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Reviewed July 14, 2012

My husband and didn't know quite what to expect of a "tented encampment", but boy were we surprised. Comfy bed, flush toilet and running water to the sink and shower in the separate bathroom. The hardwood floors were also a nice touch although they could have been better supported with some type of subflooring. As older travelers it was a little uncomfortable to be walking around on uneven bouncing flooring.

As nice as this encampment was, however, it was not as nice as the Lemala Ewanjan in the Serengeti. The advantage is that it is one of only two or three encampments actually located in the crator. As such, you will be one of the first safari vehicles on the crator floor citing game. The advantage of this will be fully recognized by about noon when the crator is crawling with safari vehicles, practically running into each other. Since it can take an hour or more to reach the crator floor from outside camps (and only minutes from this one) you will probably have seen many of the animals before the others reach the floor. That alone make a stay here well worth it. It isn't the most luxurious, but it is very very nice.

The food is great and the staff extremely friendly and accommodating. We had a wonderful first night on safari and would return to this camp again.

Room Tip: The tents are essentially the same so I can't say one is better than the other. Do request a tent close to the dining/lounge tent if you have bad knees like my husband and I.
  • Stayed: June 2012, traveled with family
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1  Thank MsAisha
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 9, 2012

I specifically requested this tented camp from our tour company, Safari-Infinity, because of its location (on the dual access road to the crater) and the fact that it had heaters in the tents, since we would be there in late June when the temps would be very cold. The camp is situated in a beautiful forest, and while it has no view of the crater itself, it is in a lovely location. We were among the first to reach the crater floor the next morning.

It is a small camp, but the tents were very close together; unlike other tented camps we stayed at, our neighbors were within view. Guests gathered around the campfire before dinner and shared stories, which was fun. Snacks were served around the campfire as we watched "bush tv". Wine, soft drinks and beer from their basic menu were included in the price, and you could order other specialty beverages at extra cost. Dinner was very good, and we all sat at one large table. Guides were invited to dine with their clients, which is important to me, and also join the guests around the campfire. The dining room was heated during dinner, and they closed the tent flaps to keep in the warmth (it was cold the end of June!).

The propane heater in the tent kept us warm, as did the hot water bottles they put in our bed at night. The water from the bucket shower smelled horribly of campfire smoke (it is heated over a wood fire and then poured into the canvas bladder outside the tent when you ask for it), and it took 2 days and 3 shampoos for my daughter and I to get rid of the smell in our hair. The bathroom was cold, as it does not get heated from the heater in the tent. This made for a very cold 5 AM shower! We wanted the experience of a "bucket shower" but it is one I don't need to repeat.

But my biggest complaint is about the accommodations for the driver/guides: they had no heater, no hot water bottles, and no sleeping bags for the guides. Our poor guide, Thadei, from Safari-Infinity, FROZE that night! If I had known of his situation before the next day, I would have asked for something to keep him warm, or to sleep in our tent! It is just not ethical for any lodging or camp to not provide comfortable and warm places for the guides to spend the night. Unfortunately, this was the first time that Safari-Infinity had guests at this camp, so they did not know either. I intend to write to the manager/owner of Lemala Ngorongoro and request that they rectify this situation, as guides can have a major impact on repeat guests. As it stands, despite enjoying the location of this camp, I would not stay there again.

The rest of our experience here was fine, although this place was not the nicest place we stayed at (we did all tented camps, no lodges), even though I think it cost the most of the 5 places we stayed in during our 7 day safari. Because of our (very) early departure the next morning so we could get into the crater, dinner was our only meal, and we had almost no time to just hang out at the camp. Management and staff were friendly and helpful. But next time, I would look for another place to stay with better accommodations for the guides.

  • Stayed: June 2012, traveled with family
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3  Thank Kathy F
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed May 26, 2012

I could find nothing luxury about this camp, it was simply the worst place we have stayed in a dozen or more safari type holidays.
The tent had been erected on sloping ground and so the hard bed sloped, so one rolled down the slope in the night. The water supply was limited, the hot water even more so! If you wanted a shower you agreed a time with the camp staff who at the allotted time tipped a bucket of hot water into the shower tank from which it flowed to the shower head from which it dripped in a slow trickle making showering very much a hit or miss affair.
The food was poor. Poorly cooked, poorly presented, and in limited supply. Lunch one day was a plate of chop suey; some noodles and some chopped vegetables, total ingredient cost about 50p. There was no evidence that any allowance was made as to our dietary requirements. Indeed when my wife enquired as to future menus she was offered a choice of fillet steak, fillet of pork, or lamb. She stated she did not like lamb and chose fillet of beef and fillet of pork in agreement with the camp manager. The next meal we had the lamb! Followed by the Pork, but it wasn’t fillet as promised just a leg slice – a totally different proposition.
The free bar was not woth the effort of finding.
Perhaps the only good things about the camp were the gas heaters in the tents which were lit in the evening and again when the morning tea was served, and the location close to the quiet entry/exit road to the crater. However location was against it when it came to move on to the Serengeti as we had to drive three-quarters of the way round the crater rim to reach the Serengeti road.
The trip to Empakai was somewhat of a disappointment. Visually stunning both from the rim and the crater floor we expected to have our picnic lunch on the crater floor, indeed our guide had told us he would be carrying the lunch boxes down. But in the event he did not join us for the walk, the ranger, carrying an AK45 (not exactly the weapon of choice amongst normal game rangers!), lead the way down in about 35 minutes. After the briefest of rests on the crater floor he then lead the way back in a shattering fifty-five minutes of intense effort. It was all rather a waste of time and effort.
The camp obviously had a rather inflated view of itself: the suggested level of tip for camp staff was about five times the organisers recommendation. Their suggestions for guides and others were similarly inflated.
I have to say we could find little to like about this place.

  • Stayed: November 2011, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank Berdewelle
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 6, 2012

We stayed for 2 nights in March at Lemala Camp on the crater rim and had a very special experience. Lemala, a seasonal camp with only 9 tents, is on the eastern side of the crater rim & has exclusive access to the crater floor used only by one other lodge. In the early morning in March, we saw no other vehicles on the descent road or in the crater for almost 3 hours.

We were greeted warmly by the manager and staff and were shown to Tent 3. Our young Maasai tent steward enjoyed sharing details of his life with us, and in the late afternoon we could hear cow bells as the Maasai were bringing their herds home. All of the tents have a stunning outlook over a flat top acacia forest on the edge of the crater.

The camp is seasonal and closes during April and May. There were only two tents occupied during the time that we stayed there, and service was outstanding. Our tent was comfortable for the three of us, including our teen daughter, and storage space was good. There was a writing desk and chair in the room, wood flooring, and our "front porch" had chairs and a table for contemplating the beautiful view and enjoying a pre-dinner cocktail. Elephants and other wildlife stroll through the camp upon occasion.

The bathroom was nice with running sink water, flush toilet, and bucket shower (very good hot water). Lighting is solar, so, although there is a flashlight provided, it is good to bring a small extra one for the room and for walking back and forth to the main tent when you are guided after dark by a Maasai askari. All drinks and laundry are included in the cost.

The rim of the crater will be cool at night, but we were extremely comfortable with the heater provided in the room and the hot water bottles placed in our beds each evening (they kept us warm all night). Our tent steward would turn on our heater while we were at dinner and then again in the morning when he brought coffee and hot chocolate.

We enjoyed bush TV before dinner around the campfire with appetizers, drinks and talking with the other travelers. Our guide joined us for dinners here, and we all enjoyed the delicious meals prepared by the cook staff.

This camp is a delightful and rare alternative to the large lodges on the crater rim and provides a very exclusive experience without being ostentatious. It felt rather like a place that Hemingway would have enjoyed. Highly recommended.

  • Stayed: March 2012, traveled with family
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2  Thank wanderlust1129
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 2, 2012

Our safari was unfortunately cut short due to a family medical emergency, but before we left TZ we were privileged to spend a night at the Lemala camp, Ngorongoro Crater. The grounds were breathtaking. No, we didn't have a rimside view, but the camp is nestled under the lacy, umbrella Acacia trees. The setting is magical. The staff greeted us as we departed our safari vehicle, offering chilled juice and hot, steaming hand towels to freshen us after our drive. We were introduced to the staff then escorted into the main dining tent for a tour and an overview of the evening's activities. Afterward we were taken to our tent where we met our waiter who introduced us to the luxuries of our tent. I had a delightfully hot shower and then we were escorted by a Masai to the campfire where we had libations and delicious appetizers (according to my husband, the single best food he had on our trip) with other safari goers. Then on to dinner, which was delicious and served on a beautifully decorated table. Wine refills came fast and furiously. One of the others at the table was having a birthday so dessert was a cake, lit with candles, presented by all of the staff singing (in Swahili but I think it was their version of Happy Birthday--with an African funk vibe) and dancing around the table. When we got back to our tent it was warmed by the heater and as we crawled into bed we found hot water bottles under the blankets. I can't offer enough praise for the staff and amenities at Lemala Ngorongoro. Though we had too swift an end to our trip, this was certainly a sweet way to depart TZ. Highly recommend!!

  • Stayed: March 2012, traveled as a couple
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Thank 2doglove
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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