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All reviews honesty bar sand river sabi sands game drives private reserve overlooking the river bush walk three nights leopard sightings kruger park outdoor shower buffet style small gym plant life excellent sightings animals including leopard eating
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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
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Thank suesmi
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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
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Thank Induna_Jaco
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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
  • 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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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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
  • 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.
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