What's the history of Ndutu?
To appreciate Ndutu, it helps to understand its history.
The lodge was originally created by George Dove - his portrait hangs in the dining-room, where his flamboyant waxed moustache rivals some of the trophy horns mounted on the walls! George had given up professional hunting at an early stage and chose the Ndutu area as a regular campsite. It was wild and remote, giving easy access to the Serengeti Plains for his clients.
During the 1960’s, as tourism steadily increased in Tanzania, George Dove saw the need for a more permanent base in the area, and he was welcomed by the then Conservator of Ngorongoro, Mr. S. ole Saibull, who allowed him to build on the Ndutu site.
Thus in 1967, Ndutu Tented Camp, as it was then called, was born. The original concept was very simple; a central dining-room and kitchen, flanked by rows of sleeping tents on concrete foundations. It was built to last for five years, it was comfortable, but never luxurious, and certainly no-one foresaw that it would still be flourishing more than twenty years later.
However, the Camp quickly established a reputation for a friendly and welcoming atmosphere, good service, and simple food well cooked, and became a favourite stopping place for many different and interesting people. Several distinguished zoologists and photographers, such as Jane Goodall and Hugo van Lawick studied, filmed and wrote about wild dogs, hyenas and jackals in the area.
1974, George Dove and his family left Ndutu for wilder frontiers (the Australian outback) and the lodge changed hands. Soon afterwards came a slump in Tanzania’s tourism that lasted several years, accompanied by formidable shortages of fuel and imported goods. Against challenging odds, the staff tried to uphold Ndutu’s standards, but as the buildings and equipment deteriorated without being replaced, inevitable decline set in.
The Lodge was taken over in 1986 by the present owners. Then began the gradual process of renovation, which continues today. Comfortable and attractive stone cottages have replaced the barrack-like rooms erected in 1976 to replace the original tents. The aim of the management is to use local materials only which blend in with the rustic surroundings.
How Ndutu Works.
Cultivation is not allowed in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and anyway, neither the soil nor the rain pattern is suitable for cultivation. Therefore all the supplies, varying from nails to fresh food have to be bought in by road, either from Karatu (140 km away) or Arusha (280 km away), as does diesel and fuel which powers the lighting via the generator. Most of the fresh vegetables and meat are supplied from Karatu or Arusha.
Water has always been a problem at Ndutu. The washing water in the bathrooms comes from a dug-out waterhole near the lake, about 2 km from the Lodge. It is hauled by bowser every day to the Lodge and pumped up to the watertower into four storage tanks. This water contains dissolved minerals (mostly sodium carbonate or 'washing soda') which is impossible to remove and makes the water feel soapy. For this reason it cannot be used for drinking or cooking, nor for mixing cement. Also, uniforms, sheets and towels, which are regularly washed in it, deteriorate after a few months, so replacing these is a constant problem.
Fresh water is an even more precious commodity. All the drinking, cooking and building water needs to be collected from the metal roofs during the rainy season. When the Lodge runs out our only solution is to send a bowser to haul fresh water from mountain streams in the Ngorongoro Highlands, some 80 km away. As there is sometimes no rain for five or six months during the dry season, our resident staff need to be very disciplined about the freshwater supplies.
Simplicity remains the secret of Ndutu's survival. Although we are gradually replacing our old 'Tanganyika' boilers with solar heaters, we still need an alternative for overcast and rainy days for providing hot showers. We have designed smaller boilers with quicker inflow of hot water to the guestrooms. Since 1998 we have brought in all firewood from outside the NCAA, mostly coffee wood bought from farms around Karatu and Oldeani. These days our kitchen has gas stoves installed, but we have never dared rid ourselves of our old wood-burning stoves. The supply of cooking gas is still very erratic and many a time we have had to fall back on those faithful Dovre Stoves of the past! Meanwhile, at the laundry the wind dries clothes and a few coals from the fire are then used in the charcoal irons with which clothes are pressed!
Ultimately it is the staff who make or break a lodge. Some of Ndutu’s staff have been here since the beginning, many young newcomers have joined since. They live at Ndutu under difficult conditions and far from their families. We hope that their dedicated work adds to the enjoyment of your stay.