August 17, 2010
Serengeti Under Canvas was the second &Beyond lodge we stayed at on our safari. We had originally planned on 3 nights there, but upon arrival we immediately tried to get out of there as soon as possible. Traveling from the Masai Mara to the Serengeti is extremely frustrating. By car it would be a 90 minute drive at the most, however because of borders one must fly back to Nairobi then to Kilimanjaro then to the lodge. We spent the entire day traveling what should have been a 15 minute plane ride. When we landed in the Serengeti things went wrong from the start. Poachers were in the area hunting the wildebeests and had lit fires all over the plains (I will make a separate post soon). The smoke was thick and heavy and I felt deeply saddened and helpless as I watched the grass that the wildebeests need for food burn in front of us.
Even though our plane arrived over an hour late our driver had waited for us to land to deal with the paper work so upon arrival we had to wait in the car for half an hour while the driver disappeared into the park office to secure us the pass for the park. While in the car we noticed the ceremonial stick/fly swatter made of a beaded handle and cow or wildebeest tail that the Masai Warriors had shown us in Kenya. We wondered why they were in the car. After procuring the permit and beginning our drive we quickly learned why we had those swatters: tsetse flies. Those buggers were everywhere and if you let them land for more than a few seconds they would bite- through a shirt, hat, even sneakers and trust me those bites sting. So as you can probably guess by the time we pulled up to the hotel after dark at around 7pm we were exhausted, in pain, and deeply saddened. Then we learned that there had been a bit of a miscommunication about the camp.
We were under the impression that this would be luxury camping which included electricity and internet. There was in fact one generator for the camp, but only for the lights in the room, there were no additional outlets and there was no phone or internet and our blackberries were out of range. Our rooms were supposed to be near each other, but they were actually very far apart and we could only go out at night with an escort, who could not be communicated with once you were in the tent, so all movements had to be prearranged. To top matters off the other people at the camp were one big group who were very loud, raucous and smokers. That evening we were served the worst food we had eaten on the trip, which had obviously come from cans and were surrounded by the glow of fires- their smoke mingling with the cigarette smoke of our fellow campers. The game drive the next day was great, except for the fires, but the whole point of the camp is that it is supposed to follow the migration putting you in the thick of it, and we had to drive over an hour to get to the animals, where at Bateleur it was a two minute drive out the front gate of the lodge. Obviously we did not get the experience we had anticipated, some of it was within &Beyond’s control, and some of the factors were beyond their control.
They did their best to accommodate us by setting up an electrical plug for me to charge my camera equipment and computer so I could work, but the light from the computer at night attracted so many bugs I was not really able to work. The best thing they did for us was get us out of there fast. They were able to change our 3 nights to 2 and sent us on our way to the beautiful and spectacular Ngorongoro Crater Lodge. For those looking for a very traditional old world safari without the luxuries of running water and electricity, the camp is beautiful. We had a collision of bad events making for a very bad experience, but I do admit the camp has its positives. If you long for the feeling of connecting with nature in its primitive form, but still want the luxury of a nice bed and toilet, this camp may be right for you.