I loved this place. I spent four nights at Umlani on the second week of February.
I had concerns about the electricity thing because I have a close relationship with air conditioning and wireless internet, but in the end, I didn’t miss either one.
Upon arrival I met Thembi who went over the rules and procedures to avoid harm and injury. They also take down any dietary allergies, preferences or restrictions at this time.
They wake you up at 05:00 for coffee and pancakes at the bar and you are usually on the way by 05:45. There’s another coffee break toward the end of the game drive at about 08:30. Hot breakfast was usually around 09:00 and after this you are free to relax (i.e. nap a lot). Light lunch is served at 13:30 when they also take drink orders for sun-downer cocktails. After lunch there was more time to laze about until 15:45 when it was time to start gathering for the afternoon game drive. The drive ended with cocktails/refreshments as the sun set and then back to camp for dinner by around 19:30-20:00.
The Good Stuff (and there’s plenty): The game drives were amazing. I love elephants and both Ginger and Elvis delivered time and time again. At one point we were parked just a few meters away from some thirty elephants playing on a river bed. You know that awesome video on YouTube of the baby elephant hauling butt to his mom after being rescued from a well by the Amboseli Trust for Elephants? This was better. Hands down.
I am still amazed at the trackers’ uncanny ability to spot birds and game so far away it’s all a haze. When I played that game, I only spotted sticks and rocks.
The food was delicious, including impala for dinner on the second night. Afterward I swear all the impala they knew and they looked at me with distrust in their antelope hearts but it was very tasty so the guilt of eating Bambi’s third cousin was exceptionally short lived.
There is Peaceful Sleep insect repellent in every room and further spray bottles in all the common areas. That stuff really works. I had a grand total of one mosquito bite the whole time I was there, early in the morning before I had a chance to reapply the repellent. Normally, I am mosquito filet mignon.
They offer the option of sleeping in a lovely tree-house which is decked out with mattresses and mosquito nets as well as radios to contact the camp, but I did not explore this option. I did use the tree house during the day and I had a great time. There was plenty of game drinking and relaxing by the lake next to the tree house and the breeze alone was worth staying there indefinitely.
The Bad: Bugs. It’s summer, so there were bugs. As a welcoming gesture, something crawled up my leg in the darkness. Eeeeee. There were further winged creatures in my room and even though nothing ever breached the mosquito netting, it took a concerted effort to ignore them and go about my business. I did zap a nasty looking wasp that was making a nest next to my bed. The orange-scented bug spray was complimentary, and I’m glad to report it works as advertised.
Smokers: I don’t smoke, and I dislike the smell of cigarette smoke. Unfortunately when we gathered for pre-dinner drinks, due to the chair arrangement along the front of the dining area, if the smokers didn’t choose to self-segregate it was hard to get away from the smell.
Battery charging issues: I brought two chargers for my two camera batteries so I could always have a back-up but it took three tries to get back a recharged battery. On the second morning, I wound up with two drained batteries during the morning game drive and it wasn’t fun. I would love to see battery charging options in the room so this can be avoided.
Despite these, I had an amazing time, I felt welcome at every turn, and I have awesome pictures to relive the moment roughly non-stop until next time. I loved Umlani. Each game drive was unique and interesting in its own right, and Thembi was the best hostess on earth.
I would love to stay here again in the winter-time.
- 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