For our stay in the Serengeti, we used our favourite safari company, &Beyond. They arranged our airport pickups, drop offs, accommodation in the Serengeti, and the flights in between the lodges on the small bush aircraft. Here’s why you’ll want to explore with &Beyond.
Having done a number of safaris in southern Africa, Cathy and I decided that one of our bucket list trips had to be a journey to the Serengeti.
The Serengeti region spans over 30,000 square kilometres in northern Tanzania, bumping up against the Kenyan border. The region comprises grasslands and woodlands and is known for its high biological diversity and massive annual migration of wildlife.
Getting to the Serengeti
We decided to couple the Serengeti trip with a visit to my sister, who resides in South Africa, and therefore we flew first to Nairobi on British Airways. One, because of convenience and two, because it’s one of the very few daylight flights over Africa. Even at 33,000 feet, flying over the Sahara desert is spectacular—we loved it.
On arrival in Nairobi, we stayed overnight at the Fairmont The Norfolk hotel, which dates back to 1904, and is a hidden gem with quite an alluring old world charm. Having had a good night’s rest at the Fairmont, the next morning we set off for a short flight to Kilimanjaro International Airport in Tanzania.
Security at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi is quite daunting due to the occasional terrorist activity in the country, yet at no point did we ever feel unsafe. In fact, given the strict number of checks we went through, we felt totally safe at all times. However, security does take longer than typical at other airports.
We flew Kenya Airways Business Class from Nairobi to Kilimanjaro, and the service was great. It’s a short flight, somewhere around 40 minutes. The captain on this flight was an avid photographer-weather conditions were so good that he flew us close to, and actually slowly around Mount Kilimanjaro’s peak. What a great start to a bucket list trip!
Touring the Serengeti with &Beyond
For our stay in the Serengeti, we used our favorite Safari company, &Beyond. They arranged our airport pickups, drop offs, accommodation in the Serengeti, and the flights in between the lodges on the small bush aircraft. So on arrival at Kilimanjaro airport, we were met by our & Beyond driver who was an Arusha local, and a very friendly lady. We learned a lot about the country and its culture from her on the one hour drive to the Arusha Coffee Lodge, where we would stay one day before heading into the Serengeti.
Early the next morning we boarded our bush flight, along with a few other guests, to the Ngorongoro airstrip. As a pilot, I relished in the stick and rudder flying skills of the various crew that we would encounter during our stay in the Serengeti, and on some occasions, was able to sit in the copilot seat and actually experience bush flying for the first time.
Arrival at the Serengeti
On arrival, our &Beyond tracker was there to meet and greet us with coffee and snacks, then drove us through the entrance to the Serengeti Park, about forty minutes to the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge. The Lodge has been called “the game lodge at the top of the world”. Between the natural riches of the crater spread out at its feet, and the incredible architecture, it’s easy to believe you’ve entered a realm of pure fantasy.
Nearly 3 million years old, the ancient caldera shelters one of the most beautiful wildlife havens on earth. Endangered black rhinos are protected within its rim, giant tusk elephants wander the forests, male lions stalk the grasslands, and flamingos crowd the soda lakes.
Nowhere else on earth can you wake up among all the trappings of an elegant Baroque chateau that transports you into one of the most famous African landscapes. Victorian furnishings and whimsical African touches create a sumptuous atmosphere that is as elegant and unique as the crater itself. Divided into three camps, thirty suites with banana leaf ceilings and grassroots make up the Crater Lodge, providing an intimate and exclusive experience.
What to Expect on Your Serengeti Safari
Each camp has its own sitting and dining area with private butlers who provide warm personal service, like we experienced from all the Tanzanian people we met on our trip. Guests can be forgiven for losing track of which era, or even which continent they’re experiencing at the lodge, and everything is chosen to delight the imagination and enhance the views of the magnificent surroundings. Like all &Beyond lodges, meals and drinks are included, and are so culturally delicious, that I typically gain weight when I’m on a trip.
On the day of arrival we took the optional visit to a local Maasai village to gain a better understanding of the culture. I highly recommend this. It’s about a two hour visit, and it’s very eye-opening in terms of traditional Maasai life. The next two days we ventured into the basin and spotted wildlife in abundance. I have to say that because you are in a vast volcanic basin, it does tend to feel a tad like Jurassic Park, compared to the vast, ever-changing open bush we usually experience.
Camping, or Glamping, in the Serengeti
Our next stop on our journey was Serengeti Under Canvas. I’m not a person who typically tents, so I did this with a little trepidation. In reality, camping is the way to experience a classic tented safari. And this is really “glamping”. In soothing solitude and spectacular comfort, only the canvas walls of your tent separate you from the wonders of the Serengeti National Park. The camp moves five times a year, and attempts to anticipate the movements of the Great Wildebeest Migration, bringing guests as close as possible to the wildebeest action, as well as exploring magnificent resident wildlife. There are just nine tents nestled at each private campsite, and guests enjoy the luxury of complete contentment for their nights spent in the African bush. Using only private campsites, these mobile camps are intimate and very exclusive, the ultimate in luxury camping.
The experience comes complete with a private butler service, silverware, crystal glasses, an ensuite flush toilets, heated outdoor bucket-style showers and comfortable beds with fluffy duvets.
The guest areas include a dedicated setting and dining tent, which provides deep sofas from which to contemplate the vastness and peace of the surrounding landscape, and relax under the dark velvet night sky. Guests savour hearty cuisine served on sparkling crystal and silver, and cluster around a roaring campfire (locally known as the bush TV, which has only one channel) as stories of the day’s magic are shared. Together, everyone listens to the African night come alive. Don’t be surprised to hear wildlife around your tent during the night! On one occasion we heard lions very close, luckily the camp is well-guarded by armed watchmen, just in case.
This part of our safari was quite dusty as it was December and hadn’t encountered the wet season yet. And for those who have hay fever or dust allergies, make sure to take Claritin or your preferred allergy medication to clear up the side effects. You don’t want to miss out on the magic of the Serengeti as it comes to life! And having lunch in close proximity to 1000 wildebeest is such an experience, and a memory that we will never forget.
Our three nights in the heart of the park was so special in every way. We were pampered by our personal butler, who would arrange hot water for showers after we returned from a game drive, and coffee, tea and cookies when we woke in the morning. All other meals are in the dining tent where you can either choose to be private or mingle with the few other lucky guests.
A Stop at Klein’s Camp
A third stop was in the north of the Serengeti park at Klein’s Camp, located in a remote corner of the game-rich Serengeti. A 10,000 hectare wildlife concession leased from the Maasai landlords offers guests an exclusive Tanzanian experience at Klein’s Camp. It’s perched on the edge of the Cuca hills. The camp commands breathtaking views down the valley that borders the Serengeti, and the Masai Mara National Reserve in the north, this camp is a stone’s throw from the Kenyan border. Enjoy exclusive game-viewing, thrilling night game drives, bush dining, Maasai culture and old-fashioned safari luxury.
Boasting one of the finest views in Africa, afternoons are spent on your personal veranda overlooking smoky views of distant hills, wooded hillsides, rolling grasslands, and forested riverbanks all teeming with rich wildlife. Cathy and I even pampered ourselves to having individual massage therapy on the patio off our lodge, because the six days prior to this, we’d been on the move quite a lot.
My main irritation on this piece of the stay was the short stretch from the airstrip to the lodge, which passed through a buggy region. Tsetse flies swarmed and followed us from the airstrip to within about three kilometres of the lodge. Then suddenly they disappeared, and were no more, due to the change of vegetation and landscape. Fly swatters were provided, as these insects really do bite.
Three more days of nights, being up close with lions and cubs, elephants, and all sorts of stunning African creatures, was capped by an impromptu bush campfire. In the middle of nowhere, with a sofa and bean bag chairs, a full portable bar finished off what has been one of my life’s greatest adventures. Cathy and I will always remember the proud, friendly people of Tanzania, and we hope to return again to explore more of the region soon.
TLW Tip: Don’t Miss Tanzania’s Arabica Coffee
It was at The Coffee Lodge, an oasis of calm outside the hustle and bustle of Aruba, that I first tasted Tanzania’s awesome Arabica coffee. After check-in formalities were completed, we strolled for a bite to eat at the Coffee Lodge dining room, where I learned how it got its name. I simply ordered coffee and a snack at the restaurant. And it was without doubt the best coffee I’ve ever tasted on any continent.
Interested in learning more about &Beyond experiences? We experienced &Beyond’s Phinda Private Game Reserve as well.
For Andrew, travel is so much more than just learning history or taking photos. Rather, the value of travel is witnessing a lifestyle, bonding with locals, and gaining rich cultural experiences. That’s why he founded the Luxury Wanderer; a place to share itineraries, offer advice, swap stories, and foster a like-minded community of curious travellers.