Jaw-Dropping Stay in the Heart of the Serengeti

It’s like watching a huge panoramic IMAX movie, except this is no film. This is the Serengeti.

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The Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti sits right in the heart of the world famous national park with stunning wildlife just off the deck as entertainment. It’s truly incredible.

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Four Seasons Serengeti puts the “glamour” in glamping. In fact, let’s be honest, you’re not camping at all. This is pure luxury in the heart of Africa.

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Our first night, we sit outside at dinner at the main restaurant and hear a roar from a herd of elephants not far in the distance. Since it’s pitch black out (no city light pollution anywhere here), we can’t see them, but the sounds are incredible and just add to the magic of this place.

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After dinner, I head to my room—a huge suite designed with local materials of wood and natural stone tile. With a rustic yet luxuriously modern feel, it has a large sitting room and closet, a table area, a huge bathroom with soaking tub offering views right out the window of the animals and a large balcony with sofas. I’m sure to lock my screen door as I’m told the baboons are known to open them and fall asleep to the sounds of the savanna. Oh, and although the watering hole is within view from my window, there is even a live animal cam 24/7 tuned to a channel on the TV in my room, so I can see who’s coming and going.

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The property has been open for just four years, and just the last two years under the Four Seasons name. This is no small “campground.” There are 77 rooms, 12 suites, and five villas including an enormous presidential villa with its own watering hole. Of course, the hotel has a fitness center, a spa with six separate pavilions for private treatments and a new yoga room, a kids’ playroom, a comfy den-like TV room, and even a discovery center with information about the landscape and wildlife.

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Nearly everything is centered around the outdoor deck and pool where you’ll just want to sit and take in the view of the watering hole. It’s so nice to get out of a dusty, jostling safari vehicle for a day (or three!) and sit here while the animals come to you. The water attracts elephants, zebra, wildebeest, antelopes, baboon, lions, and giraffes.

The hotel also offers:

  • Honeymoon packages
  • VIP baskets
  • Packages for safaris including a balloon safari over the Serengeti
  • Bush dinner by candlelight

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    There are three different restaurants to choose from, Maji, overlooking the watering hole with outdoor dining where you can hear lions roaring in the darkness; Boma Grill, the traditional African restaurant and Kula’s with international and African-inspired fare. My first night I enjoyed the grilled octopus and a fillet of beef with truffled mashed potatoes.

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    In the morning, I awake and head straight to my balcony. A baboon is eyeing me from the adjacent balcony while six giraffes and a family of five elephants saunter by on their way to the watering hole. Every time I try to leave my room to head to breakfast, another group of animals catches my eye and I head back out to the balcony with a huge grin plastered on my face. I think I try to leave a half a dozen times.

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    Just down a few steps from the main indoor/outdoor restaurant is an infinity pool literally overlooking the watering hole. You feel like you’re right there with the elephants. Although there is a drop in height between you and them, the wonderful thing is, there are no fences, no boundaries, no limits. This is not Disney World. It’s open land for all.

    Lisa Lubin is an established travel/food writer, three-time Emmy®-award winning TV producer, and travel industry expert. After a decade in broadcast television she took a sabbatical, which turned into three years traveling around the world. She documents her (mis)adventures on her blog, LLworldtour.com. You can follow her adventures on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

    Saving Wildlife and the Wilderness

    In the world of glamping — which inherently is a culture of excess out in the wild — it’s always nice to give back. Sure, you can donate money directly to conservation groups, but you could also support properties that already strive to preserve the animals and wilderness of the regions where they’re established.

    save the rhino trustImage Credit: Save The Rhino Trust Namibia

    For example, Desert Rhino Camp in the Palmweg concession of Namibia, is a collaboration of safari operator Wilderness Safaris and the Save the Rhino Trust (SRT). It’s the base of operations for rhino tracking tours, where guests are led in vehicles and on foot to encounter the elusive and endangered black rhinoceros — a species whose population has been decimated over the decades from illegal poaching. When the tours are over and you’re sipping a gin and tonic on the porch of your canvas cottage, the SRT continues to dedicate itself to the protection of the rhinos and their habitat.

    africat cheetahImage Credit: AfriCat Foundation

    With a customized safari through Namibia by outfitter CW Safaris, you can drive just a couple hundred miles away to Okonjima, home of AfriCat Foundation, which strives to work with local farming communities in their rehabilitation programs for misplaced cheetahs, leopards, and wild dogs. They also sponsor school trips to educate future generations on the importance of conservation. Guests can visit the big felines as they are reconditioned to their natural environment by day, while sleeping in camps with luxury amenities by night.

    mustang monumentImage Credit: Mustang Monument Wild Horse Eco-Resort

    Meanwhile in Nevada, a similar effort is being done by the folks at the Mustang Monument Wild Horse Eco-Resort, which is not just a place where you can camp in a tipi fitted with hardwood floors and cosy beds. Founder Madeleine Pickens and her team of cowboys are committed to the Saving America’s Mustangs foundation, which aims to protect the mere thousands of wild mustangs left in America with a permanent preserve for them to roam free.

    Precious ecosystems are also being supported by glamping destinations. The folks at EcoCamp Patagonia, in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park, are committed to sustainability with green energy practices in conjunction with their inventive design of sustainable — and comfortable — dome tents. They share their innovations with the Corporacion Fomento & Producción (CORFO), so that other local businesses can follow suit in this region increasingly affected by climate change.

    maasai wilderness cons trustImage Credit: Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust

    At Kenya’s Camp Ya Kanzi, in Hemingway’s “Green Hills of Africa,” the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust (MWCT) works with Maasai leaders to educate the local communities on best practices to co-exist with wild animals, and to maintain their ecosystem wisely. While the MWCT USA office president and acclaimed actor Edward Norton may not be there during your stay, you can rest assured — in tented cottages so luxurious that they even have bidets — that part of the money you spend goes to their conservation efforts. After all, the environment, and the indigenous animals within, are the real celebrities in these parts.

    Shenton Safaris: African Glamping and Wildlife Experiences

    One thing is certain about Shenton Safaris’ camps, they provide a unique opportunity to view the exotic wildlife of Africa that feels like it should be once in a lifetime, and it keeps guests coming back time and again. Shenton Safaris’ camps are located in South Luangwa National Park in eastern Zambia, which is a world-renowned wildlife haven, supporting large populations of elephants, hippopotamuses, giraffes, wildebeests, leopards, lions, and more. In fact, 95% of guests at Shenton Safaris’ camps have the privilege of seeing a leopard.

    Shenton Safaris has two camps that house guests deep within the national park. At the Kaingo Camp, glamping chalets are situated right on the banks of the Luanwa River. Each chalet features a large, comfy bed and en suite bathroom, as well as an outdoor bathtub, perfect for relaxing under the stars. The chalets feature huge, fly-wired windows to ensure that even when guests are indoors, they will still be able to view the beautiful landscape and possibly even wildlife. Each Kaingo chalet also has a unique, individual deck built over the river, which serves as the perfect vantage point to view the daily elephant crossings. At Mwamba Safari Camp, which is the more rustic of the two camps, situated on the banks of the Mwamba River, guests can still enjoy many of the creature comforts of home. Each reed and thatch chalet has an open-air skylight with mosquito nets and a bed. The Mwamba chalets have their own open-air bathroom, with hot water bucket showers and flush toilets. Both of Shenton Safaris’ eco-friendly camps utilize solar power.


    Each camp at Shenton has a communal area, known as a chitenge, which includes a bar and dining area for guests. Kaingo camp is renowned for its thousand year old, lead-wood bar. At Mwamba camp, the bar and dining area are in the shade of huge ebony trees. Mwamba camp also featured a beautiful sundowner spot perched upon the top of a large termite mound. The chitenges are where guests can convene for morning tea and for the three-course dinner prepared by local chefs nightly. Produce is grown on site or outsourced locally.

    Each day at Shenton Safaris is packed full of wildlife-viewing activities. Shenton Safaris is well-known for their hides – man-made enclosures for viewing wildlife which serve to conceal the presence of humans. Shenton Safaris has four hides – the hippo hide, the elephant hide, the carmine bee-eater hide, and Mwamba’s last waterhole hide. These hides have been visited several times by National Geographic, Discovery Channel, and Africa Geographic. BBC even used the hippo hide in the filming of the “Wild Africa” series; from this vantage point, they captured on film an enormous crocodile taking a buffalo.

    For guests who really want to experience everything the South Luangwa National Park has to offer, overnight camp-outs are available. A Shenton Safaris guide escorts the guests on a day-long walking safari to the remote area north of Mwamba, far away from any human development. Here they will set up camp near a secluded waterhole. These camp-outs offer guests the opportunity to fall asleep under the stars to the sounds of far-away hyena and lion calls. Additionally, guests can choose to sleep in the elephant hide during their stay. The elephant hide overlooks the elephant highway, an area where, for centuries, elephants have assembled to wash and socialize, and is especially stunning during a full moon.

    Walking safaris are also available, which allow guests to completely immerse themselves in the beauty of South Luangwa National Park. Walking safaris are lead by an experienced Shenton Safaris guide, who will direct guests through ebony forests and along various waterholes. Guides will also help to track the big cats that are native to this region, including ten individual leopards and the Mwamba pride which consists of thirty-six lions. Don’t worry, though! To ensure the safety of guests, an armed Zambia Wildlife Authority scout accompanies the party.


    Another great option for wildlife viewing is on a game drive in one of Shenton Safari’s open-top, four-wheel drive vehicles. These custom vehicles are outfitted with comfortable, tall seats that have been modified to aid photographers in getting the perfect shot. Shenton Safaris maintains their own road system, which provides easy access to areas of the national park where wildlife is nearby.