The Ngorongoro Serena Lodge is a large hotel but set in a great location
Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge: Our full report
The Ngorongoro Serena Lodge is a large, fairly dated 75-roomed hotel set on the western rim of Ngorongoro Crater, only 8km from the descent road. There are stunning views from all of the bedrooms and most of the public areas. On a clear day, looking through the lodge telescope it is even possible to see the wildlife roaming around below! Its size means it wouldn’t be everyone’s first choice but its location more than makes up for this.
The lodge sits off the main road, below its car park. Despite its size, it blends in quite well with its surroundings. It is made from stone and wood and has dense, green creepers clinging to its outside walls.
The lodge has 75 bedrooms – all of which are fairly small. 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 after the busy high season. 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 – this is necessary up on the crater rim which can get very cold at certain times of the year due to its altitude - (2,326m – or 7,633 feet.) Some of the rooms are adjoining which is ideal for families.
Between the bedroom and the bathroom is 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.
The bedrooms are linked to the main areas of the 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 as it does get cool up here, especially at night.
The busy reception area at the Ngorongoro Serena 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 which stocks a few toiletries as well as a good range of souvenirs. Just through the reception, tucked into a corner, there are two computers which are connected to the internet and can be used at an extra cost.
The TV area, bar and restaurant all link into each other and share the rust, green, burgundy and blue colour theme. There is also a splash of brass and wooden beams on the ceilings.
The bar has a dark, polished stone floor and plenty of wood. There are dark wood beams on the white painted ceilings and the bar is made up of polished wood panelling. 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 but if you prefer you can sit in one of the high leather backed chairs at the bar. This room is large and although uninspiring, makes the best of the space that it uses. There are a few low, stone walls with tables and chairs behind them which add a cosy feel to the room. Outside the bar is 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 views. Most evenings there is entertainment in the bar – either Maasai dancers or an acrobatic show.
There is also a self-service tea and coffee stand tucked into a corner of the bar. This is available all day and is generally accompanied by a few biscuits and cakes at tea-time.
The restaurant is above the bar, with animal-stenciled walls, polished cement floors, two fireplaces and stunning views from a wall of windows.
Most guests staying at the Ngorongoro Serena 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 - 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 parks ranger takes about two to three hours. There is an additional cost for all of these activities.
Because of the large groups that often use this lodge, overbookings here are fairly common. If you would like to include the Ngorongoro Serena in a trip, please understand that Expert Africa can take no responsibility for any overbooking and for any additional costs that may be incurred.
However, we'll do our best to help make alternative arrangements for you.
The Ngorongoro Serena Lodge doesn't pretend to be anything other than a large and impersonal lodge. Its design lacks any personal touches or style, and feels dated. That said, it is comfortable, functional and one of only a few lodges on the edge of the Crater. It is a fairly affordable cost for a location that is both breathtaking and very convenient for safaris into the Crater.
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 Lodge is about 4 hours drive from Arusha or one hour from Manyara airstrip.
Owner: Serena Hotels
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: On a recent visit to Ngorongoro Serena Lodge (July 2013) we did not stay long enough to sample a meal. The manager explained to us what guests may expect.
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 also a hot and cold buffet if the lodge is full, or an a la carte menu if its isn’t full. You can choose from a large selection of food, including, salads, cold meats and vegetarian options. The hot meal changes daily.
Dinner is an a la carte menu with a desert buffet. Again, there is quite a large choice here and it will all be served to you and 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 (July 2013), a beer cost roughly U$4 and a bottle of water cost about U$2.50. A glass of wine was U$6 and a bottle of wine ranged from U$24 – U$45.
Attitude towards children: Children are welcome at Ngorongoro Serena Lodge.
Property’s age restrictions: There are no age restrictions here.
Special activities & services: The lodge can arrange babysitters at a cost of U$5 for the evening, although parents should note that they will not have a professional qualification in child care. Board games and books are available in the main area.
Equipment: There are cots and highchairs available.
Generally recommended for children: We would recommend the Ngorongoro Serena Lodge for families.
Notes: Parents need to note that game does come into the lodge grounds, which is not enclosed – although the walkways between the rooms and the main areas are raised.
Power supply: Generator
Communications: There are telephones in all of the bedrooms. There are two computers linked to the internet that guests can use. The last time we visited, this cost $2 for 15 minutes. Free Wi-Fi is available in the main areas. minutes or $10 for half an hour. Reception will burn photographs onto CD's for $10 per CD.
TV & radio: There is a TV in the hotel's 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 to use it. There is also a qualified medical assistant on site.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: There is 24 hour security. 4 guards are on shift at one time.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in all rooms. Some of the staff are trained to use them.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: Laundry is not included at Ngorongoro Serena Lodge. Items cost roughly between $1 - $5. The lodge also has 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 exchange US dollars, British pounds, euros and Tanzanian shillings. There is a safe in each of the rooms.
Accepted payment on location: Ngorongoro Serena accepts Visa, American Express and Mastercard at no extra cost.