by Matthew Sterne on October 24, 2011
5 min read

My colleague Dee and I were lucky enough to have been invited to Singita Grumeti Reserve in Tanzania a few weeks ago (look out for more blog posts on the trip). We found ourselves with a day at leisure and thought what a better way to use our time than to explore the town of Arusha and pop into a number of its hotels and lodges that we regularly recommend to our clients.

We work very closely with our preferred ground handler in East Africa, Predators and as soon as we arrived at Kilimanjaro Airport their representative and our host for the day, John, was there front and centre to meet us in the arrivals hall. He escorted us to the awaiting vehicle and we made our way through the outskirts of Arusha city, with streets lined by Jacaranda trees in full bloom and amongst the bustling street vendors, buses, trucks, motorbikes and pedestrians, which for me was a complete eye opener as this was my first trip to Tanzania. The roads are hectically chaotic, with driving lanes being mere suggestions to its users and overtaking erratically the norm, but it seems to work. Think Paris circle around the Arc de Triomph or India city streets; similar for sure.

Arusha is located in the northern highlands of Tanzania

We were based at the Legendary Lodge, about an hour’s drive from the Kilimanjaro Airport and it was a superb base for us. So we dropped our bags, freshened up after a long evening of flying, had a quick bite and were off to our first stop.

Stay at Legendary Lodge in Arusha, Tanzania Stay at Legendary Lodge, Arusha in Tanzania

Arusha Coffee Lodge is a favourite of ours, located on a coffee plantation, about 10 minutes from Arusha Airport. It has stand alone rooms and suites set out under the trees interspersed with rooms of coffee bushes. The main lodge houses a bar and restaurant, with the accommodation like little cottages scattered about. The rooms are spacious, offering an indoor fireplace and superb bathrooms, and the suites even better with lounge area and an outside fireplace, which was quite unique as it offered two loungers in your own courtyard area with accompanying fireplace, and modern finishes.

Arusha Coffee Lodge also houses an in-house Tanzanite Experience shop, endorsed by the Tanzanite Foundation where you can buy the exclusive gem and have it set to your liking or buy it ready made in an array of heavenly pieces.

Stay at the Arusha Coffee Lodge in Arusha, Tanzania

We then ventured to Onsea House, which is located within the town of Arusha itself, set on the side of a hill with lush green trees, lawns and is surprisingly quiet for its location. Onsea House is a small boutique property, exuding an Italian town/Spanish Steps feel….with only a handful of rooms, each individually decorated. The focus here is on food too as they have their own fantastic restaurant, “Machweo”, receiving rave reviews in Arusha.

They have two styles of accommodation; the newest is quite modern, but homely, set higher up the hill, closer to the restaurant and pool and the older, original rooms are more private and secluded, further down the hill. So there are options for everyone. The rooms up top have a more European, modern design with the original rooms being African colonial mix… it might sound confusing but it works.

Stay at Onsea House in Arusha

Next on the list was Mount Meru Game Lodge, based almost halfway between Kilimanjaro Airport and Arusha Airport. It is rather large, so great for big groups of travellers and has the added bonus of having a watering hole with game right at the lodge entrance. We were lucky enough to be greeted by a zebra, peacock, waterbuck and an array of birds getting their daily drink. The lodge has a curio shop and an inviting bar area as well as a 2 bed-roomed family unit, which is not very common in Arusha it seems, so a great feature. The hotel is more on the standard side of things than the likes of Legendary or Arusha Coffee Lodge and is priced accordingly.

Stay at the Mount Meru Game Lodge, Arusha

We had one stop remaining on our busy day and that was the Serena Mountain Village Lodge. The main lodge area, which houses the great restaurant, curio shop and reception, is a large rock and timber building, almost cathedral like. It is very beautiful and imposing on the horizon with a garden spilling out below towards the lake that borders the property, shaded by bottle brush trees. It is here that we enjoyed lunch – a 3 course buffet of salads, an array of BBQ grilled meats and local desert (turns out we had arrived on Zanzibarian day), washed down by the local beers, Tusker and Kilimanjaro.

Stay at the Arusha Mountain Village in Arusha, Tanzania

The rooms here are set out in a line leading off from the main area, arranged in semi circle clusters of six rooms per cluster, each overlooking the gardens and lake below in the distance. The accommodations here are very basic, with no bells and whistles at all, but it serves well as a one night stop-over pre- or post-safari, which is at the end of the day where limited monies are often better spent.

Stay at Serena Mountain Lodge, Arusha, Tanzania

A Final Word

Success! We had seen what we wanted to see, and experienced the city in all its glory, as well as visited a vibrant craft market, teeming with Masai men and women selling their wares and where you can bargain for any number of beaded works of art, masks, sculptures and more. We were also able to fit in a visit into Predators offices to visit the team that we work so closely with and see their operations, which seem to be the biggest and most professionally run in East Africa. We ended the day back at Legendary Lodge, tired, yet well happy with all that is Arusha and excited for what was to come.

Watch this space for more!

For more information and to book an exciting tailor-made trip to Tanzania, contact us and we’ll gladly help!