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“Never to return”

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Umkumbe Safari Lodge
Certificate of Excellence
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
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8  Thank Pierre L
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 reviewResponded 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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167 - 173 of 346 reviews

Reviewed May 9, 2013

The chalets are very comfortable and the food is very good - nothing fancy - just good, wholesome meals. We actually enjoyed these dinners more than some of the dinners we have had at a few of the more expensive lodges that we have stayed at! I think Umkumbe is the most affordable lodge in Sabi Sand and there is a saying 'you get what you pay for' but in this case you get so much more!

The atmosphere at the lodge is very relaxed - nothing pretentious - what you see is what you get.

The lodge faces the Sand River so animal sightings tend to be very good. We stayed for 3 nights but arrived late on day one so skipped the afternoon game drive, which left only 5 game drives but we saw two leopards on the remaining drives and then, while back at the lodge on day two, we saw the resident male leopard, Hermie, crossing the river in front of the lodge while having our breakfast! Every night we heard leopards calling to each other around Umkumbe lodge from both sides of the river.

Three leopard sightings in three days plus a host of other game sightings such as rhino, elephant, giraffe, zebras, buffalo and waterbuck. Jason, our field guide, is a photographer so the game drives were most enjoyable and he has a passion for leopards so we knew we were in good hands in trying to find these elusive cats to photograph!

Room Tip: All the rooms face the river except numbers 3 and 7
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  • Stayed: May 2013, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank KrugerToKalahari
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 27, 2013

My husband and I did A LOT of research for our south africa trip and safari, so we had it pin-pointed to exactly what we were looking for (in this order):
1. Chances of seeing the Big Five and ability to drive off road to get closer to animals
* this lead us to wanting to choose a top reserve as opposed to the limited road driving of Kruger Park, falling upon Sabi Sands as the highest rated...so we went for it
2. Value: we wanted to be in the most expensive game reserve, so we were concerned about not going over our budget for our trip and did lots of research on lodges
3. Comfort of the lodge: we didn't need a Ritz Carleton, but we are not backpackers anymore...or never really were so we do need comfortable sleeping space, safe, beautiful setting and air conditioner for the husband and a pool situation for me

After knowing what we were looking for and all of our choices of lodges in front of us in the Sabi Sands game reserve, we reviewed all reviews in books, online and talking to friends. We booked Umkumbe and it was the best choice we could have dreamed of. According to what we were looking for, here is what we found:
1. Big Five: Yes, we saw them all. And then some. Our guides tracked Leopards...and found one...then found lions eating a Waterbuck...hyenas holding a carcass...group of 40 elephants, giraffs, zebras...our stories go on. Our game drive guide, Jason whom was with us for all drives plus we would have 1 more for evening drives to be the front light spotter, was OUTSTANDING. We travel quite a bit for a younger couple and spend a lot of time outdoors, so feel we know more than the average joe in regards to animal life, plants, etc...but man did we have so many questions for Jason that he knew ALL of the answers to and gave us in depth knowledge throughout the drives. I feel I could write a book and become a game drive guide myself after spending time with him and the other guides (in theory...). They were all so pationate, you could tell this was what they gave their lives too and completely loved the land, animals and plants. I feel I saw the world on this 3 night stay.
2. Value: This isn't exactly cheap in terms of lodging, but in terms of what it offers it is such a remarkable deal. The food was extrememly well done (and I am picky), healthy, lots of options and way too much food but very fresh. If you stay somewhere outside of the reserve and want to just 'book 1 drive' you are wasting your time and money. By the time you stay somewhere else, book a drive, drive to the reserve...blah blah, it is a waste - we so many people do this and wish they would have just stayed at Umkumbe - they were curious how we found out about such a perfect place (when people booked a drive, they stayed for dinner and we got to spend time with them) because a travel agent had booked them at a hotel an hour drives away. They didn't save money like they thought they would.
3. Lodge: I don't know how anyone reviewing Umkumbe can not give this place full 5 stars, it is gorgeous, absolute oasis. We were put in the newest lodge and it was remarkable, outside shower...huge...in the morning the sun coming up was right there across the entire wall of windows. The lodge itself was picture perfect, calming and the exact thing you want on vacation and in between drives. All of the employees are so happy, helpful and fun to be around. Nothing was ever too much and they were always just a joy to be around.

To summarize, I do not review very often but felt overly compelled to give Umkumbe the credit it deserves and since I use reviews so often. This is the glorious African Safari we always dreamed of and Umkumbe blew our mind away. I wish we would have had more time there to soak it all in. We will forever have these memories and hope to get back someday with family and friends.

  • Stayed: March 2013, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank mnsunnydays
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 24, 2013

I've been on safari in Kenya & in South Africa before coming to this lodge, which we hoped would have fantastic wildlife due to the riverside setting in the Sabi Sands. Unfortunately we weren't too lucky with the animals we saw but appreciate that's just how it goes sometimes. The game drives were ok, we felt we had to ask lots of questions to get full interaction with the guides otherwise it was very quiet & we didn't get much information.
We found the rooms a bit shabby, I understand in the bush its going to be somewhat basic, but concrete floors, furniture where the drawers are hanging off and bedside lights that had questionable electrics aren't great (room 4). Also we felt the mosquito net was for a single not a double bed.
All in all we felt it was average, and maybe we expected too much based on how the lodge was sold to us.

  • Stayed: March 2013, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank superlois987
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 24, 2013

My first stay is at Umkumbe Lodge. It is probably the most simple and basic stay you can get in Sabi Sands, but actually my most favorite. It is right between Mala Mala and Sabi Sabi two of the probably most expensive locations in South Africa. Oh and yes, there are no heated toilet seats, but: It’s cool and you will get this wonderful ‘Hatari’ feeling. Jason and Oliver are also doing a great job as rangers there!

Life and daily routine on Safari
5:00: The ranger must die! You are tired, it is dark and actually there is no real reason to wake up so early.
5:30: Throw in some rooibos tea
6:00: Of to the early morning game drive
9:00-10:00: Back for breakfast
10:30-15:30 Roll to the pool and do a little bit of nothing (Bush TV)
16:00: Of to the late afternoon game drive
18:00: Sundowner
20:00: Dinner in a boma
21:00 – open end: Fun with other guests fighting the bar resources

...you will love it!

  • Stayed: October 2012, traveled solo
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1  Thank Kurt C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 23, 2013

We had a great time staying at this lodge for 2 nights in January. The game drives were excellent and Jason (the guide) really went above and beyond to ensure we found everything there was to find in the bush. the rooms were compfortable, the staff friendly and the food good and plentiful.
We would 100% recommend this place and will hopefully be back ourselves in the not so distant future.

  • Stayed: January 2013, traveled as a couple
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Thank Lucy F
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 15, 2013

First time visit to Africa and a game reserve and didn't really know what to expect but had a great time, the visit was made special by the guides Oliver and Jason, great guys, patient with lots of knowledge and information. We had 4 nights here, staying in a brand new bungalow (number 12 I think it was), which is really comfortable. We lucked out and saw the Big 5 on our first 2 game drives, which we were told was really unusual, so felt lucky. Given there's no guarantees about when and where the animals appear, to see that much was great. Plus, lots of giraffes, zebras, baboons, hyena, impala, kudo etc. We saw elephants everyday and lots of rhinos. Really comfortable place, food was good although maybe a little light on for the lunches, the staff especially to two guides I mentioned made the stay really memorable, nothing was too much trouble. Would definitely recommend, and to see the animals the key really is, the more game drives you do, the more chance you will have of seeing them.

Room Tip: Room 12 is new!
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  • Stayed: January 2013, traveled as a couple
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Thank oneworldsapphire
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member 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
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: $521 - $1,606 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:3 star — Umkumbe Safari Lodge 3*
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 
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Also Known As:
Umkumbe Safari Hotel Sabi Sand Game Reserve
Umkumbe Safari Lodge South Africa/Sabi Sand Game Reserve

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