The Four Seasons Sets Up Camp in Tanzania’s Serengeti

By Karen Loftus

The best way to start your Tanzanian adventure is at the Bilila Lodge, set in the Serengeti National Park. Grab a quick and intimate flight in from Dar Es Salam, Tanzania’s capital city and head toward the Serengeti.

If you time it right, you will catch the famed mass migration of wildebeest below while in flight. With more than two million wildebeest, 500,000 Thomson’s gazelles, and 250,000 zebras, it is the best piece of live theater you will ever experience. It will look like a well-organized dance or an army of well-rehearsed ants marching across the great open plains. It sets the tone for the magic before you in the Serengeti, which means “endless plains.”

Once on the ground you will be scooped up in a jeep, taking in your first game drive en route to the lodge. Be prepared to stop while stampedes of elephant go by, nosey giraffes turn those necks to take note and frisky ostriches play the mating game. This is all just on your way in to the lodge. The natural theatrics continue at every turn.

Upon arrival to Bilila, nestled in the heart of the Serengeti National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you will be greeted by Masai warriors in their traditional wares. The play host and private guide throughout your visit. They were initially hired to protect the property while it was being built, single-handedly chasing away lions and buffalo that wandered up the drive or on to the property.

Today the Masai live on site and walk you to and from your villa at night. You may be privy to their traditional chants and dances, one which involves them jumping straight up in the air several feet off the floor. This is done in their villages, where the highest jumper gets the prettiest girl.

The Lodge boasts 62 rooms, twelve suites and four luxe villas, which have hosted several heads of state. All have direct and endless views over the Serengeti. Bilila is very unique as no other property of this size or scale exists, or is likely to ever be developed again in the National Park. The lodge strikes that delicate balance of providing all of the modern amenities that a typical big brand hotel resort would have, which is rare in a safari setting, yet all the while having that yummy remote, intimate African villa feeling.

Designed seamlessly with contemporary African architecture that is considerate of the natural landscape, the centerpiece of the property is a two-story great house. There is indoor and outdoor seating and dining throughout, a spa and a picturesque infinity-edge swimming pool overlooking an active watering hole that is a hot spot for neighboring animals. Expect frequent visits from a regular herd of 30 elephants who greeted us upon arrival.

Elevated wooden walkways connect the great house to guest rooms, free-standing villas and the spa complex. Nosy elephants are known to peer in the window or buffalo will snort outside mid treatment. The game surrounds the property at all hours of the day and night, which is where fearless Masai guides come in handy, especially on your nightly walks back to the room.

The attentive staff caters to your game needs as we set out for an extraordinarily long drive one day, in order to catch the migration first hand. It was an endless flip of National Geographic-like photos throughout the day until we were taken front and center, to the route where the star stampede was charging by. Their nemesis, the lion lingered in the bush while advantageous hyenas skipped alongside the stampede and vultures hovered, waiting for the fallen. We were absolutely silenced by the natural theatrics while the surround sound stampede enveloped us.

Heading over? Micato Safaris can make all of your African arrangements including your stay at Bilila, your airfare, safaris and island excursions throughout East Africa. Bilila was recently taken over by Four Seasons and will be renamed Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti, Tanzania by years end. The lodge is the first of three of the brand’s Sub-Saharan expansion; additional new properties planned are in Ngorongoro Conservation area and on the idyllic island of Zanzibar.

Masai warrior and elephant image by Karen Loftus
Bilila Property images courtesy of Four Seasons