Time in the Ngorongoro Crater is unforgettable in itself but staying in one of our selection of luxury lodges can turn your visit into a wonderfully rounded experience that will stay with you forever.
Our last review dealt with the magnificent crater itself and the sights you can expect to see. This article deals with your accommodation options. Once you’ve decided that you’re going to visit the Ngorongoro Crater it pays to consider how you wish to approach the time you’re there. The choices fall broadly into two options – on the crater rim, or on the outer slopes – there are benefits to each and so its largely down to your own preferences for the type of experience you hope for.
It’s worth considering each of the two options – inner or outer – before making a decision. Your choice might be dictated by the time you have available (in which case you’ll probably opt for the ‘Rim’ lodges) but if you’re not tied by time constraints then you could consider a mix of both options to give you a true appreciation of this wonderful area.
Let us explain…
Outer Crater slopes and immediate hinterland
You’ll probably choose to stay in any one of these lodges if you want to enjoy some of the immediate rural areas that surround the crater – to better understand its culture, agriculture and lifestyles – a well worthwhile alternative to a single minded dash to the crater. Alternatively, if your time is limited and you need to be in close proximity to the crater then scroll down the ‘Crater Rim’ options below.
Voted Best Safari Hotel in Africa in 2011, Gibbs Farm has continued its outstanding standards and overwhelming feel of ‘being at home’ if a sumptuous colonial lifestyle, strongly bonded with African culture is what you’re used, or aspire to!
We’d have been happy to stay here indefinitely, irrespective of the proximity to Ngorongoro Crater. Gibbs has the luxury and comfort that any traveller with high expectations wants but without the pomp and pretentiousness of many high-end establishments. Its presentation and service is as natural as its surroundings and you’ll need a couple of nights, at the very least, before you feel that you’ve fully enjoyed the ambiance and options available to you at this charming hotel.
The farm house itself is replete with original wooden beams, comfy sofas and quiet areas, old conservatory dining and paneled bar to help you settle in; whilst your own private cottage, one of only seventeen, with its. own fireplace and wrap around windows, gives you privacy and a sense of surveying your own plantation with the stunning views that each affords.
From early morning coffee on your own cottage veranda, overlooking the working organic farm and coffee plantation as the sun colours-in the landscape, to the numerous distractions of the day on offer – whether cycling, spending time with local cultural activities or simply enjoying ancient Maasai rejuvenation treatments – to early evening dining with excellent cuisine prepared from the dairy, vegetable gardens and bakery; you’ll wonder why you have to move on.
Situated on the afforested outer slopes of the Ngorongoro Crater, it will take a good hour or two to get into the crater, so a good proportion of your day would be used in travelling to and from Gibbs Farm, if you were hoping to cover the crater in a day. Better to stop here on the way in, or out, for a couple of days but to stay on the crater rim itself for safari.
We recommend this stopover because of its quality and environment that doesn’t simply rely on its position – enabling you to understand and enjoy your surroundings and local culture, rather than making your crater visit too rushed.
Gibb’s Farm website
Part of the Tanganyika Collection of hotels and lodges, Kitela offers an absolutely outstanding contemporary African approach to your luxury safari experience. The huge open plan dining area approached from a broad and airy courtyard sets the scene for something special as you gaze out over the parched plains beneath you.
You’re immediately aware that this lodge has been ‘designed’ rather than simply following convention. The clever use of natural materials to construct the massive doors and vaulted ceilings suggest an evolution of traditional African architecture into the modern world – an extremely pleasing and visually impressive solution to safari luxury.
Your beautifully appointed thatched cottage is as much a welcome surprise, as you sink into the sumptuous muslin-screened bed and cast your eyes to the same stunning views. Your cottage is spacious and elegant, again reflecting tradition with a modern approach.
The lodge and twenty luxury cottages are situated on the wooded outer slopes of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. That said, you’ll visit this lodge to enjoy the local environment rather than in pursuit of any wildlife.
Its an elegant stopover en route to, or from, the crater but not a base from which to take a day’s drive to it – as the journey can take upwards of two hours over broken roads to the crater floor.
Kitela Lodge website
Maramboi Tented Lodge
To call Maramboi a tented lodge is to stretch the meaning of ‘tented’ to new extremes. Yes, you’ll find canvas there but to all intents and purposes you’re in your own beautifully appointed private bungalows on the shores of Lake Manyara with a fully equipped and stylish central reception and dining area, pool and decking that enjoys unparalleled views of the lake.
Again, you’ll stay here en route or on return from the crater as its too far to travel in one day and to get full value from your crater visit.
We recommend it because of its proximity also to Tarangire and Lake Manyara National Parks, both of which are worth the visit when in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
Maramboi offers a refreshing and airy fully inclusive alternative to the sometimes ‘enclosed’ nature of lodges on the crater rim.
It caters for larger numbers than Gibbs Farm and has more of a resort feel but it still has a charm brought about by its open wooden architecture and the zebras who graze beyond the deck you as you dine.
Maramboi Tented Lodge website
Not one of our favourites but included in the interests of offering options. Ngorongoro Farmhouse is undoubtedly luxurious and visually appealing but with a more utilitarian feel that caters for groups and large families. A large central thatched complex offers all general needs for dining, relaxation and swimming, whilst the individual or paired bungalows are well presented but have a more basic feel to their decor and general appointment. They can accommodate anything from two up to five people in the various configurations of rooms.
Another in the Tanganyika collection of lodges, this has the distinctive feel of budget – but don’t be fooled.
You’ll find that all lodges are more expensive in Tanzania than in neighbouring Kenya, due to nothing more than excessive government taxes, so although Ngorongoro Farmhouse might appear expensive, it is best used in our opinion of you are more budget conscious and wish to travel in a group or with family.
Ngorongoro Farmhouse website
The Ngorongoro Crater – Rim accommodation
These lodges offer the best access to the crater itself, with the minimum of delays afforded by travel, albeit you’ll still have to weather the vagaries of park entry formalities, which can be very time consuming. Whether you’ve come straight to one of these lodges or via a night or two from the previous selection, you’ll be assured of a novel and interesting stopover with the crater floor stretching magnificently before you from all locations.
Probably the quirkiest and most unusual of all the lodges we’ve ever been to; Crater Lodge sits on the rim of the Ngorongoro crater in a seemingly random collection of stilted buildings that owe more to the Hobbit than to an hotel.
The thirty individual, almost conical cottages, set within three distinct areas are stone built and covered in wooden shale tiles that give the overall appearance of a hastily built shelter. Nothing could be further from the truth as you enter your own magical kingdom within – to one of the best appointed rooms you’ll find anywhere; an exotic theme that continues throughout.
You’ll feel as though you’re living in someone else’s bizarre fantasy as you step seamlessly between ornate palatial baroque into medieval Maasai; from crude wood carvings to ostentatious brocade and gilded furniture, this is an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ experience you’ll never want to leave. We loved it!
This is an ‘&Beyond’ lodge, so you know you’ll be getting first class treatment throughout; from butler service to al la carte dining.
The central dining and lounge areas are a pleasure to behold and better suited to a medieval banquet hall than an after-safari meal. The clever use of wood and other natural materials welcomes and embraces the traveller and is a perfect adjunct to the wild world outside.
Of all the place we visited in Ngorongoro, this one stands head and shoulders above the others, simply for its innovative and artistic approach, in perfect partnership with the wild outdoors that can be glimpsed from almost every window.
You’ll need deeper pockets than usual to stay here and unless money is no object then carefully select the time of year that you stay. Normal rate in high season otherwise is $1500 per night per person; preshuss!
&Beyond Crater Lodge website
Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge
The much more conventional Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge sits at the highest point of the crater rim of any of the lodges, with commanding views to the crater floor over 2000ft below.
The imposing central dining and lounge areas are tiered to break up the substantial dimensions of the building, a feature that works well and offers impressive views from all levels.
Rooms, as with most Sopa Lodges are very spacious and our own double (with two Queen sized beds) is neatly but not lavishly appointed, creating a quite plain presentation that leaves us feeling as though it is incomplete – as if more has been invested into scale than detail. That said the room is comfortable and the location exceptional, with a tariff that is far more in keeping with the majority of travellers.
Although the architecture nods to traditional African conical roofs, the structure is conventionally built with rooms in continuous ‘blocks’ of accommodation, which create the overall impression of a substantial complex. This lodge accommodates a significantly greater number of guests than Crater Lodge, so you’ll go here if you wish to mingle with like-minded families and groups as well as couples keen to be part of a larger number of people.
We’re not great lovers of buffet food and although the standard of cuisine is good in all lodges we mention here, at Sopa Lodge there’s a distinct feeling of being in a communal dining hall rather than a stylish restaurant. It is, however, the nature of the beast and a valuable alternative to exclusive high-end alternatives.
Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge website
Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge
This is a no-nonsense rock built edifice that has all of the facilities you’ll need to base yourself in close proximity to the ‘Rim’, for access to the crater. Our first impression was of a dark and oppressive reception area that does little to invite you in. Once beyond this, the lodge opens out into a substantially built ‘Flintstones’ structure – a theme that runs throughout all accommodation.
You’ll feel safe and secure here and the lodge gives you a sense of well-being and comfort – and that you’ll not get any major surprises, good or bad.
The slightly heavy-handed construction is both novel and slightly oppressive to us but nevertheless the seventy rooms are well appointed and comfortable and all common areas well planned and attended by friendly staff.
You’ll stay here if you want a good reliable base and are not too fussed about the finer points of design and presentation but seek a homely and welcoming environment on a grand scale.
The lodge is notable for its hugely imposing and panoramic views of the crater – perhaps the best viewpoint we found in any of the lodges.
Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge website
Why not ask us to arrange your own tailor-made travel – to immerse yourself in the wonders of safari in East Africa?
Why not download the TLC World guide brochure or give us a call today on 01202 030443, or simply click ‘enquire’ to submit your own personal itinerary request