Plantation Lodge is full of colonial charm and overlooks coffee plantations.
Plantation Lodge: Our full report
The privately run Plantation Lodge, first opened in 1998, lies between Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Lake Manyara National Park, a short distance from the bustling Tanzanian market town of Karatu. Set in three hectares (seven acres) of beautifully maintained gardens, it is staffed entirely by local residents. The lodge is mainly used by visitors travelling with their own guide and vehicle, as a base for visits to the Ngorongoro Crater and sometimes to Lake Manyara National Park.
Plantation Lodge was built as a farmhouse in a style now described as 'German colonial era' – which dates back to around 1890 to 1945, when Tanzania was a German colony known as Tanganyika. Expert Africa team members have visited Plantation Lodge on numerous occasions in the last few years, most recently in November 2016, and it's always been immaculately clean and well presented with very helpful staff.
The main house – incorporating the lounge, dining rooms and bar – is fresh, light and airy. White walls act as the perfect backdrop for black-and-white photographs and African curios. Straw mats cover the cool tiled floors, and high-beamed ceilings ensure a bright and spacious feel.
Meals are served either outside – perhaps in the cool courtyard, a covered veranda or in the extensive gardens – or in one of two large and elegant dining rooms. One of these caters for up to 25 guests, the other up to 40, with guests seated either in large groups or at individual tables, depending on their preferences and the composition of the groups staying. Stylish metal chandeliers hang from high vaulted ceilings over tables lined with white-canvas directors' chairs, and white curtains frame floor-length windows and french doors. At each end of the rooms are exposed brick fireplaces, one of which is surrounded by cushioned chairs and a sofa.
In Plantation Lodge's impressive bar, wire chandeliers, polished concrete floors and white-washed walls lend a cool and stylish feel. In one section, a glass floor looks into the wine cellar below: a popular spot for drinks on special occasions or wine-tasting sessions – although the lodge doesn’t have a dedicated sommelier.
Stone stairs lead up to a mezzanine level offering more comfortable seating, and to the side of the bar is a small lounge with comfortable chairs, low tables and a log-burning stove. A decked area in front of the bar has lovely view over the gardens and is a great place to relax with a drink or over lunch under the shade of umbrellas.
Stone paths lead from the main house to Plantation Lodge's 23 rooms and suites, which are spread around the garden. Some are fully detached cottages while others are adjacent to each other in small groups. All have garden views and finished to a high standard, with cut flowers or plant arrangements (both here and in the main areas) adding a personal touch.
If you're stopping over, a room would be fine, but if you're staying for a couple of night or more, we recommend that you take a suite.
- 17 standard rooms are individually decorated and quite spacious. Most have double beds and colourful African bedspreads, and all have smart, sparkling en-suite facilities with twin basins, spacious showers, flush toilets, toiletries and dressing gowns. The beds, all super comfortable and with mosquito nets, can be twin or king-size as required.
Every room has a fireplace or a wood-burning stove – it can get quite chilly here in July and August – and some have a veranda with sunloungers or easy chairs. Tea- and coffee-making stations are also installed. And one room has some adaptations for those with limited mobility; please ask us for details.
For families, two standard rooms interconnect to form a family room. There is also a cluster of four rooms which together form the Garden House. A rather manorial set up, this has its own lounge, dining room and TV, and is particularly good for groups of at least eight people, or extended families. As a bonus, Plantation Lodge will cater for private dining and parties in the Garden House.
- The six suites at Plantation Lodge are equally smart, but larger than the standard rooms and with a much more private feel. All have a separate lounge with fireplace or log-burning stove, as well as a stocked minibar. The bedroom has a double bed draped in mosquito nets and a spacious en-suite bathroom with double basins, walk-in shower and toilet (some also have a separate bath). The Family Suite is a favourite, and has a TV. The Farmhouse Suite has interlinking rooms. And the Eucalyptus Suite, while less private, has a lovely double shower. At the time of our last visit, in November 2016, this suite was undergoing renovation, to be completed in early 2017. The most luxurious of all the options is the Zanzibar Suite, which is a lovely private space in the corner of the grounds with striking furniture.
A highlight of Plantation Lodge is its lush, tropical garden, full of scents and colours. Immaculately manicured lawns surround the sprawling farmhouse and its cottages; hibiscus, bougainvillea and jacarandas attract an array of butterflies and birds; and tall rubber, eucalyptus and banana trees offer shade. There is also a good-sized, kidney-shaped swimming pool complete with sunloungers and umbrellas. Whatever you do here, take time to relax by the pool, or in the shade of one of the garden's tall trees, with a cup of locally grown coffee.
Plantation Lodge has a few activities: free guided walks to explore nearby coffee plantations, or walks to a neighbouring farm for an insight into how people on the farm live and work. And don't miss a visit to the cellar with its extensive selection of wines. The lodge is just 30 minutes’ drive from the Ngorongoro Gate, and 45 minutes from the entrance to Lake Manyara National Park, putting both parks within easy reach of travellers.
Our viewWe have always been impressed by the attention to detail and personal care at Plantation Lodge. Conveniently located, it makes a lovely, tranquil base from which to explore both the Ngorongoro and Lake Manyara areas.
Ideal length of stay: A two-night stay allows you to explore Ngorongoro Crater or Lake Manyara National Park, but we suggest staying for a third to relax and enjoy the immediate environs of Plantation Lodge and the surrounding area.
Directions: Plantation Lodge is situated off the main Karatu Road, about a 30-minute drive from the Ngorongoro Gate and about a four-hour drive from Arusha.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Independent/Owner-run – Udo & Renate Marahrens
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Most of the meals at Plantation Lodge are prepared using organic fruits and vegetables grown in their own garden or on the plantation. There are vegetarian options at all meals and most dietary preferences can be catererd for. On our most recent visit, in November 2016, the dishes were beautifully presented but the quality of cooking was at times disappointing.
Breakfast was a buffet of cereals, fresh fruit and fruit juice, along with a platter of cold meats and cheeses, and the option of a cooked breakfast.
For lunch we enjoyed a lovely vegetable soup served with crusty fresh bread, followed by a mild chicken curry with basmati rice and a large bowl of fresh green salad, and rounded off with a refreshing bowl of homemade coconut ice cream. For those doing full-day excursions to the nearby parks, the lodge will prepare a packed lunch.
Our four-course set dinner, served in the candle-lit dining room, consisted of a niçoise salad and butternut squash soup to start, followed by a beef fillet with fresh vegetables, and tiramisu for dessert.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Drinks are not included for guests staying in the standard rooms at Plantation Lodge. Those staying in the suites have a complimentary stocked minibar in their room, and house wines by the glass are also included. All other drinks cost extra. Bottled drinking water is supplied free to all guests.
Further dining info: Room service is not available.
Attitude towards children: Children are welcome at Plantation Lodge, but not especially catered for.
Property’s age restrictions: There are no age restrictions at Plantation Lodge.
Special activities & services: There are no special services for children.
Equipment: One highchair and one cot are available.
Generally recommended for children: We think the lodge is fairly well suited to older children, with teenagers more frequent guests than young children. There are large grounds and a swimming pool that children can enjoy under parental supervision.
Notes: Children would be allowed on the guided walks of the coffee plantation and neighbouring farms which could be an interesting diversion from days on safari. The pool is not lifeguarded, so parents would need to supervise children at all times.
Power supply: Mains Electricity
Power supply notes: A generator is available as a back up in case of a power failure, but usually turned off at 11.00pm. All rooms have sockets for charging electronic devices.
Communications: There is cellphone reception in most areas, but no room phones. Free WiFi is available in the main areas.
TV & radio: There are no TVs in most rooms at Plantation Lodge, except for the Garden House. For major sporting events, a plan is made such as installing a temporary TV in the bar.
Water supply: Transported in
Water supply notes: Water is brought in by bowser.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: Plantation Lodge has a first-aid kit and the nearest hospital is the renowned FAME Hospital in Karatu town.
Dangerous animals: Low Risk
Security measures: There is a perimeter fence and outsourced security guards on duty 24 hours a day.
Fire safety: Each room has a fire extinguisher.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: Laundry (machine-washed and tumble-dried) is included for guests in the suites and available at extra cost for those in the standard rooms.
Money: Plantation Lodge does not have a currency exchange, but there are ATMs in nearby Karatu town. There are digital safes in each of the rooms.
Accepted payment on location: Guests may pay with US dollars, euros, Tanzanian shillings or British pounds. Plantation Lodge accepts Visa and Mastercard, normally with no surcharge.