Last year, I was lucky enough to be planning a very high profile booking that was going to book out the entire Ngorongoro Crater Lodge for a number of nights and then go to Zanzibar. I had to fly up to Tanzania to meet the organisers at Ngorongoro and travel with them to Zanzibar to tie up the final arrangements.
This was finally a perfect moment for me to go back to Grumeti Serengeti Tented Camp for the first time since leaving in 2005 – this time as an old friend and guest instead of the manager. I also arranged to visit my dear friend Mussa Muthayo, who had been my right hand man at Grumeti and was now the lodge manager of &Beyond Serengeti under Canvas.
As the plane started its decent into Grumeti, all the familiar landmarks came into view. I had seen these a hundred times before, but was so excited as each one slid into my little plane window. The Musabi plains, the curve of the river as it flowed towards the camp, the hippos, and then finally the camp, then gliding low over my old office and touch down! I could not believe the emotions that welled up in me – it was like coming home after a long leave!
I was greeted by Noel who had now progressed from a butler to being a top notch ranger and he drove me into camp. There they were- the whole staff out to greet the incoming guests and singing. Before I knew it I was pulled from the vehicle and picked up shoulder high and paraded around the carpark. I think the other guests were a bit worried the same was about to happen to them too and we all quickly made our way to camp for check in.
I was taken to my room where more joy and surprises were waiting for me – gifts and hand written notes. Then it was off to lunch with May (Grumeti has the BEST pizza!), one of the lodge managers who had become a dear friend over the years. We had a good laugh about being a woman amongst the Grumeti men! What a beautiful camp this is! Where else can you dine on the front lawn and have hippo not even 10 metres away keeping you entertained?
After a fantastic game drive, it was off to dinner and yet another surprise. A special table had been set for me and a surprise that I was to dine with staff. Some of staff had pulled straws to join me for dinner. I had a wonderful evening recalling some of the fun (and some of the ‘not so fun’) times at Grumeti with Jackson the chef, Noel, Crispo the doctor, and Ndalo who had gone from being a casual worker to a housekeeper.
We had a great night and then off to bed. This is when Grumeti comes into its own. You will not experience the night sounds at any lodge like you do here. The hippos graze around the tents, lions roar in the distance and are answered by hyena. It is just wonderful!
The next day, I was leaving. I could have kicked myself for not staying longer, but with the number of guests I had travelling, I could not be away for too long. I climbed aboard my vehicle and waved goodbye to my friends once again. I was off to see Mussa at Serengeti under Canvas.