If you don’t like camping, but you’re all in for glamping, put Lamai Serengeti on your bucket-list and be prepared to be wow-ed. A safari hotel write-up is unique compared to a regular review, because it’s a review of both the accommodations and the safari experience (the two go hand-in-hand). So let’s talk animals first, sleeping/eating second.
What can you expect on safari?
When we landed in the Serengeti National Park, our adventure immediately began! We glided into the airstrip on a puddle jumper plane, hopped out, and our guide gave a brief “lay of the land.” The lodge was about 45 minutes from the airstrip, which allowed us to start scanning the horizon for animals, as we started the journey.
Choosing to stay at Lamai Serengeti means you will spend the next few days in a national park that is almost 5,700 square miles. We traveled in August and were able to see 4 of the 5 “Big 5” (where were you rhino?), and witnessed the Mara River crossing. The park is quite large, so while there are many other jeeps also tooling around, you most likely won’t feel the crowds, unless a rare leopard is spotted or the wildebeest cross the Mara River. The Lamai Serengeti guide knew how to create a different experience for us each and every day. Shout out to Emmanuel!
What can you expect at the lodge?
When you pull up to Lamai, you will immediately breath a sigh of relief knowing that you picked the right place to stay. The lodge sits atop an overlook, with the Serengeti plains stretched out below in all directions. The owners immediately greeted us and showed us the ropes -- we had a tour of the lobby, dining area, reading room/computer room (wifi is hit or miss), pool, and of course our room.
You should also know that a safety talk is coming your way. Yes, you are at a lodge, but no, it is not completely enclosed from wildlife. Translation: Lamai is part of the landscape and the nature that surrounds it, so animals freely roam the grounds. The good news -- I count this as camping in my book. Bad news -- lions do too.
At no time are guests allowed to wander the grounds without an official guard. This took some getting used to. I had to consciously remind myself not to step outside our room. Instead of being scared, I decided to pretend I had my own personal secret service. The guards showed up to walk us to the jeep, or to meals, and back again. My husband loved this because he desperately wants to be President of the United States, and this is the closest we came to having a security detail (poor guy...he’s Canadian).
What does glamping mean? Will you have an authentic safari experience?
Glamping, in the context of Lamai Serengeti, means you have a four poster bed, a sturdy 3 wall room (3 walls you ask? I'll explain below), a working bathroom (no outhouses for me please), and a cooking staff preparing your meals. There is no campfire cooking. It means the hotel staff puts hot water bottles in your bed at night, and brings you breakfast in the morning as you watch the sunrise over the Serengeti from the comfort of your hut. There are no blackout shades, so you wake when the animals wake. Glamping means packed picnics for safari treks and afternoon dips in the pool. Sounds relaxing, right?
But yes! You will still get an authentic experience at Lamai. How so?
- Ladies- forget the hair: You are not allowed to run a hair dryer at this property or you risk blowing the power for the whole lodge. They mean it -- don’t try it. I was admittedly a little bummed about this, but after a few hours on the ground I seriously didn’t care about the hair. You won’t either.
- If you want to shower, give the hotel staff advance notice: They need a heads-up in order to heat the coals to warm the water. So yes, you will get hot water, but not at the snap of your fingers.
- No campfire baked beans for dinner. When I think of people cooking while camping, I think of everyone eating canned food around the campfire and chatting. Lamai gives you the communal experience of camping, but local chefs prepare 5 star dishes for the evening. If you have dietary restrictions tell them ahead of time, and they'll ensure you're taken care of. You can read more about the food experience here.
- You sleep in the wild. Remember the 3 walls I mentioned above? The rooms at Lamai have 3 very sturdy walls, and then a very big, very thick net protecting the fourth opening. I was dubious and nervous about the net -- would it really keep a massive lion out? I tested it, even after hotel staff assured me nothing could get in, and decided all I could do was trust. Man, oh man, I am so happy I did! Falling asleep and waking up to the sounds of the Serengeti was a surreal experience. It was humbling to realize how big the animal kingdom is, and peaceful to reflect on my place in it. As a beautiful bonus, the sounds of nature made for a free noise machine (your apps won’t work here).
Would I return?
Absolutely! We had an incredible experience that we still talk about all the time. To me, that’s a true indicator of a hotel's success. At this hotel, we spent all 3 days enjoying the safari rides. In the future, I'd plan for a day of resting by the pool (looking for animals), or reading a book overlooking the plains.
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