The Lake Manyara Serena has large public areas with eye catching design!
Lake Manyara Serena Safari Lodge: Our full report
One of three Serena properties around the area, Lake Manyara Serena Safari Lodge is in a stunning location, high on a cliff edge with spectacular views over Lake Manyara National Park. Like its sister properties – Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge and the Serengeti Serena near Seronera – it is big, accommodating up to 145 guests, and is largely impersonal.
Lake Manyara Serena Lodge is just 2km from the main tarmac highway, down a short private track. Built in 1996, it is constructed largely of stone, thatch and dark wood, yet the style is more that of the 1970s. Green creepers and mature bushes border stone paths which lead from the main areas to the 67 bedrooms, all with views of Lake Manyara National Park. Designed to loosely resemble African 'rondavels' – round houses with thatched roofs and thick stone walls – they are, for the most part, ordinary and simple; – their best feature is with doubt the view. 16 rooms interconnect so are well suited for families.
The main areas of Lake Manyara Serena Lodge are large and airy, incorporating a spacious dining room, bar area, TV room, conference room, computer room, small shop and reception area. With a white, green and orange colour scheme, the feel is definitely retro! Although these rooms are designed to accommodate a large number of people, they've tried (and in our opinion done quite well) to create a welcoming atmosphere with their use of colour, ceramic uplighters, fireplaces in each room, and pots of Maasai spears to lend an African feel.
Wooden and cushioned chairs scattered with colourful cushions are clustered around small, wooden tables. Off the main sitting room lies a computer room, which houses three computers, and a wooden bridge leads to a small curio shop which sells a limited range of gifts, T-shirts and toiletries. In the TV room you'll find a satellite TV, and this is also where evening entertainment – such as Maasai dancing – takes place.
In the spacious dining room, there's a change of colour. Red and blue painted lines wiggle their way around the walls and Maasai blankets align the serving tables, dotted with small Maasai ornaments and pots of flowing green plants. Dining can be inside or out, although the outside area is quite small. There's also a self-service area for tea/coffee, complete with baskets of tea cakes and biscuits.
A couple of, stone paths wind from the main building to a kidney-shaped infinity pool, partly framed by bushes, lined by sunloungers and with a small bar. The surrounding lawn area is the domain of three resident bushbucks. With stunning, panoramic views over Lake Manyara National Park, this is the best area of the lodge.
Lake Manyara Serena Lodge has its own spa, albeit rather small and dark. A resident therapist offers manicures, pedicures and deep tissue massages all day, and while the range isn't particularly comprehensive, it will suit guests wanting a bit of relaxation for an hour or so.
If you're not using the hotel as a pit-stop for a driving safari, you can take advantage of activities organised from Lake Manyara Serena Lodge.
A gentle mountain-biking trip heads down the Rift Valley Escarpment to Mto Wa Mbu village, taking about three-and-a-half hours. The cost, about £30 per person, includes a guide, drinks/snacks and a transfer back up the escarpment to the lodge – plus a mountain bike, helmet and gloves.
Alternatively, there's the option of a walk around the village where guests will meet with the local people and take in its farms, kindergarten, milling machine, church and local homes. This, too, costs roughly £30 each and generally lasts about three hours, including the drive to and from the village; it's recommended for all ages.
More strenuous is a forest hike, which heads from the lodge along the edge of the escarpment, and descends into a nearby gorge – where it's possible to explore groundwater springs. The hike ends at the gates to Lake Manyara National Park from where you're picked up and driven back to the lodge; it lasts around 2–3 hours and costs about £20 per person. You do need to have a reasonable level of fitness for this activity.
The nature walk lasts roughly an hour and is a nice bit of exercise led by a qualified naturalist. It concentrates on the area on top of the Great Rift Valley, and costs about £10 each. This is suitable for most age groups and abilities.
In the evening, at 7.00pm, there's a three-hour night drive through the national park in an open game-drive vehicle with a guide and spotter. Costs depend on the size of the group, but are from around £50 per person based on 2 people.
Our ViewLake Manyara Serena Lodge is typical of Serena Hotels, and makes a decent, comfortable base for a night. It doesn't pretend to be luxurious or intimate, but it is practical and, for a reasonable cost, offers stunning views and a good location for those wanting to visit Lake Manyara National Park. The service we experienced on our last visit (May 2011) was friendly and efficient.
Please note, as the lodge is popular with large groups, overbooking is sadly common. If you would like to include Lake Manyara Serena Lodge in your itinerary please note that Expert Africa can take no responsibility for any overbooking. In such an event, we'll do our best to help make alternative arrangements for you – but we will not take any responsibility for additional costs or any resultant changes to your itinerary.
Ideal length of stay: 1 night
Directions: 107km west of Arusha, Lake Manyara Serena Lodge lies about 2km off the main road, with a good dirt track leading to it.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Lake Manyara Serena Lodge offers international cuisine and caters for vegetarians and children on request. There is a self-service coffee/tea bar near the restaurant that guests can use all day.
Breakfast is a buffet-style meal, with hot and cold dishes laid out in the restaurant. There is a good choice of cereals, yoghurts and fruits, and a chef will prepare eggs to order.
Lunch is also served buffet style. Although we didn't sample the food on our last visit, in May 2011, we saw the dishes being laid out and were impressed. There was an extensive two-tier buffet with a wide variety of salads and cold meats, as well as lots of condiments and a cheeseboard with six different cheeses.
Dinner at the Lake Manyara Serena is generally a three-course set menu, which is served to guests at the tables.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: No. It costs roughly £3 for a local beer.
Attitude towards children: Lake Manyara Serena Lodge is happy to accommodate children.
Property’s age restrictions: None.
Special activities & services: Lake Manyara Serena Lodge can arrange babysitters on request at £3 per hour - although these won't be qualified childminders. The hotel is also happy to serve children's meals at earlier times if requested.
Equipment: The hotel has baby cots and high chairs.
Generally recommended for children: Yes
Notes: The infinity swimming pool can be used by children under their parent's supervision. Activities can be organized for children, typically costing about £8 per child, and lasting roughly one and a half hours. For example, children can be walked around the lodge, play games, make field guides and plant trees. The suggested departure time is either 07:30 or 16:30. The cost included field guide materials.
Power supply: Mains Electricity
Communications: There are internal phones in the rooms, and international calls can be made through the main reception desk. Internet access costs US$3 for 15 minutes, and WiFi US$5 an hour.
TV & radio: There are no TVs in the rooms, but there is a general TV room for guests to use.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: The hotel has an on-site medical assistant and a clinic. In case of emergencies they can contact the Flying Doctor services.
Dangerous animals: Moderate Risk
Security measures: The hotel has guards on duty 24 hours a day. There is also CCTV.
Fire safety: The hotel has fire extinguishers and the staff are trained how to use them.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: There is a laundry service, costing around £1 per item.
Money: There are no safes in the rooms but guests can use the safe at reception to store any valuables
Accepted payment on location: Lake Manyara Serena accepts cash payments in US dollars, Canadian dollars, euros, pounds sterling, Tanzanian shillings and Kenyan shillings. They also accept Visa, American Express and MasterCard, with no commission charged. They also accept Visa, American Express and Mastercard. They charge no commission for taking credit cards.