Kent’s Tanzania Trip Report – Part 2

December 8, 2011  By: Gretchen

Nestled into crook of the border of Serengeti National Park, Singita Grumeti Reserves is the personal African playground of uber-rich Wall Street tycoon Paul Tudor Jones. He spends about a month a year here and welcomes paying guests the rest of the time, giving us the chance to imagine what it would be like to have our own little slice of Africa.

And wouldn’t it be grand! I have said for years that the modest but fantastic Tarangire Safari Lodge has the best view in Africa, but I may have to amend that now. Sasakwa Lodge, perched on a hill looking out on the Western Corridor of the Serengeti has, I believe, the most impressive view. (I will still call TSL the “best.” And they do it right at Sasakwa, offering great guiding, excellent game viewing (especially when the migration comes through), fantastic service, gourmet food and beautiful accommodations. The main area offers endless decks, a bar, library, sitting rooms, TV room, pool table, and well-stocked shop. Guests can also enjoy lots of activities such as swimming in the infinity pool, massages, salon treatments, tennis (both a hard and clay court), and a workout in the well-equipped gym. Bikers can mountain bike and experienced riders can take out one of the 18 pampered horses that enjoy the good life here. The chalet rooms are huge and feature very comfortable beds, sitting rooms, TV, minibar, plunge pool, deep bathtub and rain shower and no fewer than 13 chairs and chaises per room!

Now if the well-appointed but colonial Sasakwa Lodge doesn’t fit your image or budget, the more intimate and contemporary Faru Faru might do the trick. Set along the Grumeti River, this 10-roomed property feels as if it’s built right into a rock face. Featuring two infinity pools and numerous decks, the place feels close to nature and cozy at the same time. The large rooms feature deep tubs, outdoor rain showers and stocked minibars. Best of all, they have huge windows that give the impression of being outside, even while you are inside enjoying the air conditioning. Here also gourmet food, free international calls to the United States, satellite TV and 24-hour wireless internet are available.

To get even closer to nature while still enjoying the very best at SGR, choose Sabora Tented Camp. Located on an open plain in the central part of the reserve, this 10-roomed property features “real” tents with canvas sides and roofs but with wood floors, double sinks, bathtub, outdoor shower, minibar private deck, AC, etc., this is worlds away from camping. On hot afternoons you will feel the heat here more than at Sasakwa and Faru Faru, but guests here can enjoy a dip in the small pool or relaxing on a day bed under an umbrella. The food here also is outstanding, and there’s a “bush” clay court for tennis buffs.

While great accommodations are crucial for discerning travelers, game viewing is the most important factor in choosing a safari destination. SGR offers solid wildlife in a beautiful setting. In a short visit, we saw lion, cheetah, a leopard kill in a tree (but no leopard), giraffe, buffalo, warthog and lots of plains game like wildebeest, zebra, Thompson’s gazelles, topi and waterbuck. Near Sasakwa, there is a small black rhino sanctuary although guests have little chance of viewing them. Normally in June and July the great migration cuts right through the reserve and on my visit in November we saw thousands. If guests wish, they can also game drive into Serengeti National Park which is a short distance away.

And while game viewing is the focus for most visitors here I highly recommend a visit to the community education center and neighboring villages. The center brings in groups of school children to learn about the environment, wildlife and ecology. They are given tools to generate solutions to environmental and economic problems. In the villages the Grumeti Fund provides funding and in-kind support for schools, solar-powered water projects and more. And it purchases supplies such as organic produce from local growers. In short, SGR is helping the locals, some of whom made their living as poachers, find ways to live in harmony with and gain legitimate economic benefit from the wildlife.

Next up – I’m off to northern Serengeti – check back next week for details!