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“"Your one wild and precious life"”

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Umngazi River Bungalows & Spa
Ranked #1 of 1 Hotels in Port St Johns
Certificate of Excellence
Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
Level Contributor
60 reviews
59 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 85 helpful votes
“"Your one wild and precious life"”
Reviewed May 27, 2014

“Your one wild and precious life”

I love winter beach stays, where the days are clear and the sun warm and inviting. One can walk for many miles and feel energized and alive. In the evenings there is the enjoyment of sherry by the fire and the nights are just cool enough to sleep under cosy covers. Umgazi River Bungalows are the perfect place for a warm winter beach escape, as there are beautiful long beach walks, and much to do including canoeing, fishing, tennis, darts, snooker and a fabulous spa.

The setting is spectacular – as riverside and beachside as it gets, with cottages facing the river, indigenous forest or ocean. Not called “the Wild Coast” for nothing, the coastline is pristine, with dramatic gorges, river crossings and cliffs.

The luxury you will find here is not the usual imported, urban, angular modernist kind. It is soft, curved, natural and intensely local. The rounded thatched Pondo huts are finished with timber and stone, and even the door handles and towel rails are smooth, curved, natural timber. The bungalows all have wide glass doors, with little separating one from the beach other than a stretch of green lawn. Outdoor showers, generous baths with sea views and fine linen elevate this stay well above the usual beach bungalow standards. This is barefoot luxury at its best.

At Umgazi there are plentiful indoor and ourdoor seating areas – lounges decorated in bright colours by someone with a great love of fabrics, recliners, dining areas and decks facing all directions.

I like Pondo hospitality – there is no simpering or gushing, only dignified generosity. With a distrust of insincere “quick smiles” as they say here, you are more likely to receive an approving grunt when you make the most of their ample catering and you may find yourself making a lifelong meaningful connection with a true friend. The caregiving arrangements are excellent and I saw several children enthusiastically greet their hosts. I have heard of many rest-deprived parents of tiny tots travel to Umgazi just for the amazing baby-sitting service.

By contrast, I am in the Eastern Cape to visit a worthy project of incredibly dedicated women who care for the sick in their community. Having not visited this area often, I had a hankering to discover more of this pristine wild coast and found Umgazi River Bungalows one of the more accessible beachside locations. However I had worried that the contrast between the stories of these worthy women and a luxury stay might unhinge me. But the women in this project are now being paid by the government for their work, and supported by a local NGO with debriefing and training. They are assertive and professional. And at Umgazi, the evident respect for local culture, the plentiful employment created by the resort for the surrounding community, and the multiple local income generating projects made possible by this place leaves me feeling inspired and hopeful. True development is not about patronizing charity or handouts, but about inclusivity, ownership and employment which allows people the satisfaction to raise their own families well, and this is one of the best examples of that I have seen in a luxury holiday hotel. Both the women’s project and the Umgazi community support make me want to be a better person, to enjoy life to its fullest, while supporting others. As usual when I do community development work, I thought I was coming to give something, but find myself learning and gaining more than it was possible to offer.

Accommodation Experience:
And so I thoroughly enjoy my work and find I am able to have an energizing stay. My favourite time of day at Umgazi River Bungalows, it turns out, is the evening walk to and from supper. I stay in the furthest cottage from the restaurant and love the mindful stroll along the river. Schools of fish swim past me, catching the silvery light as they jump in unison. A cool breeze comes off the water. The skies are full of stars and it feels like I can tough the Milky Way. I swing my scarf to and fro as I walk and throw my head back to drink in the night sky. I feel wild and free and I am reminded of Mary Oliver’s questions:

Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

  • Stayed May 2014, traveled on business
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Review collected in partnership with this hotel

Helpful?
2 Thank Berenice M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
GeneralManager81, General Manager at Umngazi River Bungalows & Spa, responded to this review, May 31, 2014
Dear Berenice,

Wow what an amazing review, you are welcome back anytime! It was wonderful to read how much you took in of the beauty of Umngazi and the area, it truly is beautiful. Thank you as well for taking such a personal interest in our surrounding communities, it is appreciated.

I do hope we get to welcome you back to Umngazi soon, thank you for choosing us a part of your travels.

Best wishes,

Graham
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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English first
Princes Risborough, United Kingdom
1 review
Reviewed May 27, 2014

It was an amazing stay and lovely to feel all the staff were highly motivated , friendly and honest! Nothing was too much trouble and everything , the food was outstanding and irresistible!! My only comment was that the horses, tho quiet and safe, and adored by all, could have been brushed and de ticked.... Foreign visitors would be very aware of this and it was the only blot on a perfect wedding weekend.this is not a criticism as much as a constructive comment! I hope to bring my other son and family there one day....from the uk. Many thanks for a wonderful stay.

  • Stayed May 2014, traveled with friends
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Review collected in partnership with this hotel

Helpful?
Thank Joy S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
GeneralManager81, General Manager at Umngazi River Bungalows & Spa, responded to this review, June 7, 2014
Dear Joy,

Thank you so much for your kind review, it was great to have you all with us to celebrate this amazing occasion. I was great to read how much fun you had. Your comment on the horses is noted, we do continuously monitor them as they are paddocked in open fields with cattle, ticks are an ongoing problem but they are well cared for, but we have let the community project team know of this comment.

I do hope we get to welcome you back again one day soon.

Kind regards,

Graham
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
3 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
Reviewed May 26, 2014

Had no idea what to expect and was absolutely delighted with Umngazi. Great food, great staff, fantastic facilities, great spa - can't say enough. From a large wine list to plenty of leisure activities, it was a wonderful stay. Highly recommend.

  • Stayed May 2014, traveled with friends
    • Value
    • Location
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Review collected in partnership with this hotel

Helpful?
Thank Lynda & Neil H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
GeneralManager81, General Manager at Umngazi River Bungalows & Spa, responded to this review, May 31, 2014
Dear Lynda and Neil,

Thank you so much for taking the time to write this wonderful review, as well, thank you for choosing Umngazi for your holiday! It was great to read how much you enjoyed your stay and the many activities we have on offer, including the activity of eating.

We do hope we get to welcome you back again soon.

Best wishes,

Graham
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Stellenbosch, South Africa
1 review
Reviewed May 25, 2014

My stay at Umngazi was great, the staff are amazing and all so accommodating. The food was way TOO much but excellent, one is at risk of over indulging there. Wish I could have stayed longer. Thank you

  • Stayed May 2014, traveled with friends
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Review collected in partnership with this hotel

Helpful?
Thank Liz W
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
GeneralManager81, General Manager at Umngazi River Bungalows & Spa, responded to this review, May 31, 2014
Dear Liz,

Thank you so much for taking the time to write this wonderful review, and thank you for choosing Umngazi River Bungalows for your stay on the Wild Coast. Thank you for the comments on our food offering, it is something that we are incredibly proud of.

I do hope we get to welcome you back again soon.

Best wishes,

Graham
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Pietermaritzburg
1 review
Reviewed May 25, 2014

Cannot go wrong choosing UMNgazi as the staff are friendly, accommodating and absolutely wonderful. We've been to UMNgazi 3 years in a row and intend coming back for a 4th, 5th etc. Relaxing, food is great, tea times lovely, entertainment top notch, fishing, boat cruising up the river awesome and the beach is great for your daily exercise (walk) and fishing. Will definitely be our holiday destination forever.
Thanks for a great Holiday!

  • Stayed May 2014, traveled as a couple
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Review collected in partnership with this hotel

Helpful?
Thank Lesley & Vaugha... C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
GeneralManager81, General Manager at Umngazi River Bungalows & Spa, responded to this review, May 31, 2014
Dear Lesley and Vaughan,

Thank you so much for taking the time to write this great review, and thank you choosing Umngazi for your holidays year after year! It really was fantastic to read how much you managed to cram in whilst you were here.

We look forward to welcoming you back for your 4th, 5th etc. visits!

Best wishes,

Graham
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
South Fremantle, Australia
1 review
Reviewed May 24, 2014

Thanks to the team at Umngazi River Bungalows for an outstanding holiday! We joined over 100 friends at the resort in May 2014 for a 3 day wedding which was just fabulous. Our sea facing bungalow was stunning and the general setting of the whole resort was gorgeous. A highlight for us was an evening on the sunset cruise up the river watching fish eagles swoop down to catch fish right in front of us... breath-taking!

  • Stayed May 2014, traveled with friends
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Review collected in partnership with this hotel

Helpful?
Thank Kim & Todd T
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
GeneralManager81, General Manager at Umngazi River Bungalows & Spa, responded to this review, May 31, 2014
Dear Kim and Todd,

Thank you so much for this great review, it really was an absolute pleasure having you and your friends stay with us for the wedding, as well great to read that your enjoyed your time with us enjoying some of the great activities we have here at Umngazi.

I do hope we get to welcome you back again oneday!

Best wishes,

Graham
Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
George, South Africa
Level Contributor
8 reviews
7 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
Reviewed May 21, 2014

Visiting Umngazi had been a years long bucket list item for me. Everything I had heard and imagined was not nearly what the reality was. I just cant wait to return! The setting, the variety of activities, or merely relaxing in the really lovely lounge - it simply has it all there, it is so hard to leave!! The food is also the biggest treat!

  • Stayed May 2014, traveled with friends
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Review collected in partnership with this hotel

Helpful?
Thank wendsanne
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
GeneralManager81, General Manager at Umngazi River Bungalows & Spa, responded to this review, May 31, 2014
Dear Umngazi Guest,

Thank you so much for this wonderful review, it was so rewarding to read that Umngazi had been on your 'Bucket List' and that it ended up being far more than you had expected, the team did their job then in making a friend of Umngazi!

We do look forward to welcoming you back again soon.

Best wishes,

Graham
Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Umngazi River Bungalows & Spa

Property: Umngazi River Bungalows & Spa
Address: i, Port St Johns, South Africa
Location: South Africa > Eastern Cape > Port St Johns
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Restaurant Shuttle Bus service Spa Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 1 Hotels in Port St Johns
Hotel Class:4 star — Umngazi River Bungalows & Spa 4*
Number of rooms: 69
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Tucked away on the Wild Coast, in the heart of Pondoland, and encompassed by a rocky coastline, indigenous forests, secluded coves and breathtaking views of the Indian Ocean, lies the award winning Umngazi River Bungalows & Spa - an award winning family resort & spa. The thatch-roofed bungalows are situated amongst the indigenous gardens which provide the perfect setting for a totally relaxed holiday. Weekly fly-in packages are available Friday to Friday from Durban where you fly at 500 feet above sea level along the beautiful coastline - a wonderful way to start your holiday. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Umngazi River Bungalows Hotel Port St Johns
Umngazi River Hotel
Umngazi River Resort

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