Umlani Bushcamp is different from other lodges in that it aims to give guests a real 'close to the bush' experience. The chalets are simply constructed with reed walls and thatched roofs, for an African look and feel.
Umlani (meaning 'Place of Rest' in Shangaan) is a privately owned camp managed by Dave King and deputy-manager Foreman Mathebula, a local Shangaan who started at Umlani as a ranger. The camp has been operating for 17 years, so they really know what they are doing here!
Inevitably, given the nature of the experience, the lodge only qualifies for a three-star rating, but that overlooks the fact that this is a very well-run and professional operation. The staff are very friendly and well-integrated and the interaction is part of your experience. The food is good, and has won awards locally. Game viewing is excellent in the Timbavati, and Umlani shares a traversing area of more than 10,000 hectares. However, the terrain is quite bushy, thicker than in the Sabi Sands. Escorted walks are a speciality here.
There are eight rooms, five double, one triple and two family rooms which sleep four. There is no electricity so the rooms are lit by oil lamps. Rooms have en suite facilities and an outside shower fuelled by a wood fire. Beds have mosquito nets, reed mats cover the windows.
Sleep Outs for the adventurous
Umlani has a treehouse where you can overnight on a three-night stay. This has proved very popular with honeymooners, but it can also take families as the tree house has accommodation on two levels – however, they do not mix guests there. You are provided with a spot light and a radio to use if necessary. There is no loo – you are given a spade!
Children and young people of all ages are welcome at Umlani Bushcamp. There are no age restrictions on game drives, although only 14 year olds and over can go on the bush walks. There are two family rooms that sleep four and one triple, with reductions for under 12's sharing with adults.
Umlani has developed a Youth Leadership programme at the local village where most of the staff live. This programme is linked to the Wildlife College, and encourages the villagers to visit Umlani, where they gain insight into environmental issues and find out about eco-tourism career opportunities.
Umlani’s has an exemplary staff HIV / Aids programme, featuring awareness workshops and one-on-one staff counselling. Umlani also provides staff with medical care, including the right to consult a traditional healer.
A road transfer from Hoedspruit airport costs £21 pp one-way. You can drive in by normal car. There is a Timbavati gate fee of £7 per vehicle & £7 per person.