“One of the main selling points of the &Beyond Lake Manyara Tree Lodge (apart from the magnificent accommodation) is it’s exclusively located in the national park itself.”
Since the andBeyond Lake Manyara property is the only one in the Manyara National park and placed right down the bottom, the tree lodge has a real sense of privacy. Also due to it’s position and being so far away from the ‘tourist heavy’ areas of the park, the &Beyond Lake Manyara Tree Lodge provides guests with some serious major advantages that the other properties in the area just can’t provide, for the following 5 main reasons;
Firstly, the safari literally starts at the front door of the andBeyond Lake Manyara Tree Lodge. Seeing a herd of elephants less than 10 metres away from where we ate dinner was surreal.
Secondly, all the other lodges have to drive up to an hour to get to the entrance + lengthy travel times to the get to where most of the animals are in the park. This means extremely early wake up times to get in the park and to where the animals are most active (during early morning).
Thirdly, there is a gluttony of 4wd’s at the entrance of the national park nearly at all times of the day. So you could imagine the amount of dust and fumes that gets kicked up driving behind each other in these tours. I can tell you now, no one wants to be the 2nd, 3rd or 4th car in a convoy driving around on these safaris. You get completely covered in a fine red dust for starters and inhaling the fumes is never nice.
Fourthly, when trying to get up close and personal with one of these animals, one diesel 4wd is loud enough. So now imagine 3 or 4 of these in a row trying to get close enough to the animals and not scaring it off. Practically impossible.
Lastly, &Beyond Lake Manyara Tree Lodge provides one of only two excursions that do the night safari in the national park. A highlight of my trip.
Our story starts with with what felt like an endless merry-go-round of flying buses, better known as the light aircraft system in East Africa (more on this here). Getting to the Manyara ‘Airport’ from where we were staying consisted of getting up at 5am, 4x one hour flights, waiting in transit and driving uncomfortable roads for at least two hours. Due to our itinerary this was the fastest and cheapest option believe it or not.
Unless you are travelling from somewhere inside Tanzania where you have already passed customs (we were travelling from a remote part of Uganda) expect the same sort of story.
Once we touched down on the Manyara Airstrip, our first welcoming was literally 20 metres away. Checking in to the andBeyond Lake Manyara Tree Lodge was very unique in a way, as it was a two part process.
Arriving at midday, andBeyond had prepared a welcoming picnic at the ‘carpark’ of the little airport. Hussein, our guide for the day gave us the run down on some of the particulars of the locals, animals & the companies philosophies.
We were given the choice of starting our stay immediatly with a safari or going straight to our room. The drive to the lodge from the airstrip would still be roughly 2&1/2hours* regardless, so we decided to suck it up and choose the safari and we were SO glad we did. (I will get to why a little later).
After roughly 3-4 hours we made it to the lodge, exhausted to say the very least but at the same time excited & happy. Pulling up in the 4wd, a group of at least 10 of the staff begun singing a welcoming song, I had no idea what they were singing but it sounded delightful. I heard this on at least four occasions during my stay from other guests arriving and it never got old.
We had a quick one-on-one with one of the lodge’s managers Vitalis. He gave a us a quicker than usual run down of the property as I’m pretty sure he saw we were tired and we were off with Adam (our room attendant) to our tree house in no time.
Note* Before we left we were able to have a lengthy chat with Vitalis about the property and its accomplishments for the surrounding area. He informed us that &Beyond Lake Manyara would actually complete the construction of their own private airstrip 3 days after the day we left. So by now there is no longer a 2hr drive to the tree lodge. It roughly only takes 10 or so minutes from the plane to the lodge.
Alright, so the room (I should say tree house) at the &Beyond Lake Manyara Tree Lodge is next level. It’s like what every kid wishes his dad (or mum) could build.
There are only 10 rooms in total at the Manyara Tree lodge (this is due to the lodge being totally eco friendly and &Beyond’s efforts of keeping the carbon foot print at a minimum). We stayed in room number 3. It was a small walk from the main lodge and at night you need to be accompanied by one of the local Masai men to and from the buildings. You are literally are in midst of the National Park, so even though it is extremely unlikely, lions & leopards etc still can come up to you. To the point where the Masai guide pointed out elephant tracks 5 metres from our room and upon arrival you have to sign a waiver while you stay there.
Walking up to the stair case from the forest path, a very large shadow was cast from the sheer size of the building. Stepping up to the ‘1st floor’ of the lodge which was nestled around and between the Maghony trees consisted of 2 rooms. The first was a large sitting area/bedroom with a massive king-size four poster bed with mosquito net. Following through here was the bathroom that had a single standing bath tub that the room was centralized around. The outside shower was at the end of the building and was also accessible from the massive deck that everything was connected to. There wasn’t an inside shower which I thought was a little odd but in the scheme of things it didn’t matter at all.
Our room also had wifi.
As the tree lodge is eco friendly, the ‘mini bar’ was an esky cooled in ice hanging up in one corner. Once again this wasn’t a problem as I think for the entire trip I may have used this once for a cold water. Also the lodge isn’t on grid power so the room had electricity from 5am to roughly midnight.
Important reminder: It’s incredible watching all the monkeys play in between the trees during the day from your balcony, but not everybody thinks its important to keep it quiet during the night, so make sure to bring ear plugs as the bush babies can keep you up at night (as we found out on our last night).
Food & Beverage
Breakfasts were simple, they had a small buffet of fresh fruit, cereals and so on, although there were so really cool local ingredients which you wouldn’t find typically at many other places.
We had two private lunches one by the pool and one in the bush. Firstly our dining by the pool was hilarious. The food was delicious, it really was. It was a personal buffet of snippets of different salads, vegetables & fish. We loved it annnnnd so did the monkeys haha.
While Adam (personal room attendant) brought out the freshly baked bread he warned us that the monkeys love the bread. After placing down the starters and within moment there was rustling of trees everywhere.
As I am gluten free, Adam needed to duck back to the kitchen and get my type of bread, what happened next was something out of a movie. In hindsight I should have said not to worry, because as soon as Adam left, the Monkeys appeared. It what could be described as a classic ‘three card monte’ one of these cheeky buggers distracted my partner & I from behind while two other jumped on to the table and stole our food. When Adam returned it was all to late but it was funny nonetheless. (A highlight of my stay). During the remaining lunch and our bush lunch the next day both Adam or his colleague stayed at all times. This time armed with slingshots (don’t worry the only scare the monkeys, never aim to hit them).
I had the best dinner during the 2 weeks on my June 18’ African Adventure at the Manyara Tree Lodge. Dinner, by candlelight around a bonfire. The fire was just hot enough to keep flies and mosquitoes away while not overpowering. Everything that was cooked came out out of a ‘Bomba’ that night, with fresh naan bread accompanying the meal. The chicken and beef that we ate was absolutely delicious, and my partner could not stop raving about the frozen gin and tonic.
Pool & Gym
There is a pool at the tree lodge but we didn’t swim in it.
Also there is an andBeyond gym-in-bag in every room. Lights weights and aerobic gear.
There is a Spa but with the main attraction being the safari we opted to do all of our trips instead.
The Safari at the Lake Manyara National Park is quite different to the typical safari pictures you seen on TV, Instagram and the net. It’s not endless open fields of rolling planes and grazing animals that look out to the horizon but rather a condensed forest where the big animals are well hidden, camouflaged and out of sight. On more than one occasion we were driving and had not seen anything for a while, until needing to slam on the brakes as we drove past an elephant 5 metres away that we had not noticed.
There was three main highlights that really stood out for me as follows.
The reason we were so happy that we chose to ‘suck it up’ and go on the safari when we arrived was we got to see the ‘Tree Lions’ within the first couple of hours of our stay. (Luckily for this as we only saw Lions again on our way out of the park at a long distance).
Also as above, &Beyond is one of two companies that are allowed to do the night Safari (In my opinion it’s a must for at least one night on your trip). My partner & I went out on our second night. There were 5 of us in total, Chris our guide, a ranger who was armed with a machine gun and ‘quickeye’ a local Masai warrior who had spotlight duties and travelled in the satellite chair at the front of the 4wd. We were hoping to see leopards as they are nocturnal and most active at night but we were unlucky on that front. You get to see different types of nocturnal animals, ones I had only ever seen on TV. Seeing hippos out walking around was surprising as they’re actually very fast.
Now during our stay at &Beyond Lake Manyara our safari guide was Chris for most of our stay (apart from Huessien who took us on our first safari when he picked us up at the airport). He was 22 and very personable. We had a lot in common, we liked the same sort of things, tv shows etc but for us he had a very unique story.
Chris was born & raised a (Masai). Without going in to to much detail, he decided that he wanted to take a different path in life so he decided to leave home, his family, their culture & traditions and eventually started working with the &Beyond family as a tour guide, where he has been for the past 5 years. Listening to snippets of his life was completely fascinating.
Outstanding Accomodation (real life tree house)
- Long drive from the airport to andBeyond, (irrelevant now due to private airstrip being completed days after we left)
- The only one problem I did notice during my stay was in the room. When we ran the bath, the water came out yellow. I don’t know if it was the lighting, the bath or just the water (it was just the water) but getting into the bath wasn’t as pleasant as it normally is, with that sitting in the back of my mind.
&Beyond Lake Manyara Tree Lodge has set the bar so high, I don’t know how any other accommodation in the area could compare.