About the Hotel
Namiri Plains is located an hour and a half's drive due east from the game-rich core of the Serengeti – Seronera. The camp opened in July 2014 in an area that for more than 20 years had been closed to the public. Previously this region had exclusively been used for cheetah conservation and the number of big cats found here is astonishing. There are few other camps in this area and guests often get wildlife sightings entirely to themselves.
Namiri Plains is part of Asilia's ever-growing and impressive portfolio of properties, which includes others of our favourites such as Dunia, Olivers, The Highlands and Sayari . We've been working very closely with this safari company for many years, and there are certain standards that we have come to expect from them. Typically, Asilia build their safari properties in unique locations that ensure access to superb game-viewing areas; and they maintain a strong ethic towards conservation, sustainability and community enrichment. Namiri Plains is no different.
The area of Soit Le Motonyi (where Namiri Plains is located) was closed to tourists between 1985 and 2014. Soit Le Motonyi is a very important breeding site for cheetahs and is now said to have the highest density of cheetah in East Africa. But it's not just cheetah that guests can expect to see here. When we visited in November 2015 and December 2016 we were overwhelmed by how many lion we saw in such a short space of time. Leopard sightings are also surprisingly common. Namiri means 'big cat' in Swahili and it's a name that is particularly apt for this camp – this really is big-cat country!
The landscape surrounding Namiri Plains is quintessentially Serengeti. Grassy plains stretch as far as the eye can see, interspersed by the occasional fever tree, acacia tree and rocky outcrop – and the best thing is that there's no-one else here! Namiri's nearest neighbour is more than an hour's drive away, and it's possible to stay here for a few nights and not see anyone other than those sharing the camp with you. This probably makes it the most isolated and secluded camp in the Serengeti.
Although the Seronera area is accessible from Namiri, game drives tend to be done in the surrounding Soit Le Motonyi area. This makes for a remote and exclusive safari experience, something that is often hard to come by in the Serengeti.
It is worth noting that whilst the game viewing can be exceptional, there are currently very few game-drive routes around Namiri Plains and drivers are not permitted to go off road. So although the camp has virtually exclusive use of a vast, game-rich area, much of it cannot be accessed. We are hopeful that Asilia and TANAPA (Tanzanian National Parks Authority) will come to an agreement soon to build a slightly increased road network that has minimal impact on the ecosystem.
Walking safaris are also an option, either in the early morning or afternoon; these are led by one of the walking guides from the camp, who are all certified by TANAPA. For groups of over eight people, two guides are required for safety reasons.
Namiri Plains Camp itself has eight spacious tents, all spread out in rows either side of the main mess tent. For privacy, the two tents furthest from the main area, numbers 1 and 8, are reserved for honeymooners. One of the tents, with two single beds divided by a canvas partition from the main double room, can also be used as a family tent.
All of the canvas tents have high ceilings and are shaped as elongated octagons, which makes them feel much larger than those in most semi-permanent tented camps. Inside – aside from black-and-white silhouette photographs of the Serengeti, cream curtains, zigzag patterned rugs and matching scatter cushions – there is very little decoration. However, this is clearly deliberate and we love the tasteful, minimalist design, which extends to the plain, but attractive, furniture. The practicalities have been well thought-out, too: bathrobes, an electronic safe, flashlight, radio walkie-talkie, insect spray, waterproofs, umbrellas and boots are all provided. It's the perfect balance between comfort, necessity and luxury.
Through the back of each tent is an en-suite bathroom separated by a canvas door, which can be zipped closed. As well as a white ceramic basin and a modern-looking mirror, there is a wooden cubicle with a flush toilet, and both an indoor or a double outdoor bucket shower. The showers contain up to 75 litres of water, which is enough for a very long shower, and are heated by solar power so water does not need to be requested from camp staff.
The main mess tent at Namiri Plains has a number of extremely comfortable contemporary sofas, stylishly constructed from chopped wood, and four big circular lounge chairs to sink into at the end of a long safari day. There are a few maps of the Serengeti, a couple of bookcases and a charging station for batteries. At one end, a large wooden bureau serves as a bar. On top, the drinks are clearly divided into two – on one side are the house beers, wines and sprits that are included in the cost of staying at Namiri Plains; on the other are the top-shelf spirits, for which there is a supplement.
Once again there is very little in the way of décor in the dining tent, just a few striking pieces of sculpture; instead the food and service takes centre stage. It's a very sociable camp, with communal meals, and the evenings often feel like a big dinner party hosted by the managers and the guides.
In front of the mess and dining tents is an amazing acacia tree plainly decorated with a few lanterns. Nearby there is an open campfire which guests sit around in the evening before dinner, trading stories and having a cold drink. There is a very real feeling of being out in the bush. Wildlife is all around and when we were there in December 2016, there were buffalo very close indeed and many lions roaring through the night nearby.
Namiri Plains Camp is a breath of fresh air in the Serengeti. There's fantastic game viewing but virtually no other visitors, which is very unusual in northern Tanzania. The tents are well-designed and tastefully decorated – here, less definitely means more. There is an overwhelming feeling of wilderness and nothing distracts from the setting, which is iconic Serengeti. However, as Namiri is in high demand and has only eight tents, you will have to book a long time in advance to have any chance of getting space here.