Hatari Lodge: Our full report
Set on the northern boundary of Arusha National Park, the unique Hatari Lodge (hatari means danger in Swahili) ...... is named after the 1960s blockbuster Hatari!, which starred John Wayne and was filmed in the area. The lodge has been very thoughtfully put together, every corner filled with a special piece of art or handmade item of furniture.
One of Wayne's co-stars, Hardy Krüger, fell in love with Tanzania during the filming of Hatari. Having decided to make his home here, he bought Momella Farm where he lived happily for 13 years. Today this former farm makes up part of the luxurious Hatari Lodge, under the ownership of Joerg and Marlies Gabriel, and with some 80% of the staff drawn from the local community.
Remmy Macha, the in-house artist, has worked hand in hand with Marlies to create an unusual mix of contemporary and African design. Retro 1960s' artwork covers the walls and modern African sculptures are dotted around. We periodically see Hatari Lodge described as having a 'modern-retro' design, or a '60s' theme', with 'art-deco elements'. However, there is nothing gaudy or over-the-top about it. Indeed, it’s refreshing to be unable to use the word rustic about any aspect of the lodge.
The lodge’s dominant colour scheme is pale green and brown, with red mabati (corrugated iron) roofing. Even the water tower is painted in the signature peppermint chocolate colour scheme.
Hatari's dining room, lounge and bar are all housed within the central building, looking out over grassy plains to Arusha National Park. Between September and April, weather permitting, breakfast and lunch are served on the veranda, furnished with fibreglass tables and chairs inset with Maasai beads. From here, you can sit and watch game such as waterbuck, zebra, large numbers of giraffe and often buffalo coming down to graze. On clear days, often in the morning, you can even see Mount Kilimanjaro.
A boardwalk leads from the veranda to a viewing platform overlooking the Momella clearing below. With chairs set around a campfire, it's a pleasant spot to relax with a drink and to watch passing game.
In the winter months, meals at Hatari Lodge are served in the dining area, where tables and chairs are positioned in front of a large fireplace. The tables are individually set for breakfast, though for dinner one long table is usually set in a dinner-party style. Even the coffee cups fit the modern retro theme, and the colour scheme is changed for different meals, to create a different atmosphere – further examples of the attention to detail here.
In the small lounge area, sumptuous 60s' leather sofas are scattered with brightly coloured cushions. Hand-sculpted animal heads housing wall lights are mounted on the walls, creating a cosy glow whilst adding a funky stylish edge.
A second lounge/library, set to one side in the main building, continues the pop-art theme. A sofa lines the edge of the room, dotted with animal-skin cushions. A patchwork cowhide rug covers the floor and brightly coloured Andy Warhol remakes of the stars in Hatari hang on the walls. Under the glass coffee table are a large number of interesting books, while in the evenings they often show films here – including of course Hatari! itself.
Bright bar stools in an assortment of colours line the long wooden bar, where all the glassware is beautifully made in Nairobi from recycled glass. A shop behind the bar sells a variety of Hatari! T-shirts and hand-embroidered textiles. All products are made by the community project 'Mama Momella', which helps local women to earn an income. This and other initiatives are run by Hatari's Momella Foundation, which incorporates projects that range from the building of a local pre-school to vegetable farming.
The 9 rooms at Hatari Lodge are each uniquely designed, but all broadly follow the same retro theme. Each has a different colour scheme, with one wall painted in a vibrant 60s' pattern. Each of the rooms has hanging space for clothes, a writing desk, a hairdryer, and very comfortable beds – and all but one (#9) have an open fire, which is lit for you on winter evenings, making the room wonderfully cosy. Faux hunting trophies made of cowhide hang from the walls.
The spacious en-suite bathrooms, with large walk-in showers, flush toilets and twin basins, sport the same colour scheme as the main rooms, and Aloe Vera toiletries are provided. Two bathrooms also have bathtubs – so these rooms are often used for honeymoon couples.
New at Hatari are the ‘villas’, a large building comprising three extensive suites of around 150 square metres each in area (1,600sq ft). These – ‘Elephant’, ‘Buffalo’ and ‘Giraffe’, are lovely additions to the lodge, and ideal for families. They are beautifully decorated in a different take on the retro look of the rest of the lodge. The back of each villa features a Kili View Terrance and the front a Mount Meru View Terrace. Decorated with Kitengela glass and dramatic furnishings, they have cosy seating around fireplaces, spacious family dining tables, and two bedrooms and two bathrooms each.
Activities at Hatari Lodge usually take you into Arusha National Park, for walking safari, game drives and canoeing on the Momella Lakes. The lodge has 2 open 4x4 vehicles and one closed Mercedes for transfers. The walking here is lovely, and the scenery very picturesque. On most days you can see the top of Mount Meru and all the way across to Kilimanjaro. That said, Arusha National Park is not the place to come if you want to see lots of wildlife.
A stay at Hatari can be combined with its sister lodge, Shu'mata Camp (meaning 'heaven' in Maasai), which sits on a hill in the South Amboseli region in the foothills of Kilimanjaro, a three-hour scenic drive away. Shu'mata's five Hemingway-style tents are spacious with hand-made furniture and traditional Maasai artefacts. We haven't had a chance to visit this camp for ourselves yet – but we'd expect it to be run to the same high standard as the main lodge.
Hatari Lodge has been designed and fitted out with a great deal of thought, and to a very high standard, and makes for a fine start or end to a northern Tanzania safari. It's a good base for exploring the small, beautiful Arusha National Park – great for walking and canoeing in a relaxed environment, although without the density of large mammals that you'll find in other northern parks.
- Arusha, Tanzania
- Ideal length of stay
- Stay here for two or three nights to explore Arusha National Park and a range of activities
- Hatari Lodge stands on the northern boundary of Arusha National Park, 58km from Arusha, or a drive of about 90 minutes. From Kilimanjaro International Airport, the drive also takes about 1.5 hours
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board
- Food quality
- On our last visit in November 2015, as with previous visits, the food at Hatari was very good. They describe their cuisine as 'international with African ingredients'; and we found it to be well presented and imaginative. It's always accompanied by playlist of music - one for each meal time. Some of the ingredients are grown in their own vegetable garden, jealously guarded from raiding vervet monkeys.
Breakfast usually started with a buffet of fruit, yoghurts and cereals, plus toast and preserves as well as tea, coffee and fruit juice. You can also order a hot breakfast with eggs of your choice, bacon and sausage.
For lunch, guests will often stop at a quiet picnic spot in the park and unpack a wicker hamper that contains a variety of cold dishes. When we were there, we had samosas and a selection on flavoursome salads, with tea, coffee and fruit juice to drink.
Alternatively, you can have lunch back at the lodge, usually served between midday and 2.00pm.
Between 3.00pm and 5.00pm, tea is served in Hatari's lounge. There is always a freshly baked cake to tuck into as well as coffee and a variety of teas.
Dinner is sometimes served at one table in a dinner-party style, and sometimes at separate tables, depending on the guests' wishes. You will usually gather in the bar and lounge area for a few drinks – and are then invited to the table when dinner is ready. The evening meals are three courses, with a light starter, a main course (usually a meat or chicken dish), and then a dessert. When we were last here for dinner in May 2011, we had a zucchini soup, followed by tender beef with mashed potato, and a delicious coffee-flavoured dessert. We enjoyed it immensely.
When we had lunch here in November 2015, we started with a leaf and tomato salad from their garden, followed by a mild, creamy chicken curry with basmati rice – all very good.
Special dietary requirements can be catered for with advance notice.
- Family holidays
- Easily accessible and home to little dangerous game, Arusha is a good destination for family safari holidays in Tanzania with children of all ages. Walking and canoeing here add variation to a family safari. The 60s-themed Hatari happily arranges special meals for children.
- See ideas for Family holidays
- Attitude towards children
- Joerg and Marlies have a 12-year-old son and are happy to have children of all ages at Hatari Lodge.
- Property’s age restrictions
- There are no age restrictions at Hatari.
- Special activities & services
- Hatari will happily do special meals for children.
- Baby cots are available, but they don't have high chairs.
- Generally recommended for children
- Arusha National Park is a good option for families with young children as it's easily accessible. Hatari's location and facilities make it a good choice for exploring the park.
- Game does wander through the lodge so it is important that parents are responsible for their children at all times.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Hatari Lodge
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Hatari Lodge have kindly recorded their wildlife sightings and shared them with us. The results are below. Click an animal to see more, and here to see more on our methodology.
- Power supply notes
- Generator back up is available 24/7. Battery charging can be done in the rooms. Hair driers are provided.
- There is reasonably good cellphone reception at Hatari Lodge, but guests are requested not to use cellphones in the main areas. There is an office phone and internet for use in emergencies. There is free Wi-Fi in the lounge area and on the the deck.
- TV & radio
- Not really, but they do have an old-style screen for showing old African movies – like Hatari!
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- The water at the lodge is filtered water from the Meru River.
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- There is a first-aid kit on site and staff are trained in first aid. There are also clinics at Momella Gate and in Arusha, and Hatari has contacts with the flying doctors' service. The Aga Khan hospital at Usa River has a good local reputation.
- Dangerous animals
- High Risk
- Security measures
- There are askaris to escort guests between the rooms at night.
- Fire safety
- Fire extinguishers are dotted around the lodge and staff frequently receive fire-training.
Guided walking safari
- Disabled access
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- A full laundry service is offered at extra charge, and washing is done by hand or machine, and dried in the sun or in a tumble drier.
- Hatari Lodge can exchange only small amounts of currency on special request. If you have any valuables you can give them to the office for safe keeping.
- Accepted payment on location
- Hatari will accept cash in euro, pounds sterling, US dollars and Tanzanian shillings. It also take MasterCard and Visa, with a 5% surcharge.
Other lodges in Arusha
Alternative places to stay in this same area.