Travel + Leisure has named Singita Grumeti Reserves in Tanzania's Serengeti National Park the "best hotel in the world" for the past two years.
So when the Tanzania Tourist Board invited me to visit, I had to see what all the fuss was about.
I can't say for sure that it's the world's best hotel property, but it was one of the most stunning and unique hotels I have ever stayed in.
Grumeti Reserve is actually a 340,000-acre concession on the western corridor of the Serengeti that's owned by billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones. Jones partnered with Singita, a luxury safari brand with resorts around Africa, in 2006 to build an oasis in the wild.
In that time, they truly have built an oasis. Singita Grumeti established an anti-poaching unit and effectively stopped poaching in the area, resulting in a resurgence of big game. It's also working to reintroduce the endangered black rhino, and has a built a major education initiative for some 20 local communities around the reserve.
Of course, Grumeti Reserve is also now home to one of the most exclusive hotels in the world. Singita actually has three main lodges spread across the property, as well as some smaller locales, including a mobile tent camp.
I stayed at Sabora Tented Camp, the most rustic of the three main lodges. My room may have been made of canvas, but it wasn't an ordinary tent. It was ultra-luxurious, with air conditioning, wi-fi, an outdoor shower, and a canopied bed.
Even so, at times I felt closer to nature than I'm normally comfortable with. By the second day, I stopped jumping every time a gecko ran up the wall. And I had a hard time falling asleep thanks to the hundreds of wildebeest lowing outside my tent.
The food was five-star, with a menu of locally grown produce and fresh meat and fish. But what really made the hotel so unique — and probably why it continues to get such high accolades from travel publications — is the individual treatment each guest receives.
Our guide, Simon, was with us from early morning until late at night, driving my tour group around the reserve and teaching us the intricate details of the Great Migration. We ate dinner at a private table in a different spot around the camp each night, and each meal felt like a celebration. From the managers to the waitstaff, everyone knew our names and went out of their way to make sure we were having the best time possible.
And it wasn't because we were on a press trip; I saw them do the same for other guests.
Singita Grumeti isn't cheap. Sabora Tented camp costs $1,150 per person per night in the high season and $850 in the low season; rates at Sasakwa, the flagship lodge, go up to $1,700 per person per night. It's the sort of place you go once in your life, if you're very lucky — for a honeymoon or retirement trip.
Disclosure: Our trip to Tanzania, including travel and lodging expenses, was sponsored by the Tanzania Tourist Board, Africa Adventure Company, Singita Grumeti Group, Coastal Aviation, Qatar Airways, Tanzania National Parks, Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority and Wildlife Division.
After a three-hour drive from Sasakwa airstrip through the plains of Grumeti Reserve, we finally spotted Sabora Tented Camp in the distance.
The place seemed to blend in with the scenery. From the kitchen to the guest rooms, the entire camp is actually made of thick canvas.
We hopped out of our off-road vehicle and were greeted by Sabora's staff, who welcomed us with a handwashing ceremony.
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