Ndutu is a good-value lodge beside a lake in the short-grass plains of the Serengeti….
Ndutu Safari Lodge: Our full report
b>Ndutu Safari Lodge, which overlooks Tanzania’s Ndutu Soda Lake, was constructed in the 1960s by a former hunter, and renovated in 1985. Technically, the lodge lies on the northern border of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area but essentially offers a Serengeti experience. The wildebeest migration passes through here, usually between December and April, when the rains have made the plains lush and green.
Originally a tented camp, the lodge was established by George Dove, a professional hunter with a rather flamboyant moustache who gave up hunting and chose Ndutu as his regular campsite. Thus Ndutu has always been used exclusively for photographic safaris, and today, it offers comfortable, unfussy accommodation in solidly built cottages.
The bar and restaurant area at Ndutu Safari Lodge has views over the Serengeti. A large, plain stone room, it has solid, functional, wooden furniture and is decorated with animal horns, which lend the atmosphere of an old hunting lodge. The bar's thatched ceiling was previously supported by wooden beams, providing a climbing frame for resident genets. During refurbishment a few years ago the beams were removed – except for one, which was left specifically so that the genets would remain.
Outside, a ground-level birdbath just 20m in front of the restaurant attracts a stream of small birds, particularly flocks of Fischer's lovebirds, adding colour and noise to the scene. There’s also a firepit outside, and a small shop sells a range of curios, many of which are made by local women and people with disabilities as a source of income.
There are 34 stone-and-thatch cottages at Ndutu Safari Lodge. All are fairly close together in a long line that extends either side of the bar and restaurant area. All the cottages have a view of Lake Ndutu and each has its own small veranda, where you can sit and watch the wildlife.
Of the 34 cottages, 26 have twin beds, and five are triples and one accommodates two adults and two children, so would be suitable for a family. There are also two 'honeymoon cottages’ (numbers 12 and 35), which are both fairly distant from the centre. These are slightly more spacious than the twin-bedded cottages, and are dominated by beautiful, king-size beds made from the wood of a Zanzibari dhow.
The cottages are very cool inside, thanks to their stone construction and polished concrete floors, with no need for fans or air conditioning. Clean white walls are offset by the odd photo of African wildlife. Furnishings are simple, yet comfortable: cream director’s chairs, sturdy wooden tables, fun wrought-iron wall lights, shaped like guinea fowl, and cream bedspreads. Batik African cushions and Maasai throws add a touch of colour. Mosquito nets hang from hooks over the beds, and there are extra blankets for cool nights, while an umbrella is provided in case of rain.
Every cottage has electric lights, which operate only when the generator is on (usually 5.00am–1.00pm and 6.00pm–11.30pm). For other times, the cottages are equipped with torches and candles. The majority of the cottages have one plug socket for charging; there are more available in the main area.
Each cottage has a small en-suite bathroom, with a white-tiled shower, flushing toilet and single basin. Although fairly Spartan, these are perfectly adequate; just don't expect the toiletries to extend beyond small bars of soap. Filtered water for brushing teeth and drinking is provided. The lodge plans to upgrade the bathrooms in the coming year.
Ndutu tries quite hard to maintain an eco-friendly stance. Leaflets in each room detail the ways the lodge saves water and encourage guests to help. The lodge has a generator but power consumption is kept to a minimum. Solar heaters provide hot water for the showers. The meat comes from Arusha, while half of the fresh vegetables come from an organic farm near Kilimanjaro and the other half from the nearby town of Karatu, thereby supporting the local community.
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 in a Land Rover with one of the two driver-guides based at the lodge. They know the southern plains very well, but you'll need to book up to a year in advance.
Ndutu is a fascinating area to visit at any time of year, particularly for those interested in photography, as you can get very close to the wildlife. The game is at its most prolific during the < href="/tanzania/info/serengeti-wildebeest-migration">wildebeest migration, typically between December and April. 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.
The local landscape features marshlands, two lakes (Lake Ndutu and Lake Masek) and expanses of woodlands, all surrounded by the Serengeti's grassy plains. With advance notice, it may be possible to hire a park ranger to lead a walk.
For trips further afield, the Oldupai (aka Olduvai) Gorge museum is an hour's drive from the lodge, and the Ngorongoro Crater rim is about two-and-a-half hours' drive away.
Our viewNdutu Safari Lodge offers an inexpensive and central base from which to explore the short-grass plains of the southern Serengeti and the northern section of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. However, because it is very good value and in a great location, it gets very booked up during the wildebeest migration. You may need to book a year or more in advance to be sure of finding space here.
Ideal length of stay: During the dry season, one or two nights is typical, although when the wildebeest migration is passing through, from about December to April, some guests stay here for up to a week.
Directions: Most visitors to Ndutu Safari Lodge drive here with their own safari guide and 4WD, although it’s possible to fly to Ndutu airstrip, about 1km away.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Aardje Geertsema
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Meals at Ndutu Safari Lodge tend to be hearty, filling and fresh, but are certainly not gourmet. We weren’t able to sample the food on our last visit in November 2016, but we understand that a catering manager was employed in June 2016 and has been updating the menu, style and presentation. Some some changes can be expected from what we have described here, based on a previous stay.
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 or, for a small extra charge, a slightly more extensive 'breakfast basket'. A simple continental breakfast is available from 6.00am for guests wishing to depart early.
Lunch at Ndutu is from 12.30 to 2.00pm. When we stayed in 2015, we had a huge lunch, which all felt very homemade. There was a soup starter, followed by a chicken and mushroom pie with plain vegetables and a fresh salad. It was 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 to the table in individual dishes.
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 can go on a tab that is paid on departure. A beer or glass of wine costs around US$5, and a soft drink US$2. If you prefer to avoid paying for bottled drinking water, you can request filtered water (as provided in the cottages) in the dining room.
Further dining info: Room service is very limited. Guests can request early morning drinks to be delivered to their cottage before heading out on an early-morning game drive.
Walking safaris: Ndutu Safari Lodge is just inside the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, where walking safaris in Tanzania are allowed when accompanied by a park ranger. Walks last around two hours and concentrate on the woodlands near Lake Ndutu, and need to be arranged in advance.See more ideas for Walking safaris in Tanzania
Wildlife safaris: Ndutu Safari Lodge is a great base for wildlife safaris in Tanzania. It is ideally located for the short-grass plains of the southern Serengeti, especially during the wildebeest migration between about December and April, and the northern side of the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area, including the Olduvai Gorge.See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Tanzania
Attitude towards children: Children of all ages are welcome.
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: Ndutu Safari Lodge is very substantial, open and spacious, so is one of the better accommodation options 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. Due to the close proximity of dangerous game, we don't recommend Ndutu for very small children. Older children who can amuse themselves without excessive noise would be fine here.
Notes: Older children need to be closely supervised by their parents, as lion and other animals occasionally wander through camp.
Power supply: Generator
Power supply notes: Guests can charge cameras/cellphones when the generator is running from 6.00am to 10.00pm, in the bar and in about three quarters of the cottages. The plug sockets are UK-style three-pin.
Communications: There is limited cellphone reception at Ndutu, but guests are asked to use their phones only in their cottages; Skyping around the fire, and the like, is strongly discouraged. There is limited WiFi, both in terms of bandwidth and operating hours, in the main areas only.
TV & radio: There is no TV for guests at Ndutu.
Water supply: Other
Water supply notes: Bathrooms and laundry are supplied by slightly saline 'soda water' from the lake. Rainwater is collected and filtered for the kitchen and dining room, and is provided in the cottages.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: Ndutu has a first-aid room, and several staff are trained in basic first aid. The lodge has links with a flying doctor service in Arusha and there is a 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 asks all guests to stay within the lodge grounds for their safety due to the presence of wild animals. There are nightwatchmen on duty after dark to escort guests to and from their cottages.
Fire safety: There is a firebreak around Ndutu. All the cottages 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 is happy to exchange small amounts of currency for guests in US dollars, euros and GB pounds.
Accepted payment on location: Ndutu accepts most major currencies, as well as Visa and Mastercard credit cards with a 5% surcharge, provided the amount is at least US$20.