My boyfriend and I stayed for 4 nights and had an amazing time! It is a very simple, cozy lodge with beautiful scenery. While there are only 6 rooms, the lodge is pretty spread out and there is plenty of space so you never feel crowded. Do not stay at Umkumbe if you are hoping to spend your time watching TV or plan to have a personal butler provided by the lodge to cater to your every need. Stay at Umkumbe if you are hoping to have a more intimate experience with nature, where your down time is spent watching the animals that come near the lodge, reading books, and meeting fellow travelers.
Rooms: The rooms are simple, but clean. They have heating and air conditioning, hot water with good pressure, and a comfortable king-sized bed. The rooms were actually cleaned and tidied up twice a day, which was a bonus.
Food: The food was good and always served family buffet style, which I thought was great. Dinner even included a campfire! Breakfast included toast, butter and jam, yogurt, granola, fruit, eggs, ham, bacon, etc. Lunch was usually sandwiches and fruit or salad. Dinner was usually a meat dish (steak, pot roast, chicken) with plenty of vegetable sides, salad, bread, and a dessert. There was a vegetarian traveler while we were there who said her vegetarian meals were always very good.
People: The way the lodge is laid out makes you feel like you are part of a community and everyone was very friendly to us. The rangers Jason and Oliver were very knowledgeable, friendly, and always helpful. There wasn't a single question we asked that wasn't answered and I was actually shocked they weren't annoyed by the amount of questions I was asking them all day long about the animals, plants, bugs, etc. Really great guys! I also thought the owners were very friendly, as they would come out and talk to us during the day and were very accommodating. The owners even helped us book a tour in Cape Town while we were there, which I thought was very nice of them.
Game drives: As with any safari, the animals you see are not guaranteed. Some drives you see mostly impala and bushbuck, some drives you may see all of the big 5. Unfortunately, each of the Sabi Sands lodges is limited to their land for the drives, meaning if there is a lion roaring in Sabi Sabi, we can't cross over (but the same would be true for Sabi Sabi if the lion were in Umkumbe land). But the good thing is the animals move around, so you might end up 5 feet away from that lion on your next drive! I felt like there was still plenty of terrain to cover on each drive, though (we saw more animals than we could have ever imagined ... even a cheetah!!), and the politics of the area were actually really interesting and entertaining.
My suggestion would be to stay as long as you can! The more drives/walks you can go on, the better your chance of seeing awesome, elusive animals. I was never bored for a moment and would have loved to have stayed for another 4 (or more) nights if we could. We were very sad to leave! But also remember your fellow travelers really contribute to your enjoyment. With only 6 rooms, you end up feeling like part of a little family during your stay, so it's great to meet new people. Please don't be that awkward group that doesn't interact with anyone else!
Packing suggestions: Invest in a good camera with a good zoom lens (up to 200/300 mm or so); point and shoots don’t usually cut it because sometimes, the animals are at a distance (esp. by the lodge), and it is great to get nice close-ups of them. Also, bring clothes in neutral colors (tan/army green) for the bush walks; this really does affect how close you can get to the animals! If packing for a winter trip, be prepared for the bitter cold in early mornings and nights and the heat in the afternoon (so, truly pack for four seasons)!
- 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
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- Also Known As:
- Umkumbe Safari Hotel Sabi Sand Game Reserve
- Umkumbe Safari Lodge South Africa/Sabi Sand Game Reserve