Umlani Bushcamp – Timbavati Game Reserve
The Greater Kruger National Park area is massive, spanning over 50 million acres of unfenced terrain teeming with wildlife. With over twenty private reserves to chose from plus the national park itself, planning a trip to the Kruger area can become an overwhelming task. Not to mention each one of these reserves has several options for lodges and camps. For our trip, we selected Timbavati Game Reserve, located on Kruger’s western border and a one hour drive from the Hoedspruit airport. Choosing the reserve was only the first step. We then had to decide between the eight lodges within the reserve, and ultimately ended up choosing Umlani Bushcamp. There were several reasons for deciding on Umlani. For one, Umlani offered an authentic safari experience with reed huts and an unfenced camp, while also maintaining the all-inclusive experience. Since the camp is truly a camp rather than a lodge, the price is much more reasonable than some other options, and since safaris have a tendency to get very expensive, price is a huge factor. Combine that with the rave reviews we read on TripAdvisor and the fact that their Instagram account was full of leopard photos and we were sold.
After arriving at the Hoedspruit airport, we were greeted by our driver who drove us one hour to Umlani. Although the safari had not yet begun, we saw plenty of animals grazing just off the side of the road. Upon arrival at Umlani we were given the quick tour around the camp before being escorted to our hut. The hut was rustic, but immaculately well-kept, creating the perfect balance of comfort and the true bushcamp experience. The walls are made of bamboo, so you’re well enclosed from the outside while still feeling like there’s very little separating your living quarters from the wild. The open-air shower is attached to the hut and enclosed on the sides by bamboo walls but open on the top. For this reason, the staff advise against leaving food in the huts, because the monkeys could easily sneak in via the shower. While there is no electricity in the huts, you are provided with two solar lanterns, and there is a charging station in the gift shop if you need to charge your phone, camera, etc. Umlani also offers a “eco-hut” option, which is built to enhance thermal storage. The eco hut is slightly more luxurious but still has the outdoor showers to give it the same “close-to-nature” feel.
The camp is unfenced, with the exception of wires that run along the permitter that prevent the taller animals like elephants and giraffes from entering, but beyond that, there’s nothing stopping other animals from wandering into the premises. We saw plenty of monkeys and a warthog in the camp during the day and heard footsteps outside of our hut during the evening. This was all part of the Umlani experience and we loved it. Obviously you need to use common sense around wild animals, but the staff make sure that there is always someone escorting you to your room after the evening game drives when it’s dark. There is a small pool on site which is perfect for the hot afternoons between game drives, as well as a two dining areas, a gift shop, and a traditional South African boma (enclosed fire pit area). The camp is extremely peaceful during the day and is the perfect way to unplug and relax in a beautiful wild setting.
Read our full post on our treehouse experience here.
Disclaimer: We were provided with a complimentary stay at Umlani in exchange for our honest review. The opinions contained herein are in no way influenced by Umlani or its affiliates.