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“Great bushcamp and service”
Review of Umlani Bushcamp

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Umlani Bushcamp
Certificate of Excellence
Johannesburg, South Africa
Level 5 Contributor
18 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 8 helpful votes
“Great bushcamp and service”
Reviewed November 16, 2011

I stayed 3 nights in Umlani Bushcamp and from the moment that I got there the service was excellent. They waited until I arrived before we went on a game drive. Elvis and Hendrik was great and very good with tracking the animals. David just made sure everybody was fine and he is a excellent host. You can see that he enjoys the bush. The treehouse was a great experience. Thank you for making the stay unforgettable.

Kind regards
Agnes Prinsloo

Felleng tours

  • Stayed November 2011, traveled on business
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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431 reviews from our community

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Istanbul, Turkey
1 review
Reviewed October 27, 2011

Experiencing the bush at Umlani: We were there and got it. Unforgettable game drives with our rangers Ginger and Shady.
Staying in the bush at Umlani: They made us feel very special and very happy.

They have excellent food and excellent service. Endless hospitality every moment from David and all team members and staff.

Thank you for the honeymoon champagne. All foods, drinks, transfers, whatever, with no additional charge. Just paid the conservation fee to Timbavati.

  • Stayed October 2011, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
Thank Lebovvski
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Bethesda, Maryland
Level 4 Contributor
35 reviews
7 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 19 helpful votes
Reviewed October 23, 2011

We just spent five days at this unbelievable camp and loved every second. We saw the Big 5 in our first game drive as well as chased wild dogs as they stalked prey through the bush. Good food, great staff, and nice accommodations. It is a paradisw

  • Stayed October 2011
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Thank Thsnitch
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
scotland
Level 6 Contributor
121 reviews
16 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 67 helpful votes
Reviewed October 23, 2011

We stayed in Umlani for 5 days on our first ever safari trip this month and cannot express just how magical the whole thing was.
The staff are friendly, caring & approachable;
the location is stunning - lots of wildlife & meals overlooking a watering hole;
the accommodation is beautiful & fits the surroundings perfectly;
the rangers (ours was Moses & spotter Shadi) are considerate to the needs of the animals and very knowledgeable on the huge variety of wildlife that we were able to see;
the food is tasty & plentiful
& overall the place runs very smoothly - nothing is ever a problem. We went as a family (children 10&11) & everyone was so kind to the children (including the various guests that came & went during our stay). I am also a vegetarian & sometimes this is an issue - but not at Umlani - there was always a special dish for me - no big deal made.
I was concerned about taking the children as the minimum age for some of the other camps was 12 but the staff were so engaging & the wildlife so varied & plentiful that there was never a dull moment & the children have now rated it as their favourite holiday venue ever & are keen to go back as soon as possible.
To sum up in a word - EXCEPTIONAL

Room Tip: There are family rondavels for 3 or 4 people
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  • Stayed October 2011, traveled with family
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Helpful?
Thank girlsaroundtheworld
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Port Macquarie, Australia
Level 5 Contributor
59 reviews
13 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 35 helpful votes
Reviewed October 20, 2011

We had no idea what to expect from out 3 day experience here. From the moment of our arrival to the moment of our departure we were treated to the best hospitality, food, game viewing and accommodation of our whole 4 week trip in South Africa. This place has a magical feel, the traditional bomas and rondavels are beautifully stylish yet rustic. The wildlife are free to wander about the camp,and do! and there is free time to relax, rest and enjoy . Two safari drive per day, with our tracker Derek and ranger Elvis. These two are delightful, fun and have amazing knowledge and passion for the animals, birds and environment. We were treated to sundowners by waterholes, the big five in all their glory and a cultural experience we will never forget. David, the manager and the ladies who cooked and cleaned would be the most welcoming, hospitable people I have ever met. Highly recommended. If you dare, sleep a night in the "tree hut"!

Room Tip: Stay 3 days minimum, book ahead for a night in the tree hut.
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  • Stayed September 2011, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
Thank 789maria
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Schiess, Owner at Umlani Bushcamp, responded to this review, October 27, 2011
Thank you for your review on Trip Advisor I am glad you enjoyed your stay with us ,we hope to welcome you back one day in the future. Marco
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newcastle
Level 3 Contributor
17 reviews
8 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 12 helpful votes
Reviewed October 19, 2011

Two families with three young adults between 15 and 20 and a week on safari – one family had visited Umlani before, one had not - would it work? We needn't have worried - our stay at Umlani proved to be unforgettable and more. Umlani strikes just the right balance between comfort and authenticity and then showers everything in a kind of magic that will put a huge grin on your face ever afterwards.

When we travelled in August, 2011, Umlani offered very good rates for a week’s package, effectively giving one night free and including the six hour transfer to and from Jo’burg. No one can pretend that a trip from the UK to SA is not a big expense, but if you remember that the Umlani rates includes absolutely everything, and that, apart from the gratuities you will be wanting to offer to staff at the end of your time, it is impossible to spend any money there, it is, quite frankly, astonishing value for money.

To use a fashionable term in English, you might think of Umlani as 5 star “glamping.” – glamorous camping. It is in truth one star up from that since the accommodation consists of beautiful thatched huts with positively luxurious beds (we’ve never slept so well). Oil lamps are lit each night and the distant (and not so distant) animal noises provide the thrill that tells you this really is the bush. Meals were delicious - the carnivores, vegetarians and picky children in our party were all kept happy by hearty breakfasts, light buffet lunches overlooking the water hole and candlelit dinners of variety and quality.

Guests are quickly absorbed into the rhythm of the Umlani day - up at 5.30 for coffee and biscuits, morning drive, then breakfast and relaxation until the afternoon/evening drive at 3.30, complete with compulsory sundowners, naturally. The drives of course were what we were all there for - and they exceeded even the high expectations we had from an earlier stay.

Our ranger, Moses and tracker Shadrack, went to extraordinary lengths to provide us with close up sightings of just about every African animal we could name (and some we couldn't). A week is 12 game drives, and each drive around 3 hours, so we spend a total of around 36 hours in the trucks with these guys. Yet never for a moment did they fail to delight us. Always they had some new insight, some new discovery, some new surprise for us. Moses had an almost telepathic regard for the photographers in our party, carefully positioning the jeep to allow the best possible camera angles. His knowledge, good humour and gloriously infectious laugh contributed so much to our experience that we found it hard to say goodbye and even slightly resentful that others would benefit from his company on our departure! But this is part of the Umlani magic - everyone is made to feel like a valued and special friend they’ve known for years.

Fifty elephants bathing at Marco’s dam, the “Timbarvarti Boys” (two male lions) hunting buffalo, a hunting leopard being seen off upon by guinea fowl, the famous White Lions - every day, and usually twice a day there was something quite extraordinary to see.

Having seen so many wonderful things all week, we were expecting the last drive to be just a sad goodbye to the tracks and riverbeds we had come to love. But no. The radio crackles and we hear that a few clicks away, there are – no? - leopards mating. A furious drive ensues, thorn trees crackling past us, and suddenly there we are a few meters away from the extraordinary spectacle. The love life of leopards is not something you see every day….

Thrilling though these highlights were, Moses was at pains to provide us with a wider understanding of the environment. We were showered with ecological data, details of animal behaviour and bird spotting tips as we hurtled along dusty tracks on route to another possible sighting. We were soon just as proud of our tree spotting as we were of ticking off the Big Five. Certainly our concern that a full week of safari would be repetitious was entirely unfounded. A big difference from our earlier trip was that so many fences between properties have been removed that the game drives now traverse an absolutely huge area. With the properties also open to the vast Kruger, and with the game free to roam, there is now, if you have the time, a seemingly endless variety of landscape to explore.

One lovely surprise for us this time was to have Umlani’s inspirational owner – Marco – managing the camp while we were there. It was extra special for we could see so clearly how the whole spirit of Umlani is an expression of his own remarkable character, vision and passionate respect for nature. Marco is also the perfect host. His seemingly endless courtesy and patience no matter what the problem was a wonder to see.

Perhaps we were lucky in meeting such an interesting bunch of fellow guests but new friendship are easily given Umlani’s compact size and sense of intimacy - the average number of guests numbering only about sixteen. We certainly made good friends with whom we have stayed in touch since.

The heart of Umlani is the boma - a bamboo enclosed area with 18 or so chairs in an intimate circle surrounding a roaring fire – which works as a kind of bridge between the human and the wild. It’s here that you get to know owners, rangers, trackers and fellow guests. It’s here that you will start the day and here that it will end, sharing tales of the day’s adventures and anticipating those of the next.. Perhaps the flowing wine helps but there's something about a roaring fire, a clear African sky and the camaraderie of new friends which is unforgettable. Perhaps we’re wrong but it seems hard to imagine quite the same shared warmth and fun at bigger, ultra luxurious safari outfits.

We can recommend spending one night in the TreeHouse, which over looks a large watering hole. Some 2 or 3 clicks from Umlani itself, you are left there with beds, nets, a radio and a searchlight, and a bottle of wine. It is a perfect adventure to see the eyes of wild animals reflecting back at you across the water, wondering what they must be, until the moon comes out and you see the elephant or the hippo or the jackals revealed. Whether you are 7 or 67 you will be thrilled. And, then, of course, comes that extraordinary sunrise.

Our final night seemed to sum up the enchantment of the place. One night we mentioned to Marco, just in passing and having seen some of the photographs in a brochure, that it must be lovely to have dinner in the river bed that lays in front of the camp.
And when we came back from our last drive? There it all was – a candle lit trail to a dry river bed where dinner tables were set out under a full moon with guardian fires all around. The magic of it took one’s breath away. The perfect end to a perfect week.

It was only later that we thought just how much work was involved in moving everything down to the river bed. And all this to please 16 or so guests who were already perfectly delighted with everything!

Marco is only at Umlani for some of the year but it was obvious to us that whoever is managing the camp you will have the best possible welcome and services. For, of course, behind all the warm informality of Umlani, there is a very well honed system working with Swiss precision and it ensures that the values that drive the whole team are always and everywhere present.
Umlani is perhaps not for everyone. If you prefer the overt and distancing formalities of service, and really can’t live without all the comforts of a 5 star hotel with daily journeys to “visit” the bush then there are plenty from which to choose. If you prefer to sit at your own table with your own group, keeping yourselves to yourselves, then, again, choose somewhere else. Probably you will travel the same tracks and see much the same game. Probably rangers and trackers everywhere in this area are of a very high standard.

But if you want not just to visit the bush but for a time at least, to live there, in as much comfort as it is possible to have whilst doing that, choose Umlani.
But even then, there is something much more important about Umlani.

People can sometimes talk rather glibly of ‘the experience of a lifetime’. But what does that mean? After all, the most vivid memories fade and the best photographs end up languishing on hard drives.

Well, think of this way. You won’t even have to /remember/ Umlani. For that love and respect for nature that impels every part of the Umlani spirit, will, if you have a receptive heart, change you and become part of you.

So Umlani is not so much the experience /of/ a lifetime as an experience /for/ a lifetime: one that will go on shaping your life, and for the better, long long after.

So don’t miss it. The first thing you’ll do when you come home is to start wondering what – and possibly who - you can sell, to get there back again.


Both our families hope this review will be helpful to you in your decisions.

  • Stayed August 2011, traveled with family
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Helpful?
2 Thank NewcastleNair
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Schiess, Owner at Umlani Bushcamp, responded to this review, October 27, 2011
Wow Ian that was such a brilliant review thanks a million it was such a great week we all had together a definite high light for me in my three month stint at the camp looking forward being there again with you guys some time in the future .
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London, United Kingdom
Level 4 Contributor
33 reviews
21 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 48 helpful votes
Reviewed October 5, 2011

From the moment you arrive, you realise that you are in for a special experience. There is a certain magic to Umlani which is difficult to capture, guess that is part of the magic. The whole ambience of Umlani is achieved partly through the dedication and enthusiasm of the staff who work tirelessly behind the scenes to make everything is peaceful and relaxing, and partly because of the physical layout of the camp and desire to keep it as close to nature as is feasible. You have a choice of being sociable if you feel like it or you can wander off during the daylight to find a hammock or other seating areas. Bearing in mind the camp only takes about 16 people it is pretty exclusive.
Each morning you are woken up by one of the staff, don’t bother setting any alarm it just doesn’t sound right. Most mornings we were already awake listening to the morning sounds of the bush and anticipating the day ahead. After a quick coffee and rusk we were whisked off on a game drive. We were privileged to have Ginger (Head Ranger) and Hendrick (Head Tracker) looking after us and we had fantastic game viewing because of their skills. They clearly love what they do and their passion is infectious. We quickly came to realise that there is a good system operating within the traversing areas which means that there are never more than two vehicles looking at the game. If you have been to other reserves where there are more vehicles then you will really appreciate this as I am sure the animals do. On return to camp we were always met by either David or Thembi who were genuinely excited to know what we had seen on the drive.
The food is plentiful and delicious; one of our party is a vegetarian and was particularly impressed with the variety and quality of food offered. We noticed that the staff went to great trouble to ensure guests could eat what was given, so when someone was given a dessert with chocolate which they could not eat, it was quickly changed for a fresh fruit salad. Dinner times were fun with the chance to mix with other guests and swap stories before a nightcap in the Boma.
We stayed in the honeymoon suite which had its own little patio facing the riverbed and we were treated to a hyena lullaby on quite a few nights. Getting back to our rondavel at night was an adventure in itself we discovered. Although there is a fence to keep the elephants out, it allows the smaller critters through, so one night we were delayed from our slumbers by the buffalo who were munching their way between our rondavels. It was always fun to get up for the game drive and see what had been wandering through camp by their tracks. Whilst we were there, leopard, hyena and lions chasing buffalo occurred in camp as well as the honey badger in search of chocolate or anything he could get his claws into.
The rondavels are well spaced which adds to the feeling of exclusivity and very comfortable. When we returned after dinner it was wonderful to see the warm glow of the paraffin lamps and the mosquito net in place. Fluffy blankets are also provided which added to the complete feeling of cosiness. The outside shower was always very welcome provided it was possible for us to tear ourselves away from the waterhole for long enough. As someone who likes gazing at the stars at night, this little safe enclosure also enabled me to do just that before retiring for the night.
So, having stayed in the most luxurious lodges and at the other end of the spectrum having camped in the bush in a ground tent, Umlani somehow manages to capture a little part of each and it works beautifully.

  • Stayed September 2011, traveled with friends
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Helpful?
Thank AnnieC89
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Schiess, Owner at Umlani Bushcamp, responded to this review, October 27, 2011
Thank you so much for your lovely review of Umlani Bushcamp it describes the experience perfectly.We hope to see you again some day soon. Marco
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Umlani Bushcamp

Property: 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 #4 of 17 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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