The Ngorongoro Serena Lodge is a large hotel but set in a great location
Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge: Our full report
The Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge is a fairly dated 75-room hotel, with a truly marvelous location: it’s built into the western rim of Tanzania’s UNESCO-listed Ngorongoro Crater. It’s usually used as a base for visits into the crater, and has views of the magnificent caldera from all of the bedrooms and most of the public areas.
Made from concrete, which incorporates local river stone and wood, and with dense green creepers clinging to its outside walls, the Ngorongoro Serena blends in fairly well with its surroundings, despite its size.
The 75 bedrooms at the Ngorongoro Serena are fairly small, but on a recent visit in July 2013 they had started upgrading some of the rooms, with the rest to be completed at the end of 2013. The newly refurbished rooms have new wooden floors, double, twin or triple beds and a desk with a chair and a mirror. Prehistoric cave murals painted on the walls add a bit of character to the otherwise fairly plain rooms. Their best feature is undoubtedly the French doors, which open out to a small balcony with a view of the crater.
There is central heating in all of the rooms and main areas at this Ngorongoro lodge – which is a great comfort on the crater rim. It’s often very cold here, due to its altitude (2,326m/7,633 feet) and frequent blanketing of damp mist; giving this hotel an immediate feeling of ‘comfort’ if you arrive in the evening.
Between the bedroom and the bathroom, each room at the Ngorongoro Serena Lodge has a small lobby area with a built-in cupboard and a luggage rack. The bathrooms are small but lighter following the recent refurbishment, with double basins below a large mirror, toilet and large walk-in shower with a glass door. Hairdryers and branded toiletries are also provided. Some of the rooms are adjoining, which is convenient for families.
The bedrooms are linked to the main areas of this Serena lodge by wide walkways built of wood and polished stone. There is a large restaurant upstairs, a bar, a TV area, decked outside seating areas and a curio shop. Stone fireplaces have been built into some of these areas – there is one in the reception area and in the dining room – which are welcome in the evenings when it gets cool.
The busy reception area at the Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge has white painted walls with stencils of wildebeest, a high ceiling and polished wood floors. High-backed, dark wood-and-leather benches are also decorated with animals, and spears hang on the walls. Off the main reception area is a small curio shop that stocks a few toiletries, as well as a good range of souvenirs. Just through the reception, tucked into a corner, there are two computers that are connected to the internet and can be used (at an extra cost).
The TV area, bar and restaurant at the Ngorongoro Serena all link into each other and share a rust, green, burgundy and blue colour scheme. There is also a splash of brass and wooden beams on the ceilings.
The bar has dark polished-wood panelling and a polished stone floor. Wicker lights hang from iron light fittings and a stone fireplace warms the room from under a circular brass chimney flue. Brightly-striped wooden chairs are placed around small, wooden tables; high-backed leather chairs stand around the bar. Most evenings there is entertainment in the bar such as Maasai dancers or an acrobatic show. There is also a self-service tea-and-coffee stand tucked into a corner of the bar. These drinks are available all day and are generally accompanied by a few biscuits and cakes at teatime.
Outside the bar, the Ngorongoro Serena Lodge has a decked terrace with views over the crater – on warm evenings this is a good spot to sit with a drink and take in the stunning scenery.
The Ngorongoro Serena’s restaurant is situated above the bar and features animal-stenciled walls, polished cement floors, two fireplaces and stunning views from the panoramic windows.
Most guests staying at the Serena Safari Lodge will arrive with their own vehicle and guide, however the lodge does offer a small selection of additional activities, such as a bush breakfast or lunch, although these need to have a minimum of eight people in order to operate. A one-hour nature walk normally takes place in the afternoon and a forest hike, escorted by a park ranger, takes about two to three hours. There is an additional cost for all of these activities.
In previous years, this Serena Lodge was mostly used by large groups, and overbookings here was fairly common. Thus if you would like to stay here as part of your trip, Expert Africa doesn’t accept any responsibility for overbookings or any additional costs that may be incurred. We have, of course, always done our best to help make alternative arrangements for any of our travellers who were caught in such a situation.
That said, we understand from the Serena’s senior management that now many group bookings will take a lower priority than our travellers who usually book individually. We haven’t had an ‘overbooking’ situation for some years, which gives credence to the existence of this new policy on the ground – and gives us great hope that such overbookings are a thing of the past.
Our viewThe Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge doesn't pretend to be anything other than a large hotel. Its design lacks real personality or style and it feels quite dated. That said, it is comfortable, functional, warm and one of only a handful of lodges right on the edge of Ngorongoro Crater. On a clear day, it’s possible to see the wildlife roaming around below using the lodge’s telescope! So whilst its size means it won’t be everyone’s first choice, its location and affordability will tempt many to stay here.
Ideal length of stay: Stay here for at least two nights so that you can spend a full day on safari in the Ngorongoro Crater.
Directions: Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge is about a four-hour drive from Arusha, or a one-hour flight from Manyara airstrip.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Serena Hotels
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: On a recent visit to Ngorongoro Serena Lodge we did not stay long enough to sample a meal. However, the manager explained to us that guests can usually expect the following:
Breakfast is a buffet with a selection of fresh fruit and fruit juices, cereals, hot porridge as well as a cooked full English breakfast.
Lunch is a hot-and cold-buffet if the lodge is full, or an à la carte menu if it isn’t. You can choose from a large selection of food, including salads, cold meats and vegetarian options. The hot-meal choices change daily.
Dinner is an à la carte menu with a dessert buffet. Again, there is quite a large choice here and it will all be served to your table. As with the hot lunches, the dinner menu also changes daily.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: No drinks are included at the Ngorongoro Serena Lodge. The last time we visited, a beer cost roughly US$4 and a bottle of water cost about US$2.50. A glass of wine was US$6 and a bottle of wine ranged from US$24–45.
Further dining info: Room service is available.
Attitude towards children: Children are welcome at Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge.
Property’s age restrictions: There are no age restrictions.
Special activities & services: The lodge can arrange babysitters at a cost of around US$5 for the evening, although parents should note that the carers don’t have professional childcare qualifications.
Equipment: Cots and highchairs are available and board games and books can be found in the main area.
Generally recommended for children: We would recommend the Ngorongoro Serena Lodge for families.
Notes: Parents should note that game does come into the lodge grounds, which is not enclosed, and the walkways between the rooms and the main areas are raised so children could fall. We advise that children should be supervised at all times.
Power supply: Generator
Communications: There are telephones in all of the bedrooms and two computers linked to the internet that guests can use. Fifteen minutes usually costs US$2. Free Wi-Fi is available in the main areas.
TV & radio: There is a TV in the hotel lounge.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: There is a first-aid kit at the lodge and some of the staff are trained in how to use it. There is also a qualified medical assistant on site.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: There is 24-hour security with four guards on duty at any one time.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in all the rooms and main areas.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: Laundry is not included at Ngorongoro Serena Lodge. Items cost roughly between US$1–5. The lodge also offers an express service at no extra cost – if you hand your laundry to reception in the morning, you will get it back the same evening.
Money: The lodge will normally exchange US dollars, British pounds, euros and Tanzanian shillings. There is a safe in each of the rooms. There is a safe in each of the rooms.
Accepted payment on location: Ngorongoro Serena accepts Visa, American Express and MasterCard normally at no extra cost.