Every once in awhile, you stay at place that captures your heart. Even years later, just the faintest reflections of your time there bring a smile to your face. Very rarely is this place a grand resort or an opulent hotel, but rather a small, perhaps unassuming abode that connects you to a greater experience. For us, that place is Lemala.
The Lemala Tented Camp lies on the outskirts of Ngoronogor Crater, a place so breathtakingly diverse in terrain an abundant in wildlife that it’s often referred to as the spot on earth where ‘God reached down and left his thumb print’.
After a cold towel and warm greeting from the manager upon arrival, a beaming staff member grabbed our bags and proclaimed he’d be the one taking care of us. He seemed genuine excited to have us there and had a grin the size of the Serengeti. We followed him down the dirt path through the brush and stopped at tent #7 out of 9. He unzipped the front door and showed us around our home for the next few nights. The best lesson we received was how to use the shower.
Upon our request, he would go grab a bucket of hot, fire-heated water, climb a ladder behind the tent, and dump it into a raised trough, which piped down through the shower-head inside. You’d get a good 3-4 minutes of water, and he’d be happy to grab another bucket if needed. Then, he’d kindly wait outside. When finished, you’d hear through the tent wall, “One more?!”. As a gal with long, tangly hair, a double bucket shower was inevitable. Sure enough, my friend would wait outside and when the second bucket had emptied, I’d hear another cheery, “One more?”. No thank you, all good. “Okay, goodbye!”.
The people there make up the heart and soul of Lemala. Most are local Northern Tanzanians, including many Maasai tribesmen. When we asked our friend where he was from, he simply pointed out to the empty landscape and said, “I was born just two hills over, right there!” It was wide open land; the only structures in sight were the Lemala tents. As primarily nomads, Maasai are farmers and herders that change home base every few months, or years, as the animals or soil change. He was proud to be Maasai, but equally proud to be working at Lemala and meeting people from all over the world.
Beyond the cool tents and amazing people, Lemala is one of the most desired properties in all of the Ngorongoro Crater area due to its location. The vast majority of hotels lie up on the crater rim, about 30min+ back on the entrance road. Lemala is set down in the brush, right beside the entrance of the National Park. This is key because it’s always a race to enter the park each the morning before too many other jeeps appear. There’s something magical about having the place all to your self as the sunrises and the animals stir.
After a day of wildlife spotting in the incredible Ngoronoro Crater, you head back to the camp for a sundowner cocktail by the fire pit and swap safari stories with other guest and new friends. The food at Lemala particularly stood out to us. We’re not quiet sure how the chef was able to whip up so much deliciousness – with limited ingredients and appliances. All the meals were superb, and could be enjoyed inside our outside the main mess tent.
As the day came to a close and it was time to head back to the tent, our friend would escort us throughout the dark brush with a torch to light the way. With this being an open camp, guests must always be accompanied around the property during night time – should you happen to meet a neighborhood predator, aka a lion.
If you find yourself on a Tanzanian safari, we highly recommend a stay at the wonderfully charmingly, truly authentic Lemala Tented Camp.
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