Where to stay in Karatu
Accommodation and park fees within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area can be high. Just 20 km out of the park lies the bustling town of Karatu, surrounded by beautiful coffee plantations. It is here that comfortable, affordable accommodation in spectacular settings can be found. The area has easy access to Ngorongoro, with its breathtaking scenery and teeming wildlife, especially at Ngorongoro Crater.
Where to Stay in Karatu
OCTAGON SAFARI LODGE
Octagon Lodge is a small and private lodge located twenty minutes from the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Gate in Karatu, Tanzania.
Ideal for visitors on a trip, it is situated amidst colorful and exotic gardens and provides a perfect base for visiting the Northern Parks of Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti.
GIBS FARM ACCOMODATION
Gibb’s Farm is perfectly positioned along the main safari route from Arusha to the Tarangire, Lake Manyara and Lake Eyasi national parks, before heading north to the Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti, is the ideal beginning, middle or end while on your safari journey.
ACACIA FARM LODGE
ACACIA FARM LODGE is strategically located between the Tarangire and Lake Manyara National Parks on one side AND Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Park on the other. This is a perfect base from which to explore these four natural attractions and world heritage sites..
Budget Accomodation/Tented lodge/with Basic Camping facilities:
DOFFA SAFARI LODGE & CAMPSITE:
Doffa Safari Lodge and Campsite is the closest campsite to the Lodoare Entrance Gate to the Ngorogoro Crater and Conservancy en-route to Serengeti National Park. The campsite has lush green lawns and clean ablution facilities. There is a small restaurant on the premises as well and other important camping facilities.
NGORONGORO LODGE AND CAMPSITE:
The Ngorongoro Lodge & Campsite, for the past 20+ years, offers clean, comfortable and affordable board and lodging; tasty fresh cuisine, cold & hot beverages (Kiboko Cafe’) the offer a warm, and safe atmosphere for all those who pass through our gates. It is a lodge with camping facilities.
KUDU LODGE AND CAMPSITE:
Kudu Lodge and Campsite offers outstanding hospitality, comfortable accommodation and pleasant surroundings, is situated at Karatu, the heart of the northern Tanzania safari circuit. Kudu Lodge nestles in eleven acres of rolling countryside, amidst mature trees and gardens, home to myriad birds and a tranquil and shady oasis hideaway for visitors— the perfect base for wildlife safaris.
Karatu is a small town in the Arusha District, perfectly located on the borders of Lake Manyara National Park and Ngorongoro Crater, giving it the nickname ‘Safari Junction’. It is often used as a quick stop over in-between safari trips or as a cheaper accomodation option compared to staying on the rim of the Crater and within Lake Manyara National Park. If you only see it as a stop over though, you might miss out on some amazing cultural tourism and outdoor action! If you have a few more days, check out what Karatu itself has to offer, giving you a break in between safaris.
How to get to Karatu
Karatu is within the Arusha District. It is best reached by car or bus from Arusha. The 150 km on a decent road will take just over two hours. The international airport for Arusha is Kilimanjaro Airport (JRO), about 45 minutes away from the city.
A cheaper option is to take a bus or dala dala. This can take up to three hours and should be between 5000-7000 Tsh. These can often get crowded and for the cheap price you often miss out on comfort. It is generally advisable to take a bus that arrives before night falls for safety reasons.
If you are willing to splurge a bit more money, a small plane to the Lake Manyara airstrip is also recommendable. Coastal Aviation and Air Excel both fly from Arusha to Manyara for around 100 US$ as a stopover on their way to the Serengeti. Watch out because this flight is most likely leaving from Arusha Airport, a small local airport, rather than Kilimanjaro Airport, which you might have arrived from via an international flight. From the Manyara airstrip, it is about a 30 minute drive to Karatu, either by taxi or through a transfer arranged by us.
Activities in and around Karatu
Karatu is often just seen as a junction between the big safari parks of the Northern Circuit, but there is actually many things to do in and around Karatu that are worth a visit. The busting little town center itself has lots of opportunities for cultural tourism – why don’t shop for some souvenirs in the market, visit a coffee farm or even try brewing your own beer? Two organisations specialise in cultural tourism in Karatu, and along with your hotels, these are best able to set up activities for you. The Ganako Cultural Tourism Program organises sustainable tours in and around Karatu, donating proceeds to a local charity. Iraqw Karatu also organises various activities, offering fascinating insights into the local tribe’s culture. You can discover some of these places, like the market, on your own, but with most of cultural tourism it is often best to stick to an organised tour, where a guide can teach you about local customs and ensure an appropriate approach to the population. Check out our section down below for responsible tourism in Karatu to find out more. Here are some of the activities we recommend:
- Experience the Karatu Market – on the 7th and 25th of each month, local traders will come to Karatu for a big market, offering you the possibility to view beautifully crafted items, buy some souvenirs, and put your haggling skills to good use. The market on the 25th is a bit smaller, but even if none of these dates overlap with your itinerary, there is a daily small market in the town centre as well.
- Visit a Coffee Farm – Tanzania has excellent coffee and the farming of the plant is especially popular in the North of the country. There are several beautiful coffee farms for you to visit or even stay on (see our Where to stay section), learn about coffee making and drink the coffee while enjoying the beautiful countryside.
- Beer Brewing – Ganako is able to organise a trip to a local beer brewing facility, giving you a taste of a self brewed beer and a truly cultural experience.
- Brick Making – This craft is an important industry in the area and constitutes the livelihood for much of its population.
- Enjoy the local street food or a traditional Iraqw meal (organised both by Ganako and Iraqw Karatu) – whether it is ugali (maize porridge), chips mayai (fries with eggs) or cassava, the street food is bound to give you a good introduction into Tanzanian life. If you decide to do this on your own, stick to cooked food to prevent any tummy issues.
- Homestays or visits to traditional homesteads – Ganako and Iraqw are both able to organise this opportunity to see how local Tanzanians are living and even stay with them for a night.
- Biking Trips – there are many pathways around Karatu that are perfect for exploring the area by bike.
- Visit developmental and eco projects in the area to see how communities and NGOs interact to create more sustainable livelihoods in the area.
Day trips from Karatu
Other than as a stopover for the big national parks, Karatu is also perfect as a base for making day trips to local attractions. Ganako and Iraqw Karatu offer hikes to Mlima Nyoka (Snake Hill) for a wide reaching view of the surrounding landscape, the Rift Valley, as well as day trips to the old German settlement Oldean to learn about the country’s colonial past and the stunning Lake Eyasi. The latter is still unknown to most tourists and thus offers secluded enjoyment of the beautiful lake and flora and fauna. At Lake Eyasi, you can also visit the Hadzabe Bushmen, one of the last remaining hunting and gathering people of East Africa and even go hunting with them.