Onsea House

It is difficult to quantify what appeals to us about Onsea House. However, if a climber is willing to upgrade their accommodation from one of our standard options and wishes to be looked after by consummate professionals with excellent taste and sensitivity to the needs of discerning travellers, there is no better place that we could recommend close to Arusha, than Onsea.

Visitors should remember that running a quality, luxurious hospitality operation within the context of somewhere like Arusha has unavoidable limitations in terms of the consistency of provision of power, communications, and water and yet Onsea seems to negotiate these challenges with extraordinary professionalism and competence.

While the location is excellent, in terms of the fantastic view over the Kisongo Plateau, Arusha Town, and towards Mount Meru; its being insulated from the noise and traffic and crime of central Arusha, and it’s convenient traffic-free road access from the main road that runs between Arusha and Kilimanjaro airport just 40 minutes away, Onsea’s principal asset is undoubtedly its management team.

Onsea’s Management

From an operator’s perspective, we have a privileged insight into the inner machinations of local hospitality operations and unfailingly find Onsea a reassuring pleasure to deal with. At the head of their leadership hierarchy are two very different Belgian cousins who evidently enjoy an excellent and productive working relationship: one is a highly organised, exacting administrator, with an obvious intolerance of anything compromising to Onsea’s concept and standards, and the other is an overtly inspired artist, with a rare degree of flair and creativity for his work. Happily, his work – while also managerial – is largely focussed on producing some of the most inspiring food that we have found in East Africa. Axel has worked with fine cuisine all his professional life, since training as a youngster with a famous Belgian restaurant and bringing his wide 3* Michelin experience to his creations at Onsea.

Onsea House is Excellent for Post Climb Relaxation

Onsea is a natural choice for climbers as it’s remoteness (while being only 10-15 minutes from Arusha) offers a salubrious and quiet environment in which to relax on a lush green hillside, on which gentle (if slow!) walks are possible. Additionally, there is a very pleasant swimming pool very conveniently located in good proximity to the bar and restaurant and TV room. Another huge benefit is the provision of massages by a couple of well-trained local ladies that have an extended team that can be brought in where there is a large climb group. While massage is more usually sought after a strenuous climb, we find that many climbers that have finished a stressful week of preparation prior to flying out, will benefit from a pre-climb massage to loosen them up ahead of Kilimanjaro. Being as mentally and physically relaxed as possible and eliminating any unnecessary duress is key to thorough and optimal acclimatisation and therefore summit success. In this context a pre-climb massage (and indeed, a stay at Onsea!) may well be considered as a possible shrewd investment.

Criticism of Onsea House

In our experience, one can provide the very best service and offer the highest available quality and yet still find dissatisfaction amongst that very small element of humanity that is frankly unappeasable or, in some cases, which evidently derive from a nouveau riche culture that prides itself in its ability to find fault where those of more gracious dispositions are thoroughly satisfied. That said, rather than risk being accused of making unqualified recommendations, we would like to address a couple of issues that prospective guests should consider, so as to ensure that their expectations of what Onsea House aims to achieve are appropriately informed.

Meal Costs at Onsea House

We are aware that meal prices at Onsea have occasionally been compared unfavourably to other local providers. While it is certainly true that Onsea’s meal prices are amongst the highest around Arusha, this ought to be somewhat obvious and expected, since the product that they serve is sourced far more carefully than the vast majority of restaurants and is frankly of higher quality, generally.

Meal Quantities at Onsea

Arguably the most pertinent criticism we can find of Onsea House is that some climbers who may be large-framed and have high calorific requirements, may find that Onsea’s emphasis is configured with a more conspicuous bias on quality than quantity. Where a climber is however concerned about quantities we suggest that they have a private word with the chef-manager, or his deputy, if he is available, and discuss their concerns with him. While the waiters are well trained, discrete and courteous, it will not suffice to express such concerns to them.

Is Onsea ‘Western’?

We have seen Onsea described as ‘western’. While it is run by Belgians, we do not find it accurate or appropriate to describe Onsea as ‘western’, anymore than a hotel made with mud walls and a hole in the ground for a lavatory should be described as ‘African’. It is true that Onsea, and it’s beautiful new annexed wellness development, Machweo, are made cleanly and solidly using architectural styles that would satisfy a discerning western-educated architect; and that the efficiency and exigence of its administration may more usually be associated with western business owners than with locals; however, Onsea is simply a beautiful property that melds the best of what is African and ‘western’ into a highly pleasurable experience, which we feel is the best available in the area and is likely to be the most restful and relaxing for tired climbers.


‘Our Michelin experienced chef will prepare a fusion of exquisite European and African delights based on seasonal specialties’

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