Grumeti River Camp offers laid back luxury overlooking the Grumeti River in Serengeti National Park.
Grumeti River Camp: Our full report
The seemingly casual Grumeti River Camp overlooks the Grumeti River in Serengeti’s western corridor. It has a rustic, laid-back air and bright, playful interior design – yet the level of service and standard of food are more akin to some of Africa’s top safari camps. Because the river is perennial, there is always a good variety of wildlife to be found in the area. Even so, the camp is probably best visited between late-May and July when the wildebeest migration passes through on its journey north.
On the banks of the Grumeti, Grumeti River Camp’s main areas are a series of terracotta- coloured, moulded-concrete buildings with thatched roofs. The dark coolness of the lounge is brought to life by brightly coloured armchairs, coloured blown glass and beaded wall hangings. Close by, and linked by mosaic-inlaid concrete paths, are an open-sided restaurant and a funky-looking bar tower. Wide wooden decks in front of each building offer al fresco dining and relaxing vantage points from which to watch the resident hippos cavort in the river. The deck chairs here, and those around the nearby swimming pool, are covered with bright purple cushions – a theme continued through all the camp’s outdoor furniture.
Stretching along the riverbank, on either side of the main areas, the 10 large tented rooms at Grumeti River Camp stand on concrete bases under woven banana-leaf shelters, which help to keep them cool. Some have a river outlook and some overlook the surrounding bush, but all have a sizeable, extravagant bed and a private veranda. Mosaic patterns laid into the concrete floor match the outdoor table and help create a pleasurable place to relax between wildlife activities.
Large canvas-and-mesh zipped doors lead into a sizeable interior dominated by a superb double bed – which can be converted into twin beds. Brightly coloured linen matches comfy armchairs and beaded lampshades, rendering the canvas tents vibrant and fun. Large mesh windows let in light and, along with a ceiling fan, help to keep the air circulating. A tall headboard serves both to divide the bedroom from the bathroom and, on the other side, as a shelving unit, complete with hanging space, a small safe, dressing gowns and wellington boots put out during the rainy season. Opposite, a mirror overhangs a sink and is flanked by two doors – one leading into an open-air shower room, and the other into the toilet.
Each tent also has a hairdryer, plug points and a gym in a bag (including a book of exercises, mat, weights and a skipping rope).
Aside from its relaxed nature and location, what makes Grumeti so appealing is the camp team. During our last visit in May 2011, we were hosted by a very warm Tanzanian lady called May and her fun-loving colleague, Donald. All our mealtime needs were attended to by attentive waiters and the chef often made an appearance for a quick chat. Our room was kept ship-shape by our butler who left endearing notes for us to find. Although having a butler might not appeal to every visitor, we found this to be a subtle service which added a real personal and friendly touch to our stay.
Twice-daily game drives are the main activities from Grumeti River Camp, using open-sided safari vehicles, each usually taking a maximum of six passengers seated in three rows of two seats. These are led by very knowledgeable, engaging and enthusiastic guides – we’ve yet to hear of a bad guiding experience here!
Additional activity options include a balloon safari just after dawn, lasting about an hour and costing an additional US$500 per person. With advance notice, day trips to the great Lake Victoria are also possible for an additional US$300 per vehicle (taking up to six people – or seven if it’s a family or group of friends). The day incorporates a 40km game drive through the park, and the options to canoe, a village visit, a chance to watch the local fisherman bring their boats in and a picnic lunch. Massages lasting 30–60 minutes can also be done in the privacy of your room at Grumeti River Camp for about US$40–60.
Don’t come to Grumeti if you’re looking for staid service, palpable luxury and cutting-edge design. If, however, you like the comforts in life, but are looking for a bush location with excellent service and a laid-back atmosphere combined with excellent guiding, then this camp should be on your list – particularly between late-May and July when the migration usually passes through.
Ideal length of stay: We recommend a 2- or 3-night stay at Grumeti River Camp allowing you to get to know your safari guide and really explore the area. Grumeti combines well with its sister camps: the lovely Klein’s Camp, Lake Manyara Tree Lodge which is one of only two lodges within Lake Manyara National Park, and the luxurious Ngorongoro Crater Lodge.
Directions: Most guests fly in to Grumeti Airstrip which is a flight of about 1 hour 45 minutes from Arusha. The airstrip is situated about five minutes’ drive from the camp. It’s worth noting that the close proximity of the airstrip does mean that during the late morning and over lunchtime the occasional plane can be heard flying over the camp, momentarily disturbing the peace.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: The meals served at Grumeti River Camp are of a very high quality, enhanced by the use of fresh produce wherever possible. The camp have set up a partnership with villagers around Lake Victoria whereby they provide local farmers with seeds to plant and then buy back some of the produce at a good rate.
Breakfast is served at a time of your choice depending on whether you’ve opted for a very early morning game drive or a lie-in. A tray is brought to your table with a selection of fruit juices, fresh fruit, freshly baked bread, spreads, cheeses, cold meats and cereals. The menu board will also offer a selection of two or three hot dishes. During our stay the choice was between mouth-wateringly good drop scones served with bacon and maple syrup or a very tasty vegetarian frittata.
Lunch is typically a set menu usually served to tables set up on the lawn or by the pool. We enjoyed a starter of chilled cucumber soup followed by a selection including chapattis, satay chicken, salad, salsa and hummus from which we made our own chicken wraps. Dessert was a light lemon sorbet with mango slices.
Dinner is usually served in the boma (a sandy area encircled by a log fence where food is cooked over campfires) or on the lawn by the river. On request, a private dinner can be arranged on your veranda – a very romantic affair! The dishes we savoured during our stay included soup starters served with fresh bread rolls, pineapple tartlet with home-made ice cream for one dessert and chocolate mousse with coconut cream for the other. There are usually two choices for the main course; we selected from saffron chicken served on polenta with roast vegetables, peppered beef fillet served with rosemary potatoes and stir-fried veg, and couscous-crumbed fish served with honey-glazed aubergine and avocado salsa
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Most drinks are included whilst at Grumeti River Camp. A few select ‘top- shelf’ beverages such as French champagne and the best single malts can be requested for an additional cost.
Birdwatching: Over 360 bird species have been recorded in the Serengeti’s western corridor; six are endemic to the Serengeti Plains. These include the black-headed gonolek with its striking crimson breast; the silverbird, an elegant flycatcher; the Karamoja apalis, a small warbler; Fischer’s lovebird which pairs for life and flies in colourful flocks; the grey-breasted spurfowl; the eastern grey plantain-eater, a raucous member of the turaco family; and the white-headed vulture.See more ideas for Birdwatching in Tanzania
Wildlife safaris: Along a small section of the Grumeti River, a short drive from Grumeti River Camp, is a patch of riverine woodland where a few troops of the shy and beautiful black-and-white colobus monkeys reside. Not only are they striking but they are interesting in that, unlike other monkeys, they do not have thumbs.See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Tanzania
Attitude towards children: Children are welcome at Grumeti River Camp.
Equipment: An additional single bed can be added to the tented rooms to create a triple room for two adults and one child.
Generally recommended for children: Grumeti River Camp is an excellent safari option for families with children over the age of 6 years as the camp team is attentive and sensitive to the needs of youngsters. Although children younger than 6 years are welcomed, the restricted activities mean that both the parents and their children have little chance to really make the most of the game drives from here.
Notes: This is an unfenced camp where wild animals can and do walk through freely. Children must be under their parent’s supervision at all times.
Power supply: Generator
Communications: There is limited cellphone network in the camp. Guests who wish to travel with their cellphones should keep these on silent whilst in the camp and not take them on game drives at all so as not to disturb other travellers. A free Wi-Fi service is available in the camp’s main areas although the connection is quite slow. For travellers who’d like to send an email message but don’t have their own equipment, the camp’s computer can be used on request.
Health & safety
Malarial area: Yes
Medical care: There is a doctor and small clinic on site. For any serious medical emergencies, the camp is in contact with the flying doctor services.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Guests are escorted to their rooms after dark just in case of visiting wildlife.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers by each tent and in the main areas.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: A full laundry service is included at Grumeti River Camp. Clothes are typically collected during the morning room service and returned by the end of the day.
Money: Each tent has a small safe for valuables.