Lamai Serengeti

Lamai Serengeti: Our full report

Rooms
12 rooms
Traveller's rating
Excellent (99%) From 28 reviews
Children
Best for 12+
Open
June to March

Nomad Lamai Serengeti lies in the far north of Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, just south of the border with Kenya. It's set high up in the beautiful Kogakuria Kopjes, with views out towards the Mara River Valley and the Lamai Wedge. Between July and October the camp has a prime position for the great wildebeest migration, and is close enough to the Mara River for guests to witness river crossings.

Lamai Serengeti is a high-quality operation promising some of the best guiding in Tanzania. It's a sister camp to Nomad Serengeti Safari, Kigelia Camp, Sand Rivers, Greystoke, Chada and the brand new Entamanu Ngorongoro.

With 12 spacious rooms in total, Lamai Serengeti is split into two separate camps of varying size. The smaller Private Camp has a maximum of five rooms, but requires a minimum booking of just two, while Main Camp uses the remaining 7–10 rooms. For groups of up to ten travelling together, Lamai also has an entirely self-contained property, Mkombe’s House Lamai, which lies on the other side of the kopje and has its own kitchen and team of staff.

All the rooms at Main Camp are nestled right between the kopjes. It's clear that a lot of thought has gone into positioning them to maximise privacy, while allowing each a spectacular sunrise or sunset view. On our last trip, in December 2016, we didn't even notice the room next to us until we were leaving, it was so well hidden! The placement of the rooms amongst the large boulders of the kopje means that it can be a bit of a hike from the main area. The walkways are quite steep in places, with lots of steps, and the altitude can be felt. Room no 5 is the closest to the main areas, with the fewest steps, so would be the most suitable for those with limited mobility. However taken slowly, the paths are quite manageable and you are rewarded by the incredible views and privacy of the rooms.

From the outside, the rooms look fairly simple, but inside they're impressive. Slightly reminiscent of a French country home, their scrubbed wooden floors, thick cream rugs and comfortable furnishings give a rustic homely feel. A central king-size bed is swathed in a mosquito net; to one side there's a simple white writing desk, and to the other, a day bed.

The walls are made mostly of plaster, but the front 'wall' is completely of mosquito gauze, allowing you to enjoy the views from the comfort of your bed. This also lets in a lot of light to the front, while at the back, glass bottles inset in the walls let in light but retain privacy.

Each room is entered through a stable door at the back, revealing a storage cupboard, stocked mini-fridge, and a small hatch in the wall. In the morning, the staff will wake you with a knock on your door, then leave your tea or coffee in this hatch, so you can rise at your leisure.

The en-suite bathroom, as spacious as the bedroom, features two aged-metal sinks set in a stone base, with a mirror above, and some pretty beaded pots containing soap. There is a flush toilet, and a shower slightly separated off by a small curved wall. There's also space to hang clothes, as well as another stable door onto the decking at the front. Here you’ll find a large wrap-around deck set with a couple of chairs and a small table.

Two of the rooms at Main Camp, designed with families in mind, have two bedrooms sharing a bathroom. (There is also a third room like this in Private Camp.)

Like the rooms at Main Camp, the communal areas are incredibly spacious, and designed to take advantage of the fantastic views. Although constructed of wood and concrete, the buildings are painted and finished in such a way that from a distance they almost disappear into the surroundings, with whitewashed walls, raw wood supports and twig-covered roofs.

The whole area has an incredibly relaxed, fresh and slightly quirky feel to it. Neutral creams and browns are offset by splashes of red and blue. All fabrics are sourced as locally as possible, and made up in Arusha, instead of being flown in from other countries as is sometimes the case. Everything else for the camp was sourced in East Africa.

The lounge area has plenty of comfortable sofas, placed to take advantage of the breeze that passes through, while in winter, a roaring fire is lit to ward off the evening chill. This is where you’ll meet your guide before game drives, and with a drink and canapés before dinner to discuss the next day's activities.

Slightly below the lounge is an open, circular seating area with stunning, sweeping views. To the left is a funky bar – look out for the tractor seats used as chairs, and oil-cans as lamp bases! A separate ‘library’ with a small selection of books, a sofa and a writing desk makes a good, private workspace.

In the dining area, you can continue to enjoy the views across the decking as you eat. Individual tables are set in a beautifully open room with a large fireplace and tiny mirrored shards decorating the walls.

Outside there's a swimming pool with a number of sunloungers and shaded seating, which can be a welcome addition during the hot months, between December and March. A small curio shop sells a variety of stylish Maasai-inspired jewellery, Tanzanian coffee and Nomad-branded items.

Private Camp is just below Main Camp and is designed in much the same style, with its own dining room, lounge and swimming pool. Though the central areas are smaller, they have the same cosy, homely feel. The bedrooms, however, are identical to those at Main Camp, including one family room. As the name suggests, Private Camp is available only on an exclusive basis to small groups with a maximum of ten people.

Although a few travellers arrive here as part of an extensive privately guided safari, in which case they'll probably head out with their own guide in a closed 4WD, most travellers fly in to the camp, as it is in the far north of the Serengeti. Thus activities at Lamai Serengeti revolve largely around drives in open-topped 4WDs with the camp’s experienced guides.

Between July and October, when the Serengeti's wildebeest migration is usually (but not always) in the area around the camp, the game viewing can be phenomenal. A real highlight is to try to observe one of the great 'river crossings'. The Mara River in this area is deep, permanent and fast-flowing, so watching hundreds, and often thousands, of animals swimming across – whilst trying not to get swept away or fall victim to the river's huge crocodiles – is a truly spectacular sight. You'll often need patience to see such an event, but it's well worth waiting for.

Even outside this time, however, the permanent water in the Mara River attracts very good resident game, so Lamai Serengeti is definitely worth visiting at other times of year, too. (Note, though, that it's closed during the long rains, in April and May.) We have previously visited in January, which is very much the off season here, and we enjoyed our two leopard sightings and four sightings of lion cubs completely by ourselves. Similarly, when we last visited, in December 2016, the lack of rain during the year meant that the wildebeest herds were out of synch with the seasons, and we were lucky enough to see a river crossing – with no one else there!

It is also possible to do bushwalks here at certain times of the year when the grass isn't too high. These are led by an armed scout and a guide and usually last a few hours.

Our view

Lamai Serengeti has a superb location and very good pedigree; there is little doubt that it is following in the footsteps of its high-quality sister camps. It may not appeal to purists seeking more elemental bushcamps with campfires and simple rooms; it's too substantial and well-appointed. That said, there is no air-con or satellite TV here either, and the beautiful interior design is unique yet rustic. It really suits those looking for great guiding and service, superb views and a touch of understated luxury.

Geographics

Location: Serengeti Migration Area, Tanzania

Ideal length of stay: A stay of 3–4 nights here is probably ideal, both to enjoy the resident game, and to give a good chance of seeing a river crossing during the migration, between about July and October.

Directions: You can either fly to Kogatende Airstrip, from where it’s a 30-minute drive to Lamai Serengeti, or – if you've stayed the previous night somewhere in the central Serengeti, Lobo or Loliondo – drive right to the camp.

Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer

Key personnel

Owner: Nomad

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Full Board

Food quality: We have visited Lamai Serengeti numerous times over the last few years, most recently in January 2014 and then again in December 2016. In 2014 we felt the food was good – if not the best food we have had in the Serengeti, then certainly not far off. However in 2016, the food was excellent and a highlight of our stay: delicious, from an imaginative menu, and beautifully presented and served.

During our stay, both breakfast and lunch were eaten at individual tables, but dinner was slightly more formal, and we all sat together around one long table.

The lodge needs to be informed of dietary requirements in advance, as there are no menu options available on the day.

For breakfast we had a selection of cereals, toast, fruit, yoghurt and fresh bread followed by a hot breakfast, cooked as we liked. To drink there were fresh juices, tea and coffee.

Lunch is sometimes taken out in the bush, but if you choose to return to the lodge then it's generally a buffet. This was our favourite meal: light and fresh, with salads, bites such as mini burgers, mini barritos with mango salsa and mince, vegetable or lamb kebabs with mint yoghurt, beetroot hummus, fried halloumi, and couscous or pasta salads. To finish there was a light dessert such as chocolate mousse, granita or coconut pancakes.

For dinner we enjoyed a fabulous curried carrot soup with freshly baked bread, breaded pork with a rich sweet sauce and vegetables, and a decadent chocolate fondant for dessert.

Dining style: Mixture of group dining and individual tables

Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining

Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included

Drinks included: Yes, except for premium drinks and champagne. Drinking water is supplied in the rooms. It is currently transported in until the camp’s own water-purification system is fixed.

Further dining info: Tea, coffee and hot chocolate can be delivered to your room with your wake-up call.

Special interests

Honeymoons: For good guiding, excellent service, stunning views and a touch of luxury, Lamai Serengeti is the perfect choice for a Tanzania honeymoon. With each room cleverly tucked away, you'll enjoy the seclusion and privacy offered here, and either a sunrise or sunset view.

See more ideas for Honeymoons in Tanzania

Wildlife safaris: Lamai Serengeti is in a great location for the wildebeest migration, which is typically from around July to October in this area. Outside of these months, it still offers great game viewing, with the bonus of very few people!

See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Tanzania

Luxury: Perfectly blending with its surroundings, Lamai is a haven of understated luxury. Natural materials, neutral tones and elegant design combine with fantastic, personal service to give one of the most tranquil and high-quality stays in the Serengeti.

See more ideas for Luxury in Tanzania

Children

Attitude towards children: Lamai Serengeti welcomes children over the age of 8.

Property’s age restrictions: Minimum age 8. Younger children may be permitted but this is decided on a case-by-case basis.

Special activities & services: Depending on availability of staff, children can do junior tracking with the Maasai guards or baking in the kitchen with the chefs.

Equipment: None

Notes: As with all safari camps, it's important to note that Lamai Serengeti is in a wilderness area, and children must be under the supervision of a parent or guardian at all times. The camp is set amongst large rocks which are tempting play areas, but it is extremely important that guests do not stray off the paths due to the potential proximity of dangerous wildlife.

Infrastructure

Power supply: Generator

Power supply notes: There are UK 3-square-pin plug sockets in each room and 24-hour power, but this does not support hairdryers so guests are asked not to bring them.

Communications: There is WiFi in the lounge/bar area, and cellphone reception throughout.

TV & radio: There is a staff TV that guests can watch for major sporting fixtures.

Water supply: Borehole

Water supply notes: Drinking water is supplied in the rooms and the bathrooms are fully plumbed in.

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: Yes

Medical care: Lamai Serengeti has first-aid kits in the office and vehicles, with some staff trained in first aid. For emergencies, the camp has links with a flying-doctor service.

Dangerous animals: High Risk

Security measures: There are askaris on duty throughout the night and they will escort you to your room in the evening.

Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in all the rooms and the main areas. The staff are well rehearsed in fire safety.

Extras

Disabled access: Not Possible

Laundry facilities: Laundry (excluding ladies' underwear) is included in the cost. It is line dried.

Money: There are safes in each of the rooms, and a larger one in the reception for valuables.

Accepted payment on location: Cash payments are accepted in US dollars, euros, pounds and Tanzanian shillings. Lamai Serengeti also accepts Visa and Mastercard for any extras, with a 7% surcharge, but not American Express.

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