Four Season Safari Lodge is set in one of Africa's most fascinating safari areas - the Serengeti
Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti: Our full report
The large, upmarket Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti is located in the centre of the Serengeti National Park, with a waterhole adjacent to the lodge. It lies just north of the productive wildlife area around Seronera, which has excellent permanent game, as well as hosting the migration in season, although it is usually one of the busier areas of the park.
Previously known as Bilila Lodge Kempinski, the property was taken over in 2012 by the Four Seasons group and renovated to their high standards.
One of our team visited the lodge during this renovation period and saw signs of the smart lodge it was to become. It opened in early 2013, and since then we’ve helped arrange a trip for a first-class travel writer to visit the lodge. She reported back to us on her experience there – and a few of her impressions are included in this report.
With 72 rooms and 5 villas, the Four Seasons Safari Lodge is the largest property in the Serengeti – and certainly the smartest of the large hotel-style properties, yet it has tried hard to blend in with its natural surroundings. Carefully chosen for their luxurious feel and contemporary safari style, the furniture and fittings are well suited to the spacious, airy rooms. These are enhanced by modern comforts and top facilities such as air conditioning, internet access, a spa and a well kitted-out gym complete with steam room.
In addition to the spa and fitness centre, the main facilities at Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti include a comfortable lounge/reception room just inside the lodge entrance on the first floor, and a large bar on the ground floor, both furnished with cushioned sofas and armchairs. The lodge’s first floor has a vast restaurant serving international cuisine prepared in an open kitchen. Large glass windows allow diners to enjoy views over the waterhole and Serengeti plains beyond. At the heart of the lodge is an atrium, open to the sky, with tables set around a central campfire, to create a boma-style dining area. A cavernous wine cellar is available for private dining, and also offers daily wine-tasting with a specific focus on South African wines.
Outdoors, a large deck with small, umbrella-shaded tables and outdoor lounge suites is a great location for a light lunch or sundowner cocktail. A second wooden deck, dotted with sunloungers, wraps partly around an infinity swimming pool. Both overlook the waterhole. As well as good numbers of plains game, and the odd predator, herds of elephant frequently come to drink here.
The Four Seasons Safari Lodge’s spa is comprehensive, with individual pavilions as treatment rooms, many offering appealing views. A wide range of treatments by trained therapists is available from about US$120 for 90 minutes.
The lodge’s Kijana Children’s Club offers an arts and crafts room with a professionally supervised, Serengeti-themed programme and a separate film and video games area. We’re expecting that families wanting a real safari experience, but with a high level of comfort and safety from animal dangers, will find the Four Seasons to be one of the best properties in the region.
The lodge also has a well-equipped business centre offering wired and wireless internet access, audio visual equipment and printing facilities.
Raised wooden walkways take you between the main areas and Four Seasons’ 77 bedrooms, suites and villas. The Savannah Rooms and Terrace Suites are located on the ground floor, whilst the Horizon Rooms are found on the second floor. Five villas have been built a discreet distance away. All the rooms are spacious, but the suites have some of the largest bedrooms in the Serengeti.
- 24 Savannah rooms , each of which covers a chunky 55m² and has one king-size or two twin beds plus a sofa, and a dining table with two chairs. Facilities include air conditioning, blackout curtains, flat- screen TV, telephone (with voicemail), safe, hairdryer, minibar, tea/coffee- making facilities, a torch/flashlight, a good-sized safe (suitable for a laptop), internet cable points and WiFi access. Each room also has a small private outdoor verandah and a generous en-suite bathroom, including a separate shower and bath with a similar view on the surrounding park as the verandah.
- 36 Horizon rooms which have essentially the same size and facilities as the Savannah rooms, but they are on the second floor, beneath a thatched grass roof, giving even more impressive views from their balconies and bathrooms. Like the Savannah rooms, these Horizon rooms can comfortably sleep two adults and one child.
- 12 Terrace Suites are larger (typically 88m²), with a small plunge pool, an outdoor shower, a second bathroom and a lounge area with space that could take two ‘trundle beds’ – so these rooms can comfortably sleep two adults and two children.
- Five villas include a one-bedroom villa, two two-bedroom villas and the three-bedroom Presidential Villa. As well as the facilities common to the rooms and suites, each has a kitchen, separate lounge and a small swimming pool.
The Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti offers game drives with its own resident guides (for a substantial extra cost) and you may share these activities with other guests. However, visitors to the lodge have the option to arrive with their own private vehicle and safari guide, to just using the lodge as a very comfortable base.
Our viewThis luxurious hotel won’t appeal to safari purists, but should be a great choice for those seeking international-style five-star accommodation, to the high standard normally associated with this worldwide group. It’s also great for families with older children (over the age of eight), with parents who would have safety concerned in one of the park’s many tented safari camps. That said, this hotel feels relatively ‘insulated’ from its surrounds compared with most of the park’s simpler, less substantial tented camps. And although the lodge’s waterhole attracts a good number of animals, expect any game drives (which are included in the cost at most lodges) to come at a chunky extra cost.
Ideal length of stay: Most visitors staying at the Four Seasons willll probably want to spend some days just relaxing at the hotel - as well as time exploring the central Serengeti on game drives. On that basis, at least four here nights would be wise - and up to a week would be fine for most people. That said, if you really are just coming for concentrated game-viewing - then three or (maximum) four nights will suffice for most visitors, after which you'll want to move to a different area.
Directions: The Four Seasons Safari Lodge is about 45 minutes from Seronera airstrip, but the drive may take longer if you have interesting wildlife sightings on route.
Owner: Four Seasons
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: The restaurants at Four Seasons Safari Lodge serve “pan-African" and “international-style" cuisine. Breakfast and dinner are usually served as a buffet, whilst light lunches are served on the deck, in the bar or in the lounge. At the Boma restaurant, guests can enjoy local grill specialities, sometimes accompanied by African entertainment.
Our initial reports are that the food here isn’t currently at the high standard that regular travellers will associate with most of that the other Four Seasons hotels around the world. However, it’s very adequate – and not cause for complaint.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Drinks are not included in the accommodation price; you can expect to pay about US$5 for a beer and US$40 for a bottle of wine.
Wellbeing: Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti has a comprehensive spa with six treatment rooms. Trained therapists offer a variety of treatments for couples and singles including massages, facials and manicures.See more ideas for Wellbeing in Tanzania
Attitude towards children: Children of 8 years old or more are welcome at the Four Seasons Safari Lodge.
Equipment: Plenty of activities on offer designed specifically for children - currently coordinated by an enthusiastic guide. As well as the kid's club, child minders can be arranged on request.
Generally recommended for children: Yes – for slightly older children over the age of 8.
Notes: Families will find plenty of space in one of the larger villas. Alternatively, the Savannah or Horizon rooms can take an extra bed for a child, whilst the Terrace suites can have an extra two beds. It’s also possible to request two adjoining Savannah Rooms – where the two rooms share a communal entrance vestibule.
Power supply: Generator
Communications: Every room has high-speed internet access, through a fixed cable or WiFi, but you’ll need your own laptop to use this. Alternatively, the lodge’s business centre has computers for guests to use with internet access.
TV & radio: Each guest room is fitted with satellite TV.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: Four Seasons Safari Lodge has a doctor on site, and access to flying doctors in the event of a medical emergency.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Each guest room is fitted with a safe for personal belongings. During the day security guards (askaris) are ever present in the lodge grounds, and after dark guests are escorted to their rooms.
Fire safety: Fire extinguishers and hose pipes are strategically located throughout the lodge. There is also a fire break around the lodge.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: A full laundry service is offered at an additional charge.
Accepted payment on location: Four Seasons Safari Lodge accepts payment by MasterCard and Visa. You can also settle any extras in cash using most major currencies including US dollars, British pounds and euros. The lodge does not accept American Express cards or travellers’ cheques.