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MyDogKyle Jun 23rd, 2006 11:59 AM

Tanzania lodging -- opinions?
Hi everyone,

My husband and I are planning a 10th anniversary trip to Kenya and Tanzania for late Sept./early Oct. 2007. (I've already had some great feedback from this board.) At this point we are hoping to do a 10-day Kenya trip with Eastern & Southern, followed by a 10-day northern Tanzania trip with Green Footprint, both private safaris. We're very happy with our Kenya itinerary, but have some different lodging options for Tanzania and would love to hear opinions from people who have been to these places.

Here is the Green Footprint itinerary:

Day 1: Fly Nairobi to Arusha. (Karama Lodge)
Day 2: Arusha National Park, game drive and canoeing trip. (Karama Lodge)
Days 3-4: Tarangire National Park (Oliver’s Camp or Tarangire Safari Lodge)
Day 5: Lake Manyara, afternoon game drive, bush dinner and night game drive (Serena Manyara or Migunga Forest Camp)
Day 6: Village walk to Mto wa Mbu, hospital visit and lunch in a local home, then drive to Karatu and visit kids at an orphanage. (Plantation Lodge)
Day 7: Ngorongoro Crater game drive, followed by a hike on the crater rim. (Plantation Lodge or Ngorongoro Serena)
Day 8: drive back to Arusha in the morning to catch flight to Zanzibar. Overnight Stonetown (Emerson & Green)
Days 9-11: Zanzibar (Pongwe Beach)

1. Staying 2 nights at Tarangire Safari Lodge instead of Oliver’s Camp ($530 per person less)

2. Staying 1 night at Plantation Lodge and 1 night at Ngorongoro Serena Lodge ($200 per person more)

3. Staying at Migunga Forest Camp instead of Manyara Serena ($141 less per person)

Here are our questions:

1. Is Oliver’s Camp really worth the extra $1,000? It looks like a wonderful place and we know it’s smaller and more intimate, but we’re not sure it would be worth that much more money.

2. What about staying on the Crater Rim? Is it worth the extra cost for the view and proximity? Has anyone stayed at Plantation Lodge to visit the Crater – if so, how was the drive, and did you feel it was too far away? I know the tour operator is trying to emphasize smaller places and avoid the big lodges, but we wonder if we’d be missing out on something by not staying on the rim…

3. Opinions on Migunga Forest Camp versus the Serena lodge? (We would be having an afternoon game drive, a bush dinner and night drive, so would only be sleeping there and having breakfast the next morning.) Seems like it might be a good way to save money for some other part of the trip.

Thank you so much for any advice or opinions!

hguy47 Jun 23rd, 2006 12:58 PM

The first 7 days of your Tanzania itinerary sounds a lot like the middle part of ours (scheduled for February 2007), as well as many others, at least as to parks and number of days. We too are doing many of the same activities with Green Footprints, but are using a different operator for our arrangements. I haven't been to East Africa yet, but like you I have scrutinized the Fodor's forum and a jillion websites. The only thing I can offer for your consideration is some of the things I struggled with.

After much debate, we opted for Oliver's over Swala, River Camp, Treetops, and Safari Lodge for our Tarangire accommodations. A middle ground between Oliver's and Safari Lodge might be River Camp.

We opted for the Serena at Manyara, since most of our other lodgings are tents. I don't know much about Migunga Forest Camp but it looks like it might be a good money-saving alternative since you will be there only to sleep.

We also decided to splurge for the crater view at the Ngorongoro Serena, for the one night we are spending there.

As to whether any lodging comparison is "worth the money," those are always some tough calls, especially with the myriad of factors to be considered. It's certainly hard to ignore $500 per night, but I'm afraid only each individual can make those decisions (coach/business class, Jim Beam/Jack Daniels, tomato/tomahto), but the more input you can get the better. What I want to know is how did you get so comfortable with your Kenya itinerary? Telling you my travails may not help much, but good luck.

MyDogKyle Jun 23rd, 2006 01:44 PM

Thanks so much for the reply! You're absolutely right -- asking if something is "worth it" is pointless, because that's such a relative term. I'd just love to hear about other people's thought process when deciding on one camp or lodge over another, and possibly from someone who has stayed in these places.

I hope you have a great trip!

CarrieS Jun 29th, 2006 12:23 AM

We just returned from our safari and stayed at two of the places about which you are inquiring.

We stayed two nights at Tarangire Safari Lodge; it was very much like real camping--lots of bugs in the room, no electricity at certain times of the day, etc. The view was incredible, and we saw elephants from our bungalow. The staff was extremely attentive and kind. They were constantly asking how we were enjoying our stay. We really enjoyed our nightly flashlight escorted walks to and from dinner. The food was good for all meals. This is probably not a great spot for a 10th anniversary trip, unless you need to save money for a splurge later in your trip. Our two nights at the Safari Lodge allowed us to have three nights at Kirawira, and that was soooo worth it.

We also stayed at Ngorongoro Serena Lodge. The architecture is stunning and the view is breathtaking. The rooms are clean and cozy (it's cold in the Crater!!). Dinner and breakfast were both excellent. The staff was nowhere near as kind as at Tarangire Safari Lodge, but they were also much busier. In our room, we could open the double doors to the balcony and lie in bed looking at the Crater.

Hope this helps!

Bill_H Jun 29th, 2006 04:51 AM

"1. Is Oliver’s Camp really worth the extra $1,000?"

At Tarangire we stayed at the Sopa, which is somewhere between the prices of the two you mention (similar to Serena in price and quality). You might look at that option ... don't know anyone who stayed at Oliver's, people I know who stayed at your other option liked seeing elephants from the lodge but felt the accomodations were a bit rustic.

"2. What about staying on the Crater Rim? (ie, Serena vs Plantation Lodge)" ... we stayed on the rim at the Sopa (only lodge on other side) and had lunch at the Serena on our way to Serengeti, I think you will be very happy with either of these lodges on the rim for the view and quality. Dunno about Plantation.

"3. Opinions on Migunga Forest Camp versus the Serena (Manyara) lodge?" We've stayed at this Serena twice (5 nights total) and it's a very comfortable lodge with good food and great view, but for what you describe (not spending much time there) I'd probably vote for saving the money and staying in the forest.

Of the three Q's you posed I'd pay the extra for the crater rim, maybe not do the Serena Manyara, and maybe look at a quality lodge like Sopa in Tarangire for less than Oliver's, but of course it's your call.


climbhighsleeplow Jun 29th, 2006 05:40 AM


Only you know what you want from your safari and your ultimate budget - saving money is one thing, creating memories while celebrating 10 years of marriage is another! I normally opt for the latter while on safari.

1. I suggest you look at my pictures here of all the lodges you describe. You can also see where they are on the map (Plantation Lodge vs. Ngorongoro Serena for example.) Then pick the ones you fancy!

2. It is unfair to compare several combinations. Tarangire Sopa vs. Olivers are completely different experiences. If you want to hear wildlife at night and experience an exclusive evening around a fire with personal attention from the staff then Olivers is excellent. If you want large crowds and have a pool (with noisy kids) then the Sopa is great! If you expect to sit and watch wildlife from the lodge then the Tarangire Safari Lodge is great.

3. I read here that some people call the larger lodges luxurious! They are not. They are well-oiled tourist hotels where you are just another tourist in for a night or two. A face in a crowd. Make no mistake, I sometimes stay at these lodges when and where it makes sense but for a special anniversary trip you may want to look for more intimate! A splurge may be well worth it!

4. At Ngorongoro, don't miss staying on the rim. It is a once-in-a-lifetime view.

4. Migunga Forest vs. Manyara Serena. No comparison but look at my pics anyway! Spend the bit of extra money. When you wake up, the view alone is worth the few extra dollars. Arrange a private breakfast on the rim...

cybor Jun 29th, 2006 05:57 AM

Hello Mydog,
We stayed at the Ngo. Sopa recently on the rim of the crater. This, I feel, was a great location as it's a very easy location to access the crater with great views. The hotel itself however, wasn't my favorite although others disagree.

There's actually nothing wrong with the place, I just didn't find the place particularly intimate - but damn, the views and location are superb. You may be too busy looking into each others eyes and being thrilled seeing amazing wildlife to care. The sunsets there are spectacular BTW.

The one point I do want to make is that for the best wildlife viewing IMHO, you must be at the gate by 6:30am. This would be a long haul over the bumpy slow going roads, if you stay at the Plantation - something to consider. Although you certainly could do an afternoon drive. The down side of staying on the crater though, is you can't hike around the crater rim to my knowledge. More dilemmas - we should be all so lucky.
Good luck!

MyDogKyle Jun 29th, 2006 09:37 AM

Thanks so much, everyone! These are exactly the kinds of opinions we were hoping for. I know we'll have to weigh all the options and make our own choices based on the kind of experiences we want to have, but it really helps to hear from people who have been to these places.

jdavies Sep 3rd, 2006 07:26 PM

We are doing a similar route with green footprints in Oct 06. I will let you know how things went when we get back. Who have you been talking with?

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