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Ndutu Safari Lodge
Ndutu Safari Lodge
Ndutu Safari Lodge

Ndutu Safari Lodge: Our full report

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 or double 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 34), 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 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.

In 2017 Ndutu created a family cottage with two separate bedrooms, a double and a twin, with a shared lounge and shared bathroom. We particularly liked the cottage, and it has been tastefully decorated with pale lilacs, creams and soft grays. For a family or two couples traveling together this could be a lovely choice.

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. 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 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. Having said this the resident game between June and October is still very good and you will be sharing it with far fewer vehicles. The local landscape features marshlands, two lakes (Lake Ndutu and Lake Masek) and expanses of woodlands, all surrounded by the Serengeti's grassy plains.

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 view

Ndutu 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.

Lyndsey Marris

Lyndsey Marris

Tanzania expert

Geographics

Location
Serengeti Migration Area, Tanzania
Ideal length of stay
During the dry season, two or three 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. Ndutu Safari Lodge is around a two-hour drive from the Ngorongoro Crater.
Accessible by
Fly-and-Transfer

Food & drink

Usual board basis
Full Board
Food quality
Meals at Ndutu Safari Lodge tend to be hearty, filling and fresh. We weren't able to sample the food on our last visit in February 2018, however speaking with the manager we understand that Ndutu Safari Lodge had recently brought in a new chef, and that guests regularly rated the food as excellent.

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'.

Lunch at Ndutu is from 12.30 to 2.00pm, and this is a three course set menu. 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 set menu, and is served to the table in individual dishes.

Special interests

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. Must be pre-arranged.
See ideas for Walking safaris
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 and the northern side of the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area.
See ideas for Wildlife safaris

Children

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.

Communications

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
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.
Fire safety
There is a firebreak around Ndutu. All the cottages have fire extinguishers and some staff have been trained to use them.

Activities

  • 4WD Safari

    4WD Safari

  • Birdwatching

    Birdwatching

  • Hot air ballooning

    Hot air ballooning

Extras

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. Card payments are possible via an online payment system.

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