Ndutu Safari Lodge

Ndutu Safari Lodge: Our full report

Rooms
34 stone rooms
Traveller's rating
Excellent (93%) From 8 reviews
Children
Best for aged 8+
Open
All year

Originally a tented camp, Ndutu Safari Lodge was constructed in 1967 by George Dove – a professional hunter with a rather flamboyant moustache – who gave up hunting and chose Ndutu as his regular campsite. Today, having been taken over and renovated in 1985, Ndutu is relatively big – with 34 very solid cottages offering comfortable but unfussy accommodation. Technically, the lodge lies on the northern border of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area – but because it's essentially a Serengeti experience, we've included it in this section on the Serengeti.

The migration passes through here between December and May when the rains have made the area lush and green. During this time wildlife is at its most prolific. As the rain moves on, the plains game follows, although a fair population of lion and cheetah remain. It’s a fascinating area to visit at any time of year – and particularly for those interested in photography as you can get very close to the game here.

The Oldupai Museum (aka Olduvai Museum) is only an hour's drive from Ndutu Safari Lodge, and the Ngorongoro Crater rim is about 2½ hours' dusty drive away. Travellers usually visit here with their own safari guide and driver – although the lodge does have four of its own vehicles and guides. In the Ndutu area there are marshlands as well as two lakes (Lake Ndutu and Lake Masek) and expanses of woodlands – all surrounded by the Serengeti's grassy plains. Most safaris from the lodge will be on 4WD game drives, but keen walkers might note that, with advanced notice, it may be possible to hire an NCAA ranger to lead a walk in the area.

The bar and restaurant area at Ndutu Safari Lodge has views out over the plain, and a firepit outside. It's a large, plain stone room with solid, functional, wooden furniture. Animal horns around the room help it to retain the feeling of an old hunting lodge, despite being used only for photographic safaris since 1967. The bar's thatched ceiling was previously supported by a number of wooden beams which acted as a climbing frame for a local family of genets. During recent refurbishment the beams were removed – except one, which was put in specifically so that the genets could remain!

Outside, a small, but constantly replenished shallow bowl stands at ground level, about 20m from the front of the restaurant. This attracts a stream of small birds, particularly flocks of Fischer's lovebirds, which add much colour and noise to the scene.

A small shop sells a range of curios - many of which are made by local women and handicapped people as a source of income.

There are 34 stone-and-thatch cottages at Ndutu Safari Lodge, all built fairly close together in a long line that extends either side of the central bar/restaurant area, and all with a view of the soda lake, Lake Ndutu. Each room has its own small veranda, where you can sit and watch the wildlife pass by.

Inside, the cottages are generally very cool, thanks to their stone construction and polished concrete floors (hence there are no fans or air conditioning). Clean white walls are offset by the odd photo of African wildlife and some colourful batik art. Furnishings are simple, yet comfortable: cream-canvas directors’ chairs, sturdy wooden tables, fun wrought-iron wall-lights shaped like guineafowls and pale-cream bedspreads. A large wicker wardrobe contains extra blankets for cool nights, and an umbrella in case of rain. Every room has electric lights, which operate only when the generator is on, but there are also torches and candles for use when the generator is off. On our last visit, in 2011, around three-quarters of the rooms had plug sockets. They plan to put them in the remaining rooms, although logistical issues mean this may not be possible in all.

Of the 34 rooms at Ndutu Safari Lodge, 26 have twin beds, and five are triple. There are also two 'honeymoon rooms' – numbers 12 and 35 – which are both fairly distant from the centre. These are slightly more spacious than the other double rooms, and are dominated by a beautiful, solid kingsize bed made from the wood of a Zanzibari dhow. The last room is a family room, which can accommodate two adults and two children.

Each of the rooms at Ndutu has a small en-suite bathroom, which incorporates a white-tiled shower and a single sink, both with hot water, and a flushing toilet. The bathrooms are fairly spartan, though perfectly adequate; just don't expect a range of complimentary toiletries!

Note that the water in the bathrooms comes from a borehole near the lake, roughly 2km from the lodge, and contains dissolved minerals which cannot be removed very easily. This water is a little salty, so acceptable for a shower but unsuitable for drinking. Instead, small bottles of drinking water for brushing teeth and drinking are provided in the rooms.

Ndutu tries quite hard to maintain an eco-friendly stance. Leaflets in each room detail the way the lodge aims to save water and encourages guests to help them. Laundry is done by hand; no tumble driers here! The lodge has a generator but power consumption is kept to a minimum. Solar water heaters provide hot water for the showers. And most of the fresh vegetables and meat come from the nearby town of Karatu, thereby supporting the local community.

Our view

Ndutu Safari Lodge offers an inexpensive and very central base from which to explore the short-grass plains of the southern Serengeti and the plains of the northern section of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Note that because Ndutu is very good value, and in a great location, it gets very booked up when the migration is passing through. You probably need to book at least a year in advance to be sure of finding space here!

Geographics

Location: Serengeti Migration Area, Tanzania

Ideal length of stay: Two nights – although when the migration is around, from about December to April, some guests will stay here for up to a week.

Directions: Most visitors to Ndutu Safari Lodge will drive here with their own safari guide and 4WD, although there is an airstrip, Ndutu, about 1km from the lodge.

Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Full Board

Food quality: Meals at Ndutu Safari Lodge tend to be hearty, filling and fresh, but certainly not gourmet.

Breakfast, from 7.00am to 9.00am, consists of a self-service buffet of fresh fruit, cereals and juices. A cooked breakfast and hot drinks can also be ordered from the waiter between these times. For guests leaving earlier or later, Ndutu will arrange a packed breakfast. A simple continental breakfast is available from 6.00am for guests wishing to depart extra early. For a small extra cost they will arrange a ‘breakfast basket’ to take out with you – similar to the packed breakfast, but a little more extensive and packed in a nice basket.

Lunch at Ndutu is 12.30–2.00pm. On a previous visit here we had a huge lunch, which all felt very homemade. It started with soup, followed by a chicken and mushroom pie with plain vegetables and a fresh salad – all served to the table in glass bowls, from which we helped ourselves.

As at lunch, the four-course dinner at the Safari Lodge (7.30–9.00pm) is substantial, and is served in individual dishes to the table.

Dining style: Individual Tables

Dining locations: Indoor Dining

Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included

Drinks included: No drinks are included; these are bought separately from the bar – and bar bills should normally be settled at the end of the evening in cash. A beer costs around US$4, and a soft drink US$1.50.

Further dining info: Very limited. Guests can request early morning drinks to be delivered to their rooms before heading out on an early morning game drive.

Special interests

Walking safaris: Walking isn’t allowed in many areas of the Serengeti National Park, but Ndutu Safari Lodge is just inside the Ngorongoro Conservation Area – where walking safaris are allowed, provided that you are accompanied by an NCAA ranger. Such walks typically last around two hours and concentrate on the woodlands near Lake Ndutu; they usually need to be arranged in advance.

See more ideas for Walking safaris in Tanzania

Wildlife safaris: Ndutu Safari Lodge is a great base for visiting the short-grass plains of the southern Serengeti, and the northern side of the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area, including the Olduvai Gorge. Game drives and walks are possible here, with huge herds of wildebeest congregating here during the great migration, typically between about December and April.

See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Tanzania

Children

Attitude towards children: Ndutu Safari Lodge is very substantial, open and spacious – so it is one of the better lodges or camps in the area for children. Birds and animals are seen from the lodge, and there is a small box with a few games at the bar for guests use – so older children who can amuse themselves without excessive noise would be fine here.

Property’s age restrictions: There are no age restrictions at Ndutu.

Special activities & services: Earlier children's meals can be arranged.

Equipment: Cots are available for babies. During meal times, extra cushions can be placed on chairs.

Infrastructure

Power supply: Generator

Communications: There is limited cellphone reception at Ndutu, but guests are asked to use their phones only in their rooms; cellphones may not be used in the public areas. Ndutu has a fax machine, internet and telephone which can be used by travellers. There is a nominal charge for this if guests need to use it for extended periods of time, but they are asked to limit it to 15 minutes if possible. International calls cost around US$3/minute to most countries. Guests can charge cameras/cellphones when the generator is running, both in the bar and in about three quarters of the rooms. Plug sockets are UK-style with three square pins.

TV & radio: There is no TV or radio at Ndutu.

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: Yes

Medical care: Ndutu have a quite well kitted-out medical room, and a number of the staff are trained in basic first aid. They have links with a flying doctor service in Arusha.

Dangerous animals: High Risk

Security measures: Ndutu ask all their guests to stay within the lodge grounds for their safety due to the presence of wild animals. There are nightwatchmen on duty from the evening and throughout the night to escort guests to and from their rooms with torches.

Fire safety: There is a firebreak around Ndutu. All the rooms have fire extinguishers and some staff have been trained to use them.

Extras

Disabled access: On Request

Laundry facilities: A laundry service is available at an extra charge of US$1–2 per item. All laundry is hand-washed and dried by the sun. Weather permitting, items sent to the laundry in the morning are usually returned later that day.

Money: Ndutu are happy to exchange small amounts of currency for guests.

Accepted payment on location: Ndutu accept most major currencies, as well as travellers' cheques, and Visa and MasterCard credit cards without any surcharge. However credit cards are accepted only for amounts of US$20 and over.