We bow to the fact: Many of us are firmly engaged in a very busy world, a world in which time away from the busyness is precious. And so we offer this safari to three major contributors to the East African mystique: the classic game lands of Tarangire, the Ngorongoro Crater, and the fabled Serengeti—all in a mere but marvelous 10 days. Direct flights from Europe take us to the sudden serenity of the Arusha Coffee Lodge, and then we’re off on a carefully choreographed safari, with two nights in each of the three camps and lodges we’ve chosen for their warmth of spirit, their serenity, their location, their refreshing lack of busyness.
Day 1 En route
We dream of safari while we soar through the skies, bound for Africa.
Day 2 Arrive Arusha
The Arusha Coffee Lodge, an old-fashioned island of quietude tucked away in a plantation, is a great place to unwind after the rigours of long flights. Arusha is only 3 degrees south of the equator, but its 4,500-foot elevation encourages floral luxuriance and gentle airs. So we’ll be more or less surrounded by enthusiastic greenery as we sit on our Plantation Suite’s veranda—perhaps after a relaxing swim—looking up at massive Mount Meru, a 14,977-foot volcanic colossus that looms beneficently over this quintessentially African city.
Days 3 and 4 Tarangire
After a breakfast topped off by some of the freshest and best coffee we’ll ever imbibe, we’ll be briefed by our Safari Director, take a vitalizing ramble in the lodge’s plantation, and enjoy a picnic lunch before flying to Tarangire and our home for the next couple of nights, Tarangire Treetops. Our first experience of luxury life in the bush couldn’t be more spectacular. Treetops’ main lodge, built around a thousand-year-old baobab, is only the beginning. The lodge’s 20 famous, lovingly crafted tree houses, elevated for sweeping views of the park, are extraordinarily large, airy, and utterly magical.
And from our tree house’s balcony, we look out at Tarangire’s wonderfully varied landscapes of rocky outcrops, rolling hills, and golden savannah generously strewn with acacias and baobabs, home to just about the entire cast of wild African characters— and some rare stars, like kudu and oryx— in addition to 2,500 or so elephants. We’ll make early-morning and afternoon game drives, perhaps take a walking safari with a local Maasai guide, visit a village, and, if we’re still keen to see more all-star creatures, we can go out on a night drive, always a revelation.
Day 5 Ngorongoro Crater
The sun rises over Tarangire, and we’re up for an early breakfast and a last glimpse of the park’s countless game. Then we drive the dazzlingly scenic route through a wildlife wonderland to Ngorongoro Crater. Unofficially the “eighth wonder of the natural world,” this ancient amphitheatre forms a unique haven for wildlife with over 20,000 animals thriving in its near perfect conditions. We stay at the serene and solitary Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge, perfectly perched on the eastern rim of the crater. Here we can enjoy dinner and our delightful room with striking views of the crater below.
Days 5 and 6 Ngorongoro Crater
The drive from Tarangire north to the Crater Highlands and the world-wondrous Ngorongoro Crater is a delight, a dazzlingly scenic game drive. We pass Lake Manyara, then begin the zigzag ascent to the rim and our reposeful Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge, looking out and down from our rooms’ bird’s-eye windows at the crater, home to about 25,000 big, beguiling creatures.
We’ll drive windingly down to the crater floor for an extraordinarily rewarding morning game drive, exploring the caldera’s 100 square miles, spotting lions, elephants, black rhinos, just about all of East Africa’s faunal celebrities, and return to Sopa Lodge for quiet sundowners, followed by a lovely dinner overlooking one of the world’s most magical places.
Days 7 and 8 The Serengeti
We end this short, but undeniably spectacular, safari in the Serengeti. “There is a lightening of the spirit,” Cyril Connolly wrote about the vast plain. We’re invited to a rare, deep-rootedly serene idyll. The sky is huge and blue and as pure as the day the earth was born. (And on the southern horizon, over the Crater Highlands—“That’s Ngorongoro, just behind that big green mountain,” we’ll say knowledgeably, affectionately—clouds pile up in grandly crazy towers, looking like computer-generated special effects.) The Serengeti’s kopjes are the creation of a cosmic bonsai master, and on a flat brown rock atop one of them, a lion rolls over and warms its fluffy white belly in the sun.
We’ll spend two idyllic Serengeti nights in Migration Camp, tucked away in kopje-esque rocks just above the Grumeti River. The main lodge has a split-level lounge, a swimming pool, and a dandy restaurant, and each of Migration Camp’s 20 tents is encircled by a deck, a private sanctuary from which to gaze out at the natural extravaganza below and beyond. Those of us who can’t quite believe that hippos really exist—that’s how otherworldly they sometimes seem—are delighted that rumbling pods of them disport on the Grumeti, along with many single-minded crocodiles; the great migration funnels into a crossing of this river, and the crocs bide their time like the pleistocenic beasts they are.
Days 9 and 10 Depart and fly homeward
After a final game drive, we’ll head back to Migration Camp for breakfast. Maybe we’re close to sighting the Little Five, and need just a little luck to complete the list: rhinoceros beetle, buffalo weaver, leopard tortoise (not so mini, really; they can weigh as much as three standard bowling balls), ant lion, and the extremely shy elephant shrew, which weighs not much more than an elephant’s tear.