The tranquil German farmhouse of Ngare Sero was originally conceived as a kind of fortress – a defensible homestead by its pioneer owner August Leuer, who arrived in East Africa in 1885 as a part of a German military expedition. Ngare Sero is the house Leue built in 1905 when he returned to Africa on his retirement from the Schutztruppe. He farmed coffee and rubber on the fertile slopes of Mount Meru. Leue was the leader of a group of pioneer farmers who settled in the region, and his house, then known as Leuedorf, was the center of their community, containing a chapel and a post office, surrounded by high walls and a guard tower behind which the settlers could retreat if danger threatened.
During the Great War, Leuedorf was occupied by British troops but Leue continued to administer the area. In 1920, under the League of Nations Mandate, his family was forced to return to Germany and Leuedorf passed to Captain Rydon RN who farmed the estate until 1954.
Rydon dammed the river (at the footbridge), created a lake and built a mill race and installed a turbine for milling, (now hydroelectric turbine). It was also probably Rydon who planted the beautiful alley of jacaranda trees leading from the main road to the lodge, that now provides shade for pedestrians and which once a year in October-November covers the dust with purple flowers.
For years the house was unoccupied. For a while it was used as a camp for builders of Kilimanjaro International Airport. A young engineer Mike Leach discovered this place in 1973 while working on one of his projects in Arusha. He was offered to stay in a “German ghost castle” and could not believe his eyes seeing this place for the first time – driving through the blooming violet jacaranda alley, walking on the footbridge through crystal clear lake surrounded by forest, monkeys and birds living on the balcony. Mike and his wife Gisella Leach acquired Ngare Sero and made it into a family home for their five children and in 1974 converted it into a tourist lodge.
Ngare Sero has been an ongoing project ever since with improvements happening all the time. Mike restored the mill race and the turbine and created hydroelectric power to the Lodge. The main house has been reconstructed and guest garden rooms were built. In 1979 the second dam and a rainbow trout farm was build and more than 30 years later our guests enjoy organically grown fish on their dinner tables. The family had started a reforestation project in the vicinity and planted over 3000 indigenous trees. It is thanks to those efforts that the fragile lake ecosystem has been preserved. Th forest canopy is now a home for several troops of Colobus and Sykes monkeys and the lake shores host an array of birds and small animals.
Ngare Sero Mountain Lodge was one of the first lodges in the Arusha area. When the Leach family started a luxury mobile safari company called “Lost Horizons”, the lodge became a base for expeditions into the wild, a home away from home on the foothills of Mount Meru.
Many honoured guests chose to stay at Ngare Sero Lodge and let Mike and Gisella to organise their safaris. Among them were the austronaut Jo Allen, an author Elspeth Huxley, a film producer and a photographer Hugo van Lawick, a sex therapist/TV star Ruth Westheimer and US senator John Glenn.
Steven Spielberg’s team filmed a scene for “Congo” in Ngare Sero and outfitting of “Out of Africa” movie filming in Serengeti was organised by Mike and Gisella’s “Lost Horizons Safaris”.
During the year spent in Ngare Sero Gisella ran many community projects, including a home clinic. She also wrote a number of books. “Africa My Life” a touching autobiography starting from her childhood years in WW2 Germany, moving to Africa and creating Ngare Sero Mountain Lodge with her family. “A floral Season in the Tropics”, “Ethnic Jewelry” and “Children of the World” are coffee table books, where through photographs she shares her visions of beauty. “Our Resident Sykes Monkey” is a children’s book, illustrated by her friend, a local artist Loise Hill. Books of Gisella Leach are available at the Lodge reception.
In 2002 Mike and Gisella’s son Tim Leach returned after his studies abroad and took over general management of his family business and added a new flavor to Ngare Sero. An uncompromising eco-enthusiast he continued his family efforts in forest conservation, spring protection and water management.