise, but felt the excursion was not informative in any way. We were also treated to a fun acrobatic show which proved to be the highlight of our stay.

Our view

The concept promised by E Unoto Retreat of a lodge working closely with the surrounding community is a great one on paper, and an experience we thoroughly enjoyed in 2007. Should E Unoto live up to its potential again in the future, it is a lodge that we would be delighted to support. However, we are not recommending it in its current state.

Geographics

Location: Lake Manyara National Park, Tanzania

Directions: E Unoto Retreat is situated 13km from the main tarmac road between Arusha and Lake Manyara. The first 10km is a dusty road passing by Maasai villages, then it’s a fairly bumpy 4WD track up to the lodge.

Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Full Board

Food quality: When we first visited E Unoto Retreat in 2007 we enjoyed the food very much. Not because it was particularly fancy – but rather because it had a distinctly Africa twist. There was the chance to try Tanzanian favourites such as ugali (a thick maize porridge), chapatti (a savoury pancake) and kachumbari (a spicy salad). In 2011 we found the meals to be more basic ‘from the pantry’ concoctions that were adequate but not memorable.

For breakfast E Unoto Retreat lays out a simple spread of fruits, cereal, fruit juices, tea and coffee along with freshly baked bread. You can then order a cooked breakfast as well.

Lunch can be in the form of a packed picnic that you take with you into Lake Manyara National Park. Typically this will include sandwiches, a cake or snack of some sort, a piece of barbecued chicken and a boiled egg, and a carton of fruit juice. If you choose to have lunch at the lodge, it is likely to be a simple meal of rice, meat stew and salad.

Dinner is a three-course meal beginning with a soup or small starter. On our last visit we were served tomato soup (tinned) with a splash of Tabasco sauce. Guests are usually offered a choice between two main courses – our options were chicken or beef stew, both served with potatoes or rice and mixed vegetables. Dessert is then fresh fruit, ice-cream or perhaps a slice of cake.

Dining style: Individual Tables

Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining

Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included

Drinks included: No. E Unoto Retreat has a bar where you can buy drinks at an additional cost. In 2011 the costs were about US$2 for a soda and US$3 for a beer or a glass of wine.

Further dining info: No, E Unoto do not offer room service.

Children

Attitude towards children: Children of all ages are welcome at E Unoto Retreat.

Notes: The pool is deep and not cordoned off. Some of the room’s private verandas drop away quite steeply and don’t have railings. For these reasons children should be under a parent’s supervision at all times.

Infrastructure

Power supply: Generator

Power supply notes: The generator is only on between 6.30am and 8:30am, and in the evening from 6.00pm to 10.00pm.

Communications: There is cellphone reception at E Unoto, but there is no landline phone or internet access at the lodge for guests.

TV & radio: There is no TV or radio at E Unoto.

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: Yes

Medical care: There is a doctor in Arusha, which is about a two-hour drive away.

Dangerous animals: Low Risk

Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers outside the bungalows and in the communal areas. However, given the lack of general maintenance that we found at E Unoto when we visited in 2011, we believe it is unlikely that these are checked annually as they should be.

Extras

Disabled access: Not Possible

Laundry facilities: A complimentary laundry service is offered for guests staying two or more nights at E Unoto Retreat.

Money: E Unoto can change small amounts of US dollars into Tanzania shillings on request.

Accepted payment on location: At E Unoto you can settle your bill in cash for extras such as drinks, using Tanzanian shillings, US dollars or euros. Travellers’ cheques and credit cards are not accepted. You cannot use travellers' cheques or credit cards of any kind.