Tanzanian Sojourn :
Number of Passengers:
Excitement built as I left the office one grey Friday lunchtime. I was off to Africa, in search of game, of foreign cultures and of space, a type of space that you simply can’t find in the dark congestion of central London. Terminal 4 at Heathrow presented its usual chaotic self but the foreboding of a 15 hour journey to Tanzania via the Middle East was tempered by the promise of the rarefied air of Qatar Airways business class. It’s always a treat to board the A380 and head for the top deck where a bar and a flat-bed await ready to soften the flying experience.
It was 14 hours later when I found myself at the tiny airport in Arusha, Northern Tanzania, on the last leg of my journey and just 200 mil
es from the border of the infamous Serengeti. Serengeti, meaning ‘endless plains’ is home to one of the largest concentrations of game in the world and covers over 12,000 square miles. Fortunately for us, we had arrived at the very beginning of the Great Migration.
Our charming guide-come-driver from the Four Seasons greeted us at Seronera airstrip with ice cold champagne, snacks and boundless smiles and enthusiasm. Our adventure was about to begin and even as we drove out of the airport grounds we were greeted by a herd of buffalo, feeding lazily on the scrubland.
Four Seasons, famed around the world as a brand dedicated to service, reopened the lodge in 2012 with just 60 rooms and a handful of suites and villas. Our room, bedecked with its own infinity-edged swimming pool and extensive balcony looked out over the vast plains; unspoilt and untouched. It’s a special feeling arriving somewhere new and pulling back the curtains on the first morning, unsure of what is about to greet you. That morning treated us to families of elephants slowly meandering past our terrace towards the local waterhole, ebullient warthogs darting between their legs.
And so to the main attraction; safari. We were fortunate enough on several occasions to have a game vehicle to ourselves so our guide Jacob was able to tailor our drives to ensure we were searching out the animals we wanted to see most. Highlights included visits to a nearby hippo pool, a rare sighting of an elegant cheetah relaxing in the short grass as well as witnessing a pack of 30 lions stalking a several thousand strong herd of wildebeest, the only thing missing was Attenborough’s dulcet tones. I’m always amazed at just how quickly you become caught up with the almost soap-opera-esque lives of families of animals.
Afternoons were spent around the pool, enjoying the African sunshine (as well as the spoils of the bar) whilst watching ever present herds of elephant, gazelle, buffalo, wildebeest and zebra visit the watering hole directly in front of the hotel’s main infinity pool.
In the evenings enthusiastic manager Martin was always on hand to ensure we were having a great time and we split our meals between the two dining options; Boma – a traditional thatched round house serving interesting African specialities and the international al fresco restaurant surrounding the pool. Food, although not exceptional, was certainly of a good standard considering where we were.
So what are my thoughts on the trip? This was my second time in Tanzania (having previously attained the summit of Kilimanjaro in 2014) and I was once again struck with the warmth and generosity of the Tanzanian people. The staff at the lodge were fantastic and were able to pre-empt many of my requests. It is certainly a family friendly property and delivers a lite version of safari with safari departures much later in the morning than traditional (allowing for longer lie ins) and more of a resort feeling that other safari lodges I have been to. We had opted for the all-inclusive package at the hotel, which I would totally recommend (if not already included in your safari experience).
This safari experience whilst on reflection was perhaps not as rich or immersive as I have seen in the past was nonetheless exhilarating and I still came away feeling as though I had played some small part in a never ending nature documentary. And of course lodge itself played an integral part in forming those fond memories that will stay with me for some time to come.