Karatu village is located along the road between Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro parks (just a few minutes driving outside the Ngorongoro park entrance). Staying in Karatu village can be good to help keep the overall trip budget down, or sometimes from a logistics/itinerary point of view since it can work well as an overnight in between Lake Manyara and Ngoronogro park entrances. Alternatives are lodges/camps on or near the Ngorongoro Crater rim – which are quite a bit more expensive due to location inside park borders.
Country Lodge is a budget friendly but nice stopover between Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro Crater. You may spend one night here between parks, or spend two nights and see Ngorongoro Crater as a day trip from this lodge. It’s a friendly, comfortable and unpretentious lodge on the outskirts of Karatu village. The location means it doesn’t have the views like lodges inside the parks but the grounds are pretty, the staff is friendly, food is good and the value is excellent. There is a pool though it may be cold.
Bougainvillea is the sister lodge (actually, older sister) of Country Lodge, located right next door. The lodge looks slightly more upscale than Country Lodge, though Country Lodge rooms are newer so we like the design and function slightly better. Both lodges are great choices for budget-friendly lodging near Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro Crater.
Octagon Lodge is a great choice in Karatu village for those on a budget. It offers a variety of room types, from standard (comfortable but not fancy) to smaller “Annex” rooms which are intended for those on a tight budget but not wanting to camp. Annex rooms are smaller than other rooms and have nearby shared bathrooms and shower rooms. Octagon also has a campsite for those doing budget camping; campers can access the shared bathrooms and shower rooms. Meals are served in a dining room or outdoors, and there’s an Irish-style pub where you can enjoy a drink.
Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge
This is a comfortable, but not luxury, tented lodge set high in the hills near Karatu. Views are wonderful; the steep and bumpy drive up the hill to the lodge can seem a bit daunting but that’s part of the adventure! The lodge has a very important function – it financially supports the nearby Rhotia Valley Children’s Home and the local village school as well. Here, your stay is very much giving back to the community and children nearby. You have an opportunity to visit the Children’s home which is so wonderful. The dilemma with this lodge is how many nights to stay; due to the challenging drive up the hill, it may be too much for some people stay here and do day trips from here, going up and down the hill repeatedly. So ideally, a one night stay with an early enough arrival or late enough departure to enjoy the views and visit the Children’s home; or spend two nights, with the day between spent visiting the Children’s home and relaxing (or if you don’t mind the adventure driving, do a day trip to Ngorongoro Crater from here).