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“6 Leopards, 5 Days!!!” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Umkumbe Safari Lodge

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Umkumbe Safari Lodge
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3.5 of 5 Guest house   |   Luilekker Farm | Sabi Sand Game Reserve, Kruger National Park, South Africa   |  
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Hotel amenities
Certificate of Excellence 2014
Marquard, South Africa
1 review
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
“6 Leopards, 5 Days!!!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 30, 2013

My husband and I were at Umkumbe for 5 days during June(same time as Pierre L) We had unbelievable sightings and experiences. Lotje was our ranger and with her excellent knowledge there never was a dull moment. She would drive in circles close to the Lodge which at first I found a bit strange, but then..... a leopard!Afterwards she explained that she heard him call earlier the morning and knew it was in the vicinity. We had beautiful sightings of rhino, elephants,buffalo,giraffe,waterbuck,zebra,WILDOGS!,etc,etc.

The food was good home-cook meals which we really enjoyed.They have a well stocked "honesty bar' that I thought was a nice touch. We liked the room decorations and it was comfortable and clean. Towels get replaced daily if one leave it in the floor.

The staff is extremely helpful and Lotje and Moses tend to all our needs.We met the owner and his wife, and found them willing and friendly.The owner,Herman was quiet at first, but start talking to him and wow, he can tell you stories of Umkumbe!

We had a limited budget and Umkumbe surpassed out wildest hopes.Excellent sightings, food,rooms,service, what more can one ask for.This was our third visit and with our "beer budget" we had a champagne experience, thank you Umkumbe,you will see us again and again.
Lydia N

Room Tip: Ask for the room overlooking the river!
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  • Stayed June 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
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142 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    4 of 5 stars
  • Service
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    4.5 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (24)
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English first
Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
1 review
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 26, 2013

I grew up in the Eastern Transvaal (Mpumalanga) and thought I had experienced everything with regards to Kruger etc however we had the privilege of staying at Umkumbe Safari Lodge during July 2013 and I now know what its all about. We had the most amazing experience with Rhinos who seemed happy to join us for sundowners only to be followed up with an game drive where we had a leopard encounter which was like nothing I've ever experienced ( thanx to Lotje's skilled bush driving). The knowledge of Lotje and Jason gave me a new appreciation for nature and made both the evening and morning drives an informative and exciting adventure. Despite all of the above it was the Smit family (owners) and their hospitality that was the cherry on top. We spend an awesome evening with Herman and Celeste around the fire hearing the most amazing stories and were made to feel like royalty. The food was amazing and I loved the rooms, that had the perfect balance between luxury and nature. I would recommend Umkumbe to any animal lover and traveler. It is a place and experience not to be missed. To Herman and Celeste you guys are amazing. Thank you for a world class experience.

  • Stayed July 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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Nazareth, Pennsylvania
Senior Reviewer
6 reviews 6 reviews
3 hotel reviews
Reviews in 6 cities Reviews in 6 cities
5 helpful votes 5 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 25, 2013

The safari lodge was very clean and well maintained. It is family owned and operated. We were introduced to the owners as soon as we arrived and actually got to go out on game drives with them as well. I was very impressed with how hands on they were with the operation of their lodge. As for the food, I was very impressed. I have celiac disease and require gluten free foods. THe kitchen staff was impressive with their gluten free cooking skills! Every morning they made me homemade gluten free scones and jam so that I would similar options as the rest of the guests in the camp. Our guides, Locha and Jason were impressive! Both of them were extremely sensitive to their environment while still getting us up close and personal with all of the flora, fauna, and wildlife. What we learned each time we went out on game drive was awesome. It was not like reading a textbook lesson, but more of an adventure! While in camp, there was a group of students from the University of Illinois there taking a hands on course. They were a pleasure to stay with. We are already looking forward to going back to Umkumbe in the near future. Thank you to Locha and Jason and all of the staff for the memorable and life changing experience! We will see you again very soon!

  • Stayed July 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
London, United Kingdom
Senior Contributor
46 reviews 46 reviews
14 hotel reviews
Reviews in 26 cities Reviews in 26 cities
59 helpful votes 59 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed July 5, 2013

My wife and I stayed here for 3 nights in June for our first safari experience. The guides at Umkumbe was awesome and what made me give them a "very good" rating. Both Jason and Lotje were very knowledgeable and fun to go on the game drives with. On two of the days, we were the only guests at the lodge so it was almost like we were hanging out with friends instead of just them being our guides. Even on days where there weren't many animal sightings, Jason and Lotje still kept it fun and interesting by explaining plant life and other safari info to us. We did manage to see 3 out of the Big 5 here. We did see rhinos (including the tom and jerry duo) everyday here as suggested by the lodge's name. There were also plenty animals that come roaming by the lodge, including water buffaloes, hippos, and leopards.

If it wasn't from the great guides, I would only rate this place as average. The rooms needs more attention to details to cleanliness (e.g. spider webs in every corner). We stayed in one of the newer lodges too. We didn't think much of the rooms during our stay until we went to another private reserve lodge after this one. We originally thought having bugs in the room and spider webs were normal since it is a safari. But the second lodge we stayed at was spotless.

We did interact with the owners on a couple of occasions. The wife and her parents were pretty nice, but the owner himself seemed a bit odd at times. He didn't seem too interested in how the guests were doing or if we enjoyed the game drives etc. when he saw us.

Last thing I'll mention is that the lodges in Sabi Sand does not share territory within the private game reserve so they could only drive on their own land. We learned this when there was a lion sighting at night, but we were only able to enjoy it from a distance as the lion was laying on the other side of the road on another property. The other private reserve we visited was Timbavati where they share access and the lodges communicate with each other to maximize animal sightings for their guests.

Overall, come here for the great guides to learn more about the safari and a more rustic accommodation.

Room Tip: Last room, furthest from the communal area (i think room 8) is the largest and newest room.
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  • Stayed June 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Perth, Australia
Senior Reviewer
7 reviews 7 reviews
6 hotel reviews
Reviews in 7 cities Reviews in 7 cities
8 helpful votes 8 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed June 27, 2013

Umkumbe Lodge is magnificent. The setting on the Sand River is beautiful and guarantees something to look at all day. The rooms are very comfortable, as are the bar, lounge area and boma. Every meal was very well prepared and tasty and whilst not fine dining, it was more than acceptable.
The owners do not seem to be very involved with the guests, however, Jason our guide/host was terrific. He went out of his way to make sure everything went well. His knowledge and enthusiasm for the wildlife and countryside was outstanding, particularly for such a young man and he made all of our game drives interesting, fun and educational. He willingly answered all questions asked of him and went out of his way to make our game viewing all we had hoped for .
I had a fantastic three nights at Umkumbe, saw the big five, and also learned a lot about some of the other smaller and not so "popular" animals.
I would not hesitate to recommend Umkumbe for a safari holiday. The low prices do not mean less enjoyment or wildlife experiences - only no crystal glasses on the sundowner drives!

  • Stayed June 2013, traveled with friends
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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Panorama-Route
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
5 of 5 stars Reviewed June 25, 2013

what a privilege to experience nature as it is presented at Umkumbe Lodge. They give you a first hand on the ground look at things that you only see on TV. Some great close encounters with Rhino, Elephant and Leopard. An experience that will stay in my memories forever. The owners make you feel at home, and the food is true to Africa.

  • Stayed June 2013, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa
1 review
6 helpful votes 6 helpful votes
1 of 5 stars Reviewed June 23, 2013

Umkumbe

Accommodation:
One ply toilet paper
Old towels
Wet towels in the evening
Wash basin siliconed to the wall with dirty silicone
Bathrooms dirty
Shower door not sealing
Hot water ran out in the morning
Bathrooms dirty
Cupboard space lacking. No shelves to pack clothes
Mosquito net had holes in it
Thatch on roof old and falling in
Roof trellises broken
Bedside lamps had spider webs on them
Guests leaving had to carry their own luggage (big suitcases)
Sunday morning lie in, was interrupted by building happening next door. This continued all through Sunday morning before leaving.



Food:
Not enough food the first night
Breakfast was terrible.
Toaster not working
Bacon, beans and scrambled eggs.
Muesli, yoghurt and fruit salad.
Fried eggs were requested, came late and were horrible. Told by staff that they weren't on the menu and thus not prepared correctly.
Limited quantities of food again. When raised by one of the staff members with the owners wife, was told that it would take too long to prepare any more food and the guests would have to be happy with what there was.
Owner and family ate together with guests in all meals. If they didn't, most likely would have been enough food. Although the quality of the food was still horrible.
Home cooked, boring meals
No snacks during the day
Kitchen where meals were prepared was old run down. Basically an old farmhouse kitchen being used to cater for guests.
No hygiene rules in place in the kitchen. Kitchen staff handled food with their bare hands, no gloves utilized.



Game drives:
Night drive - drove same route day and night drive
Area of camp is 670 ha, covered most likely 10 ha in both drives
Hot water for morning drive was finished, not able to get tea or coffee for everyone
Second evening drive - outside visitors joined drive, thus no place for spotter on vehicle
One vehicle used on this drive, thus cramped.
Morning drive, no spotter came with on the trip
Not allowed to venture onto other areas within the 26000 ha Sabi conservatory. Was told that even though a rare siting of an animal may occur in other conservatory, would not be allowed to follow animal. With only 670 ha out of 26000ha. The lodge is a pin prick of an area.
Second evening drive, outside visitors joined for drive. Vehicle was packed, a,d very uncomfortable.
Outside visitors joined for dinner, which destroyed any illusion of the place being exclusive.


Communal seating area: 
Not enough seating.
In afternoon (Saturday) was occupied by owner and staff, thus no place for guests to sit.
Afternoon reading interrupted by owner and family sitting there again.
Boma area small, with outdated furniture used for seating
Dinner chairs used for seating around fire in boma
Boma area extremely small with no atmosphere
Bar under stocked
Green algae growing in swimming pool

Building was happening while we were there. Afternoons are thus interrupted with hammering and other sounds of construction


Generally place is run down and old. 

Room Tip: Go somewhere else
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  • Stayed June 2013, traveled with friends
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 2 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 1 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 1 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 6
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
umkumbe-brett, Director of Sales at Umkumbe Safari Lodge, responded to this review, July 2, 2013
Hi Pierre,

Thanks for your review. It is clear that you did not enjoy your stay with us and have gone to exceptional lengths to write a very one sided review. This is in addition to your emails to me threatening bad forum posts. I therefore unfortunately need to be as harsh on you as you have been on us.

It is unfortunate that you only went on 1 game drive out of a possible 4. If you had gone on the game drives you would have seen 4 of the Big Five as well as plenty of other wildlife. Just like the guests who did manage to get up for the drives. It is unfortunate that you were not able to get up for the drives because you were hung over. It is also unfortunate that you did not appreciate our ranger Jason taking you out at 630pm on a personal drive. It is also unfortunate that you did not appreciate Jason taking you out on a game drive after dinner to look for the lions. I know you did not find them but at least you saw six hyena and some other nocturnal wildlife.

It seems you were here to drink and as such Jason and Lotje ensured the bar was stocked. It is of course also unfortunate that you only wrote down 4 whiskeys in the honesty bar when you had significantly more.

I trust that despite your comments, you managed to enjoy the three leopard sightings from the deck. The other guests certainly did.

PS: Umkumbe is a an Owner Managed lodge, it says so clearly on our website, therefore I am surprised that you were surprised to see the Owners at the lodge.

Regards
Brett
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Umkumbe Safari Lodge

Address: Luilekker Farm | Sabi Sand Game Reserve, Kruger National Park, South Africa
Phone Number:
Location: South Africa > Kruger National Park > Sabi Sand Game Reserve
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Breakfast Free Parking Suites Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 1 B&Bs / Inns in Sabi Sand Game Reserve
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$$
Hotel Class:3.5 star — Umkumbe Safari Lodge 3.5*
Number of rooms: 10
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Umkumbe Safari Lodge is located in the Sabi Sand Wildtuin, considered by many to be the premier wildlife reserve in South Africa. Located on the banks of the seasonal Sand River, Umkumbe Safari Lodge is perfectly situated in one of the best Big Five game viewing destinations in Africa. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Umkumbe Safari Hotel Sabi Sand Game Reserve
Umkumbe Safari Lodge South Africa/Sabi Sand Game Reserve

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