Below the slopes of majestic Mount Meru, the nearly 15,000 foot little sister to the more famous Kilimanjaro, rolling foothills give succor to one of Tanzania’s largest working coffee plantations. And there, just outside the bustling town of Arusha is among our headiest and most heavenly aromatic stopovers. From gauze-draped four-poster beds to deep soaker baths, Arusha Coffee Lodge is a haven for quality R&R either before or after the rewarding rigours of safari. The Lodge offers a cozy, oh-so cossetting getaway, with airy terraces and comfy furnishings as lush as the woody evergreen coffea plants that carpet the extensive grounds. Its handy locale, just three miles from Arusha airport, means you’re only moments away from a dip in the pool, a restorative massage, or a rich cup of the finest joe in town. Bean-to-cup never felt so fabulous.
Individual suites fan out around the main Lodge, the original landowner’s home dating to the early 1900s. Authentic rural elegance abounds (think polished wood floors, wicker sofas, ceiling fans). Each split-level Plantation House comes with an airy balcony, and all the luxe bells and whistles you’d expect, in addition to – ok, no surprise here – a coffee machine kitted out with freshly ground local delights. Dining options range from delectable wood-fired pizza in the bistro, to bring-it-on epicurean feasts amidst candle-lit ambience in the top-drawer Grill Room.
Surrounded by a positively spectral riot of greens, browns and ochres of coffee bushes, the gardens of the Lodge are discreetly dotted with some 30 individual cottages – each its own spacious, modern, private oasis. Retreat to the warmth of your en-suite soothing rainfall shower or slip deep into the big, bubbly tub; perhaps it’s time for a glass of the Cape’s best red or coffee from your coffeebackyard…Whatever your tipple, we recommend taking a moment to enjoy the birdsong from the terrace where a crackling log fire is at the ready to take any chill off the African evening.
The main Plantation House retains the architectural soul of the original homestead. Here, an a la carte restaurant, an intimate bistro and a cozy lounge fit all moods and appetites with open log fires in each. The swimming pool, a full spa, and relaxing garden terrace await.
Coffee lovers, raise a cup to the journey of the humble bean. Within the grounds of the Lodge itself, we join our resident knowledgeable coffea-ista, who guides us among evergreen coffee bushes to learn how these flavourful fruits – those that mean so much to so many — are nurtured, harvested, dried and roasted.
Beyond the Lodge gates, too, the busy town of Arusha makes a diverting outing. For unique handicrafts made of ebony and redwood, the Maasai market is a fascinating one-stop shop. Further afield, a uniquely thrilling day trip: the Ngorongoro Crater constitutes a speech-haltingly large, unbroken volcanic caldera formed some two to three million years ago when a giant volcano exploded and collapsed on itself. Today, its floor covers 100 square miles and plunges 2000 feet deep. Similarly wowing (and achieved in a few hours) a day’s exploration of Arusha National Park reveals a beguiling diversity of habitats: from shadowy montane forest, inquisitive blue monkeys and rainbow-hued turacos and trogons, to the black-and-white colobus monkey — the only place on the northern safari circuit where these mischievous nymphs can be easily seen.