Plantation Lodge

Plantation Lodge: Our full report

23 rooms
Traveller's rating
Excellent (91%) From 29 reviews
Fine for all ages
All year

The privately run Plantation Lodge is located between Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Lake Manyara National Park, a short distance from the bustling market town of Karatu. It’s set in nearly three hectares of beautifully maintained gardens, staffed entirely by local residents and is mainly used by visitors travelling with their own guide and vehicle, as a base from which to visit Ngorongoro Crater and possibly Lake Manyara National Park.

It’s been built in a style described as ‘German colonial era’ – which dates back to when Tanzania was known as Tanganyika, and was a German colony, from around 1890 to 1945. The main house at Plantation Lodge – 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 in two large, elegant dining rooms at Plantation Lodge, one seating up to 25 guests, the other up to 40. 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.

Meals can also be served outside. Perhaps in the cool courtyard, a covered veranda, the extensive gardens, or – on request – the wine cellar, which has a glass-ceiling. (This can also be the venue for wine tastings.)

Located above Plantation’s cellar is a large and impressive bar, whose wire chandeliers, polished concrete floors and white-washed walls lend a cool and stylish feel. A section of the bar has a glass floor looking into the wine cellar below, while stone stairs lead up to a mezzanine level offering more comfortable seating. To the front of the bar, a decked area with a lovely view over the gardens is a great place to relax under the shade of umbrellas with a drink – lunch is often served here as well.

To the side of the bar is a small lounge with comfortable chairs and low tables as well as a log burning stove.

A highlight of Plantation Lodge is the lush, tropical gardens, full of scents and colours. Countless hibiscus, bougainvillea and jacarandas attract an array of butterflies and birds. Tall rubber, eucalyptus and banana trees offer shade and lush, immaculately manicured, lawns surround the sprawling farmhouse and its cottages. There are numerous corners to relax with a complimentary tea or coffee. There is also a good-sized, kidney-shaped swimming pool complete with sun loungers and umbrellas.

Stone paths lead from the main house to Plantation Lodge's rooms, which are dotted around the garden. Some are detached; others are adjacent to each other in small groups. There are two types of room, all with garden views and finished to a high quality:

  • 17 standard rooms
    Each of these is individually decorated and fairly spacious. Most have double beds and colourful African bedspreads and all of them have smart, sparkling en-suite facilities with twin basins, spacious showers, flush toilet, toiletries and dressing gowns. There’s also a fireplace or a wood-burning stove in each room – it can get quite chilly here in their winter months – and some have a veranda with sun loungers or easy chairs.
    Several rooms interconnect to form family rooms at Plantation. Freshly cut flowers in all the rooms, as well as the main areas, add a personal touch.

  • six suites
    The suites at Plantation Lodge are equally smart, but larger and they feel much more private than the standard rooms. 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 spacious en-suite bathroom with double basins, walk-in shower and toilet. Some have a separate bath as well.
Plantation Lodge has a few activities on offer: free guided walks to explore the nearby coffee plantations, or walks to a neighbouring farm for an insight into how people on the farm live and work. Also, don’t miss a visit to the wine cellar. There is an extensive selection of vintages available and it’s also possible to indulge in some tasting!

Our view

Expert Africa team members have visited Plantation Lodge on numerous occasions in the last few years, most recently in July 2013, and it's always been immaculately presented – clean and really well kept with very helpful staff. We think that it's a lovely tranquil base from which to explore the Ngorongoro and Lake Manyara areas, but if you do stay here try to make time to relax by the pool, or in the shade of one of the garden’s eucalyptus trees with a cup of fresh locally grown coffee.


Location: Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

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 20-minute drive from the Ngorongoro Gate and about a three-hour drive from Arusha.

Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer

Key personnel

Owner: Independent/Owner-run – Udo & Renate Marahrens

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Full Board

Food quality: Most of the meals served at Plantation Lodge are prepared using organic fruits and vegetables grown in their own garden or on the plantation.
On a recent visit to Plantation Lodge we enjoyed the following meals:

  • A breakfast buffet of cereals, fresh fruit and fruit juice, a platter of cold meats and cheeses, as well as the option of a cooked breakfast.
  • Lunch was served either inside, outside in the gardens, or on the verandah outside the bar. We enjoyed a lovely vegetable soup starter served with crusty fresh bread, followed by a mild chicken curry served 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.
  • The three-course Dinner was served in the candle-lit dining room and consisted of a niçoise salad and mulligatawny soup to start, followed by a very tasty beef fillet served with fresh vegetables, and crème brûlée 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. Guests staying in the suites will have a complimentary stocked minibar in their room, and house wines by the glass are also included. All other drinks cost extra.

Further dining info: Room service is available.


Attitude towards children: Children are welcome at Plantation Lodge.

Property’s age restrictions: There are no age restrictions at Plantation Lodge.

Special activities & services: There are no special services for children.

Equipment: Highchairs and cots are available.

Notes: Children are allowed on the guided walks of the coffee plantation and neighbouring farms.


Power supply: Mains Electricity

Power supply notes: A generator is available as a back up in case of a power failure.

Communications: There is cellphone reception and the lodge has two computers with free internet. Free WiFi is available in the main areas.

TV & radio: There is no radio or television at Plantation Lodge.

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: Yes

Medical care: Plantation Lodge has a first-aid kit and the nearest clinic is in Karatu town.

Dangerous animals: Low Risk

Security measures: There are guards on duty 24 hours a day.

Fire safety: Each bedroom has a fire extinguisher.


Disabled access: On Request

Laundry facilities: Laundry is available at an extra cost.

Money: Plantation Lodge does not have a currency exchange, but there are digital safes in each of the rooms.

Accepted payment on location: Guests can pay with US dollars, euros, Tanzanian shillings or British pounds. Plantation Lodge accepts Visa and MasterCard normally with no surcharge.