Extraordinary: Alex Walker's Serian Lamai Lodge
Africa, one of the continents that I never made it to (excluding my five hours in Cairo en-route to Bangkok). How come, a friend always kept asking me. How come I never made it to one of the most diverse, unique and most breathtaking places in the world? Isn’t it true that African Lodges even exceed the daily rates of Parisian Palaces, Maldivian resorts or the luxury hotels on the Amalfi Coast? True fact and some of the most unique hotels in the world, in particular, are located in Kenya and Tanzania. Why did we decide for the latter one you may ask? Well, simply because I felt that South Africa needs to be explored in the European winter and Tanzania is just super famous and frequented by the Millenials. Leaving Kenya aside for another trip of course. While Tanzania isn’t theoretically as far as Chile from Central Europe, it took us almost as many hours as back then from Milan to Santiago de Chile. Hopping from Munich to Amsterdam, overnight flight to Nairobi to jet to Kilimanjaro Airport near Arusha to catch the miniature plane that brought us to a simple airstrip (aka sand slope that can handle small planes) of Kogatende. Koga... what, you ask? Welcome to the Serengeti North! In all the chaos of arriving and departing tourists from all over the world, our friendly guide approached us, and as soon as we saw the Alex Walker logo on the car, we know the chaos is actually very well organized in the bush of Africa, and our most exciting adventure was about to start.
Basically, we were lucky and could pass the Mara river as our camp was the Alex Walker’s Serian Lamai and therefore across the river. They usually ask you to fly into Lamai airstrip however we stayed on the Kogatende site for a few more days and weren’t able to fly to Lamai therefore. As soon as we arrived at the camp, an array of staff was waiting for us, including the camp’s manager Ainslie - a genuine African welcome! We received a refreshing welcome drink, cold towel and were then escorted to the main tent where we had a chat with Ainslie. She was the one informing us of all the guidelines and rules that come with staying at a real camp in the African bush - even though this is a very luxurious one. Walking at night is only allowed with a guide, and once you are in danger while in the tent, you need to use a whistle since there are no phone lines. The rule of the rules: disconnect from the world, there is no internet access at all! However you can charge your phone thanks to electronic plugs, but you won’t need to charge your iPhone X for days since the battery actually lasts long as you can’t use the phone other than taking pictures.
We were generously upgraded to what can be described as the Presidential Suite of the camp. This two-bedroom tent is usually booked by families that prefer to stay close to each other and need an additional living room to spend the afternoons together. While I decided to stay on the right side, the one facing the main tent, Lukas went for the left-wing. Basically, the individual tents were quite the same as the stand-alone one-bedroom tents and came with an iron-kind-bed with a quite comfy mattress, small clothes rack where I could hang my shirts and jackets (the nights get very chilly) as well as a small bench to put the suitcase on. Next to the bedroom is the unique bathroom that comes with a quite unusual sink. Besides the glamorous looking golden bowl, there were a few guest products such as detergent to wash underwear, a bar of soap, body lotion and the famous bucket full of water. Every time you need to wash your hands, you take a can from the water bucket and put it over your hands - just like in times before we had water pipes. I think it is fair to say that this is something new to everyone who reads this blog! Lukas and I were equally impressed by the nostalgic touch.
No need to worry, there is a proper toilet seat, and this one actually works like at your home with water flushing when you need it. On the other hand, we have a unique camp shower situation. Your guide will ask you when you want to have the shower, and since we decided always to have it before dinner, they somehow boiled a few litres of water and brought the bucket to our room. As soon as the water arrived, we both together had a total of three minutes. Let me suggest that you wash your hair before coming to the Alex Walker Serian Camps and make sure to know the rules of the game! Again, we absolutely loved it - of course, we both were well aware of the water and internet situation, and I must say this was the reason why we wanted to stay here instead of any other camp. I agree that it is a necessity to enjoy a luxurious bathroom when travelling for me but since there is this kind of camp in Tanzania and Kenya, I wanted to experience the real Africa far away from the sumptuous water consumption we have in Europe. Don’t get me wrong, limited water supply and no internet doesn’t mean that this is not a luxury lodge. The contrary is the case, Alex Walker Serian Lamai Camp is one of the most upscale properties I have ever stayed at.
All the textiles used and the furniture is of high quality and of course the main essence it the absolutely top-notch service managed by Ainslie - one of the best lodge managers we have had the chance to meet so far. Our guide Jacob was simply outrageous and comparing to the other lodges we stayed at so far, the big difference was the communication. He kept on explaining where we were going to and what we were about to see there. Jacob told us the habits of the animals and also showed us the most perfect spots. An exceptional feature of Alex Walker Safaris is that every vehicle comes with one English-speaking guide as well as a non-English speaking local from a nearby tribe. Latter ones have an extremely good sense of hunting and see animals miles away. As usual in Tanzania’s luxury camps and especially in the Serengeti National Park, every tent/villa comes with its own car and guide, so you are rarely put together with another couple. All guides are employed by the camps themselves and speak excellent English, however, what animals you get to see depends heavily on which company you are staying with. Alex Walker was the best in the Serengeti North to see the most animals. We told Jacob on our first day that we want to see Lions and Cheetas, and even though it comes with a lot of luck to see these animals, Jacob and the local guide managed to find the most amazing lions even with small babies.
During the game drives (there is one after breakfast and one at 3-4 pm), there is a box of cold water, soft drinks and beer to serve yourself. I absolutely loved the sunsets where Lukas and I were offered a bottle of Serengeti beer while observing the lion family for hours and seeing the sun setting over the lonely countryside. On the second day, we had one of the famous Alex Walker’s bush breakfasts, which were a real delight. Jacob and the other guide arranged a small buffet on the back of the car and served us with hot drinks, cake and bread as well as fruits, ham and eggs. Lunch and dinner are both served in either the dining tent or outside under the stars. While I loved the idea of a community table so everyone can connect with each other, the dinner under the sky was my personal favourite, and it was just lovely to chat with both managers while enjoying a delightful three-course menu.
Regarding the food and beverages at Alex Walker Serian Lamai Camp, there is a selection of house wines and drinks that are included in your Full Board package as all the food. However, some selected premium wines and spirits come with a charge as everywhere else in the national parks in Tanzania. Lunch is set up in the form of a buffet, and you can serve yourself with meat and vegetarian options. Most of the main courses during dinner are prepared on a plate so everyone can help themselves. Occasionally, there are main courses that are being served by the staff, depending on the dish made. I have to admit that the food was the best we have had during our two weeks in Tanzania and we always went for a second serving as it was simply delicious! Congrats to the chef for doing such an incredible job. Before we left the lodge on the third day, we enjoyed a classic lodge breakfast that was set up in a buffet style with a hot chocolate, homemade bread and pastries along with a few kinds of cheese and fruits. The staff even makes sure that you arrive at the airstrip on time and therefore calls your airline the day before to make all the arrangements. So did Ainslie and we arrived at the airport perfectly on time, so we didn’t have any rush.
I can highly recommend Alex Walker Serian Lamai Camp and in general, all of his camps as they follow a very distinctive concept that is really unique in the world. With all the services offered, including the excellent food, tasty wines, flawless staff and outrageous tours, this camp is totally worth every penny and if you want to make sure your trip to the Serengeti is the most unique of your life, do not look further and try to book early or hope to be lucky to get one of the last tents at Alex Walker’s Serian Lamai Camp. My parents are about to book a trip to the Serengeti as well after having seen the photos and hearing about a camp that doesn’t want to offer Wifi just that guests communicate with each other! I mean isn’t that a reason alone to fly to Tanzania? Some people need a break away from their phones and their internet access!
Disclaimer: During our first time in the Serengeti, we were guests of the Alex Walker’s Serian Lamai Lodge for editorial purposes. Opinions are our own as usual and have not been influenced. Luxury Executive is a blog published by tourism experts and all reviews purely focus on the hotel and destination.