Tanzania's spectacular Serengeti National Park covers a massive area, but there are surprisingly few lodging options (especially in comparison with the smaller Masai Mara National Reserve located just across the border in Kenya). In a reserve that covers 5,700 square miles/ 14,760 square kilometers, there are only a dozen or so permanent lodges and camps on offer.
Tanzania's tourism industry has always been geared more towards high-end clients, a decision that has limited the number of lodges and camps built within the Serengeti. On many levels, this is a good thing - as fewer accommodation options mean less crowding and more space for untamed nature. However, it also means that there are fewer accommodation choices in Tanzania than in the national parks of neighboring Kenya.
Finding Accommodations in the Serengeti
To ensure that you get the most out of your time in the Serengeti, it's therefore important to choose your accommodation carefully. There are several different types of accommodation, ranging from tented camps to five-star lodges, and each one offers a very different experience. Location is also key, especially if you're planning your trip around the famous wildebeest and zebra migration. Book a room in the wrong area of the park at the wrong time of year, and you could miss the spectacle completely.
In this article, we take a look at the different accommodation types on offer in the Serengeti, as well as a few recommendations for each category.
Planning Your Budget
Whatever accommodation option you choose, a Serengeti safari does not come cheap. In large part, this is due to the fact that food and supplies have to be imported to the hotels and camps from outside the park. Daily park fees cost $60 per person, with an additional tariff payable per vehicle. While often expensive, lodges can be a good way to manage your budget, as rates are usually all-inclusive - meaning that once you arrive, the majority of the cost is already covered.
For those on a tighter budget, there are some basic public campsites within the Serengeti. If you opt to stay at one of these camps, however, be aware that you'll need to be entirely self-sufficient. This means bringing everything you need to cater for yourself, including ingredients and cooking facilities. Mobile tented camps offer another option somewhere between lodges and campsites in terms of amenities and price, while permanent tented camps can sometimes be the most expensive options of all.
Mobile Tented Camps
Mobile camps are seasonal camps that move every few months in order to keep up with wildlife migration patterns. Even if you're not a camper, it's worth spending at least a few nights under canvas; and although there's no AC or mains electricity, most mobile camps are very comfortable. The toilet flushes, the shower is warm, and at night, snorting hippos provide the perfect lullaby. The key advantage of a mobile camp is that you are always at the heart of the action - and in the Serengeti, that means front row seats to the annual Great Migration.
Permanent Tented Camps
Quite different from mobile camps, permanent tented camps do involve some canvas, although essentially they are more like lodges with proper furniture, plush linens, and gourmet menus. They tend to be very romantic, very luxurious and located in some of the best areas of the park. Permanent tented camps are a great option for those with a large budget that want to experience the magic of life in the bush without having to sacrifice the luxuries of conventional hotel accommodation.
Lodges in the Central Serengeti
The central Serengeti has a limited choice of permanent lodges, and mobile and tented camps are generally a better option in this region of the park. However, there are a few good choices for those that don't like the idea of camping, need to avoid the exorbitant costs of the more luxurious permanent camps or plan to travel when the mobile camps have moved elsewhere. Don't miss this section of the park - the permanent wildlife population is unparalleled and the scenery is breathtaking.
Lodges in Other Parts of the Serengeti
If you're looking for solid walls, sparkling swimming pools, and afternoon spa treatments, the outer Serengeti is home to some of the most decadent lodges in Africa. Although you're slightly further from the high-density wildlife of the central Serengeti, most lodges can arrange expert guided game drives to the best sighting spots. All-inclusive room rates are usually offered, meaning that you don't have to worry about forking out for meals on a daily basis.