Legendary Lodge, Selian Coffee Estate, Namanga Road, Arusha, Tanzania
On the outskirts of Arusha, the busy northern safari capital of East Africa's Tanzania and the jumping off point for the legendary Serengeti and its Ngorongoro Crater, the boutique hotel the Legendary Lodge is the perfect place to stay pre or post-safari. Its 10 garden cottages have views of the dormant volcano Mount Meru nearby – the country's second highest peak after Kilimanjaro – and are set in lush tropical gardens in the middle of a working coffee plantation. It's just 15 minutes to Arusha Airport with a complimentary transfer, and 90 minutes to Kilimanjaro International Airport.
The graceful colonial-style terrace of the Old Farmhouse is the beating heart of the hotel and is a beautiful place to sit over breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee or cocktails. It looks out onto glorious manicured lawns, scattered with the brilliant blossoms of flame trees and a few easy chairs and tables under sun shades, with the cutest little dik-dik antelopes scurrying around. Whiling away a few hours there, you could almost be in the Africa of the 1920s. To set the mood, there's even croquet on the lawns. The dining room and lounge are decorated in elegant colonial-style furnishings, interspersed with African art and artefacts.
The cottages are over-sized, and have full lounge areas with comfortable chairs and leather sofas around the fireplace, TV, open bar with decanters of sherry, and tea and coffee-making facilities. The four-poster beds have mosquito netting draped around. In the bathroom – bigger than my apartment in Sydney – is a freestanding bath, the biggest shower cubicle I've ever seen and a toilet almost as spacious, while the thickest of dazzling white towels are stacked high. There's good Wi-Fi throughout, and a great private outdoor terrace with table and chairs to relax on, and really appreciate the peace and quiet of the place, while spa treatments are available in-room or in the therapy space.
Have you ever been to a dining room where the waiter, at breakfast, asks how exactly you'd like your poached egg – hard, soft or medium? I haven't. As well as the service, the food is simply splendid. Dinner is a choice of three dishes for each of the three courses, finishing with a dessert, generous fruit plate or large cheese board. Offers of sherry, wine, spirits and the house favourite hot chocolate with Amarula – a cream liqueur made from the fruit of the local Marula tree – are ubiquitous. And everyone who's anyone in Arusha society, as well as visiting dignitaries, expat workers and safari operators, gather regularly to eat at the restaurant; surely the best possible review.
Tour the coffee farm, bought by the original owners of the hotel, the Bloom family, in the 1950s, after they are said to have established the original mud-walled inn in 1894 at the exact mid-point between Cape Town and Cairo. There are bicycles available, and picnic lunches. Close by is the Friedkin Recreation Centre that guests are free to use, with a top gym, pool, sauna and steam room, squash and tennis courts, a running track, and a bar for afterwards, and the Nduruma Polo and Country Club. Arusha, now Tanzania's second city, is a pleasant place to tour, shop and eat, with the School of St Jude, started by Australian Gemma Sisia a great institution to visit and say g'day.
The perfect place to ease into Africa before a safari, or to recuperate afterwards. It couldn't be more comfortable or atmospheric.
Legendary Lodge, Selian Coffee Estate, Arusha, Tanzania. Rates from US$406-US$580 an adult a night. Book through The Classic Safari Company, classicsafaricompany.com.au
If ever I lived in Africa, I'd want to live here – or within close reach. Sitting on that peaceful terrace, surrounded by all that colonial grandeur, with views of Mount Meru, provides either a wonderful introduction to Africa, or a fond farewell.
Most people are booked in just for one night en route to a safari, or en route for elsewhere on the way back. Without exception, everyone bemoans the fact they haven't set aside a few days for some quality R&R here.
Sue Williams travelled as a guest of The Classic Safari Company.