Olduvai Tented Lodge, commonly referred to as Olduvai Camp, offers a simply magical and authentic safari experience. If you’re looking for a simple, intimate and friendly place from which to explore the famous Serengeti Plains far from the package tourist crowd, then look no further. Olduvai Camp delivers an unparalleled adventure. Hang on to your hat and put your hiking shoes on, for a stay here provides for a myriad of options including walking safaris with Maasai Warriors and some of the best ‘off the beaten track’ game viewing available.
We highly recommend incorporating this unique tented lodge and corresponding area into your itinerary, as a stay here will greatly diversify your overall safari experience especially when used in combination with other lodges or campsites in the Central Serengeti. Olduvai Camp can be incorporated into any safari itinerary in two ways depending on the season. The first is to use Olduvai Camp as a base for superb game viewing during the green season and the second is to use Olduvai Camp as a quick stopover for resting, walking and cultural activities during the dry season.
During the wet season (December through May), we recommend a stay of one or preferably two nights as the migration will be on the surrounding plains and game viewing will be at its best (arguably the best game viewing anywhere in Africa at this time). Not only is game viewing incredible during the green season but you may off road drive in the surrounding area and we guarantee that you will see very few other tourists around as Olduvai Camp offers the only accommodations in the immediate area. Game viewing is good in the surrounding plains the entire wet season but it is at its best from about mid March through mid May.
During the dry season when the majority of the animals have moved off the plains around Olduvai and into the woodlands, we recommend a one night stopover on your way from the Central Serengeti to the Ngorongoro Crater or vice versa. A night at Olduvai Camp will provide for some walking and hiking options, cultural interactions with the Maasai and a chance to explore this beautiful part of the Serengeti ecosystem. Even if the plains are dry and the animals have dispersed, there is usually enough around to keep one interested.
Olduvai Camp is located on the southern short grass plains of the Serengeti. The lodge resides just southeast of the official border of the Serengeti National Park and is located in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA). Being located in the NCA is actually a benefit, as you do not need to adhere to the Serengeti Park rules (i.e. off road driving and walks/hikes are permitted).
During the wet season, the majority of the wildebeest migration congregates on the southern short grass plains surrounding Olduvai Camp. The wildebeest prefer the nutrient rich and fresh green grasses of the NCA and the majority of the herds will not actually be located in the Serengeti proper during the wet season but rather the NCA. If the plains are dry and the animals have dispersed, you can easily travel north into the Serengeti proper (about 30 minutes north-west to the park border) so there really is no significant down side to staying in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area as opposed to the Serengeti. However, we do highly recommend utilizing the lodges and camps inside the Serengeti in combination with Olduvai Camp.
The great part about Olduvai Camp is undoubtedly its wet season location. It’s interesting to note that the majority of the people that visit the Serengeti during the wet season drive quickly by the Southern Serengeti Plains and Olduvai during the wet season and head straight for either the Serengeti Sopa or Serengeti Serena Lodges in the Central Serengeti. The Central Serengeti is a great year round area but it must be used in combination with the Southern Plains enabling you access to the wildebeest migration and all the other migratory animals. The main road is only about 3 miles from Olduvai. You can sit in the lounge at Olduvai and watch the plumes of dust off on the horizon as hundreds of uninformed visitors race by the Southern Plains and all the large herds of wildebeest on their way to the Central Serengeti.
There are only two lodges located on the southern short grass plains, Ndutu Lodge and Olduvai Camp, which means that availability is limited during the wet season. Ndutu Lodge is located about one hour west of Olduvai at game drive speed. We recommend booking as early as possible with either of these lodges if you plan on traveling during the wet season.
A stay at Olduvai Camp and the Southern Serengeti is usually incorporated into our signature fly-in and drive-back safaris after exploring the predator rich Central Serengeti and before continuing on to the Ngorongoro Crater. Typically, you will be heading south down the long grass plains of the Serengeti before arriving at Naabi Hill and at the beginning of the short grass plains. It is about a one hour drive from the Central Serengeti to Naabi Hill. From Naabi Hill it is about another one hour into Olduvai Camp. It’s a good idea to arrive at Olduvai Camp two hours before dusk to allow for a short hike up the nearby kopje (granite outcrop) next to the camp. You will certainly enjoy the sunset and the spectacular views from atop the kopje.
The name Serengeti is derived from the Maasai word Siringet, which means tending to extend. This becomes apparent as you depart the Central Serengeti and head south into the plains ant towards Olduvai. The view of the plains stretching from horizon to horizon certainly takes your breath away.
Olduvai Camp consists of 16 permanent tents situated at the base of a large kopje (granite boulder hill). The tents are spaced apart around the circumference of the kopje assuring solitude and privacy. The rear of each tent is positioned against the kopje while the front faces the open plains providing superb views. The completely sealable tents rest on wooden floors and are under thatched roofs. The tents are spacious and you can choose from either one king size bed or two twin beds. The en-suite bathroom facilities are simple and consist of a chemical toilet and a bladder shower. In front of each tent is your own private wooden veranda complete with two deck chairs and a small table.
Each tent offers commanding views of the surrounding area. It is possible to see the vast Serengeti Plains, Ngorongoro Crater, GOL Mountains and Mt. Lemakarot from the safari chairs on your private veranda. You can also leave the front flaps open and enjoy the views from the comfort of your bed. The tents all face east and it is an amazing sight to witness the sun rising above the plains in the early morning. Wildlife viewing from your own tent can be superb during the green season. With a pair of binoculars you will likely see giraffe, wildebeest, zebra and gazelles from your tent. The immediate area can get quite lively at night during the wet season. The presence of vast numbers of migratory animals during the wet season attracts many nomadic lions from the Serengeti proper and you will likely hear them roaring at night. Accordingly, a Maasai will escort you back to your tent each night from dinner.
The main facilities consist of a quaint open air, circular dinning room and a separate lounge/library structure, which is elevated above the dinning room. There is large circular fire pit that beckons you for a drink before or after dinner. Sitting around the fire pit with the local Maasai after an unforgettable day out game driving the surrounding plains is tough to beat. This is a great feature, which many of the larger more impersonal lodges simply can’t compete with.
Overall, the accommodations are rustic and comfortable. Don’t expect lavish over the top luxury but rather intimate accommodations, friendly staff and excellent service. This is the place to be for those people seeking an authentic ‘off the beaten path’ adventure and honest cultural interactions. Expect solitude, relaxation and to see very few other tourists here.
One of the many benefits of staying at Olduvai Camp is the ability to walk and hike through the surrounding bush. Depending on your level of fitness, there are several routes of varying lengths available. This will most likely be one of the highlights of your trip as you experience this spectacular area on foot in the company of a Maasai Warrior.
Walking options include a short walk to Olduvai Gorge (1 hour round trip) a longer walk to the Maasai waterholes (2.5 hours round trip), a short hike to a nearby Maasai village (1.5 hours) and a longer hike to Olduvai Museum (3 hours). Depending on which walking safari option you choose, your driver may pick you up at the end of the hike. For the Maasai Village and Olduvai Museum hike, your driver will meet you at these destinations. Wildlife viewing on your walking safari comes down to chance but you may see giraffe and gazelles during the dry season plus wildebeest, zebra and maybe a hyena during the wet season. Regardless, it will truly be a unique experience as you track lion footprints and learn about ecology and the Maasai culture from your Maasai guide.
Olduvai Camp is located in southern area of the Serengeti ecosystem and accordingly, it is this area that will be the topic of discussion below. See the Serengeti National Park guide for a complete analysis on the entire Serengeti ecosystem, including the famed migration and all the game viewing highlights.
The southern Serengeti including the northern Ngorongoro Conservation area consists of the famous Serengeti plains. These short grass and nutrient rich plains are home to the enormous migratory herds during the wet season. The migration is characterized by the annual cycle of movements made by wildebeest, zebra, Thomson’s gazelle and eland. The migratory movements are slightly different for each animal. However, the general pattern is that the migrants use the plains in the wet season (December-May) and the woodlands in the dry season (June-November).
Game viewing is spectacular during wet season around Olduvai, as over a million animals will be spread across the open plains. In addition to the large migratory herds, predators will be abundant and easily seen. Cheetah densities will be at their highest as many have followed the migratory Thomson’s gazelles onto the southern and eastern plains. Lions should be easily visible, both resident prides and the nomads which have followed the wildebeest and zebra onto the plains. The most abundant predator, the hyena, will be in large numbers as many clan members will have commuted to the plains from their den areas located along the woodland/plains border.
The game-viewing highlight in the wet season will undoubtedly be the immense herds of migratory animals. At a quick glance, the numbers are astonishing. Estimates put the wildebeest at about 1.7 million, zebras at 250,000 and Thomson’s gazelles at about 440,000.
During the dry season (June to November) many of the animals have indeed dispersed but the southern Serengeti still remains a fascinating place. There are several resident herbivores in this area that are seen year round including grants gazelle and giraffe. Elephant and impala are also seen year round but mainly in the wooded Ndutu area. Predators are certainly not as prolific in the dry season but there are a few resident lion prides in the southern and eastern plains including Ndutu, Naabi Hill and Gol Kopjes. As the southern plains do support a few resident gazelles, cheetah can usually be seen in the dry season anywhere from Ndutu to Nasera Rock and around the Gol Kopjes.
- Private game drives
- Hiking and walking safaris with Maasai warriors
- Explore the famous archaeological site and museum at Olduvai Gorge
- Maasai Boma cultural visit
- Walk with a Maasai Warrior through Olkarien Gorge, which is the nesting ground for Ruppell’s Griffon Vultures
- Full day adventure game drive to the remote eastern plains including Angata Kiti and the Salei Plains – excellent game viewing in the wet season
- Picnic lunches
- Kopje sundowners
- Visit the bizarre shifting sands