I love great hotels, as most people do I imagine, but I was especially looking forward to my time at the Four Seasons Serengeti as part of my safari experience in Tanzania. Routinely named one of the best hotels not just in Africa, but the world, the service and quality of the has taken on a reputation of nearly mythic proportions. That also meant that it had a lot to live up to frankly, but walking through the front doors as the elegance of its central lobby overtook me, I knew I was in a place I would love. More than just enjoy my time there, it quickly became one of my favorite resorts anywhere in the world.
Not your average hotel experience
The Four Seasons Serengeti experience is totally unlike anything else, even amongst other Four Seasons hotels around the world. It’s part lodge and part luxury hotel, creating in the process an experience that’s unique and special. Located in the Serengeti, safari and the African bush are at the heart of the experience at the Four Seasons. A large complex spread out across the terrain, there are no fences, instead raised walkways provide easy paths for guests to get around the property. But that also means unparalleled access to the beautiful landscapes and wildlife that all call the mighty Serengeti home, allowing unplanned and special moments for anyone who visits. While you’ll see the odd animal or two wandering around under the walkways, it’s the central watering hole that attracts most of the larger animals.
Situated immediately in front of the hotel’s large infinity pool, it truly is a unique experience to swim in the pool or lounge sipping a cocktail while watching families of elephants saunter past. It’s a special moment but it’s also why so many people trek to the Serengeti in the first place, for these special experiences and moments in time.
Organized around the concept of an African Great House, the resort is large and airy, especially surprising since there are only 77 rooms and 12 suites. The result is an intimate feeling of privacy and exclusivity, a real hallmark of any great luxury Africa lodge experience. The expansive Terrace Suite that I called home for an all-too short day will go down as one of my favorite hotel rooms of all time. It’s not necessarily due to the size, but the overall feeling of the suite itself. First, it was indeed large with separate living and bedroom areas, two full bathrooms and of course that amazing terrace complete with plunge pool with a view of the watering hole and all of the animals who pass by throughout the day. As I said though, it wasn’t the square footage that endeared it to me, it was how comfortable it was. Maybe it was from spending a week out in the bush, but lounging on the sofa, reading a book sneaking a gaze or two out the window was pure heaven.
It was a quiet, elegant way to finish my Abercrombie & Kent safari experience. Long afterwards, my partner and I are still talking about that room and I know it will be a long time before I find anything as perfect as that to enjoy.
Spa and relaxation
After a week exploring the wild and rugged areas of Tanzania, I needed some “me time.” That’s why within minutes of checking into the , I found myself at the spa, perusing their menu and making a reservation for later that afternoon. I’ve written about it before and I’m not entirely sure why it is, but around the world Four Seasons really excels in providing amazing spa experiences, and that holds true for their Serengeti location. The spa experience here is a special one, with 6 private treatment huts you feel like a rock star as you walk with your masseuse en route to an afternoon of pure and utter relaxation. With the bush as backdrop, my spa experience was one of the highlights of my time there. I fell asleep about halfway through the massage, so I can’t speak to all of its benefits, but surely that’s a great testament to the expertise of the staff.
Visiting the Serengeti is about outdoor experiences and seeing some of the most amazing animals in the world. But it’s also your vacation and relaxation should play a role, which is an area where the Four Seasons Serengeti excels. It’s common for guests to spend a week at the property, alternating between all-day game drives and all-day sessions next to the pool. I love that and the net result is a fun, adventurous trip that is also relaxing. At it’s best, that’s what any great travel experience should be.
You’re in the Serengeti!
This isn’t your average hotel, as I’ve mentioned, it’s located not only in one of the most remote areas of the planet, but one of the most beautiful. The Serengeti is home to hundreds of mammal and avian species, making this one of the best places in Africa to experience an amazing safari. The folks at the Four Seasons know that and so they’ve developed an array of activities all designed to bring you closer to this unique environment
An early morning or late afternoon game drive is central to the safari experience and is an activity all visitors will enjoy many times during their stay at the Four Seasons. No two safari experiences are the same, and conditions can change so quickly that you simply never know what you’re going to find out in the grasslands of the Serengeti. The Four Seasons uses expertly trained guides who know where to go and what to look for in order to provide guests with the best possible experience. From elephants to lions and even a leopard if you’re lucky, there’s no telling what you’ll find. Be careful though, from my experience safari is addictive – you always want to go back out and look for new animals.
There’s a lot to do and see in Tanzania, and so there are a number of day trips available from the Four Seasons Serengeti, including one of the most popular – a trip to Ngorongoro Crater. A veritable Garden of Eden, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is unique in that thanks to its unusual geography, there’s always food and water in the crater, which means that most of the animals stay there throughout the year. This phenomenon in turn guarantees that when you visit, you’ll always find a wide variety of animals throughout this 12-mile wide caldera, including more wildebeests and zebra than you thought could possibly exist to the rare rhino and always-beautiful elephant. It’s a long day out there and back, but since you’re at the Four Seasons you can just take it easy the day afterwards. As I’ve said, I love this concept of alternating between all-day adventure and all-day relaxation. It’s truly what every trip should be like, but which so few actually achieve.
A highlight of my safari with Abercrombie & Kent was a morning balloon safari, which is also available to guests of the Four Seasons. It’s never easy to get up at 4am, but believe me, this is one time when that alarm clock is worth listening to. I’ve been on a few hot air balloon rides around the world, but the hour I spent floating above the Serengeti was the best I’ve ever enjoyed. Following herds on the Great Migration, floating just above the heads of cranky hippos and even spotting a lioness enjoying a recently caught snack, seeing the mighty Serengeti from the air was unlike anything else I’ve ever done and offered a much needed different perspective to my safari experience. It made me enjoy and appreciate everything else much more than I would have otherwise.
A unique feature at the Four Seasons Serengeti is its critically acclaimed Discovery Center. Located in the main section of the Lodge, the Center is equal parts museum and hands on interactive exhibits. You can explore the Center on your own or with the help of a trained guide who can teach you more about this remarkable part of the world. Also great for photographers like me is the well-equipped photography space, with camera-cleaning gear and even an iMac with image processing software in case you can’t wait to start editing those epic photos.
So it seems that I enjoyed my very brief time at the Four Seasons Serengeti. That’s no surprise, I can’t imagine anyone not enjoying their time at this legendary resort. No, it’s more than that, it’s about everything that pleasantly surprised me about the hotel. From the room where I wish I could live, to the views and wildlife experiences to the legendary Four Seasons service, it all comes together in way that’s hard to find even at the best hotels and resorts in the world. The is not your average hotel, resort or even lodge. It’s one of those rare instances where the accommodation IS the destination. It incorporates everything in its environment so very well, that it becomes impossible to separate the safari and Serengeti experience from the property itself. That’s no easy feat to achieve and it’s the major reason why I know it’s a place I’ll visit again, just to recapture that special feeling if for nothing else.