Singita Grumeti Sasakwa
Vibe: Baronial splendor in the Serengeti
At a Glance: An East African manor house built by an American conservationist who has outfitted it with every comfort and luxury imaginable.
Review: Of the three camp options on the Grumeti Reserves, Sasakwa commands the highest perch and price. The lodge, which consists of one grand main house and ten adjacent guest cottages, is set high up on a hillside overlooking the Serengeti plains with a view so stunning that if you spend your first few minutes after arrival speechless, you will not be the first. In fact, most guests, no matter how well traveled, will be struck virtually dumb at the setting and the splendor. In the midst of 350,000 acres of pristine natural reserve stands a manor house so opulent that the powder rooms have fabric wall coverings and hallways are lined in yards of leather fine enough for handbags. To say that the decorators have out Ralph Laurened Ralph Lauren is not an overstatement. The legendary clubs of Kenya inspired the aesthetic, and if Denys Finch Hatton or Lord Delamere and Alan Black landed here after weeks of hunting, they would have assumed this was paradise and checked in permanently. There’s a library with antique globes and first edition Laurens van der Post novels. There’s a billiard room with an unending supply of whiskey and cigars. The great room where guests gather for tea in the afternoon and drinks before or after dinner has lampshades edged in bird feathers, cult editions of photography books, artwork from African tribes and well-known wildlife sculptors. There’s a Garden Room with antique botanical prints, potted ferns, super-sized wicker chairs with needlepoint pillows and doors all around that open to the outdoors. (Of course, if the natural breezes aren’t cooling enough, there are A/C and fans.) The media room has twenty-foot-long leather couches and dozens of DVDs. A Peter Beard series of cheetah cub photos surmounts the movie-size TV screen.
There’s a stable filled with retired racehorses and polo ponies that the equestrian director picked up at auctions in Kenya and South Africa and has trained for riding on the Serengeti. (In the binders in the guest room detailing activities, you can read biographies of each horse. Boots, chaps and helmets in every size await you in the stables.) You are almost always guaranteed the main pool with its infinity edge view over the Serengeti to yourself, since few guests come all this way to float in a pool and if they want to, they have a small one of their own at their cottage. Of course, there’s a state-of-the-art gym, a small spa, tennis and badminton as well as archery. The ten private cottages, which differ mainly in numbers of bedrooms (three one-bedrooms were just added), are all designed to feel like manor houses with supremely comfortable living rooms and bedrooms, private plunge pools and unobstructed views of the African wilderness. From their crystal chandeliers to their polished mahogany floors, the cottages are furnished in Colonial style but with the most modern comforts. European antiques, leather club chairs, zebra skin ottomans and fireplaces in each room evoke old world baronial grandeur but touches like unlimited long distance calling to anywhere in the world and the purring of ever-cooling air-conditioning were designed to cosset modern-day moguls. The grass-cloth wallpaper, tribal print pillows, baskets from Zanzibar and rare coffee table books on the Serengeti or famous hunters and explorers add a subtle reminder of place. The obvious reminder, though, is the view, which is particularly prevalent in the bathrooms, where walls of glass surround a claw-footed tub angled for the utmost drama. A troop of baboons paraded by my window one afternoon. I think they were hoping to find pool toys that my kids had left after their swim. If they had come later, they may have found therapists from the spa performing a foot massage outside.
One of the secrets to the success of Singita is how relaxed they make their guests feel despite the intense orchestration that goes on behind the scenes. Whatever time you pull up to the front door and no matter how dusty or disheveled you are, one of the staff is there to meet you with a beaming smile, a tray of cold towels and a cool drink. “Welcome back,” they say, always addressing you by first name. Hedge fund kings and movie stars are called by their first names here much as they would if this were their home, and you know that you’ll miss the easy comaraderie and genuine caretaking when you leave. Even though you’re in the midst of the wilderness, meals are as excellent as you would expect at the best hotels on the French Riviera or in New York. Close your eyes when you taste a salad of endive, beet, goat cheese and mango or a grilled salmon with leeks and you may imagine that you are at Café Boulud. A talented French chef oversees the kitchens at all three lodges and many of the ingredients come from the Grumeti organic gardens. But as predictably delicious as each meal is, you will continue to be surprised by the locations. Lunch or dinner may be served under a gazebo on a private edge of the lawn. A full buffet breakfast appears in the bush. Feel like a steak in front of the fire in your cottage? Just ask.
Then again, you may not have to. For the flourishes that come from paying close attention are another Singita trademark. When my son grew a little bored by the long game drives, our guide suggested an afternoon of archery classes, along with a present of his own wooden bow and arrow. We didn’t have to ask.
Bottom line: The rate is high but the your-wish-is-my-command attitude of the staff, the palatial surroundings and, most importantly, the fact that every dollar made through tourism goes back into the local community and conservation projects makes it the obvious choice for those for whom only the best will do.
Who Should Stay: Those who want to live in splendor on the Serengeti. However, travelers who go to Africa to feel the raw and wild and believe that a bit of discomfort sharpens the senses and heightens the experiences will not be happy here.Indagare Loves
- The collections—of artifacts, African books, documentaries, wines—are all impressive
- The resort options like tennis, riding and spa that add to the safari activities and make a long stay here varied
- The commitment to the local community and conservation, which the staff will share with you if you ask
Read more about the Grumeti Reserves: history, philosophy and mission
Read about game viewing on the Grumeti Reserves
Read about the tented camp Singita Grumeti Sabora
Read about the glass cottages at Singita Grumeti Faru Faru
For information on booking and preferred rates and amenities, contact our advisory team at 212-988-2611 or by sending an inquiry
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