Situated on 350,000 acres of private, prime Serengeti real estate, the Singita Grumeti lodges promise some of the most spectacular game viewing in Africa. Jonathan and Sophie do a tour of the lodges
Review by Jonathan and Sophie Ellaby
Sasakwa – a Palace on a Hill
The Serengeti is not all flat. Small rocky hills, or koppies, rise out of it and it’s atop one of these koppies that Sasakwa lodge perches, looking south. As well as picking up a nice, cool breeze, it also results in probably the most jaw-dropping view from any safari lodge, anywhere in Africa.
You see it framed as you walk in, on oriental carpets, next to the antique furniture – like a vast open-air window, the view out across the plains suddenly catches your eye and wrenches you. We wanted to just stop and stare.
This is the view of Africa that people dream of – even those that live in Africa – of a vast savanna plain dotted with acacia trees, against the backdrop of distant mountains and a dark, stormy sky. And just visible far below, tiny dots – wildebeest, zebra, buffalo, hartebeest, gazelle – in their thousands. And it’s not even the migration season.
We could quite happily sit out on the main lawn all day and just gawp at the view (and try to spot the odd lion) and this is what we did over a two hour, boozy lunch, table set out on the edge of the hill while our waiter Fabian brought us seared salmon and chocolate fondant. We defy you to name a more spectacular lunch spot anywhere in Africa.
But our suite beckoned, before afternoon tea and a game drive. The main lodge and suites at Sasakwa are built ‘in the grand style of an English manor home’ – and as with all Singita properties, tremendous emphasis is placed on the quality and precision of the interior design. Paneled writing desks and old leather armchairs provide the opulence and as always there’s a twist – elements of contemporary African design merge (somehow) seamlessly. The effect is of overwhelming luxury – another Singita trademark.
Our suite comprises a lavish sitting room / study, bedroom, dresser and bathroom, all leading onto a wide, shaded verandah with private pool. And oh, did we mention the view?
After high tea we head out with guide Agnes for a tour of the surrounding plains, quickly locating the local pride of 15 lion, before the heavens open and we get a good soaking. The rains, at last, have arrived.
Back at the lodge, the fire is roaring in the lavish drawing room and we pot a few balls in the billiard room before dinner on the veranda. There’s also a TV room with giant LED screen (if you have to) and gym (if you need to), morning room and spa.
One of Singita’s most impressive offerings is the option of horse riding throughout the reserve, with big game. From a half-day to a multi-day horse safari staying at more than one lodge – as with everything at Singita, anything is possible. Or even probable. 18 beautifully kept and trained horses at the Equestrian Centre at Sasakwa are kept for guests’ use, with a full selection of riding apparel, meaning you need bring nothing with you.
We’re not big riders ourselves, but we have it on good authority that the riding at Grumeti is likely to surpass any riding you’ve done, anywhere in the world. It’s certainly hard to imagine that anything could beat mingling with thousands of wildebeest and zebra and galloping across the Serengeti Plains. Be aware though that you need to weigh under 100kg and be a more-than-competent rider before you’ll be allowed to take the reins in an environment like this, so don’t exaggerate (or be delusional about) your abilities. Your riding will be assessed first.
Sabora – a Paradise on the Plains
Next morning we combine a morning game drive with breakfast at Sabora. Sabora somehow manages to be almost the polar opposite of Sasakwa but without feeling diminished.
While Sasakwa is set up high, Sabora is right on the plain itself, leading to the pleasant dilemma of whether (during the migration) you prefer to look down on your million wildebeest, regal-like, or have them up close, virtually stampeding your veranda and crushing your tent with surround-sound mooing and the chance of watching a close range kill over your morning tea. Decisions, decisions.
Things are more tranquil over our morning tea at Sabora, but the location again is simply incredible, the hospitality no less impressive. The tented camp is small and intimate, intended to invoke the era of ‘Out of Africa’ – the library tent is decorated with antique furniture, fascinating old books and letters – even an old gramophone. It feels like we’re stepping back in time.
If the grandeur of Sasakwa seems too much, this smaller intimate camp brings you into the heart of nature. We love it.
Singita’s Explore Mobile Tented Camp takes one more step in this direction – trading a bit of luxury for a true middle-of-the-bush feel. Now with a mandate to move throughout the Reserve, the camp moves with the wildebeest herds giving the best chance of up-close action and is especially popular with multi-day horse safaris.
Faru Faru – Harmony by a River
For us though, it was saving the best until last. Of all the Singita lodges, one must be our favourite and Faru Faru is it.
When comparing lodges of this quality, it becomes very personal. We couldn’t fault the hospitality anywhere in Grumeti and our waiter Zed and managers Madelein and Roger were no exception. The lodge overlooks the Grumeti River, with all the wildlife and diversity of birds that brings with it, and the suites look out directly onto the river, or a close-by waterhole where we watched giraffe and buffalos drink.
For dinner that night we had lobster and fresh tuna on the barbeque. We’ve never had lobster in the bush before – the food was simply sensational. And to the accompaniment of lions roaring.
Faru Faru is smaller than Sasakwa with a slightly more intimate feel, yet it also has a gym and spa, and a different, more modern, feel – like all the Grumeti lodges, it’s about variety. Really, you need two or three nights at each to understand what Grumeti is all about.
The suites at Faru Faru defy description. Take the best of Singita Lebombo and Singita Boulders, merging bold modern with classic style, and throw in a sliding glass wall that opens up the whole suite to the African bush. Lie back in bed and it’s like having an 8 metre HD cinema screen running a wildlife documentary in front of you. Except it’s real.
Enough said. Singita Grumeti blew our minds – if you only go to one place in Tanzania, make it here. You won’t forget it.
Good for: The most luxurious, privileged safari you’re likely to find
Not so good for: It’s not cheap of course
Our Verdict: Probably unbeatable