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, is located between Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Lake Manyara National Park, a short distance from the bustling market town of Karatu. It is set in 3 hectares (7 acres) of beautifully maintained gardens, staffed entirely by local residents and mainly used by visitors travelling with their own guide and vehicle, as a base for visits to the Ngorongoro Crater and sometimes Lake Manyara National Park.
The lodge is 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 owners originally bought an 8-hectare (20-acre) plot and started from scratch.
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 at Plantation Lodge are served in two large and elegant dining rooms, one seating up to 25 guests, the other up to 40, either in large groups of guests, or at individual tables, depending on guests’ 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.
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 is a popular spot for drinks on people’s birthdays, and would also be an obvious venue for wine tastings – though the lodge doesn’t have a sommelier.
Located above Plantation Lodge’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 are 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 fully detached while others are adjacent to each other in small groups. Cut flowers or plant arrangements in all the rooms, as well as the main areas, add a personal touch.
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 quite 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. All the beds have mosquito nets. The beds are based on 2-metre x 1-metre single beds, with two mattresses, that can be joined together to form king-size beds when required. All the mattresses, linen and pillows are German and super-comfortable. The pillows are easily washable – a nice feature.
As well as tea- and coffee-making stations, there’s a fireplace or a wood-burning stove in each room – it can get quite chilly here in July and August – and some have a veranda with sun loungers or easy chairs.
One room at Plantation Lodge has some mobility adaptations. Two rooms interconnect to form a family room. Another cluster, the ‘Garden House’ with four bedrooms, has its own shared lounge, dining room and TV, and is particularly good for larger groups or extended, multi-generational families travelling together. You need to be a group of at least 8 to book this quite manorial set-up. Planation Lodge will cater for private dining and parties in the Garden House.
- 6 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. 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.
If you're stopping over, a room would be fine, but if you're for a couple of night or more, take a suite. And whatever you do, take time to relax by the pool, or in the shade of one of the garden’s eucalyptus trees, with a cup of locally grown coffee.
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 cellar: there’s an extensive selection of wines available.
Our viewExpert Africa team members have visited Plantation Lodge on numerous occasions in the last few years, most recently in April 2015, and it's always been immaculately clean and well presented with very helpful staff. The attention to detail and personal care here really stand out. We think this is a lovely, tranquil base from which to explore 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 20-minute drive from the Ngorongoro Gate and about a three-hour drive from Arusha.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Independent/Owner-run – Udo & Renate Marahrens
Staff: Maria Pfattischer - manager
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 four-course set menu 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. There are always vegetarian options and the lodge stresses that all dietary preferences can be catererd for.
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 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, but teenagers are much more common guests than young children.
Special activities & services: There are no special services for children.
Equipment: Highchairs and cots are available.
Generally recommended for children: We think the lodge is fairly well suited to older children. There are large grounds and a swimming pool that they can enjoy under parental supervision.
Notes: Children would be allowed on the guided walks of the coffee plantation and neighbouring farms, but that would be rare. Babysitting services are not generally available.
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 11pm. All rooms have sockets for charging.
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, but the Garden House has a TV, and a plan is always made for major sporting events, for example installing a temporary TV in the bar.
Water supply: Transported in
Water supply notes: A bowser brings water from a good source. Bottled water is supplied free to all guests.
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 bedroom 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 an extra cost for those in the other 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 can pay with US dollars, euros, Tanzanian shillings or British pounds. Plantation Lodge accepts Visa and MasterCard normally with no surcharge.