Plantation Lodge is full of colonial charm and overlooks coffee plantations...
Plantation Lodge: Our full report
Plantation Lodge is a tranquil owner-run lodge half way between the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Lake Manyara National Park. A short distance from the bustling market town of Karatu, it is set in nearly 3 hectares of land, with beautifully maintained gardens and great views over the surrounding countryside. Very spacious, elegant and relaxing, it has a distinctly German colonial-style feel and is staffed entirely by people from the local area.
A highlight of Plantation Lodge is the lush, tropical gardens, full of scents and colours. Countless hibiscus, bougainvillea and jacarandas attract an array of butterflies and birds. Tall rubber, eucalyptus and banana trees offer shade. Lush, immaculately manicured lawns surround the sprawling farmhouse and its cottages. There are numerous corners to relax with a complimentary tea or coffee.
The main house at Plantation Lodge – incorporating the lounge, dining rooms and bar – is fresh, light and airy. White walls act as the perfect backdrop for black-and-white photographs and African curios. Straw mats cover the cool tiled floors and high-beamed ceilings ensure a bright and spacious feel.
Meals, focusing on farm-grown produce, are served in two large, elegant dining rooms, one seating up to 25 guests, the other up to 40. Stylish metal chandeliers hang from high vaulted ceilings over tables lined with white canvas directors' chairs, and white curtains frame floor-length windows and French doors. At each end of the rooms are exposed brick fireplaces, surrounded in one by cushioned chairs and a sofa.
Meals can also be served outside, perhaps in the cool courtyard or in the extensive gardens, or – on request – in the glass-ceilinged wine cellar, where wine tastings can also be arranged. Located above the cellar, and looking into it, is a large and impressive bar, whose wire chandeliers, polished concrete floors and white-washed walls lend a cool and stylish feel. A section of the bar has a glass top looking through a glass floor into the wine cellar below. Stone stairs lead up to a mezzanine level, overlooking the bar, where there is more comfortable seating. To the front of the bar, a decked area with a lovely view over the gardens is a great place to relax under the shade of umbrellas with a drink - lunch is often served here as well.
To the side of the bar is a small lounge with comfortable chairs and low tables as well as a log burning stove. Double doors lead out onto the bar deck or onto an enclosed courtyard.
Outside in the gardens is a good-sized, kidney-shaped swimming pool complete with sunloungers and umbrellas, with views over the plantations and gardens.
Stone paths lead from the main house to Plantation Lodge's rooms, which are dotted around the garden. Some are detached; others are adjacent to each other in small groups. There are two types of room, all decorated and finished to a high quality and all with garden views:
The 17 standard rooms are all different, but they're all fairly spacious and individually decorated – most with double beds and colourful African bedspreads. All the rooms have either a fireplace or a wood-burning stove – it can get quite chilly here in their winter months. Some have a veranda with sunloungers or easy chairs; all have smart, sparkling en-suite facilities with twin basins, spacious showers and flush toilet. Toiletries and dressing gowns are provided.
Several rooms interconnect to form family rooms. Freshly cut flowers in all the rooms, as well as the main areas, add a personal touch.
The 6 suites are equally smart, but rather larger, and feel much more private than the standard rooms. All have a separate lounge with fireplace or log burning stove as well as a stocked minibar. The bedroom has double beds surrounded by mosquito nets and spacious en-suite bathrooms with double basins, walk-in shower and toilet. Some have a separate bath as well.
Plantation Lodge has a few activities on offer - free guided walks to explore the nearby coffee plantations, or walks to a neighbouring farm for an insight of daily African life – see how people on the farm live and work. Don’t miss a visit to the wine cellar. There is an extensive selection of wines available here and it’s also possible to indulge in some wine-tasting!
However, as Plantation Lodge is located half way between Lake Manyara National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater, most visitors use it as a base, with a guide and 4WD vehicle, to explore these areas.
Expert Africa's team have visited Plantation Lodge on numerous occasions in the last few years, most recently in July 2013, and it's always been immaculately presented – clean and really well kept with very helpful staff. We think that it's a lovely tranquil base from which to explore the Ngorongoro and Lake Manyara areas – but if you do stay here, then try to make time to relax by the pool, or in the garden, in the shade of a eucalyptus tree, with a cup of fresh locally grown coffee, to admire the views over the plantations.
Ideal length of stay: Stay here for two nights to explore the Ngorongoro Crater or Lake Manyara National Park, however we suggest an extra night to relax and enjoy the immediate environs of Plantation Lodge and the surrounding area.
Directions: Plantation Lodge is situated off the main Karatu Road, about 20 minutes' drive from the Ngorongoro Gate and about 3 hours drive from Arusha.
Owner: Independent/Owner-run – Udo & Renate Marahrens
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Most of the meals served at Plantation Lodge use ingredients from their own gardens or the plantation: organically grown and full of flavour.
On a recent visit to Plantation Lodge (July 2013) we enjoyed the following meals :
A breakfast buffet of cereals, fresh fruit and fruit juice, as well as a platter of cold meats and cheeses are available for guests to choose from. A cooked breakfast is also available to order.
Lunch is served either inside, outside in the gardens or on the verandah outside the bar. We enjoyed a lovely vegetable soup starter, served with crusty fresh bread. This was followed by a mild chicken curry served with basmati rice, served with a large bowl of fresh green salad. This was rounded off by a refreshing bowl of homemade coconut ice cream.
For those doing full day excursions to some of the nearby parks, Plantation Lodge will prepare a packed lunch.
Dinner, a three-course sit-down affair in the candle-lit dining room, consisted of a nicoise salad followed by mulligatawny soup. The main course was a very tasty beef fillet served with fresh vegetables and rounded off with a desert of crème brulee.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Drinks are not included for guests staying in the standard rooms. Guests staying in the suites will have a complimentary stocked minibar in their suites, and house wines by the glass is also included. All other drinks are extra.
Attitude towards children: Children are welcome at Plantation Lodge.
Property’s age restrictions: There are no age restrictions at Plantation Lodge.
Special activities & services: There are no special services for children.
Equipment: Highchairs and cots are available
Generally recommended for children: Yes – there are large grounds and a swimming pool that children can enjoy under parental supervision. There is no dangerous game here.
Notes: Children are allowed on the guided walks of the coffee plantation and neighbouring farms.
Power supply: Mains Electricity
Power supply notes: A generator is available as a back up in case of a power failure
Communications: There is cellphone reception at Plantation Lodge. The lodge has two computers with free internet, and WiFi is free in the main areas.
TV & radio: There is no radio or television at Plantation Lodge.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: Plantation Lodge has a first-aid kit, and the nearest clinic is in Karatu town.
Dangerous animals: Low Risk
Security measures: There are guards on duty 24 hours a day.
Fire safety: Each bedroom has a fire extinguisher.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: Laundry is available at an extra cost.
Money: Plantation Lodge does not have a currency exchange. There are digital safes in each of the rooms
Accepted payment on location: Guests can pay with US dollars, euros, Tanzanian shillings or British pounds. Plantation Lodge accepts visa and mastercard with no surcharge.