Featured Lodge: Manyara Ranch Conservancy, Tanzania

sundowners at Manyara Ranch Conservancy
Much more than a place to sleep, Manyara Ranch Conservancy is a destination unto itself. Managed by and benefitting the non-profit African Wildlife Fund, the Conservancy lies in the Kwakuchinja wildlife migration corridor and is situated right next to Tarangire National Park in Tanzania.

Zebras and other herd animals often wander through the camp during sundowners (cocktail hour), providing plenty of entertainment as the evening begins. The Conservancy has a variety of wildlife habitats, including open savannah, acacia woodland, bush and riverine forest. As for human habitats, six exquisitely furnished tents have electric lights available at all hours, and the en suite bathroom includes flush toilet and shower with hot water on demand.

Read moreFeatured Lodge: Manyara Ranch Conservancy, Tanzania

Travel to Tanzania in 5-Star Style

On my recent tour of Tanzania, I visited dozens of lodges and tented camps in order to bring you the best of the best. This firsthand expertise allows me to create unforgettable safaris that truly match your travel goals.

While each traveler has unique needs, I’ve outlined a possible 11-day adventure safari with five-star accommodations below to give you an idea of what Tanzania has to offer. As an adventure safari, this sample itinerary hits northern Tanzania’s most famous wildlife areas and features overnights at some of the area’s finest tented camps – offering unprecedented intimacy with the East African landscape with all the comforts of five-star hospitality.

  • Day 1: Arrive Tanzania. Overnight at Lake Duluti Lodge.
    Lake Duluti Lodge is located on a 30-acre coffee farm next to a scenic crater lake on the outskirts of Arusha. Each of the 18 spacious chalets has a private deck with an amazing view of the ancient indigenous trees that provide shade to the farm’s coffee bushes.  Lake Duluti Lodge prides itself on its fine cuisine, five-star service, top-class amenities and eco-friendly architecture and operations.
  • Day 2: Arusha National Park. Overnight at Lake Duluti Lodge.
  • Day 2–4: Tarangire National Park & Manyara Ranch. Overnight at Manyara Ranch Conservancy.
    Manyara Ranch Conservancy is much more than a place to sleep; it’s a destination in and of itself. Guests have the unique opportunity to ride horseback among giraffes and zebras, go on morning safari walks, or enjoy night game drives on conservancy land. Zebras and other herd animals often wander through the camp during sundowners (cocktail hour). The six exquisitely furnished guest tents have electric lights available at all hours, and the en suite bathroom includes flush toilet and shower with hot water on demand.
  • Day 5: Lake Manyara National Park. Overnight at Lemala Ngorongoro.
    Lemala Ngorongoro is an intimate seasonal camp set in an ancient acacia forest near the rim of the crater, just a 15-minute drive from the crater floor. A small camp with nine luxury tents, the camp guarantees seclusion in a pristine forest environment. Each of the spacious standard tents has a king bed or two queen beds with duvets; gas heater; a leather couch; wood floors with rugs; 24-hour solar lighting; and an en suite bathroom with dressing area, flush toilet and a large safari shower. A family room is also available.
  • Day 6: Ngorongoro Crater. Overnight at Lemala Ngorongoro.
  • Day 7–10: Ngorongoro Conservation Area & Serengeti National Park. Overnight at Pioneer Camp.
    Located in the hill-dotted Moru Kopjes area of Tanzania’s south central Serengeti, Pioneer Camp offers superlative access to the annual migration and Big Five game. A large elevated lounge has sweeping views overlooking knobby granite outcroppings and the endless plains. Each of the 10 private tents pays homage to the mobile camps of the 1930s with solid wooden furniture and trunks, classic canvas chairs, throw rugs and gleaming copper wash basins.
  • Day 11: Fly back to Arusha for departure flight to U.S. or extension to Zanzibar.
Lake Duluti Lodge
Lake Duluti Lodge room
Pioneer Camp

Pioneer Camp lounge

Lemala Ngorongoro Camp

Lemala Ngorongoro Camp tented room

Manyara Ranch

Manyara Ranch tented room

Tanzania Day 3: Tarangire to Lake Manyara

Drinking freshly-brewed coffee on the veranda outside my tent while admiring the landscape of Tarangire National Park and Lokisale Reserve — simply put, it was the perfect start to my third full day in Tanzania. The view from Maisha Kikoti Safari Camp is quite breathtaking, as the camp is located on a peak east of Tarangire on land managed by the African Nature Conservation Trust. The camp is named for Kikoti Rock, an impressively large boulder on the hill’s peak that is easily seven stories high.

Herd of zebra

Herd of zebra near Kikoti Rock.

After breakfast, we headed out for a game drive through the reserve and park. Our first sight was a herd of about 250 zebras at a watering hole in Lokasale Reserve. It was truly breathtaking to see so many of these gentle creatures in one place. The birthing season for zebras is in early December, so we spotted many pregnant females.

Elephants

A herd of elephants gathers around a newborn to protect it from human onlookers.

Tarangire Park was also lush with wildlife. We saw herds of elands, impala, wildebeest, zebra, and elephants — including a one-month-old baby! Other notable animals a reedbuck, a steenbok (an antelope the size of a cocker spaniel), a klipspringer (an even smaller antelope adapted to climbing rocks), a pair of crowned eagles, a rock hyrax and some bush hyraxes (rabbit-sized cousins of the elephant) and several ostriches.

Zebras at Manyara Ranch

A great way to spend the day is viewing animals – such as these zebras – at Manyara Ranch

Next we headed toward Lake Manyara, stopping on the way to visit Manyara Ranch. The ranch is a 6-tent luxury camp on 45,000 acres of conservation area managed by the African Wildlife Fund. The camp is much more than a place to sleep; it’s a destination in and of itself. Zebras and other herd animals often wander through the site during sundowners (cocktail hour) and dinner. On-site activities include morning walks, night drives, and half-day horseback safaris. The camp can be accessed by road, or camp representatives can pick travelers up at the nearby Manyara airstrip.

We then embarked for a fun adventure — visiting Mungere Secondary School in a rural Maasai community outside of Manyara. One of my clients sponsors a student there and plans to visit the school on her next trip to Tanzania.

Mungere Secondary School

Classroom at Mungere Secondary School

The two-room schoolhouse was started in an area that badly needed it. Illiteracy is high in this community, and before the school was built there, the closest secondary school was many miles away. Since most people in the area get around by foot, that meant that few of the children who attended elementary school continued on into secondary school.

None of the main roads reach Mungere Secondary School. To get there, one must leave the main road and follow the cattle trail (an unmarked trail made by cattle hooves that occasionally becomes obscured by dust that blows over it). Turn left at the baobab tree, and continue down the trail toward the palm grove until you see the white brick building. That is the school.

Road to/from Mungere Secondary School

The main motor vehicle road near Mungere Secondary School in E’unoto, Tanzania. To get to the school, we turned on to the cattle trail.

We lost track of the cattle trail a few times, but the local Maasai were very friendly. Although not all of them spoke Swahili (the Maasai speak their own language at home and study Swahili as a second language at school), those who did were happy to point us on our way. They were clearly very proud of the presence of the school in their community.

Although the school was closed for holiday, we were able to meet one of the students and the groundskeeper (a graduate of the school), both of whom shared the name Emmanuel. The education offered at the school is clearly quite good, as they both spoke excellent Swahili and very good English.

Escarpment Luxury Lodge

Escarpment Luxury Lodge, Lake Manyara

We then headed on to Lake Manyara for a late lunch at Escarpment Luxury Lodge. The 16-cabin lodge is on a peak with excellent views of the large alkaline lake, and has an onsite pool and children’s wading pool. Each cabin has both an indoor and private outdoor shower, air-conditioning, and a large private veranda with a lake view. A private butler is assigned to the cabin for the length of the guests’ stay, so you are always interacting with the same staff — a lovely touch. Decor is modern European and South African design with local influences; the sculpture-like chandeliers, for example, feature blue faceted glass that resemble tanzanite. Our lunch was excellent, incorporating French techniques with a contemporary flair and artistic presentation.

Our final site visit of the day was at Kirumuru Manyara, a large 30-tent permanent camp that also overlooks Lake Manyara. The camp has two tents for families. Decor features kente-cloth bedspreads and upholstery, and activities offered by the camp include a nature walk and a three-hour hike to the nearby waterfall.

Exploreans

Exploreans Luxury Lodge spa area

Exploreans

Exploreans bedroom

After a long day of adventure, we were happy to arrive at Exploreans Lodge, a 20-cabin luxury resort close to Ngorongoro Crater. The grounds are astounding, with vast well-kept vegetable, flower and herb gardens. Cabins have a living room and bedroom and overlook a reserve and coffee plantation, with Ngorongoro Mountain off in the distance. Onsite amenities include massage and spa services, a swimming pool, sauna and jacuzzi. Individuals who want to take a break from safari can go on a guided plantation walk. The staff is very attentive and service is excellent, with most drinks and room service included in the package. The lodge even offers an extensive pillow selection; guests can order from about eight different pillow styles (such as buckwheat hull pillows) to ensure optimal comfort and a great night’s sleep. However, I found the standard pillow already provided in the room to be plenty comfortable, and fell right asleep as soon as my head touched it.

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