Rhotia Valley is a simple...
Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge: Our full report
Perched high on a hill overlooking the valley below, Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge is a simple and friendly lodge in a good location between the Ngorongoro Crater and the Rift Valley Escarpment. Aside from being a good-value base to explore the surrounding area, the lodge has a real and noticeably positive impact on the local community – and guests can see this work first hand. It opened in 2008, and we visited it for the first time in May 2011.
The 'Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge' is part of the 'Rhotia Valley Project' – which aims to support the people of the Rhotia area, in particular the children. Their motto is 'two hills, one goal': the lodge sits on one hill, directly opposite on another is the Rhotia Valley Children's Home. Both were set up by Dutch couple Georges and Marise Koch. As medical practitioners, they used to come out to the area for seminars, and took an active interest in contributing to the local community. Then, after a series of donations, they weren't convinced that their money was being used as effectively as it could be, so decided to set up their own project instead.
The lodge itself provides employment for the community: all members of staff are from the local area. On top of this 20% of the lodge's nightly rate is a direct contribution to the children's home opposite. At present the home houses 36 children aged between six and 16, and a further 12 children from the local village are helped with school fees and uniform. Guests at the lodge can visit the children's home each evening between 5.00pm and 6.00pm to see how it runs, and to meet the children they're helping.
There's a rustic charm to the central areas of Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge. The main communal area is a large brick-and-thatch structure – very spacious and airy. The concept is raw and simple – none of the more practical elements of the lodge are hidden, and it certainly doesn't have a polished or luxurious feel. The office is an old rust-coloured shipping container!
The lounge and dining section of this area has a lovely large brick fireplace, a good spot to warm up after dinner when it can get quite chilly. (The lodge is at an altitude of 1,700m above sea level.) Blankets and braziers are provided for particularly cold nights! There are plenty of tables and chairs laid out, and an open kitchen where you can watch your dinner being prepared by the very friendly chefs. Outside, a large wooden bar made from local eucalyptus wood is a great place to sit and watch the sun set over the valley below.
There are 15 permanent tents at Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge, each suspended under a thatched roof on wooden decking. Some have views over the woodland, while others look down onto the cultivated valley below. In keeping with the simple style of the lodge, they're simple and functional. Inside you'll find either a double or twin beds, a luggage rack and a wicker chair, with a few colourful throws and printed canvas hung behind the beds to lend a splash of colour. Three of the tents are quite a bit larger, with one double and two single beds, so a good choice for families.
Towards the back of the tent is an en-suite bathroom which, again, is functional rather than stylish. A low bamboo divide separates the flush toilet from a shower and small sink with hot and cold running water .
Most guests at Rhotia Valley use it as a base to explore the Ngorongoro Crater or Lake Manyara with their own private driver guide, but activities can be arranged from the lodge. These include a hike along the crater rim; usually they'll drive you there, then it's a six-hour hike back through the forests of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area with a park ranger and their own guide. You can walk to the local village with a member of staff, or take a local guide and learn about the uses of plants in the surrounding area, or experience the everyday life of farmers in the area. And it's certainly worth visiting the children's home.
Our viewRhotia Valley Tented Lodge is not the place to come for luxury, but for those seeking a simple lodge, in a good location, with a real community slant, this would suit well.
Ideal length of stay: Stay 2 nights here as a base to explore the surrounding area.
Directions: Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge is about 15 minutes' drive off the main road from Arusha to the Ngorongoro Crater.
Owner: Georges and Maurise Koch
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: We didn't get a chance to sample the food when we visited Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge as they were closed for renovations, but the manager and chef gave us an idea of what to expect.
Breakfast is served until 10.00am: usually a continental selection of cereals and fruit, followed by eggs cooked to order.
Lunch at the lodge is usually two or three courses, but many guests take a picnic lunch and head out on a full-day game drive.
Dinner begins at 7.30pm and is usually three courses. Meals are freshly prepared, with most of the vegetables and all the herbs grown in the lodge's extensive vegetable garden. An example of a previous dinner menu was fresh tomato soup, followed by rosemary chicken with rice and vegetables, and a baked fruit crumble to finish.
The chef told us that they were able to cater for allergies or dislikes.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: All drinks are at extra cost.
Attitude towards children: Children of all ages are welcomed at the lodge.
Equipment: The lodge doesn't provide any cots, highchairs or special equipment for children.
Generally recommended for children: Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge is a good option for families, as guests are given the opportunity to interact and play with children from the children's home associated with the lodge. It's a great opportunity for children to become involved with the local community.
Notes: The tents are raised up on wooden platforms, so are not suitable for very young children.
Power supply: Generator
Communications: Internet access is available for US$4 per hour. Electricity is usually generated from solar power- but the generator is used if there hasn't been enough sun.
TV & radio: There is no TV or radio.
Health & safety
Malarial area: Yes
Medical care: Rhotia Valley has a basic first-aid kit, and links to nearby doctors.
Dangerous animals: Moderate Risk
Security measures: Askaris (Maasai guards) are on duty throughout the day and night.
Fire safety: There are buckets with sand in each room, and fire extinguishers in the main areas.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: Full Laundry Service - Extra Charge
Money: Guests may store valuables in the safe at reception.