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Out Of Africa
The Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, is a gem, and the Four Seasons Safari Lodge is proof that paradise can exist on earth
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When I was younger, my father took me to National Parks and Sanctuaries across India. I remember dreading the fact that we had to wake up at the crack of dawn in order to be the first ones to enter the park and really strain your eyes to catch a glimpse any big cats hiding behind the thick, tall elephant grass. One blink of an eye, and you could very easily miss seeing a tigress sitting in the bushes with her cubs. As I grew older and understood how fragile ecosystems were and how much destruction mankind had caused, I began pestering my Father to take more trips with me. Once I heard about the Serengeti and pored over pictures of the park, the destination quickly moved up to number 1 on my bucket list.
There is a reason that the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania is on everyone's travel bucket-list. For wildlife fanatics and photographers, few places come close to the Serengeti when it comes to the vastness of the park, as well as its beauty beyond compare. Combine "Serengeti" with the "Four Seasons" and you've got yourself one of the most coveted safari experience in the world!
The Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, is enormous- covering an area of 14,750 sq.km. The park boasts some of the most incredible panoramic views of wildlife against stunning topography, which includes savannah grassland and even woodlands. The park is home to the "big five" (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, and cape buffalo), and the most popular time of year to visit is during the great migration, between May-August. Over 1.5 million bearded wildebeest move between the Serengeti and Masai Mara. It's a breathtaking experience; watching hordes of wildebeest make their way to greener pastures- quite literally. This annual phenomenon is best witnessed from an aerial viewpoint, be it a hot-air balloon or a chopper. However, it is not for the faint-hearted. When the wildebeest cross the river, many succumb to the Nile crocodile, that patiently awaits its next meal!
During our trip to the Serengeti in October last year, we had the privilege of staying at the Four Seasons property. While there is no dearth of luxurious hotels in the Serengeti, the Four Seasons Lodge is a cut above the rest.
The rooms are all-inclusive and worth every cent. They are extremely tastefully decorated and warm while having every modern amenity one might need. For those who can splurge, the private villa is a must! Each of the villas come with a private pool that overlooks the grassland. You can see elephants bathing and zebras in the distance as you sit out to enjoy your morning tea. If you like to stay connected while on holiday, the WiFi at the Four Seasons is strong, and there are universal adapters in each room to help you power your devices.
We ventured into the park quickly after checking in and were allotted the nicest wildlife tour guide, Calvin. He was extremely warm, knowledgeable, and could spot any and all animals- even those who were perfectly camouflaged. If it weren't for him, we would not have been able to see so many stunning animals up close. He took great care of us and even informed the kitchen of my gluten sensitivity and low-carbohydrate diet. In our champagne brunch basket, I found all kinds of healthy, gluten-free goodies, but decided to indulge in a tiny glass of champagne seeing as I was in the Serengeti, after all. The level of service and personalization for each guest at the hotel is extremely impressive and is what differentiates a great stay at a similarly-priced property with a stellar one at the Four Seasons.
Within our first few minutes in the park, we had seen almost all the animals we came to see. It was the exact opposite of the experiences I had in India. For one, there is no tall grass hiding the animals, and two, the animals are so comfortable with being watched, it is almost as if they are putting on a show for visitors! However, if it weren't for our guide, we wouldn't have been able to spot the elusive cheetah or leopard. Additionally, he shared with us the most incredible stories and facts about the Park, something you won't find in a guidebook! Right before we were to head back to the lodge, we caught a female cheetah on the prowl with her cubs and watching her get ready to hunt was an incredible sight.
While infinity pools are no longer hard to come by in luxury hotels, we guarantee you that there is none quite like this, i.e. overlooking a watering hole that dozens of animals frequent throughout the day to quench their thirst. It is surreal to be relaxing in the pool while watching the mighty African elephant revel in the watering hole!
When it comes to dining, the hotel has plenty of options to choose from in terms of both, menu and view. If you would like to sit by the watering hole at sunset and watch the animals, we recommend the Maji Bar and Terrace In addition to the spectacular views, the dramatic firepit lends a rustic feel to your evening, and is very much-needed as evenings in the Serengeti can be nippy! If you'd like to watch performances by the Masai and eat authentic cuisine, we recommend the Boma Grill. The energy at Boma is something else!
For the adventurous traveller, the hotel can organize hot-air balloons rides and you can enjoy a unique vantage point to see the animals followed by a champagne breakfast. The gutsy traveller can also go on a 90-minute walk through the park with park naturalists, who teach you about your surroundings and you even get to install a camera trap in the park! I had a lovely afternoon with the rangers and resident guests and walking around on foot had me appreciating the park a whole deal more. We walked on until the sun was about to set and just when we were leaving we saw zebra, giraffes and wildebeest in the distance. The excursion is concluded with a gorgeous picnic and space for you to sit and watch the sun melt into the horizon.
The Spa at the Four Seasons is also definitely worth trying out. After a long bumpy and dusty, albeit beautiful day in the park, there is nothing like a traditional massage and body scrub to alleviate soreness and promote restful sleep. My father and I tried both and were gushing about our treatment and the location of the spa for the weeks that followed. Although we didn't try yoga or make use of the gym, we saw plenty of guests who did and enjoy working up a sweat after a long safari.
I came away from the Four Seasons Serengeti having learned some words in Swahili, a belly-full of delicious local food, new friends, and a head full of memories worthy of the National Geographic Magazine. There are plenty of charter companies that fly into the Serengeti but we flew Coastal from Rwanda and thoroughly recommend it. Don't forget to grab a seat by the window to catch the breathtaking views of the Serengeti- even before you land. The Serengeti is a gem, and the Four Seasons Safari Lodge is proof that paradise can exist on earth.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.