Lake Manyara Tree Lodge is a special place, deep in the forest.
Lake Manyara Tree Lodge: Our full report
The only lodge situated within Lake Manyara National Park, Lake Manyara Tree Lodge is tucked away in the far south of the park within a forest of mahogany, wild mango and fig trees. It's far from the busy main park gate used by almost all of the park's visitors. Like its sister lodges – Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, Klein's Camp and Grumeti River Camp – it offers very high-quality service, guiding and luxury.
Lake Manyara Tree Lodge combines a stylish contemporary design with a natural feel that links it to the surrounding bush. Thatched roofs, polished wooden floors and neutral colours characterise the split-level main area, which is open to the sides and front. Yet minimalist furniture, soft lighting and well-placed African carvings result in a smooth and sophisticated atmosphere.
On the upper level, a number of large comfortable sofas are positioned around low wooden coffee tables, dotted with wildlife books and books about Lake Manyara and a selection of board games. All is stylish, with sharp lines and muted colours, yet it achieves a cosy atmosphere, with African carvings to add a rustic feel. A waiter is on hand to serve cool drinks or cocktails from a well-stocked drinks cabinet.
Just below the lounge area, modern table and chairs are set out on the wooden floor of the spacious dining room, which is backed by an open-plan kitchen where chefs prepare meals in front of you. There is also a shop, open throughout the day, selling interesting curios from all over Africa as well as more practical objects such as backpacks and toiletries.
In front of the main area is a large boma – which in Maasai culture is an enclosure around the family home where the cattle are kept. Here used as an outdoor dining and barbecue area, it is artistically fenced by tall poles of wonderfully gnarled wood, and decorated with old nagalawa, or canoes (traditionally used to fish on the nearby lake), terracotta pots and natural artefacts. At night, lit by storm lanterns and with a central fire, it is a wonderful place to enjoy dinner under the stars.
A short path leads to Lake Manyara Tree Lodge's curved swimming pool, tucked discreetly into the bush. Dotted around on the wooden decking are a number of comfortable sunloungers and some shady umbrellas for when it gets a little too warm in the sun.
The ten 'tree houses' at the Tree Lodge are reached via soft sand paths, and are tucked into small, cleared corners of the bush. (Although they are raised up slightly on stilts, they are perhaps not what most people would think of as 'tree houses'.) Each feels incredibly private, and from the outside their thatched roofs and reed walls blend beautifully into the natural surroundings. However once inside, the rooms are exceptional: luxurious in an understated rustic way, with a crisp modern style, a comfortable lounge area, a king-size bed, claw-foot bath and outside shower – perfect for a little indulgence, without feeling detached from the surrounding environment. (Read more about the tree houses here …)
However Lake Manyara Tree Lodge isn't simply about creature comforts; it also offers excellent safari activities. Head out daily on a morning or afternoon safari drive – or perhaps go with a packed lunch for the entire day. Timings are flexible and the manager will discuss with you each evening what you would like to do the following day.
For a completely different perspective you can also do a night drive – usually after an early dinner to allow you the flexibility to stay out longer.
Currently the Tree Lodge isn't offering walking safaris for safety reasons (all walks conducted in the national park need to be accompanied by a TANAPA ranger, and there have been recent concerns over whether their training is adequate). However, the lodge is currently working with the national park authorities with a view to training a handful of rangers to walk with their guides.
Back at the lodge, guests at Lake Manyara Tree Lodge can also have wonderful in-room massage treatments by a professional masseuse. A Swedish massage costs around US$60 for an hour.
Our viewLake Manyara Tree Lodge has mastered the delicate balance between the opulent and the unassuming. While it is certainly stylish and luxurious, it does not feel detached or out of place in the surrounding bush; it also manages to be very warm and welcoming. This may be in part because of the understated style, yet also a credit to the excellent team running the lodge. On our previous visits (most recently May 2011) we found the staff to be incredibly friendly, and the food and service exceptional.
It is one of only two lodges inside this national park – and its position at the other end of the park from the main entrance gate ensures that game drives from there don't see too many other vehicles. If you want a few days to take a proper look at Lake Manyara National Park, there isn't a better lodge to use as a base. Its only real down-side is a relatively high price tag.
Ideal length of stay: Spend two nights at Lake Manyara Tree Lodge and use it as a base to explore remoter parts of the park; longer if you want time to relax at the lodge itself.
Directions: Lake Manyara Tree Lodge is within Lake Manyara National Park, 48km south of the park's gate.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: The food at Lake Manyara Tree Lodge is well prepared in the open-plan kitchen at the side of the dining area. It is nothing short of what you would expect from a top restaurant in Europe – and quite remarkable that it is produced in the middle of the bush.
Breakfast is very flexible – you can eat something before your morning activity, take a packed breakfast with you or have an early brunch when you return to the lodge. If you choose to have breakfast or brunch at the lodge, a vast array of cereals, dried fruit, yoghurt, fresh bread and pastries will be brought to your table, and you can then order a cooked breakfast from the waiter. A packed breakfast includes a selection of the above, but without the cooked breakfast.
In the early afternoon, you can either have lunch at the lodge or have a packed lunch, depending on your choice of morning activity. Lunch at the lodge is usually a three-course meal. On out last visit in May 2011 we enjoyed zucinni soup with delicious home-made bread that we had watched being prepared earlier in the day. This was followed by tender lamb kebabs accompanied by a vast selection of salads, including couscous, grean bean, mixed and a Swahili style, and we finished with a creamy strawberry ice-cream – once again home made!
For a packed lunch, Lake Manyara Tree Lodge will put together a tasty sandwich, and extras such as samosas, boiled eggs, fruit, biscuits and cakes, all of which are homemade.
Before the evening meal, cocktails – such as frozen gin and tonics – are available in the lounge with delicious nibbles that may include papadoms and mango chutney, dried mango, and Bombay mix.
A three-course dinner is served from 7.00pm – but there is no set time. A waiter will escort you to your table, usually set out under the stars, with storm lanterns to create a cosy and romantic atmosphere. The varied menu is normally announced earlier in the day, with enough time to make any alterations if it's not to your taste. We started with an incredible sweet potato and ginger soup on one night, and pumpkin soup on the other (with homemade naan bread. Main courses were a succulent fillet of beef with coriander salsa, roast potatoes and stir-fry beans and peppers; and tandoori chicken served with basmati rice, vegetable curry and a spinach tart. For dessert we had chocolate pudding with chocolate sauce, and banana fritters.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Drinks are included at Lake Manyara Tree Lodge except for premium champagnes and imported wines and spirits.
Honeymoons: Lake Manyara Tree Lodge is a high-quality lodge which is perfect for a special occasion. In the heart of the bush, its rooms are large, very private and beautifully designed. The camp itself is very romantic and the service is fantastic; honeymoon couples will be made to feel very special.See more ideas for Honeymoons in Tanzania
Wildlife safaris: Lake Manyara National Park is a relatively small park – only 330km² – and the majority of this is covered in water. However, it has an exceptional diversity of wildlife and some excellent big game. The park also has the added advantage of allowing night drives, which allow the chance to see the park's nocturnal inhabitants.See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Tanzania
Attitude towards children: The location of Lake Manyara Tree Lodge is quite wild, so children need to be mature and around the age of 12 or more to enjoy the experience. It's important to note that children are the responsibility of their parents at all times and should not be allowed to walk around the camp without supervision.
Equipment: There is no equipment for children.
Generally recommended for children: No
Notes: Big game does wander through the camp periodically and so children need to be closely supervised at all times.
Power supply: Generator
Communications: There is intermittent cellphone reception at Lake Manyara Tree Lodge. There is also a landline and internet access which, while it is for lodge use, may be used by guests on request; there is a charge of US$10/minute to make an international phone call. Free WiFi is available in the central areas.
TV & radio: There are no TVs at Lake Manyara Tree Lodge.
Health & safety
Malarial area: Yes
Medical care: All guides and a number of other staff at the lodge are first aid trained, and there is a basic first-aid kit on site. For more serious emergencies Lake Manyara Tree Lodge is linked to the flying doctor service.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: There are askaris (guards) to escort you around the camp at night since wildlife does wander through.
Fire safety: Lake Manyara Tree Lodge has a fire evacuation plan in place and extinguishers dotted around the lodge.
Disabled access: In Place
Laundry facilities: Laundry is included.
Money: Lake Manyara Tree Lodge can exchange small amounts of currency depending on how much they have in the office.