Ndutu is a good-value lodge beside a lake in the short-grass plains of the Serengeti….
Ndutu Safari Lodge: Our full report
Originally a tented camp, Ndutu Safari Lodge, overlooking Ndutu Soda Lake, was constructed in 1967 by George Dove – a professional hunter with a rather flamboyant moustache – who gave up hunting and chose Ndutu as his regular campsite. Today, having been taken over and renovated in 1985, Ndutu is relatively big – with 34 very solid cottages offering comfortable, unfussy accommodation. Technically, the lodge lies on the northern border of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area – but because it's essentially a Serengeti experience, we've included it in our section covering the Serengeti Migration Area.
The migration passes through here between December and May when the rains have made the area lush and green. During this time wildlife is at its most prolific. As the rain moves on, the plains game follows, although lion, leopard and cheetah remain, as do giraffe, buffalo, elephant and many of the antelope. It’s a fascinating area to visit at any time of year – and particularly for those interested in photography as you can get very close to the wildlife here.
The bar and restaurant area at Ndutu Safari Lodge has views out over the plain, and a firepit outside. It's a large, plain stone room with solid, functional, wooden furniture. Animal horns around the room help it to retain the feeling of an old hunting lodge, despite being used exclusively for photographic safaris since 1967. The bar's thatched ceiling was previously supported by a number of wooden beams which worked like a climbing frame for a the local genets. During refurbishment a few years back the beams were removed – except one, which was left in specifically so that the genets would remain.
Outside, a ground-level birdbath stands 20m from the front of the dining room. This attracts a stream of small birds, particularly flocks of Fischer's lovebirds, adding colour and noise to the scene.
A small shop sells a range of curios - many of which are made by local women and disabled people as a source of income.
There are 34 stone-and-thatch cottages at Ndutu Safari Lodge. They're all fairly close together in a long line that extends either side of the central bar/restaurant area (numbers 14-35 to the west of the main building and numbers 1–12 to the east), and all with a view of Lake Ndutu. Each room has its own small veranda, where you can sit and watch the wildlife pass by.
Inside, the cottages are generally very cool, thanks to their stone construction and polished concrete floors (hence no need for fans or air-conditioning). Clean white walls are offset by the odd photo of African wildlife and some colourful batik art. Furnishings are simple, yet comfortable: cream-canvas directors’ chairs, sturdy wooden tables, fun wrought-iron wall-lights shaped like guinea fowls and pale-cream bedspreads. Extra blankets are provided for cool nights, and an umbrella in case of rain. Mosquito nets are available, if requested, to be hung from the hooks over the beds. Every room has electric lights, which operate only when the generator is on (usually 5am–1pm and 6pm-11.30pm), but there are also torches and candles for use when the generator is off. Most rooms have plug sockets (usually just one), but there are more available for charging in the lounge/dining room.
Of the 34 rooms at Ndutu Safari Lodge, 26 have twin beds, and five are triple. There are also two 'honeymoon rooms' – numbers 12 and 35 – which are both fairly distant from the centre. These are slightly more spacious than the other double rooms, and are dominated by beautiful, solid, kingsize beds made from the wood of a Zanzibari dhow. The last room is a family room, which can accommodate two adults and two children.
Each of the rooms at Ndutu has a small en-suite bathroom, which incorporates a white-tiled shower, flushing toilet and a single basin. The bathrooms are fairly spartan, though perfectly adequate; just don't expect the toiletries to extend beyond small bars of soap.
Note that the water in the bathrooms comes from a borehole near the lake, roughly 2km from the lodge, and contains dissolved minerals which cannot be removed very easily. This water is a little salty, so acceptable for a shower but unsuitable for drinking. Instead, small bottles of drinking water for brushing teeth and drinking are provided in the rooms.
Ndutu tries quite hard to maintain an eco-friendly stance. Leaflets in each room detail the way the lodge aims to save water and encourages guests to help them. Laundry is done by hand: there are no tumble driers here! The lodge has a generator but power consumption is kept to a minimum. Solar water heaters provide hot water for the showers. All fresh vegetables and meat come from the nearby town of Karatu, thereby supporting the local community.
The Oldupai Museum (aka Olduvai Museum) is only an hour's drive from Ndutu Safari Lodge, and the Ngorongoro Crater rim is about 2½ hours' dusty drive away. Activities at Ndutu Safari Lodge focus on game drives with your private driver in the vehicle that brought you here. However, it's also possible to fly in to Ndutu and do game drives with one of the two driver-guides based at the lodge in their two Land Rovers. They know the southern plains very well, and you'll need to book up to a year in advance. In the Ndutu area there are marshlands as well as two lakes (Lake Ndutu and Lake Masek) and expanses of woodlands – all surrounded by the Serengeti's grassy plains. Most safaris from the lodge will be on 4WD game drives, but keen walkers might note that, with advance notice, it may be possible to hire an NCAA ranger to lead a walk in the area.
Our viewNdutu Safari Lodge offers an inexpensive and very central base from which to explore the short-grass plains of the southern Serengeti and the plains of the northern section of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Note that because Ndutu is very good value, and in a great location, it gets very booked up when the migration is passing through. You may need to book a year or more in advance to be sure of finding space here.
Ideal length of stay: Two nights – although when the migration is around, from about December to April, some guests will stay here for up to a week.
Directions: Most visitors to Ndutu Safari Lodge will drive here with their own safari guide and 4WD, although there is an airstrip, Ndutu, about 1km from the lodge.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Aardje Geertsema
Staff: Manager: Ainslie Wilson oversees 67-77 staff depending on season.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Meals at Ndutu Safari Lodge tend to be hearty, filling and fresh, but certainly not gourmet.
Breakfast, from 7.00am to 9.00am, consists of a self-service buffet of fresh fruit, cereals and juices. A cooked breakfast and hot drinks can also be ordered. For guests leaving earlier or later, Ndutu will arrange a packed breakfast. A simple continental breakfast is available from 6.00am for guests wishing to depart extra early. For a small extra cost they will arrange a ‘breakfast basket’ to take out with you – similar to the packed breakfast, but a little more extensive and packed in a nice basket.
Lunch at Ndutu is 12.30–2.00pm. We had a huge lunch, which all felt very homemade. It started with soup, followed by a chicken and mushroom pie with plain vegetables and a fresh salad – all served to the table in glass bowls, from which we helped ourselves.
As at lunch, the four-course dinner (7.30–9.00pm) is substantial, and is served in individual dishes to the table.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: No drinks are included; these are bought separately from the bar – and bar bills should normally be settled at the end of the evening in cash. A beer costs around US$4, and a soft drink US$1.50. If you prefer to avoid paying for bottled drinking water,you can request filtered water, as provided in the rooms, in the dining room.
Further dining info: Very limited. Guests can request early morning drinks to be delivered to their rooms before heading out on an early morning game drive.
Walking safaris: Walking isn’t allowed in many areas of the Serengeti National Park, but Ndutu Safari Lodge is just inside the Ngorongoro Conservation Area – where walking safaris are allowed, provided that you are accompanied by an NCAA ranger. Such walks typically last around two hours and concentrate on the woodlands near Lake Ndutu. They usually need to be arranged in advance.See more ideas for Walking safaris in Tanzania
Wildlife safaris: Ndutu Safari Lodge is a great base for visiting the short-grass plains of the southern Serengeti, and the northern side of the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area, including the Olduvai Gorge. Game drives and walks are possible here, with huge herds of wildebeest congregating during the great migration, typically between about December and April.See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Tanzania
Attitude towards children: Ndutu Safari Lodge is very substantial, open and spacious – so it is one of the better lodges or camps in the area for children. Birds and animals are seen from the lodge, and there is a small box with a few games at the bar for guests use – so older children who can amuse themselves without excessive noise would be fine here.
Property’s age restrictions: There are no age restrictions at Ndutu.
Special activities & services: Earlier children's meals can be arranged.
Equipment: Cots are available for babies. During meal times, extra cushions can be placed on chairs.
Generally recommended for children: Yes – for older children (around 8–10 years old or more) who can be supervised by their parents. Due to the close proximity of dangerous game, we don't recommend Ndutu for very small children and even older children need to be supervised by their parents, as lion and other animals occasionally wander through camp.
Communications: There is limited cellphone reception at Ndutu, but guests are asked to use their phones only in their rooms – skyping around the fire, and the like, are strongly discouraged. Guests can charge cameras/cellphones when the generator is running, both in the bar and in about three quarters of the rooms. As everywhere in Tanzania, the plug sockets are UK-style three-pin.
TV & radio: There is no TV for guests at Ndutu.
Water supply: Other
Water supply notes: Bathrooms and laundry are supplied by saline 'soda water' from the lake. Rain water is collected and filtered for the kitchen and dining room.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: Ndutu has a basic first-aid kit, and a number of the staff are trained in basic first aid. They have links with a flying doctor service in Nairobi and Arusha. There's also a very good American doctor in Karatu. For guests bringing breathing apparatus, there is normally a US$50 per night charge to keep the generator on. Alternatively, bring your own battery pack.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Ndutu ask all their guests to stay within the lodge grounds for their safety due to the presence of wild animals. There are nightwatchmen on duty from the evening and throughout the night to escort guests to and from their rooms with torches.
Fire safety: There is a firebreak around Ndutu. All the rooms have fire extinguishers and some staff have been trained to use them.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: A laundry service is available at an extra charge of US$1–2 per item. All laundry is hand-washed and sun-dried. Weather permitting, items sent to the laundry in the morning are usually returned later that day.
Money: Ndutu are happy to exchange small amounts of currency for guests.
Accepted payment on location: Ndutu accept most major currencies and Visa and MasterCard credit cards without any surcharge, provided the amount is at least US$20.