London to Nairobi. Nairobi to Kilimanjaro. Kilimanjaro to the Seronera Airstrip. Two jets and one propellor plane later, we had finally arrived in the heart of Tanzania’s breathtaking Serengeti National Park.
And the best way to be greeted following a nearly 24-hour-long journey? By a Four Seasons-emblazoned jeep carrying canapes and champagne on ice, of course.
After our rejuvenating snack, we were quickly whisked away for the hour-long drive from the airstrip to the spectacular Four Seasons Safari Lodge.
Following a nearly 24-hour journey, we arrived at the Four Seasons Serengeti Lodge in the heart of Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park
And despite the fact that the ride wasn’t even a scheduled game drive, we still managed to spot a few giraffes shading themselves in the scorching afternoon sun.
My first impressions of the Lodge were as majestic as one would expect. I was led to my room – via an elevated wooden walkway – by a Maasai warrior, who was quick to point out the large infinity pool off the lobby where elephants are known to come for a drink of water.
Not that I needed to venture to the resort pool if I didn’t want to. I had my own plunge pool, overlooking the plains, on my room’s private terrace.
By this point, it should come as no surprise that the hotel is beloved by Hollywood A-listers, such as Vanessa Hudgens and Austin Butler, as well as Brit stars, like Made in Chelsea’s Amber Atherton.
Hollywood actress Vanessa Hudgens (pictured left) is a fan of the resort, having holidayed there last summer with friends
While in the Serengeti, the High School Musical actress and her boyfriend, Austin Butler, also took advantage of the hotel’s game drives
The luxurious five-star property has many spectacular rooms to book – and all of them offer unobstructed views of the African plains
MailOnline Travel’s Katie also visited the Moru Kopjes area
Before sunset cocktails by the main pool, I attempted to adjust my internal clock with a quick doze in my room – however, the many baboons who call the resort grounds home had other plans for me.
I was awoken to the sound of someone – or something – banging on my terrace window. I opened the curtains and came to face with three very large primates, one of which was attempting to open my balcony door.
After double (and triple) checking to ensure that the door was locked, and unable to go back to sleep, I watched the monkeys enjoy a dip in my plunge pool and lay about on my sunlounger.
Lodge staff later told me that the baboon’s fearless behaviour is quite commonplace. They tend to frequent guests’ rooms in hopes that someone will have mistakenly left their terrace door unlocked and some sweet treats out on the tables inside.
Our first full day in Tanzania featured a morning game drive with our guide for the week, Priscus, whose knowledge of all things Serengeti was seemingly unparalleled.
Eager for sightings of the Big Five, Priscus immediately led us toward a part of the National Park that is known for being prime lion-spotting ground.
Within moments, we had spotted a female lion sunning on a rock, but it was later that afternoon that things really got interesting.
One particularly friendly male lion, laying just feet from our Jeep, decided to make himself known to another tour group parked alongside us – much to both our delight and theirs.
After that, we were spoilt for choice, and on our way back to the lodge observed a pregnant female lion lounging high above the ground on a tree branch.
And those weren’t the only once-in-a-lifetime viewings we were privy to during this holiday.
The following morning, we set our alarms for 4am to set out on what would wind up being one of the most memorable excursions: a sunrise hot air balloon ride above the Serengeti, courtesy of Serengeti Balloon Safaris, following by a traditional English breakfast in the middle of the bush.
Some of the suites even offer an outdoor bathtub, while others have private terraces with plunge pools that look on to the Serengeti
Although you won’t spend much time in your room, all are outfitted with high quality decor inspired by the area’s Maasai culture
Animals, such as elephants, freely roam along the property, often stopping for a mid-day drink at the hotel’s on-site watering hole
Guests will likely be eager to take advantage of the hotel-offered game drives, where animals like lions, cheetahs and jaguars may be seen
During one of our many safari drives, we got up close and personal with an elephant (left) and also saw a pregnant lion escaping the scorching sun in a tree (right)
The environmentally-friendly property (pictured) also offers many other excursions for guests, such as a day-trip to the Moru in the south western part of the park or a sunrise hot air balloon ride
As well as a large lobby, there’s also a Discovery Centre in the main lodge, where guests can learn more about the Serengeti ecosystem
All of the property’s buildings are connected via elevated walkways – and in the evening, a Maasai warrior will escort you to your room
Considerably cooler at this time of day, we bundled up for our morning flight above the plains.
Take-off proved to be a bit of a nerve-wracking ordeal, as we lay down to be strapped in sideways before our pilot pulled the balloon into an upright position.
During the ride, we were brought in as low as several metres off the ground to offer us better views of the hippos cooling off in the rivers below.
Although we never managed to spot a lion or cheetah prowling along, we did see several zebra and warthogs, before landing – quite literally – in the middle of the National Park – for a traditional hot English breakfast complete with champagne.
Back at the Lodge, we opted for a more low-key day lounging by the infinity pool. And despite staying nearby the hotel, we still managed to take in several stellar elephant sightings as they sauntered up to their waterhole for a mid-day drink.
Later that afternoon, and with the help of the hotel’s chef, we learned how to make ‘Zanzibar pizza,’ a crepe-like snack that contains neither cheese nor tomato sauce.
We also learned how to set up monitoring cameras along the perimeter of the property, in hopes of capturing a predator that we may otherwise not see during the night alongside Discovery Centre staff. For more information about any of the animals you see on your game drives, the Great Migration or the varied cultural history of Tanzania, the hotel’s Discovery Centre is a fabulous resource.
The space, situated just off the lobby, is part museum and part lecture theatre, and boasts a comprehensive interactive map of the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem.
The Maji Bar and Terrace (pictured) serves breakfast – try the banana pancakes! – and dinner. There is also an open-air restaurant, called Boma Grill, for those looking to sample Tanzanian specialities
From your (very comfortable) bed, you can take in views of the bush and the many animals that may saunter past your room
One of the most difficult animals to find is the cheetah, though several lucky guests have spotted the predator lounging in a tree
One morning, we woke up at 4am for a sunrise hot air balloon safari, followed by a traditional English breakfast in the middle of the park
As well as an impressive spa, featuring many special signature African treatments, you can also take part in sunrise or sunset yoga
In the evenings, the hotel can even arrange a special ‘bush dinner’ where you and your guests can dine under the stars – just a few minutes drive from the property
In the spa, the hotel’s signature Kifaa massage is not to be missed. Using a Maasai wooden baton called a rungu, the full-body, deep pressure massage is combined with the moisturising power of Tanzanian baobab oil for a holistic, full-body treatment.
And for a bit more authentic African culture, book into the Boma Grill to watch or take part in traditional Maasai dancing and indulge in local specialities around an open-air firepit.
But for those who truly want to get up close and personal with the Maasai history, it’s worth the (several hour) trip out to the Moru Kopjes area of the south western Serengeti.
It’s one of the only areas where tourists may spot the elusive Black Rhino (unfortunately, we didn’t), however, our Maasai escort was a wealth of knowledge about the region, including the cultural significance of Gong Rock and the Rock Paintings. And he also provided excellent security in keeping our picnic lunch away from several curious baboons.
The next morning was our last chance to enjoy the Maji Bar and Terrace’s stellar banana pancakes, following a quick yoga class, before we were on our way back to the airport.
Unsurprisingly, the journey home to rainy London felt far longer than the reverse jaunt just days earlier.
Prices for a four night stay at Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti start from 5,840 USD (approx. £3,740) on a full board basis, inclusive of round trip transfers to Seronera Airstrip and daily game drives. www.fourseasons.com/serengeti
Serengeti Balloon Safaris offer hot air balloon safaris: firstname.lastname@example.org & UK phone number +44 (0)1225 773756
Kenya Airways operates daily flights from Terminal 4 London-Heathrow to Nairobi with daily connections to Kilimanjaro. Prices for economy return ticket from £759.76 including taxes. www.kenya-airways.com