Bride and Groom: Tanzania’s borders are open. Currently, the East African country welcomes all nationalities to enjoy its natural size, from Kilimanjaro to the breathtaking Serengeti teeming with wildlife. If safari is high on your honeymoon wish list, the five-star Serengeti Four Seasons won’t disappoint. Take a look at one of the five detached villas, each with its own pool. Or choose a room that overlooks the on-site watering hole, a magnet for elephants. Honeymooners can also enjoy special candlelit dinners for two – in the bush, on the terrace, or by the main pool. There are also spa treatments, sunset yoga on the rock, a walking safari, game drive with game drives, and hot air balloon rides.
While I am sunbathing by the pool under an umbrella, the inexpressible boundlessness of the glittering, gold-dusty grasslands of the Serengeti in front of me, I see a parade of elephants climbing on my way. From the horizon, they approach attentively and faster than you can imagine an elephant could upset them. I rub my eyes as they travel in a hurry. Is that a dream Could this be those imaginary heffalumps that troubled Winnie the Pooh while she sleeps?
No, these 30 or so pachyderms are real – and they range in size from a tiny Babar to Colonel Hathi from the “Jungle Book” – that is young to old, Lilliputian to tall. When I look out there, surrounded by the enchantment of Tanzania’s most famous landscape, a blanket-wearing Masaai warrior leaning on his staff nearby, I find it hard not to lapse into childish reveries about Horton. It seems to be a real land of enchantment.
I have a local beer, aptly named Safari, and watch the herd in their final approach. It turns out they are just as thirsty as I am, and they waddle all the way to the watering hole that surrounds the property at Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti, an eco-conscious outpost for luxury and tranquility, right in the heart of this UNESCO-listed building National park. Not every elephant sips, some shower with their wavy trunks and shoot water in all directions with the joy of the children in a water park.
I’m not the only one watching. Dabbed by the East African sun, midday is like a nap in kindergarten for safari visitors. The safari set had got up for a game drive at dawn and was ready to do it again in the late afternoon. It uses this time of day to recharge, nourish, rehydrate, and sit back. While I enjoy the elephants from my place by the pool, other guests watch them from the spacious terrace of their suite or while they sit in one of the bars or restaurants of the resort. During this break, which falls during the hottest part of the Serengeti day, those dressed in khaki take advantage of the Four Seasons’ many amenities in a variety of ways. Sporty souls attack the fully equipped gym, which has live stream screens of the waterhole – so workout fanatics don’t miss a thing. In the well-supervised Kihana children’s club, children learn about local customs and handicrafts together with Masaai teachers. Indigenous treatments untie the knots at the spa, an enclave of stand-alone huts with views of the landscape (I’ll try Kifa asssage, which uses baobab oil made and made from Serengeti and the pressure of a Masaai warrior’s wooden stick). In the interactive discovery The Center, an Aladdin cave with maps, artifacts, books, skulls, feathers, horns, computers, and movie screens, an avid naturalist and members of the Maasai tribe are waiting to tell anyone who passes about the size of the Serengeti to enlighten. As the center supports conservation and research projects, guests have the opportunity to help with helpful tasks – such as classifying animal images captured with strategically placed remote cameras.
I ventured into the Serengeti for the great wildebeest migration, a time when thousands of wildebeest (an animal that some call ugly, but which resembles this cute monster in “Where the Wild Things Are”) move en masse, but , oddly enough, in a very straight line. Accompanied by zebra rays, they gallop from the Serengeti in Tanzania to the neighboring Maasai Mara in Kenya. Sometimes they thunder in huge herds of hundreds and can stop traffic. That happens to us. We hit a dusty road in the middle of the Serengeti and get stuck. We watch the cartoon creatures in transit for at least half an hour as they cross in front of us. During this time we remain riveted in our vehicle. We see so many personalities under just this one species – the leaders, the rebels, the Lolllygag, the babies and the fighters. Your search inspires – and I have the feeling of jumping out of the car and trotting in soldier-like formations and following them all the way to Kenya.
Of course, this is not prudent (or allowed) for all the obvious reasons. For example: these three hyenas crouched in a shallow ditch under a tree, their bodies ready to pounce, and their eyes fixed on a weak link in the wildebeest chain. When we finally move on, we spot a line of hippos roaring in a stream. Two giraffes fight like fists with their long necks and then discover three cheetahs that have cuddled sleepily in the ruts of the road. The most dramatic moment, however, comes in the midst of a grassy plain dotted with otherworldly boulders (called Kopje) and dotted with aptly named sausage trees, mushroom-shaped umbrella acacia and tropical-looking wild date palm. There a pride of about thirty lions dominates the topography like chess pieces placed in different positions on a huge chess board. Some sit with their backs straight – as vigilant as suspicious domestic cats; others doze lazily, belly up to the clouds. All keep an eye on two massive lionesses guarding their kill – a cored zebra that looks like enough food for the entire clan. As we watch, boys and teenagers approach to nibble and then run away. Above them, birds of prey eagerly look down from perches in trees or circling in the infinitesimal sky.
But it’s not just about the clicking of cameras, the Big Five bucket list, or the frenzied game drives through Serengeti National Park, home to legions of wildlife (including 70 large mammals), and the graceful Masaai, livestock tenders today live their traditional way. Even the silence pierces your soul in East Africa. Find this at sunset, when the sky ignites in an inferno of colors – waves of cobalt blue, a setting pumpkin sun, melting buttery yellow clouds, and flecks of shimmering pink. When you stand in the bush like Beryl Markham or Ernest Hemingway, you hit the sky and listen to the last screams of the baboons before they go to bed. They will tell stories of your day and talk about being transformed by the things you saw – maybe the 200 zebras you met on a walking safari with the naturalist, the rhinos you spotted when the guide looked the other way, or the hot balloon ride, during which you drifted across the bush as beautifully as a lilac-breasted scooter.
You might even see a Heffalump like Winnie the Pooh.
What is the Serengeti? A UNESCO-protected national park in northern Tanzania.
Who will enjoy this adventure? The Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti is ideal for first-time safari visitors who are reluctant to stay in more rustic, less opulent tented camps or who crave luxury amenities like gyms, high-speed internet, and kids’ clubs. It is a bonafide resort as well as a safari lodge and includes all meals, spirits, wine and beer. Game drives can be arranged at an additional cost. It is ideal for families and has a few connecting rooms and large stand-alone villas for larger groups. Note: The resort welcomes children over two years of age
To book a room? One with a view of the waterhole.