The Serena lodge has some of the best views around the crater rim.
Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge: Our full report
The Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge is a 75-room hotel, built in 1996, with a truly marvelous location: it's built into the western rim of Tanzania's UNESCO-listed Ngorongoro Crater. It's usually used as a base for visits into the crater, and has views of the magnificent caldera from all of the bedrooms and most of the public areas.
The lodge incorporates local river stone and wood, but it is predominately made from concrete with dense green creepers clinging to its outside walls. Despite its size the Ngorongoro Serena blends surprisingly well with its surroundings.
The 75 bedrooms at the Ngorongoro Serena are fairly small and have: wooden floors, double, twin or triple beds, a desk with a chair and a mirror. Prehistoric cave murals painted on the walls add a bit of character to the otherwise fairly plain rooms. Their best feature is undoubtedly the French doors, which open out to a small balcony providing stunning views of the crater.
There is central heating in all of the rooms and main areas at this Ngorongoro lodge – which is a great comfort on the crater rim. It is often very cold here due to its altitude (2,326m/7,633 feet) and frequent blanketing of damp mist and so the heaters help create a cozy atmosphere.
Between the bedroom and the bathroom, each room at the Ngorongoro Serena Lodge has a small lobby area with a built-in cupboard and a luggage rack. The bathrooms are small but lighter following the recent refurbishment, with double basins below a large mirror, toilet and large walk-in shower. Hairdryers and branded toiletries are also provided. Some of the rooms are interconnected, which is convenient for families.
The bedrooms are linked to the main areas of this Serena lodge by wide walkways built of wood and polished stone. There is a large restaurant upstairs, a bar, a TV area, decked outside seating areas and a curio shop. Stone fireplaces have been built into some of these areas – there is one in the reception area and in the dining room – which are welcome in the evenings when it gets cool.
The busy reception area at the Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge has white painted walls, a high ceiling and polished wood floors. High-backed, dark wood-and-leather benches are decorated with animals, and spears hang on the walls. Off the main reception area is a small curio shop that stocks a few toiletries, as well as a good range of souvenirs. Just through the reception, tucked into a corner, there are three computers that are connected to the internet and can be used (at an extra cost).
The TV area, bar and restaurant at the Ngorongoro Serena all link into each other and share a burnt orange, olive green and burgundy colour scheme.
The bar has dark polished-wood panelling and a polished green stone floor. Wicker lights hang from iron light fittings and a stone fireplace warms the room from under a circular brass chimney flue. Brightly-striped wooden chairs are placed around small, wooden tables; high-backed leather chairs stand around the bar. Most evenings there is entertainment in the bar such as Maasai dancers or an acrobatic show. There is a ‘wildlife seen today’ book that allows guests to share their experiences with others. There is also a self-service tea-and-coffee stand tucked into a corner of the bar. These drinks are available all day and are generally accompanied by a few biscuits and cakes at teatime.
Outside the bar, the Ngorongoro Serena Lodge has a decked terrace with magnificent views over the crater – on warm evenings this is a good spot to sit with a drink and take in the stunning scenery.
The Ngorongoro Serena's restaurant is situated above the bar and features animal-stenciled walls, polished cement floors, two fireplaces and stunning views from the panoramic windows.
Most guests staying at the Serena Safari Lodge will arrive with their own vehicle and guide. The lodge also offer a small selection of additional activities, such as a bush breakfast or lunch, although these need to have a minimum of eight people in order to operate. A two-hour nature walk normally takes place in the afternoon and a forest circle hike, escorted by a park ranger, takes about three hours. There is an additional cost for all of these activities.
Our viewThe Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge doesn't pretend to be anything other than a large hotel. Its design lacks personality and it feels a bit dated. That said it is comfortable, functional, warm and one of only a handful of lodges right on the edge of Ngorongoro Crater. On a clear day, it's possible to see the wildlife roaming around below using the lodge's binoculars! So whilst its size means it won't be everyone's first choice, its location and affordability will tempt many to stay here.
Ideal length of stay: Stay here for at least two nights so that you can spend a full day on safari in the Ngorongoro Crater.
Directions: Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge is about a four-hour drive from Arusha, or a two-hour road transfer from Manyara airstrip.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Serena Hotels
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: On a recent visit to Ngorongoro Serena Lodge in 2015 we did not stay long enough to sample a meal. However, the manager explained to us that guests can usually expect the following:
Breakfast is a buffet with a selection of fresh fruit and fruit juices, cereals, hot porridge as well as a cooked full English breakfast.
Lunch is a hot-and cold-buffet if the lodge is full, or an à la carte menu if it isn't. You can choose from a large selection of food, including salads, cold meat and vegetarian options. The hot-meal choices change daily.
Dinner is an à la carte menu with a dessert buffet. Again, there is quite a large choice here and it will all be served to your table. As with the hot lunches, the dinner menu also changes daily.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: No drinks are included at the Ngorongoro Serena Lodge. The last time we visited, a beer cost roughly US$4 and a bottle of water cost about US$2.50. A glass of wine was US$6 and a bottle of wine ranged from US$24–45.
Further dining info: Room service is available at no extra cost.
Attitude towards children: Children five and older are welcome at Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge.
Property’s age restrictions: Children below five are not allowed to stay at Serena Safari Lodge.
Special activities & services: The lodge can arrange babysitters at a cost of around US$5 for the evening, although parents should note that the carers don’t have professional childcare qualifications.
Equipment: Cots and highchairs are available and board games and books can be found in the main area.
Generally recommended for children: We would recommend the Ngorongoro Serena Lodge for families.
Notes: Parents should note that game does come into the lodge grounds, which is not enclosed, and the walkways between the rooms and the main areas are raised so children could fall. We advise that children should be supervised at all times.
Power supply: Generator
Power supply notes: There is 24 hour power supply and guests can charge batteries in their rooms.
Communications: There are telephones in all of the bedrooms and two computers linked to the internet that guests can use. Fifteen minutes usually costs US$2. Free Wi-Fi is available in the main areas.
TV & radio: There is a TV in the hotel lounge.
Water supply: Transported in
Water supply notes: Two bottles of drinking water are provided to each room daily.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: There is a first-aid kit at the lodge. There is also a qualified medical assistant on site and a clinic less than 9Km away.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: There is 24-hour security with four guards on duty at any one time.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in all the rooms and main areas and fire hoses in each block.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: Laundry is not included at Ngorongoro Serena Lodge. Items cost roughly between US$1–5. The lodge also offers an express service at no extra cost – if you hand your laundry to reception in the morning, you will get it back the same evening.
Money: The lodge will normally exchange US dollars, British pounds, euros and Tanzanian shillings. There is a safe in each of the rooms. There is a safe in each of the rooms.
Accepted payment on location: Ngorongoro Serena accepts Visa, Maestro, American Express and MasterCard normally at no extra cost.