My husband, Tim, and I have been lured on a safari by the Out of Africa dream: the proximity to Mother Nature, the outright adventure. Not only does the name Tanzania sound effortlessly exotic, but also, for me, East Africa retains the mystique of a wilder, less trodden path, something that a place like South Africa has lost.
Fantasies aside, nothing prepares us for our arrival at Tanzania's Ngorongoro Crater—a 12-mile-wide caldera teeming with wildlife—or for Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, which, like all of our stops, is a CC Africa property. The cluster of mud huts on stilts, inspired by the traditional Masai style, clings to the lip of the vast basin; below, we can see herds of basking zebras and snorting buffalo. Inside, the rooms are incongruously opulent, with chandeliers, ﬁreplaces, and four-poster beds draped in velvet. There are panoramic views, even from our bathroom, where a bubble bath strewn with fragrant rose petals is awaiting us.
Early the next morning, we descend right into that view, passing local Masai children walking barefoot to school. As the sun rises, the crater floor comes alive with elephants, wildebeests, hyenas, ostriches, and lions. Tim and I feel especially fortunate when we spot an endangered black rhino.
The hop to the next lodge is on a hair-raising ﬂight in a minuscule propeller plane, but our bird's-eye peek of Mount Kilimanjaro makes it worthwhile. Klein's Camp, on the northern edge of the Serengeti, is private property, so other than the lodge's 20 guests there are no tourists within 24,000 acres—just the odd Masai herdsman tending his cattle. From the veranda in our circular stone cottage we spot elephant herds grazing below and eagles circling above, inspiring Tim to use the easel and watercolors provided in our room.
Our next stop paints a whole new picture: tranquil Lake Manyara Tree Lodge, surrounded by the mountain escarpment of the Great Rift Valley. CC Africa owns the only accommodations in this national park: 10 cabins cradled in the boughs of ancient mahogany trees. We wake to baboons on our balcony and set off with our ranger, Claude, searching for rare tree-climbing lions and the 387 species of birds, including candy-colored flamingos. We see hippos, impalas, and many birds, but no lions. As we're about to leave, we spot two of them, 30 feet up in the branches, as though they've appeared just for us.—VANESSA BARNEBY