Ngorongoro Crater Lodge stands in an amazing location.
Ngorongoro Crater Lodge: Our full report
Occupying a spectacular spot right on the rim of the Crater, Ngorongoro Crater Lodge is undoubtedly one of the most opulent lodges in Africa. Combining architectural hints of traditional Maasai manyattas (homesteads) with interior styles borrowed from grand stately homes – this lodge is a modern take on two established themes and the result is nothing short of extraordinary!
Grand antiques, vast guilt mirrors and African art compliment each other beautifully – resulting in a contemporary, smart and quite theatrical atmosphere. It isn't to everyone's taste; some will regard it as completely over-the-top, and not at all in keeping with an African safari experience. However, for those looking for something exceptionally special, and completely decadent, then it may be perfect.
Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, is actually three separate intimate camps – North, South and Tree. Each has its own separate dining and lounge area, which helps to maintain a small and exclusive feel – even though the lodge has 30 rooms altogether. When we last stayed here, we had no preference for any of the three: each is very similar in style and shares an excellent quality of service and high standards.
North and South camps are set slightly higher up the hill and are exact mirror images of each other – whilst Tree Camp sits literally on the edge of the crater. The Tree Camp has views uninterrupted by other buildings, but the higher location of North and South lend a better perspective. North and South also have larger rooms.
The main lounge for each of the North and South camps is divinely decorated with wood-panelled walls, large beaded chandeliers, raw silk curtains and inviting velveteen sofas. The roofs are brilliantly crafted from banana leaves, whilst Persian rugs adorn the floors and fresh roses are set out daily. Outside each, an expanse of decking is decorated with terracotta pots filled with Maasai spears, and a large fireplace provides the perfect setting for pre-dinner drinks as the moon rises over the Crater rim.
The Tree Camp has a similar style but without being quite so extravagant. The décor is still artistic, imaginative and more, but without quite the same ‘boudoir’ flair. The snug atmosphere of its communal area is balanced by floor-to-ceiling windows, with a stupendous, uninterrupted view across the Crater – and a terrace below that is a truly amazing place for breakfast! It has a more rustic feel to it than North and South, being built around a strangler fig, and is slightly less extravagant – but the thick velvet and fur, and crystal decanters, mean that you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve entered a royal residence!
All the manyattas or bedrooms in all of Crater Lodge’s camps are essentially the same, and they continue with a similar theme – decorated with rich colours, chandeliers and wood-panelled walls. In each room, a fireplace sits in the corner, and is usually lit in the evenings by your personal butler. This makes the rooms incredibly cosy and a great place to relax at the end of a long day out on safari. (Read more about the manyattas… )
However, it isn't just the aesthetics of the lodge that are spectacular; the service is also top-class, and staying here we felt very spoilt. Each room is assigned its own personal ‘butler’, who is on hand should you want anything. While some people may be put off by the idea of having someone to wait on them, the reality is quite subtle. These butlers aren’t ever-present servants; it’s merely a high level of personal service, and a lot of the time you may not even notice their presence. But it does mean that when you arrive back after a long game drive, you may find a bubble-bath waiting for you; or return from dinner to find you electric blanket switched on. It simply serves to enhance your luxury safari experience further.
The shop at Ngorongoro Crater Lodge is situated near to the lodge gate and stocks an array of high-quality curios, as well as items such as toiletries and postcards for a reasonable price. However, beautiful jewellery, handmade leather belts and hand-crafted carvings are hard to resist! You will also find a computer and complimentary WiFi access here.
The greatest draw is to head down into the Ngorongoro Crater itself with one of the excellent and knowledgeable lodge guides. The lodge uses closed-sided safari vehicles with pop-top roofs – designed for game viewing. Departure times are very flexible, so you may wish to take a packed breakfast and return for lunch; or perhaps have breakfast at the lodge and take a packed lunch with you, returning in the late afternoon; or to maximise your time on the Crater floor you might choose to take both a packed breakfast and lunch! The drive from the lodge to the descent road and down to the Crater floor takes about 40 minutes.
Though games drives in the Crater are the main reason to stay here, guests can also take a short 30–60-minute walk with a naturalist between North Camp and Tree Camp to find out about the various species of plant and wildlife.
Our viewNgorongoro Crater Lodge is a unique property – for some it’s completely ‘over the top’ and out of place in Africa; for others it’s the height of luxury and decadence. The food, service, rooms and general facilities are certainly excellent. Crater Lodge’s location is absolutely amazing. It has stunning views over what many regard as the world’s best wildlife area, and its position also makes it a great base for game drives down into the Crater. For some the decision to stay here or not will be one of cost; it’s also one of the most costly lodges in Africa.
Ideal length of stay: Two nights in order to spend at least one day exploring the Crater floor, but you could easily stay for three nights and have a day just to enjoy the lodge and its amazing view.
Directions: Most visitors to Ngorongoro Crater Lodge fly to Lake Manyara Airstrip, from where it is a two-hour drive to the lodge.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: The food at Ngorongoro Crater Lodge is generally generous and of a very high standard. However, on our most recent visit, in 2011, we didn’t feel that it was up to the standard of our previous visits (when the food was some of the best we have eaten in Tanzania).
Breakfast is a vast buffet of fresh bread, cereals, fresh fruit, dried fruit and yoghurt. You will then be offered a cooked breakfast – choose from a hearty English breakfast, eggs Benedict, boiled eggs or perhaps smoked salmon and scrambled eggs if available.
You might choose to take a packed lunch with you into the Crater, which will include delicious sandwiches or wraps, fruit and perhaps a pastry or cake of some sort. These packed lunches are perfect to keep you going whist out on a busy day of safari.
If you are in the lodge for lunch, there is usually a refreshing buffet featuring dishes such as crispy green salads, bean salads, cold meats and tasty olive-oil dressings.
Tea and biscuits are on offer in the late afternoon. Later, there is time to freshen up after your activity, before gathering in the lounge area or on the decking at around 7.00pm, for a glass of wine and a pre-dinner chat with the lodge managers and fellow guests.
At your leisure you can then move to your table, where you will be seated for dinner. Dinner is an impressive five-course affair. In May 2011 we enjoyed bean and vegetable soup, followed by roasted tomato and basil tart, then a choice of four mains including one vegetarian and one local dish (we went for roast leg of lamb with barley). For dessert, we were served white chocolate mousse with a passion-fruit coulis, rounded off with a cheeseboard!
On past visits to Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, dinner was accompanied by an entertaining performance from some of the lodge’s team who sang a number of African classics, as well as some written specially for guests at the lodge.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Almost all drinks are included, except for some cellar wines, spirits and champagnes.
Honeymoons: Ngorongoro Crater Lodge is a beautiful lodge set right on the rim of the Crater. The views create a spectacular backdrop for this romantic property. With good food and service, staying here is certainly right for a special occasion.See more ideas for Honeymoons in Tanzania
Wellbeing: With your own personal butler, crystal chandeliers, claw-foot bath tubs and roses adorning most of the rooms, Ngorongoro Crater Lodge is an incredibly special lodge. For sheer indulgence it would be hard to beat.See more ideas for Wellbeing in Tanzania
Attitude towards children: Ngorongoro Crater Lodge recommends that children should be over the age of eight to stay here, although children of all ages are welcome.
Generally recommended for children: Ngorongoro Crater Lodge is a very smart safari lodge, and some families with young children might not feel comfortable here. Dinner tends to be quite formal, so is not ideal for younger children. Having said that, there were some children staying on our last visit and the staff were very attentive to them, and we enjoyed listening to them swapping their most exciting wildlife sightings of the day!
Notes: Big game – especially buffalo – wanders around the lodge constantly, so children need to be closely supervised at all times.
Power supply: Generator
Communications: There is cellphone reception at Ngorongoro Crater Lodge and complimentary internet access in the shop. You can also make international calls from your room for a substantial US$10 per minute charge. There is free WiFi in the central areas.
TV & radio: There is no TV or radio at the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge.
Health & safety
Malarial area: Yes
Medical care: There is an on-site doctor at Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, and a dispensary for guests and staff.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: There are watchmen around the lodge for security and at night you will be escorted between your room and the main areas due to the presence of wildlife.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in the rooms and main areas; each member of staff has been trained how to use them in case of an emergency. In each room there is a fire evacuation plan on the back of the door.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: Laundry is included – it is machine washed and beautifully ironed, and will be returned to you the next day. A quicker one-day service is available if specifically requested, but it is important to note that they will use a tumble-drier to dry the clothes, so it should not be used for delicate items.
Money: Guests may obtain cash against a credit card, but the lodge will make a 5% surcharge.