Lake Manyara Tree Lodge: From $275 per person per night, including two daily safari drives, meals, and drinks; 888-882-3742, www.ccafrica.com
LAKE MANYARA TREE LODGE
Lake Manyara, Tanzania
By the time you arrive at Tanzania's Lake Manyara Tree Lodge, in Lake Manyara National Park, jostling in a truck for two hours after the 40-minute flight west from Arusha, you're likely to have encountered elephants, Cape buffalo, and the legendary climbing lions that ascend umbrella acacias to escape rapacious tsetse flies. So when lodge manager Frances Majambele announces visitor rule number one"No one walks alone after dark without an askari," an armed guardyou'll pay attention. Hyenas frequent camp almost every night, and elephants, leopards, and lions are commonbut then again, that's why you're here.
Room & Board: Ten cottages on stilts sit at eye level with resident giraffes, safely above the toothy riffraff. Cradled in the boughs of old-growth mahogany trees, these very private wood-and-thatch cottageseach with a canopied bed and bleached hardwood furnishingshave private treetop showers with views of the lake, the tropical forest, and the 1,500-foot cliffs of the Great Rift Valley escarpment. Hit the viewing deck for the lodge specialty, a frozen gin and tonic, before sampling exotic dishes like wildebeest marinated in local red wine and plantains baked in a tandoor.
Out the Back Door: Both at dawn and in late afternoon, guests jump into an open-top Toyota Land Cruiser and head for the acacia woodlands and Maji Moto Hot Springs on 125-square-mile Lake Manyara's western shore. You're on the lookout for elephants, leopards, lions, and buffalo, but the show-stealers are the immense flocks of flamingos that paint the water and sky pink.