‘We had our own swimming pool in our room, and a water hole about five metres away from us where there were elephants drinking from it. It was the best. There was a terrapin on the water’s edge and a lizard on a rock. They even gave us a biscuit safari with our names on in chocolate sauce. Masai warriors taught us how to make tooth brushes out of sticks too.’
This is Harry and brother Felix, our secret safari shoppers, brilliantly kicking off our Four Seasons Serengeti Review 2017 in their published blog post on the Good Safari Guide: ‘The Tanzania Safari for an 8 year old‘.
We were expecting NOT to like the Four Seasons in the Serengeti, we’re not gonna lie. It appeared to be at odds with our refined view of what is and isn’t a good safari experience. It’s too bloody big for a start: 77 rooms, no less. And it’s not tented. And it’s not owner-run. And we don’t even know who the guides are.
So we descended somewhat haughtily from our vehicle on arrival, ready to be ushered to a hotel room which we would disdain quietly as an inferior establishment for safaris, and on to the impersonal buffet lunch.
How foolish to have turned up our noses quite so soon.
The hotel is like a male ballet dancer: mighty and with great presence whilst delicately hiding any show of effort or unsightly bulk. The 77 rooms were hidden away somewhere, as were most of the guests so that you felt as if you were the only one ordering your 5th refreshing drink by the pool.
The rooms were huge, airy, and neutrally kitted out with a nod to Africa that wasn’t patronising or kitch. The staff must have been trained to within an inch of their lives because they were impeccable. They knew the names of each of our party without introduction, including the three children who all look the same to me, and they knew what we all liked to eat and drink.
They had champagne on ice for breakfast on Easter Sunday, and the chefs were at their stations for everything from waffles to a triple half sweet, non-fat, caramel macchiato with a shot of extra cream.
They had a kids’ own buffet every night just in case our little darlings tired of grown-up menus (which they didn’t), and they would bring tasty nibbly things to you if you sat in plain sight anywhere for too long.
We must admit that we were so enjoying the hotel that we didn’t go out on a game drive with the Four Seasons; we can’t therefore comment on the guiding or the game-viewing experience. But we’re happy to report that manager Martin has managed to get hold of an open-sided game-viewing vehicle which is still unique in most of the Serengeti. We think it makes for a vastly superior game-viewing experience if you don’t have to stand up and slide about, vying for head space as you crane out of the popped-up roof. But some people may prefer having a firm structure around them for protection from the elements.
We loved the Presidential Villa with 3 rooms and its own pool. But it was a little far away from the main lodge. Oh hold on, that’s why they have shipped in golf buggies with drivers so that you don’t have to wear out your shoes. And stationed Maasais along the walkway so that a radio is never far away should you not wish to use the phone in your room to call reception.
This is not the place to be at one with wildlife and with the wilderness. Clearly. This is the place to be pampered, take off in a hot air balloon, have a spa day, with a back drop of one of the most active waterholes I’ve been to, framed by the serene Serengeti.
And we really did have a swimming pool in our room (a plunge pool on the balcony) and elephants five meters away (no adjustment necessary).
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