Umlani Bushcamp is a highly recommended, classic African safari camp located in the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, which forms part of the Greater Kruger National Park. See the real Africa at Umlani: enjoy the ultimate experience of true wilderness and seclusion in a camp that accommodates just 16 guests, in traditional African reed and thatch huts.
Umlani’s philosophy of simplistic luxury and ‘getting back to nature’ is enhanced by the romance of operating without electricity. Enjoy the warm atmosphere of candlelight and oil lamps and open-air bush showers fuelled by wood fires. The accommodation offers you all the privacy and comfort you need for uninterrupted relaxation. Umlani’s prize-winning cuisine will take you on a gastronomic tour of African styled food.
Umlani Bushcamp offers an exciting, safe experience in Big Five territory. View lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino, in more than 10 000 hectares (24 000 acres) of traversing area. The camp is also home to more than 40 mammal species and 350 bird species. Experience the thrill of game drives in open Land Rovers, guided bush walks and tracking game on foot with highly experienced rangers and trackers. At Umlani you are guaranteed an adventure of a lifetime in one of Africa’s world-renowned, unspoilt wilderness reserves.
Umlani Bush Camp is situated in the heart of the Timbavati Nature Reserve, a fairly relaxed 5-6 hour drive from Johannesburg. The Timbavati is incorporated into the world renowned Kruger National Park.
Umlani can accommodate up to 16 guests in 8 comfortable, environmentally friendly reed huts. There are 3 family units which sleep up to 4 people, 1 hut that sleeps 3 people, and four huts which sleep 2. Each hut is equipped with an en-suite bathroom and outdoor shower, as well as mosquito nets and storage space for clothes etc. The camp is very environmentally friendly and runs without any electricity. Hot water is provided by means of a donkey boiler system (although the lodge is in the process of installing a solar hot water system and will use the donkey boiler system as a back up) which feeds through directly to each of the huts. The huts are placed sufficiently far apart to ensure that you have your own privacy.
The camp is not fenced in although it does have an elephant wire which is a deterrent for the big elephants but does not keep any of the other animals and smaller elephants out. Guests are escorted to and from their rooms by the guides in the evenings. The rooms are beautifully lit with gas lamps at night, providing a romantic atmosphere whilst ensuring that the impact on the environment is kept to a minimum. Umlani Bushcamp is the 14th establishment to receive the prestigious Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa certification – a first for the Timbavati. Umlani was also awarded the Green Leaf by the Wilderness Foundation for its low environmental impact.
The food at Umlani is beyond what you would normally expect from a bush camp of this nature. Breakfasts include the usual cereals, fruit salad and yoghurts as well as a hot breakfast of your choice. Lunches covered a variety of baked home-made breads, pasta salads, spring rolls and cold meats with cheese platters. Traditional South African Braai’s were mixed with pasta and beef fillet with a red wine sauce, plenty of fresh green vegetables and even fish for those of the vegetarian persuasion. Umlani’s rates are fully inclusive and include a wide range of soft drinks, local alcoholic beverages and even spirits.
The Timbavati Nature Reserve borders directly on to the Kruger National Park, as well as the Klaserie and Thornybush Game Reserves. The Reserve was established in 1956 by like-minded game farmers with the creation of the Timbavati Association. The association now has over 50 members and covers 53 000 hectares. The Timbavati is part of Associated Private Nature Reserves (APNR) and the fences separating Timbavati from the other member reserves in the APNR and from the Kruger National Park has been removed which means that wildlife, including lion, elephant, cheetah and other species roam freely between the these reserves. The camp itself is situated on the banks of the Shlaralumi river, a tributary of the Olifants River.
Most importantly, Umlani has negotiated traversing rights with a number of the private landowners in the regions, allowing them to cover an area of over 10 000 ha. This is incredibly important as many of the other private lodges do not have permission to traverse onto adjacent properties – once that leopard you were following crosses the road, that’s the end of that sighting!
During a recent three night stay we were treated to fantastic sightings of leopard (3 separate sightings), lions, large herds of Buffalo, Elephants (incredibly relaxed), White Rhino, Zebra, Giraffe, Impala, Spotted Hyena and a number of Duiker and Steenbok. Umlani uses local guides and trackers and our combination of Elvis and Robert were great at finding game as well as providing our group with interesting facts about the animals and the area.
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If you are looking for 5 star, luxurious accommodation with all the bells and whistles then Umlani is not for you. If however, you are looking for a comfortable yet rustic camp which seamlessly immerses you in nature, allows you to relax and unwind in the most beautiful of settings whilst giving you value for money, then look no further.