Amid the wilds of the Serengeti is Aurari Camp – one of Kantabile Afrika’s two eco-friendly safari dwellings. Each canvas tent rests on hardwood platforms made of locally sourced timber, and has a private, northeast-facing veranda extending the length of it – a great location, it must be said, to watch as the sun rises over the sepia-toned Serengeti. Visit between June and October to see the great wildebeest migration thundering over the nearby Maasai Mara river – a formidable force touted as one of the most spectacular natural events on the planet. The sounds of lions at night will likely remind you: this is raw, untamed Tanzania.
Four eco-friendly, sunrise-facing tents with private verandas
Between 5–10am. Check-in is between 2–7pm. If you’ll be arriving or departing outside of these times then let the hotel know in advance – particularly as the park prohibits travel after dark.
Double rooms from £697.87 ($886), including tax at 18 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional room tax of 1% per booking prior to arrival.
Rates include lunch, dinner and a breakfast of hot dishes, fresh fruits, coffee, tea and juices in the Mara restaurant. Bush breakfasts can be booked too, for an extra cost.
Aurari Camp is positioned in one of the main migration corridors of the annual great wildebeest migration. A majestic melée of two million grazing animals – most famously the white-bearded East African wildebeest, but also zebra and Thomson’s gazelle – embark on a journey through the Serengeti in July, following seasonal rains and the nourishing grasses that grow in their wake. Some herds pay the nearby Maasai Mara a brief visit, making Aurari Camp an auspicious outpost for observing this staggering exodus.
The camp is closed during Tanzania’s rainy months of April and May.
At the hotel
Mara restaurant, Waterhole bar, private game drives, hot-air ballooning. Stays include three meals a day and drinks such as juices, local beers, house wines, coffee and tea. In rooms: WiFi (please note that given the location, this can be intermittent), safe, writing desk, charging points, hairdryer, towels, robes and slippers, drinking water, locally-grown coffee, Kilimanjaro tea, Inaya Zanzibar toiletries.
Our favourite rooms
There are four tented suites at Aurari, constructed using canvas and locally sourced timber. Each suite has 50 sq m of hardwood-flooring – split into a bedroom, lounge area and bathroom wing – and a northeast-facing private veranda guaranteeing spectacular African sunrises. Soft lighting, Egyptian cotton bed sheets, Maasai art and locally-made furnishings infuse the tents with the beat of the savannah.
Learn some Swahili phrases in preparation: jambo (meaning hello), asante (thank you), kwa heri (goodbye), and perhaps most crucial of all: simba (lion).
There are two options for your stay at Aurari. The first is a room and board basis, which needs to be arranged as part of a broader tour. The second is a game package – which also includes game drives and your transfer from airstrip to camp.
Children over five are welcome, and will be fully immersed in the safari experience through bush tales told by safari guides. The family suites have a king-size bed in the main bedroom, and a queen-size bed in the adjoining lounge.
Aurari Camp’s eco-friendly tents are built on a ‘leave no trace’ principle, meaning there are no permanent structures, and the entire camp can be up-and-gone without damaging the land. The owners are passionate about maintaining the health of the land they love, and the communities that live on it. Suites are made from locally sourced timber and canvas, furniture and furnishings are designed by local artisans and sourced from nearby settlements, and electricity and water are solar-powered. The all-Tanzanian team not only take pride in looking after guests, but also act as custodians of the land.
There are truly no bad tables in the Mara tent: you’ll be treated to views of the Serengeti’s savannah grasslands, acacia forests, rolling hills and granite kopjes no matter where you sit.
Safari-sleek, but no animal prints (it’s best not to blend in too much).
Tuck into made-to-order meals at Mara, the camp’s dining tent. Chefs can cater to veggie, vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free needs, and all dishes are prepared using fresh, local ingredients – your order will be taken on check-in. Try Kilimanjaro beer chicken and finish with maziwa ya kukaanga – a typical Tanzanian dessert with a crunchy exterior and fondant-like filling, made using milk from the dairy cows of the nearby Mugumu village, which is then blended with Kilimanjaro vanilla. You can have a sit down lunch in Mara, but if you’re planning on a full-day game drive then the kitchen will sort you out with a luxe lunch box (no Babybels in sight).
The Waterhole bar serves light snacks and drinks between 4–10pm. Take a safari sundowner at the fire pit – we love the refreshing hibiscus G&T, served over ice and locally picked lime.
Breakfast can be served anytime from 5am (yes, really), depending on how up-and-at-’em you’re feeling. You’ll be able to arrange a preferred time for dinner on arrival, but evening meals are typically served 7–10pm.
Room service isn’t available at Aurari (trust us, it's best not to leave traces of food in your tent, given your proximity to wild animals), but you can take your morning coffee, tea or a sundowner cocktail on your veranda.
Aurari Camp is stationed in the secluded Wogakuria, close to the Maasai Mara river in Northern Serengeti.
Kogatende airstrip is a 45-minute drive from the camp. Coastal Aviation, Auric Air, Regional Air, Air Excel and Flightlink all operate daily flights to the airstrip – a two hour journey from Arusha airport. Many say this trip is a safari in itself, it being an opportunity to appreciate just how vast the Serengeti is from above. If you’ve booked Aurari’s game package plan, then transfers by car from the aistrip to the camp are included.
Aurari Camp do not accept self-drive guests, so if you’ve booked a room and board package, you’ll need to ask your tour operator to contact the camp in advance and arrange necessary permits.
Worth getting out of bed for
After a morning coffee on your private veranda and a sumptuous breakfast, your likely next step is a step up: into a safari-ready Land Cruiser. Bring your lenses because sightings are plentiful here: prides of tawny lions, snap-ready Nile crocodiles, rare black rhino, lurking leopards and great herds of hippos roam the untouched riverine forests and open landscapes of the Serengeti. Take the day at your own pace, just like the animals do – you’re well positioned here, it being a region less frequented than other African safari spots. Game drives, birdwatching, bush lunches, hot-air balloon rides and star gazing are all on the agenda – each day there’ll be new wildlife to see, another animalistic interaction to witness, a unique sunset to savour. A stay in the Serengeti is a stay of showstopper moments: from the first act right through to curtain call.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from their eco-friendly tent in the Serengeti, unpacked their Kilimanjaro teas and posted their National Geographic-worthy shots, a full account of their savannah safari break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Aurari Camp in Tanzania...
Dewy morning rays invite you out of your butter-soft bed and onto your private veranda decking, where views stretch over the sloping hills, tall grasses and indigenous trees of Northern Serengeti. Days here are action packed and yet somehow timeless – much like nature and its cycles – the beat of the Serengeti is set to the chirping of songbirds, the thunder of hooves and the trumpeting of elephants. There’s much to explore in this Unesco-recognised park (all 15,000 sq kilometres of it): swaying grasslands, acacia forests and giant granite rock formations, home to lions, leopards, cheetahs, elephants, crocodiles, rhinos, and much more. Cinnamon-coloured plains explored, head back to camp where the ubuntu spirit of African hospitality awaits.