Kuria Hills is the smartest of all the Lemala properties in Tanzania.
Lemala Kuria Hills: Our full report
Opened in 2013, Lemala Kuria Hills is the most luxurious of Lemala’s camps in Tanzania. It is located in the scenic Wogakuria Hills, in the northern Serengeti, about a 30-minute drive from the Mara River. The great wildebeest migration passes through this part of the Serengeti, typically between July and October.
Lemala Kuria Hills is set on the brow of a hill in a small private concession, with lovely views of the Serengeti plains below. The landscape is dominated by huge boulders and rocky outcrops known as kopjes.
The camp’s main area comprises two permanent tented structures on different levels, both raised clear of the hillside. When we visited in December 2016, the manager told us that 2017 may see some subtle updates to the décor, but this was how we found it.
In the first tent is a spacious lounge, decorated in a modern style, with sofas and chairs in neutral colours and rugs scattered on polished wooden floors. Contemporary chandeliers, hanging from the tented ceiling, complete the look. Fireplaces at each end of the lounge provide cosy meeting places for guests on chilly evenings and there is a substantial bar at one end.
Accessed from the lounge by a wooden walkway, the dining area is furnished in the same clean and modern style, with lots of dark wood and neutral cream colours. Individual dining tables are covered with white tablecloths and surrounded by high-backed chairs. On one side of the area there’s another fireplace decorated with African artefacts.
It’s worth noting that while the managers are always available, Kuria Hills is not a hosted camp and guest parties usually eat at their own tables.
Outside, a large faux-wood deck runs high above the hillside, linking the lounge and dining areas. Tucked away at one end, a sandy-floored firepit, surrounded by canvas chairs, is a popular spot for pre-dinner drinks or an early-morning tea or coffee.
Sandy paths lead from the main areas to the 15 spacious tented rooms, all of which can be set up as triples, and four of which can be quads. These are quite spread out, which means that each is completely private, with views to the north, east or west. Some are a fair walk from the main area, though, either up or down relatively steep hills; guests with mobility issues should request a room close to the heart of the camp.
The tented rooms are entered through a small hallway at the back, where there’s built-in clothes storage, tea- and coffee-making facilities and a fridge stocked with water and soft drinks. In front of this area, a mosquito-netted double bed, or twin beds, face the view through sliding glass doors. There is a lounge area with a sofa, chair and coffee table to one side. The canvas walls of the rooms are relatively solid (these are certainly not traditional safari tents) and are hung with striking African portraiture, while stylish modern sculptures are dotted around the room.
More sliding glass doors lead from the bedroom to the en-suite bathroom, where two square basins are set atop a wooden plinth, with large round mirrors above. A deep, free-standing bath stands in front of the window and separate cubicles house a funky, glass-enclosed shower and a flush toilet.
In front of the tent is a decent-sized deck, with a table and chairs, sunloungers and a private plunge pool. An outdoor shower is tucked around the corner.
Lemala Kuria Hills has a lovely private spa area a short walk from the central area. Massages, manicures and pedicures are offered in an open-fronted room looking over the bush where buffalo frequently wander. A glistening swimming pool affords welcome respite from the afternoon heat. Set beneath a high rocky outcrop that attracts birds and rock hyrax it has decking on three sides dotted with sunloungers and umbrellas, and it also has its own changing room and toilet.
Activities at Lemala Kuria Hills centre on 4WD game drives. These focus either on the resident game or, when the wildebeest migration is passing through, on the predator interactions with the herds and the crossings along the Mara River. When the grass is not too long, it’s also possible to go on walking safaris (at an extra cost), accompanied by a guide, askari guard and park ranger – but please note that walking is not available in June.
Our viewLemala Kuria Hills offers modern, luxurious, hotel-like accommodation for travellers hoping to witness the migration. Far from being bush living, its clean lines and contemporary design can seem a little soulless for a safari camp. As it is in the higher price bracket, it would suit honeymooners or first-time safari travellers prepared to pay a relatively high price for real comforts and a little separation from the natural world.
Ideal length of stay: During the migration you could easily spend four nights in this part of the Serengeti following the movements of the wildebeest. Out of season, about three nights here would provide a quiet, offbeat experience with some good resident game and far fewer people. A stay here can be combined with Lemala Kuria Hills’ sister camps: Lemala Ngorongoro, the seasonal Lemala Mara and Ndutu camps, Lemala Ewanjan, and Lemala Manyara.
Directions: Lemala Kuria Hills is a 45-minute drive from Kogatende Airstrip, in the northern Serengeti.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Lemala Camps
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: When we visited Lemala Kuria Hills in December 2016, we were unable to stay to eat, but we understand that meals follow roughly this pattern. Most dietary requirements can be catered for with advance notice.
Breakfast, served from 6.00am , is usually a buffet with a selection of fresh fruit, cereals, porridge, tea, coffee and fresh fruit juices, plus a cooked option of bacon, eggs and sausage. Picnic breakfasts are available too.
Lunch and dinner are served from around 12 noon and 7.00pm respectively. Expect a soup starter followed by a choice of three main courses, usually red meat or chicken, with a large salad and always one vegetarian option. This is finished off with a choice of two desserts. From June 2017, an à la carte menu will be offered instead, with a choice of six dishes for each course.
When there is a large number guests, Kuria Hills like to offer themed evenings including barbecues, Indian dining and pizza nights (there is a pizza oven on the veranda).
Afternoon tea, with freshly baked cakes, can be served on request before heading off on an evening game drive.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Most drinks are included, including sparkling wine. Champagne and premium wines and spirits are extra. Drinking water passes through the camp's reverse-osmosis water purification system and is excellent.
Further dining info: Room service is available on request – Kuria Hills has phones in the rooms.
Attitude towards children: Lemala Kuria Hills welcomes children of any age, but relies on parents’ discretion.
Property’s age restrictions: No minimum age
Special activities & services: There are a few board games in the main area and the swimming pool will keep many kids happy. Lemala Cubs is a programme designed for younger guests, offering a range of locally inspired activities around the camp, but there is no formal childcare. Early meals can be arranged.
Equipment: There is one travel cot but no highchairs.
Generally recommended for children: Although Lemala Kuria Hills welcomes children of any age we feel that it is more suitable for older, mature children aged over 10.
Notes: Parents need to be aware that the camp is not fenced and that dangerous big game wanders around it day and night. It is the camp’s policy that children may not be left unattended in their rooms at night.
Power supply: Solar Power
Power supply notes: The camp is run mainly by solar power but there is a back-up generator. Power is available in the rooms day and night.
Communications: WiFi is available in the rooms but not in the communal areas.
TV & radio: There are no TV’s or radio here.
Water supply: Borehole
Water supply notes: Water for washing comes from a borehole and is solar-heated. Flush toilets and hot and cold running water are provided in all tents.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: There is a first-aid box in camp. The nearest clinic is at Migumu, two hours’ drive away, just outside the park. In an emergency, patients can be airlifted to Arusha, which is a flight of about 90 minutes.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Askaris (guards) are on duty 24 hours a day and there is also a park ranger based in the camp.
Fire safety: Fire extinguishers are located at all the tented rooms as well as in the main areas. All staff have fire safety training.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: Laundry is available and included in the cost. It is done by machine and so the camp also washes underwear.
Money: There are safes in each tented room.
Accepted payment on location: Cash payments may be made in US dollars and Tanzanian shillings. Visa and Mastercard are accepted at an additional 5% cost.