Neptune Ngorongoro is located not far from the entrance to the Ngorongoro Crater.
Neptune Ngorongoro Lodge: Our full report
Formerly Exploreans Ngorongoro, which opened in January 2012, this lodge became Neptune Ngorongoro Luxury Lodge in May 2015. It has 20 cottages situated in lush, landscaped gardens facing a forested hillside on the doorstep of Tanzania’s UNESCO-listed Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
Neptune's main area is a makuti-thatched, T-shaped, timber building, with a veranda wrapped around much of it. The sizeable interior appears more spacious because of high A-frame ceilings with exposed beams, although on a cloudy day it can seem rather dark. At one end of the 'T' is the reception desk and curio shop and at the other, the very good Acacia Restaurant. At the top of the 'T' is the bar, with a wall-mounted TV, and the tail incorporates the lounge, furnished with leather-backed chairs and comfortable sofas. Double doors lead to an outdoor terrace. Large glass windows allow for a lot of natural light, and make the most of the pretty views.
Neptune can arrange safari excursions for their guests into the nearby Ngorongoro Crater through a third-party supplier, but most travellers arrive with their own private guide and safari vehicle. You need to allow 1.5 to 2 hours to reach the crater floor (and the same back again, of course).
When you're not out on safari, there are options to relax by the immaculate, circular swimming pool (though it is unheated), read a book from the library, indulge in a treatment at the Mvua African Rain Spa, browse in the small safari boutique, or enjoy a cocktail on the veranda, served from the Zebra Bar. For something a bit further afield, the choices include guided nature walks, village and plantation visits.
With wooden floors and beamed ceilings throughout, each cottage at Neptune have been created in the style of a log cabin, with a lounge, sizeable bedroom, dressing room, en-suite bathroom and private terrace. In the lounge, a roll-arm settee and two high-backed armchairs are set around a coffee table near the fireplace. A cushioned day bed in one corner could be converted into a child's bed, and there's also a writing desk, stocked minibar, and tea- and coffee-making facilities.
Each 130 square-metre (1,400 square ft) cottage has either twin single four-poster beds, or a kingsize bed, hung with mosquito nets, and an armchair with matching ottoman by the fireplace. The effect of the room's fairly masculine furniture is softened by cushions in richly coloured fabrics and vibrant African artworks. As Neptune is a chain with several lodges in Kenya, much of this artwork is Kenyan, but we look forward to a time when it will be replaced by the work of Tanzanian artists.
Leading off the bedroom is a dressing room with luggage rack and large wardrobe, and a smartly tiled bathroom with twin basins, a walk-in shower and a separate flush toilet. Double doors open out from both the lounge and the bedroom onto a private deck furnished with a big couch/day bed, with views over the wooded valley below.
Every requirement seems to have been thought of at Neptune Ngorongoro, with a hairdryer, torch, telephone, large digital safe, WiFi connection, battery-charging points, ceiling fans, hot-water bottles, umbrellas, bathrobes, slippers, toiletries, iPod alarm clock, the option of a shoe-shining service and a pillow menu for your choice of headrest.
Note that cottages #19 and #20 are somewhat more private and usually reserved for honeymooners. These are even more substantial concrete structures with faux eucalyptus-log facias.
Our viewThe location of Neptune Ngorongoro Luxury Lodge provides relatively quick access to the Ngorongoro Crater – it's a five-minute drive from the lodge to the entrance gate of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. With smart, spacious accommodation, very good food using fresh ingredients, and real attention to detail, this a popular choice for many travellers.
Ideal length of stay: We recommend a stay of at least two nights at Neptune Ngorongoro Luxury Lodge, to allow a full-day safari to the Ngorongoro Crater.
Directions: Neptune Ngorongoro Luxury Lodge is situated about three hours drive from Arusha, or about a one-hour drive from Lake Manyara airstrip.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Neptune Hotels
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Meals are served in the Acacia Restaurant, either within the formal dining room, or on the outdoor terrace. We found the food here to be fresh and delicious because many of the ingredients are locally sourced; meat, fruit and dairy comes from the surrounding communities, while 70 per cent of the vegetables and herbs come from the lodge's own gardens.
Your breakfast table will be set with a mouth-watering basket of assorted filled danishes, croissants, doughnuts and rolls fresh from the oven, a fresh-fruit platter and chilled, freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juice. You'll then have the choice of cereal, muesli or porridge with full-fat, low-fat or soya milk, a cold-meat platter with crackers and fig jam, egg dishes such as eggs benedict with hollandaise sauce or scrambled eggs on hash browns, cinnamon French toast, pancakes or waffles.
Lunch usually comes in the form of a lunch box sent with you on your day's activity. You'll typically have three choices of fillings to choose from: meat, chicken, or vegetarian and a choice of a pasta or rice salad. On our most recent visit here (July 2013) we had Thai-chicken noodles, which were delicious, and came with a tomato pasta salad, a piece of fruit, a pastry, and a fruit juice.
Your dinner table will be set with a basket of fresh bread served with tasty dips such as spicy aubergine, guacamole and white lentil. You'll then choose your dishes from an à la carte menu. During our visit, there was a choice of five starters, including soup, salad, antipasti meat platter, pasta or risotto, five main courses, including red meat, chicken, fish or a vegetarian option, followed by a choice of three desserts and coffee or tea.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Juices, soft drinks, Tanzanian beer, selected South African wines, tea and coffee served during meals and at the bar are included. All other drinks, including cocktails, selected spirits and Champagne incur an additional cost.
Further dining info: Yes, a room service menu is located in each cottage.
Attitude towards children: Children of all ages are welcome at ENeptune Ngorongoro Luxury Lodge.
Property’s age restrictions: There is no age limit
Special activities & services: Child minding is available at a cost of U$10 per evening. Parents must be aware that these are not professionally trained child-minders, but members of staff from the lodge.
Equipment: All the cottages have two day-beds which can be converted into extra beds for children. The lodge can arrange baby cots and high chairs on request and games and drawing books are available in the main area.
Generally recommended for children: Although Neptune does accept children of all ages we found it to have quite an adult atmosphere. The lodge is located on quite a steep site with lots of stairs and some of the rooms, despite having a solid balcony, had some steep drops to the ground below. We would recommend it for children aged six and above and that they be supervised at all times.
Power supply: Mains Electricity
Power supply notes: A generator, in case of a power failure, backs up the mains electricity and comes on within about 10 seconds, while solar power is used to heat the water.
Communications: Each cottage has an internal phone and WiFi is available free of charge throughout the lodge. There is no computer available, so guests must bring their own device to access the internet.
TV & radio: The lodge’s bar has a wall-mounted TV, though it wasn't connected when we visited in April 2015. The TV in the staff canteen is where sports-mad guests usually congregate when big matches or major sporting events are taking place.
Water supply: Borehole
Water supply notes: An unlimited supply of bottled water is provided to all guests.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: Neptune Ngorongoro's manager is trained in first aid, and there is a first-aid kit available at the lodge. The nearest doctor is in the small town of Karatu, about 15-minutes drive away where the Lutheran hospital has good doctors.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: There is a large, digital safe in each room for safe storage of valuables. There is a guard (askari) at the lodge gate, while others discreetly patrol the grounds on a 24-hour basis.
Fire safety: A detailed fire evacuation plan is included in each of the cottage’s room information pack. Fire extinguishers are fixed to the exterior of each cottage and staff have been trained in procedures in the event of a fire.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: A full laundry service is available for an additional charge. Costs vary from about US$2–5 per item and clothes to be laundered are usually collected in the morning and returned at the end of the day.
Money: The lodge will normally exchange small amounts of Tanzanian currency for US dollars or euros.
Accepted payment on location: Payment in Tanzanian shillings, US dollars and euros is usually accepted, as is payment by Visa or MasterCard, on which a 5% surcharge is applied.