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A Farm in Africa


“I had a farm in Africa”… With these words Karen Baroness Blixen starts her epic work “Out of Africa”. The picture that most often comes to mind when discussing East Africa is of the great game parks with their natural wild life and indeed it is the main reason for visiting the area. There is more to East Africa however and farming is another key element.

The English came to farm in Kenya and the Germans to farm in what is now Tanzania but long before them the Maasai herded their cattle which provided all their sustenance and perception of wealth. One of the truly great safari circuits is a journey through the Serengeti Plain which is called the Masai Mara on the Kenyan side and Serengeti on the Tanzanian side. Close to Ngorongoro Crater which abuts the Serengeti is a farm that warrants a stay and can make an excellent start or finish to a game park circuit.

Gibb’s Farm started out in the 1920’s as a coffee plantation and indeed it still grows, processes, roasts and sells organic coffee. After World War II it was bought by James Gibb who was later joined by Margaret who became his wife and business partner. Margaret was an avid gardener and created a series of English type gardens which the location, high above the crater floor, facilitated.

With the uptick in visitors to both Ngorongoro and Lake Manyara National Parks from which the farm is equidistant, the Gibbs saw an opportunity and 18 individual cottages were built offering comfort and privacy and yet following the laid back country elegance of the original farmhouse which now houses the living room, reading room, dining room and bar area. Although the cottages have all been totally updated by the new owners (who had been staying at the farm for over twenty years) the rustic charm is intact but now enhanced by fireplaces that face both into the lining area and the bathroom. The bathroom offers a choice of indoor and outdoor showers as well as soaking tubs.

While decidedly in and of Africa, the farm could be mistaken for a commune/spa in the Napa Valley. There is an emphasis on slowing down and enjoying nature. You can visit the farm itself and actually milk a cow, you see how the organically grown coffee is collected, processed and roasted and the gardeners will be happy to take you on a tour of the gardens of flowers, herbs and vegetables, all organic of course.

 While you can certainly use the farm as a base for visiting either Ngorongoro Crater or Lake Manyara, we suggest staying closer to each of those parks and devote the farm time to exclusively farm activities. For instance you can join one of the farm naturalists for an extensive walk through untouched forests to the rim of the crater. You can also walk through the nearby forest with an indigenous Maasai healer who will point out the various medicines that can be created from the plants and trees. Afternoon tea is always a treat and is served in many parts of the farm based on your preference.

An excellent way to end the day is to leave the farm after lunch and drive to Lake Manyara for an afternoon game drive followed by sundowners at Hippo Pools. Regardless of the type of activities you choose, a minimum of two nights stay is recommended although you will not lack for activities on a longer stay.