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“Beautiful place, great service”

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Umkumbe Safari Lodge
Certificate of Excellence
North Carolina
Level 4 Contributor
26 reviews
6 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 22 helpful votes
“Beautiful place, great service”
Reviewed February 7, 2014

Umkumbe is a great example of an outstanding family-run private game reserve. Attention is paid to customer service and to long-term natural systems. Don't expect TV's in your cottage, but our room way clean, and had all the comforts needed, as well as great meals and up-close to wildlife drives in the morning and evening with knowledgeable and entertaining guides. Way better than our Kruger tour.

  • Stayed February 2014, traveled with family
    • Value
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Helpful?
1 Thank wildtimfire
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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313 reviews from our community

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English first
Dallas, Texas
Level 5 Contributor
70 reviews
21 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 45 helpful votes
Reviewed January 18, 2014

Umkumbe was my first private game reserve and first trip to Africa. It represents a great value for typical costs of private game reserves and was recommend by TA. On first arrival, I thought it was nice, however upon checking into my room I noticed some disturbing things.

1. There were bugs in the room.
2. The sliding door didn't close all the way leaving a gap in the edge, that's how bugs get in.
3. The lock to the door was broke and couldn't be locked. The ranger said they aren't designed to lock so housekeeping could get in. So, i want to lock it at night when i'm inside.
4. Unknowingly, we quickly dropped our stuff of then went to dinner. Left the lights on in the room. Came back and the entire room was filled with every flying insect you could imaging. I just wanted to leave right then. 2 bottles of raid and a lot of squashing with newspapers cleared it up in about 30 mins. It was dumb for me to leave lights on that attracts them, however if the door closed all the way and sealed, they wouldn't have go inside.

That was the extend of the problems. I wasn't very comfortable in the room.

The food was fairly decent. Actually better than I expected for being in the bush. I was disappointed that lunch wasn't really a hearty lunch. Just something light to hold you over until dinner.

The Safari drives were great. The manager/ranger was extremely knowledgeable. She was great. We had a chance to see 3 of big five. It rained first two days and the drives was uncomfortable. but that's not there fault, they can't predict the weather. But they did a good job anyway.

After 2 nights there I went up to a 5-star private lodge for 2 more nights. And when I arrived there, my initial impressions of Umkumbe being rather nice for being in the bush went to the toilets. The 5-star lodge I went to was head over heels more nicer, more comfortable, food was plentiful and outstanding. However, to be fair, it was double the cost and is a 5-star lodge. So as the title suggests, Umkumbe is good value for the price.

If you want a low cost way to experience a private game lodge without breaking the bank, this is a good starter one. But if you can afford the higher end ones, definitely go there.

Room Tip: Get on facing Close to Olifants river. you may wake up to some elephants
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  • Stayed December 2013, traveled with friends
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Helpful?
6 Thank WaldoWorldTravel
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Munich, Germany
Level 1 Contributor
3 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
Reviewed December 8, 2013

We wanted to give a try to a private game reserve after our stay in the Kruger NP and were all but disappointed! Except that our stay at Umkumbe was way too short, we will definitely come back there for the next safari!

First we were greeted by our ranger (Courtney) who was very friendly and shared her impressive knowledge of wildlife with us. All game drives with her and our tracker Jason were unforgettable experiences!! Right in the middle of a 20-elephants herd and watching a cheetah rest after eating its prey... WOW!

Also the location of the lodge itself is amazing: staring at the Sand river where one can always enjoy a huge variety of game while laying comfortably on the terrace... what else ?

Very neat rooms for 2 and simple meals in a cheerful atmosphere especially at dinners where everyone talks about the spotted game of the day.

Last but not least, this family-owned place is also very good value for money, in particular compared to other private lodges in Sabi Sands where rooms may be closer to a 5-star level but honestly, who cares when the game viewing experience is so great?

  • Stayed October 2013, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
2 Thank Pierre A
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Toronto. ON
Level 3 Contributor
15 reviews
12 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 17 helpful votes
Reviewed December 2, 2013

My father and I have had a great time at Umkumbe thanks to Jason and Courtney, our rangers who were very friendly and professional throughout our visit.

Game drives were the best part, saw 4 out of Big 5 on our first evening trip - including a leopard couple!
The food was simple but quite tasty, including some special meals for my father who has certain limitations. Just make sure you inform the hosts on your arrival.

The rooms are comfortable and clean enough. Monkeys might disturb your sleep early in the morning - well, it's not Four Seasons, is it? :-)

Oh and if you're with your other half - bush sunsets are so romantic!

  • Stayed November 2013, traveled with family
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Helpful?
Thank Yolk
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Level 2 Contributor
7 reviews
5 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
Reviewed November 3, 2013

As a wildlife guide of 10 years, I've been taking clients to a variety of places around Africa and Umkumbe is fast becoming one of my favourites. For a lodge in Sabi Sands, it is great value for money. The location is superb - right on the Sand River - often you get your fill of wildlife (elephants by the hundreds, buffalo herds, hippo, leopard, hyena) without having to leave the lodge. The game drives are predictably first class; I've never been on a game drive here where we didn't see at least 3 of the Big 5 at a minimum. As a guide myself, I enjoyed interacting with the excellent rangers employed by Umkumbe (Courtney) and I learned a lot from her. It's about passion/sincerity and that is infectious on the guests. All my clients have raved about their Umkumbe experience, from the comfort levels to the food to the warm hospitality. That makes my job easier - happy clients = happy memories. I will certainly be looking forward to returning to this lodge that has found its niche perfectly in a reserve that is sometimes over-priced but not this lodge. Written by Michael Jeh, Barefoot in Africa safaris, Brisbane, Australia

  • Stayed October 2013, traveled on business
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Helpful?
2 Thank Michael J
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Tonbridge, United Kingdom
Level 6 Contributor
102 reviews
57 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 69 helpful votes
Reviewed October 13, 2013

All through our holiday, staff at other lodges told us how Sabi Sand was an amazing reserve and they were right. The situation of the lodge on the river is excellent and we saw a wide variety of animals come to drink (and play) in the water – elephants, buffalo, giraffe, baboons, bush bucks, warthogs…

The room was a little tired, but large, clean and well situated, and it was nice to sit outside. The bed was comfortable. We did seem to struggle sometimes to get consistent hot water for a shower (this could’ve been us).

Courtney, our guide, may have been quite new to the reserve and the job, but was the best guide we had at the lodges we visited during our holiday. As well as helping us to see many animals - including spending the most amazing times with a pair of leopards - her obvious love of the animals really came through. She managed to balance giving you some very interesting information on the animals you were watching, without going on for too long.

The food at the lodge was very tasty – like most lodges there wasn’t much choice, other than two options at lunchtime, but as it all tasted good, this was never a problem.

You won’t find luxury accommodation and high-end cuisine at Umkumbe – they set themselves out to be a rustic lodge and that’s what you’ll experience. However, if you want to make an affordable visit to an amazing reserve, with hosts who are passionate and knowledgeable about the wildlife, in good accommodation with wholesome food, then this is highly recommended.

  • Stayed October 2013, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
1 Thank PDnBS
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Kuala Lumpur
Level 5 Contributor
58 reviews
35 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 49 helpful votes
Reviewed September 15, 2013

We've stayed at Umkumbe lodge on our 2nd and 3rd night, part of our safari tour package. We've arrived quite late after a full day of game drive. The location is on a private reserve. Our tour guide had to pay some amount for the entrance fee. There are few lodging on the reserve. We are guessing Umkumbe is one of those lodges that is far inside. On our way to the lodge, we bump into a group of African buffalo. We were so excited.

As soon as we arrived at Umkumbe' we were greeted by Jason. He showed us to our room and told that dinner will be served by 7pm. We had only 1/2 hr to take a shower and be ready. First of all, when we arrived, we didn't know the "concept" that they are practicing at Umkumbe lodge. My friend took 1/2 hour to get ready and I took another hour to get ready. By the time we arrived where the dinner is supposed to be served, we saw that everyone else is already waiting at their table. If only we knew, that all of the guest will be having dinner together, we would have skipped our shower. We felt so bad that night. Nevertheless, the dinner was great. In the open with bonfire. Love the concept that we get to mingle with other guests.

Jason and the other 2 guides cum hosts, were great. They go above and beyond to accommodate the guest. My travelling partner has dietary restriction and we've informed our tour company about it. Good thing that the tour company did not forget to mention it to the lodge. The dinner, breakfast and lunch was pretty standard I would say. Nothing so great yet it is not horrible either.

We've arranged to have a bush walk the next morning, game drive and night game drive with the tour company. The lodge is a little surprise with the bush walk. I'm guessing it must have lost in communication somehow. We've told our guide that, we don't mind, which day it will be as long as we get to do it. Just to experience the bush walk. The initial problem was, there will be no guide to do the bush walk but Jason solve the problem pretty quick. The next morning we had our bush walk. I could be writing a lot about the walk and the game drives, but I think I should be writting more about the lodge itself. So here it goes...the room was great, the shower was great. I don't like the toilet bowl so much. It doesn't flush well. I have to flush it twice every time. We slept oh so peacefully on the oh so comfortable bed. The floor is just a bare concrete screeding. Since we were there during winter, it was a bit cold for us to be walking on it with bare foot. The mosquito net is a bit annoying. We were not sure if we should be using it, but just incase, we did anyway. I think most of the rooms, are facing the river view. The highlight of the lodge is probably not the room but the area surrounding the lodge itself. After our bush walk in the morning and the breakfast, we had our free time before our night game drive which starts at 4pm. My friend and I hang out at the pool area, overlooking the river where the baboons, kudu, impalas and something that looks like squirrels play and hang out. It was a very relaxing environment with a live entertainment by the wilds. We even had impalas on the lodge premises one day when my friend and I decided to walk around.

We were a bit disappointed that we didn't get to say goodbye to Jason on the day we had to leave. Jason has been around to hang out with my friend and I at night at the bonfire talking until a little bit late for Jason that has to wake up early every morning. If you are reading this, Jason, thank you very much for the great hospitality :)

  • Stayed August 2013, traveled with friends
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Helpful?
1 Thank K_Akit
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

Property: 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 (Based on Average Rates): $$$$
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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