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“Wow, safari-tastic!” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Umlani Bushcamp

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Umlani Bushcamp
3.0 of 5 Lodge   |   Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, Kruger National Park 1380, South Africa   |  
Hotel website
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Hotel amenities
Special Offer
Kruger Safari Option
Certificate of Excellence 2014
UK
Reviewer
4 reviews 4 reviews
4 hotel reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
“Wow, safari-tastic!”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 24, 2010

Umlani provided us with the perfect end to our honeymoon in South Africa. We stayed 4 nights in January, having spend 8 lively nights in Cape Town and 2 more refined nights in Stellenbosch. I arrived trying to have low expectations about the animals we'd see on safari so as not to be disappointed. However, we left with all our expectations exceeded!

We were greeted with a bottle of honeymoon fizz in our bedroom which is always a great way to start :) And from there on in, the warmth and hospitality of Christie and her staff was just amazing. The rooms are all stand alone huts and the outdoor showers are actually brilliant! Despite scare stories from other guests about spiders and bugs, our room remained bug free except for the odd gecko which was great.

The food is fantastic and meal times are a real ritual, we left several kilos heavier than when we arrived! The days begin early, but despite not being a morning person, they are exhilarating and time just flies. Our morning game drives were followed by breakfast and usually a return to bed. We'd then head down to the pool for a bit and lie in the sun before having lunch and complimentary beers on the deck overlooking the water hole where you can see the animals come to have a swim and a drink. You then go out for the evening game drives which end with a drink of your choice from the 'mobile bar' in the landrover, watching the sun go down at a scenic point out in the bush. Probably my favourite time of day :) The social dinners are then followed by drinks around the fire and all I can say is, you must have at least one glass of Amarula before you leave!

We saw the 'Big 5' and so much more - our Ranger, Ginger, and Tracker, Shads, were amazing and go to great lengths to find good sightings and inform you about what you are seeing. The female leopard was just beautiful, we loved the baby warthogs but the highlight has to be seeing the wild dog with a kill on our last morning (thanks Sean!) - all I can say is, sleeping in and missing a drive isn't a good idea as you never know what you might miss.

I can't recommend Umlani enough, it's a real experience and one which, especially as the last trip on our honeymoon, will stay with us forever.

  • Stayed January 2010, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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235 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
    5 of 5 stars
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Service
    5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    5 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    5 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (44)
Date | Rating
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English first
Springfield, Ill.
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 9, 2010

My son (age 27) and I stayed four nights at Umlani in December. I'll echo the other reviews (see below) regarding the accommodations, food, etc. -- classy and great -- with the added note that all drinks are included in the price. They lost money on my kid. ...

The main camp activity is the two game drives daily. We had three different guides over our seven drives, and all were excellent in their own way. We saw four of the big five (no leopard), but the highlight was our last drive, the pre-breakfast drive the day we left. We had gotten kind of blase about regularly seeing spectacular wildlife

Jimmy, our driver, went into high gear when he was told a cheetah was nearby. When we found it -- Jimmy did a serious fist-pump, the first time I'd seen one of the rangers get that excited -- the cheetah had just killed a young impala. He was sitting over his prey, but he was nervous, not eating, his head on a swivel.

The reason quickly became evident, as two lionesses and a young lion sauntered up from behind our Land Rover. The cheetah ran off in a heartbeat, while the two mature lions had a brief argument, about 30 feet from us, over which one got the impala.

The winner then ran off, followed by the other two lions and then by us. When we caught up with them, the impala was now in possession of the pride's male lion. We then sat, again from only a few yards away and watched him consume his meal -- head, hooves, hide and all. When he was done, there was nothing left but a smear in the grass.

Wow, what a conclusion to our bush experience ...

  • Stayed December 2009
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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scotland
Reviewer
5 reviews 5 reviews
5 hotel reviews
Reviews in 5 cities Reviews in 5 cities
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
5 of 5 stars Reviewed November 3, 2009

Stayed for 3 nights. The whole ambience was friendly, relaxed yet professional. Special thanks to the camp manager Giles and Louise (girl Friday from Durban who introduced me to Amarula after dinner!!!) Their efforts to make our stay memorable was really appreciated, thanks! They organised a special trip back to the bush to see lions eating a buffalo, when we missed the kill earlier, nothing was too much trouble, thanks again. Lots of nice touches, drinks around the boma, fire before dinner, sundowners in the bush on the way back from the evening game drive. then driving back to the camp in darkness with a search light to pick out (but not frighten) any noturnal animals appearing. The tree house, were you can stay overnight. a one-off experience. It was all excellent...We have had many safaris in other parts of Africa, and this rates among the best. Animals were not as plentyful as say in Kenya, but we had the best views of a Leopard at Umlani ever...and you should easily see the big five, suberb!

  • Stayed October 2009, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Barrowby
1 review
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 13, 2009

Have been going to the Timbavati area for 20 years. In my view if you want Hotel accommodation, save yourself a fortune stay in a hotel next to a Safari Park in any other country, because that is not an African experience. Umlani very e co friendly ( Green leaf award ) is the next best thing for comfort, safety, good food ( won awards ) as opposed to sleeping under the stars. Thatched huts, hot/cold water, on suite loo and outside shower, comfortable beds no electricity, hurricane lamps provided, a real feeling of Africa. Staff all very friendly, Giles the Manager, has possible more field medical experience than any doctor in the nearby town, nothing is too much trouble. Traversing over the same area as other hotel type camps, but we are all seeing the same in a very controlled professional viewing rota, ie. only maximum two vehicles at say Leopard/Lion sighting. Elvis my ranger, has to be the most knowledgeable in the area. Knows every bird and on which page in the Sasol book of birds! Ask him about flowers and fauna, not only does he know the common names, also the scientific names as well. He kept us well informed on high windy days when game viewing was going to be at a low. I think everyone went back home with a little knowledge about the bush and environment thanks to Elvis. Very good at placing the Land Rover in the correct position for taking photos, then moves so the guests on the other side can take there shots. Thanks to all the trackers in the area, yes we did see the big five and many many other species as well. One night we had a competition to spot comealions, Elvis 6, other rangers 1, guests 0. Umlani certainly relaxes one, ready to go back re-charged to face ones business.

  • Stayed September 2009, traveled solo
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Sydney, Aus
Reviewer
4 reviews 4 reviews
4 hotel reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
3 helpful votes 3 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 25, 2009

Our stay at Umlani was very enjoyable and will never be forgotten

The accommodation was great as it was luxurious while still feeling as if it was in the African savannah. The "bush shower" was very interesting and the beds were very comfortable to sleep in. The housekeeping staff were excellent as we found our rooms tidied and our beds made well after returning from safari drives. The cooks were also great as the food was almost always delicious.

The safaris proved to be so much fun as our ranger, Moses, and tracker, Shadrack, were excellent at finding animals. We managed to complete the "Big 5" twice, both in single days and we even completed 4 of the 5 in a single drive! They were also entertaining and had immense knowledge of all the animals, plants and birds we encountered. All staff were very polite and were always offering to help us or bring us things.

Overall, our stay at Umlani was an awesome experience. I hope to return in the future and I would highly reccommend it to anyone. =)

  • Stayed September 2009, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Brisbane, Australia
Reviewer
3 reviews 3 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 18, 2009

Our stay at Umlani was a highlight of our trip to South Africa. We arrived at lunch time and while our bags were taken to our rondavel we were invited to sit, relax, enjoy beautiful food and watch the giraffes that had just wandered down to the waterhole. Although it was really cold weather, our thatched rondavel was surprisingly cosy with wonderfully warm doonahs and paraffin lamps lit for us by the staff. The hot water bottles to go to bed with were lovely too. We found this luxury bushcamp to be really clean and well looked after. And yes, there were flushing toilets. And although there is no electricity in the camp, we could plug in batteries, computers etc in the office.
Each morning we would be awakened at 5.30am then after coffee or hot chocolate we'd be off on safari with Elvis and Shadrick, who never failed us. Apart from playing jokes and games with our 12 year old, they found the Big 5 for us and we saw lots of baby animals too. We would drive off the track and over trees to get to see a rhino or elephant, it was so exciting for us all. A beautiful hearty breakfast was freshly cooked for us on our return and Elvis and Christie and Giles often joined us for meals.
The afternoon game drive was just as spectacular with beautiful sunsets and sundowners as well. We'd arrive back in camp for drinks around the boma to chat about what we'd seen and then on to a beautiful meal and lots of wine and Amarula (yum).
We felt like we were staying with family and our daughter was certainly most welcome. It was sad to say goodbye. Thanks Umlani for a wonderful experience.

  • Stayed July 2009, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Ottawa, Canada
Contributor
13 reviews 13 reviews
3 hotel reviews
Reviews in 7 cities Reviews in 7 cities
5 helpful votes 5 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed May 16, 2009

We stayed at Umlani for 3 or 4 nights during a 9 day Safari on a self-drive through Kruger National Park and Timbavati Reserve in 2005. Umlani provides a simply outstanding experience at a great price. The nice rondavil huts opened onto your own private outdoor shower provided an amazing experience like you felt you were really camping among the animals in the bushveld... with a few interesting sounds throughout the night. Every morning you would find new animal prints around your hut. There is no fencing around this camp so at night an armed guide needs to escort you back to your hut. They give you a whistle to hang by the bed and instruct you to blow it should anything come into your hut at night (this never happened). In the winter they also give you a hot water bottle at the end of the night to warm up your bed as the nights can get cold with no electricity at the camp to heat things up... of course everything is lit with lanterns which makes the whole experience wonderfully romantic and quite special.

The game drives are really the best we experienced and Formen is top-knotch as far as guide/rangers go. We had incredible experiences and saw so much - all the Big Five and more. He brought us on some amazing guided walks through the bush - where we snuck up on a herd of sleeping rhinos, came close to a pride of lions we had seen earlier in the day from the Land Rover - these and more are all unparalled experiences I'll never forget. Those and the Sundowers!

The food was quite good too with nice wine and other drinks to complement everything. Overall a fabulous experience!!!

  • Stayed July 2006, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Umlani Bushcamp

Address: Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, Kruger National Park 1380, South Africa
Phone Number:
Location: South Africa > Kruger National Park > Timbavati Private Nature Reserve
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Children Activities ( Kid / Family Friendly ) Restaurant Shuttle Bus service Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
Ranked #3 of 15 Specialty Lodging in Timbavati Private Nature Reserve
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$$
Hotel Class:3 star — Umlani Bushcamp 3*
Number of rooms: 10
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Umlani Bushcamp, a rustic yet exclusive lodge, accommodates guests in cozy en-suite reed and thatch rondavels. Early morning and evening game drives are in open four wheel drive vehicles accompanied by experienced rangers and trackers offers exceptional game viewing opportunitys. Umlani makes the whole event personalized and specializes in escorted walks into this unspoiled wilderness. Umlani, meaning Place of Rest, was established in 1990 by Marco and Marie-Louise Schiess, in the central section of the Timbavati Nature Reserve, which is part of the greater Kruger National Park. Umlani is the perfect nature lovers choice. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Umlani Bushcamp Hotel Timbavati Private Nature Reserve
Umlani Bushcamp South Africa/Timbavati Private Nature Reserve

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