Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge is a large hotel on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater.
Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge: Our full report
With 98 rooms, the Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge is a very large and rather dated hotel. However, it occupies a lovely spot right on the eastern edge of the Ngorongoro Crater. Its size means that it wouldn't be everyone's first choice of hotel, but the views over the Crater are superb – and it is affordable.
The entrance to Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge is like that of almost any international style hotel in the world - your car can drive right to the door, into a sheltered bay. The reception, a broad semi-circular desk attended by a uniformed concierge, is dark red and polished dark wood.
The central areas of Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge are all within one large glass fronted building, which is shaped as two rondavels adjoined by a central well-lit atrium. These house the cavernous reception area, with a wide hallway and high roof. Here you will find an internet room with three computers, where you can surf the web for around $6 per 15 minutes. There is also a vast curio shop which sells a wide variety of curios, from fabrics, nature and guide books, to wooden carvings great and small.
Down a short staircase is a small sunken lounge, and the entrance to the dining room on one side, and the lounge/bar opposite. These two areas are built in two wings, both of which are round in shape and glass-fronted.
The dining room is dotted with tables and chairs and is able to seat around 220 people. The dining chairs are comfortably cushioned and match the blue of the carpet. In the centre of the rooms is an open fire place to make the room cosy on cooler evenings. Over half of the room is glass-fronted, ensuring that most is made out of the spectacular views.
The lounge and bar at Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge is exactly the same shape as the dining room, and shares its views through the glass windows. The lounge has a central fireplace, polished wooden floors, a long wooden bar and red-and-cream leather sofas clustered around coffee tables; it's spacious and cosy, yet like the rest of the lodge feels dated.
In front of the main building is the swimming pool which is surrounded by well manicured lush green grass. The pool occupies a lovely spot, with a view right out over the Ngorongoro Crater. There are wooden sun loungers dotted around the pool, making the most of the views.
The bedrooms are set in large two-storey rondavels, separate from the main building. There are four bedrooms in each rondavel, two downstairs and two upstairs, each with views out over the Crater. The rooms here are spacious, spotlessly clean and have a large en-suite bathroom.
The bedrooms are all semi-circular in shape and are very spacious. They are entered via a lobby with a cupboard and a writing desk as well as a minibar which is filled on request. All the bedrooms are carpeted and have two queen sized double beds, a dressing table, stool and hairdryer. There is even central heating – necessary up on the crater rim which can get very cold at certain times of the year due to its altitude. A glass-enclosed balcony, with two rocking chairs, has stunning views over the Crater. Some rooms are interleading – ideal for families travelling together.
Although the bedrooms are fairly dated, the bathrooms have recently been renovated and have cream coloured wall and floor tiles. There is a single basin on top of a vanity unit with a mirror above, a flush toilet and a spacious walk-in shower with glass door. Branded toiletries are also provided.
Most people spend two nights here and the main activities are half-day or full-day visits into the Ngorongoro Crater. The Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge is close to the very quiet eastern road into the Crater. This road can be used for decents and ascents, but it sees very little traffic compared to the more popular road on the western side of the Crater. It also means that you start your game-driving on the opposite side of the floor of the Crater to most people, and as a result you have a few hours there with relatively few other vehicles around. As mid-morning approaches, the Ngorongoro Crater inevitably gets a lot busier, but your first few hours will usually be peaceful and quiet.
Whilst staying Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge, travellers might also want to spend a day visiting Empakaai Crater, which is only a 90-minute drive from this side of the Ngorongoro Crater. With a diameter of only 6km, Empakaai Crater is smaller than the Ngorongoro Crater, but it is equally beautiful. Head here for a full day of walking down onto the crater floor, to look out for birds and monkeys in the forests on the way down, and on a clear day to look out across Lake Natron and Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance.
This is a large property that shouts: 'chain hotel'. It could be almost anywhere in the world, if it weren't for the shop selling African curios. For people looking for something small, intimate and authentic this is not the place. However, it has a great feeling of space, the staff are very friendly and the views are absolutely magnificent. It has quick access down to the crater floor and it is great for families who have younger kids that would make the most of the pool as well as those travelling on a bit of a budget.
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. If you are able to spend three nights here, then you can also spend a full day walking in the nearby and beautiful Empakaai Crater.
Directions: Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge is located on the quiet eastern rim of the Ngorongoro Crater, near the lesser used eastern decent and ascent road. It takes about 1 hour to drive to the lodge from the Ngorongoro Conservation Area gate and around 90 minutes from Manyara Airstrip.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Sopa Lodges
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: When we last visited the Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge, in July 2013, we didn't have a chance to sample the food. However we did have a long chat with the manager about what guests could expect. Special dietary requirements can be catered for with advanced notice.
Due to the size of Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge, it offers mostly buffet-style meals for its guests. This means that there are always a variety of options on offer.
Breakfast is a varied selection of cereals, breads, fruit and yoghurt. There are also a number of juices to choose from as well as tea and coffee. You can also have a cooked breakfast, with bacon, sausage, cooked mushrooms and tomatoes and eggs. The eggs are cooked in front of you as you like them, by the chef at the live cooking station.
Many of the guests decide to head into the Crater for a full day and so take a packed lunch with them. This consists of a sandwich, a snack such as a samosa or piece of barbequed chicken, a piece of fruit and a muffin or biscuit.
If you decide to stay in the lodge for lunch, then the buffet has a variety of options to cater for a variety of appetites. Snacks such as sandwiches, croque monsieur and salads are on offer. As well as larger meals such as pasta, stew or curry.
Dinner is then a larger, three-course meal, with a soup starter, a main course and a desert. For the main course there are four options, of which one will be a chicken dish, one will be red meat, fish and vegetarian. For desert there are also three choices.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Drinks are not included - you can expect to pay approximately $4 for a beer and about $27 for a bottle of house wine. Tea and filter coffee are complimentary throughout the day. In the afternoon complimentary cake and cookies are served at the little coffee shop. Speciality coffees such as cappuccino or espresso are extra.
Further dining info: No
Attitude towards children: Children of all ages are welcome at Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge.
Property’s age restrictions: There are no age restrictions at Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge.
Special activities & services: A child-minder can be arranged from house keeping, though parents should note that they will not have a professional qualification in child care. There is no cost for this however a tip would be welcome.
Generally recommended for children: We would recommend the Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge for families. There is plenty of space here for children and the pool offers something to keep them occupied when you are not out on safari.
Notes: Parents need to note that game does come into the lodge grounds which is not enclosed.
Power supply: Generator
Communications: There is intermittent mobile reception at Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge and you can use the phones in reception to call internationally, at the cost of around U$6 per minute.
TV & radio: There is a television in the upstairs Rhino Room which can be used on request.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge has a medic (a person trained in first-aid) on site for minor cases. For more serious cases the nearest hospital is in Karatu which is a 90-minute drive away.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: There are askaris (guards) dotted around the property during the day and night. Guests must be escorted to and from their rooms after dark. There are electronic safes in all of the rooms.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in the main areas as well as outside the bedrooms.
Disabled access: In Place
Laundry facilities: Laundry is an extra Charge at Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge – the costs vary per item but the prices are reasonable.
Money: Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge can exchange small sums of money.
Accepted payment on location: You can pay using US dollars and Tanzanian shillings in cash. You can also use Visa and Mastercard at no extra cost.