“Wait, stop. I can see something behind that tree,” says one of my safari companions over the now-familiar rumble of our Jeep, which is gaily bouncing along the Serengeti’s sand tracks. “It’s an elephant’s ear,” our knowledgeable guide Priscus says without even glancing sideways. After just two days in Tanzania we all agree to drive on. “No need to stop for an elephant’s ear when we’ve seen the whole thing 10 times over,” another member of the group says. We all nod in agreement.
Such is the abundance of animal sightings in the Serengeti that we’ve graduated from squealing over the merest glimpse of a zebra stripe to being completely blasé about 200 wildebeest trotting by. And, as for elephants, when you’re staying at the Four Seasons Safari Lodge, you’re guaranteed to get closer to these gentle giants than you’d ever believe possible. The luxury lodge, near Seronera in the middle of the Serengeti, has the most glorious of settings. The main infinity pool trickles over into a natural watering hole, which is a favourite lunchtime drinking and bathing spot for huge families of elephants. So, if you’ve had enough of the African massage (the local term for bumping around in the Jeep) for one day, you can get your fill of animal action from the sunlounger with a Simba cocktail in hand.
Rafiki slinks off after our stand off!
It’s not just the main pool that provides Lion King-style scenes. On the balcony of my suite it’s just me, miles of African plains, my own infinity pool, and… thump, a massive baboon. There’s nothing between you and the wildlife here, so there’s no reason Ra ki shouldn’t make himself comfy on my deck, but this level of animal interaction takes some getting used to and I make a quick exit to the sanctuary of my suite. Once inside,I have a stand-off with the baboon, as the clever blighter tries to slide the door open. It’s exhilarating being this close to a wild creature, and I’m torn between taking pictures of his comically bare bottom and defending my room.
The baboon is just one of many unforgettable stories I come home with. Staying in five-star accommodation in the middle of the bush creates so many magical moments that you’ll never experience anywhere else. The huge at-screen television in my room springs into life one day all by itself. It’s informing me that a herd of elephants are frolicking around the hotel’s water hole – modern technology meeting the natural world at its very best. If I didn’t know better I’d say these majestic beasts had been trained to meet the Four Seasons level of exquisite service. Around the pool one afternoon I casually enquire as to their whereabouts. A second later I hear the telltale trumpet of an elephant – English translation: “I’ll be right there, madam”.
Image: Getty Images
That’s the beauty of this resort – it manages to feel completely at one with nature, but every honeymoon desire you could wish for is on tap if you ask for it. There’s no sleeping in tents or washing under a bucket shower, it’s a safari experience for luxe lovers. Fancy a beer as you watch hippos wallowing in mud? Just reach into your Jeep’s fridge. Need a top-up of sun cream when you’re lying round the pool? Just visit the well-stocked sun-cream station. Sore neck from taking hundreds of pictures of tree-climbing lions? Head to the tranquil spa for a couples’ massage. There’s even a constant wi-fi connection that extends to the Jeep even when it’s miles from the resort, so you can instantly upload every incredible animal sighting to Instagram and make people back home green with envy. By day two, my account included a snap of a brazen hippo sauntering within paw’s reach of a pride of hungry lions, a malachite king fisher glinting like a bauble in the sun and the silhouettes of hundreds of giraffes gamboling along the horizon.
While there’s so much to see and do outside the resort, it’s worth setting aside plenty of downtime just to enjoy your suite, too. There are 77 rooms, ranging from the vast, decadent Presidential Villa to the Savannah Rooms, which have baths with a view. I was in a Terrace Suite with my own lounge, huge four-poster bed and bathroom with a walk-in wardrobe. With the private terraces, you don’t feel like you’re missing out on not being on a game drive. Some of the most amazing photos I took on the trip were while I had my toes dangling in my pool and a glass of champagne in my other hand – a pretty pair of dik-diks (tiny antelopes who mate for life), and a close-up of a baby elephant.
Image: Getty Images
A classic day here starts early, with a delicious buffet breakfast followed by a dawn game drive to catch the animals in action before the fierce midday sun makes them retreat to the shadows. Then it’s back to the lodge for lunch on the terrace and a dip in the pool. Afternoons are spent back in the bush, and then there are three restaurants to choose from for a romantic dinner: the Boma Grill, where you can try delicious African fare while watching traditional Maasai dancing around the fire pit; Kula’s Restaurant, for amazing buffets; and Maji Bar and Terrace, for relaxed sharing platters and pizzas.
It’s a tried-and- tested itinerary that makes the most of the wildlife and the hotel’s amenities, but the really special moments happen when you shake things up a bit. The lodge has on-site reservation specialists, who can make pretty much anything happen, whether that’s a sunrise hot-air balloon ride followed by a champagne bush breakfast, a walking safari with a Maasai warrior or a silver-service dinner and sundowners for two in the middle of the plains. Our last evening ends in just this way, drinking bubbly on the top of a kopje, a granite outcrop, as the sun turns the sky an incredible shade of orange. Then it’s on to a three-course meal with chilled pairing wines and service to rival The Ritz. How the staff manage to provide this experience in the middle of the bush, I’ll never know – like the best magic tricks, I’m happy just to watch and be wowed.
Rates at Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti start from $1000 (approx. £797) per night for a Savannah Room on a full-board basis, excluding $60 (approx. £47) daily national park fee. For a Terrace Suite, it is $1590 (approx. £1268) per night on the same basis, fourseasons.com/serengeti