Rhotia Valley is a simple...
Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge: Our full report
Perched high on a hill overlooking the valley of the seasonal Rhotia River, Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge is a simple and friendly camp in a good location between the Ngorongoro Crater and the Rift Valley Escarpment. Built in 2007, aside from being a good-value base to explore the surrounding area, the lodge has a real and noticeably positive impact on the local community through its work with a nearby orphanage – and guests can see this work first-hand.
The 'Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge' is part of the 'Rhotia Valley Project' – which aims to support the people of the Rhotia area, in particular the children. Their motto is 'two hills, one goal': the lodge sits on one hill, directly opposite on another is the Rhotia Valley Children's Home. Both were set up by Dutch couple Joris ("George") and Marise Koch. As medical practitioners, they used to come out to the area for seminars, and took an active interest in contributing to the local community. Then, after a series of donations, they weren't convinced that their money was being used as effectively as it could be, so decided to set up their own project instead.
The lodge itself provides employment for the community: all members of staff are from the local area. On top of this 20% of the lodge's nightly rate is a direct contribution to the children's home opposite where the lodge also employs some teachers. At present the home houses 38 children and young people aged between four and 20 (mostly orphaned by AIDS or road accidents), and a further 12 children from the local village are helped with school fees and uniform. Guests at the lodge can visit the children's home each evening between 5.00pm and 6.00pm to see how it runs, and to meet the children they're helping.
There's a rustic charm to the central areas of Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge. The main communal area is a large brick-and-thatch structure – very spacious and airy. The concept is raw and simple – none of the more practical elements of the lodge are hidden, and it certainly doesn't have a polished or luxurious feel. The office is an old rust-coloured shipping container – a very practical and secure solution!
In May 2013 the lodge completed a brand new swimming pool. The oval shaped pool looks out over the valley and is surrounded by sunloungers. Despite the alitude, it gets nicely warm - 24ºC when we visited in April 2015.
The lounge and dining section of this area has a lovely large brick fireplace, a good spot to warm up after dinner when it can get quite chilly (the lodge is at an altitude of 1,700m). Blankets and braziers are provided for particularly cold nights. There are plenty of tables and chairs laid out, and an open kitchen where you can watch your dinner being prepared by the very friendly chefs. Outside, a large wooden bar made from local eucalyptus wood is a great place to sit and watch the sun set over the valley below.
There are 15 permanent tents at Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge, each suspended under a thatched roof on wooden decking. Some have views over the woodland, while others look down onto the cultivated valley below. Tents #4, 6, 10 and 12 are doubles; #7 is a triple; and the rest are twins apart from #8 and 9 which are a family unit comprising a double and a twin.
In keeping with the simple style of the lodge, the tents are fairly modest and functional. Inside you'll find either a double or twin beds, a luggage rack and a wicker chair, with a few colourful throws and printed canvas hung behind the beds to lend a splash of colour.
Towards the back of the tent is an en-suite bathroom which, again, is functional rather than stylish. A low bamboo divide separates the flush toilet from a shower and small sink with hot and cold running water .
Most guests at Rhotia Valley use it as a base to explore the Ngorongoro Crater or Lake Manyara with their own private driver guide, but activities can be arranged from the lodge. These include a hike along the crater rim; usually they'll drive you there, then it's a six-hour hike back through the forests of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area with a park ranger and their own guide. You can walk to the local village with a member of staff, or take a local guide and learn about the uses of plants in the surrounding area, or experience the everyday life of farmers in the area. And it's certainly worth visiting the children's home.
Our viewWe loved the relaxed, well integrated feeling here. There's a good sense of management and staff working well together. Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge is not the place to come for luxury, but if you're seeking a simple lodge, in a good location, with a real community slant, this could suit well.
Ideal length of stay: Stay 2 nights here as a base to explore the surrounding area.
Directions: Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge is about 15 minutes' drive off the main road from Arusha to the Ngorongoro Crater. However it can easily take twice as long after rain.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Joris ("George") and Marise Koch.
Staff: Ariane is the manager. There are 70 staff in total working for the project, including at the bakery, coffee shop and with the cows.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: We didn't get a chance to sample the food when we last visited Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge in April 2015 but the manager and chef gave us an idea of what to expect. The bread made at their own bakery here is used not just in the lodge but in the children's home. And incidentally the lodge also runs a a coffee shop on a nearby ridge which provides more local employment. The chef told us he is happy to cater for allergies or preferences.
Breakfast is served until 10.00am: usually a continental selection of cereals and fruit, followed by eggs cooked to order.
Lunch at the lodge is usually two or three courses, but many guests take a picnic lunch and head out on a full-day game drive.
Dinner begins at 7.30pm and is usually three courses. Meals are freshly prepared, with most of the vegetables and all the herbs grown in the lodge's extensive vegetable garden. An example of a previous dinner menu was fresh tomato soup, followed by rosemary chicken with rice and vegetables, and a baked fruit crumble to finish. There's a nice 'bush dinner' area on a little platform near the 'Honeymoon Tent' #16.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: All drinks are at extra cost.
Further dining info: Room service is possible at Rhotia Valley, although this would need to be arranged in advance as there are no phones in the rooms.
Attitude towards children: Children of all ages are welcome.
Special activities & services: The lodge can provide special meals for children, and their timings are flexible.
Equipment: The lodge doesn't provide any cots, highchairs or special equipment for children, but football games with the orphans can be quite a feature.
Generally recommended for children: Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge is a good option for families, as guests are given the opportunity to interact and play with children from the children's home associated with the lodge. It's a great opportunity for children to become involved with the local community.
Notes: The tents are raised up on wooden platforms, so are not suitable for very young children.
Power supply: Generator
Power supply notes: The generator is on from 6-9pm and a battery bank stores power for use during the rest of the day. They also use solar panels. There are sockets from which you can charge batteries in the tents, but the electricity in the lounge/dining area is stabilised, and therefore better for charging.
Communications: Wifi access is charged at US$5 per device per day.
TV & radio: There is no TV or radio for guests, but the staff TV can be shared on special occasions such as major sporting events.
Water supply: Borehole
Water supply notes: The new borehole provides all their needs - up to 15,000 litres per hour. This water is treated and used for drinking water (the government water agency in Moshi tested it and found it to be perfectly drinkable even before treatment). You can also buy plastic bottled water if you prefer.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: Rhotia Valley is run by doctors, so you're already in good hands. They havre all the basics here, but usually go to Dr Frank at the FAME clinic in Karatu if anyone needs more urgent or serious attention.
Dangerous animals: Moderate Risk
Security measures: Askaris (Maasai guards known as walinizi ) are on duty throughout the day and night. The lodge is partly fenced and there are two nice dogs who can distinguish between guests and intruders.
Fire safety: There are sand buckets by each tent, and one fire extinguisher for every three tents. They are occasionally checked by the fire department.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: They can do laundry, at extra cost, and not including underwear.
Money: Guests may store valuables in the safe at reception (inside the shipping container).
Accepted payment on location: Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge accepts Visa and MasterCard with a 3% surcharge. They also accept cash payment in US dollars,,pounds sterling, euros and Tanzanian shillings.