Located in the North Eastern section of South Africa, know as the Lowveld, Umlani is part of the Timbavati Private Game Reserve, which borders the Kruger National Park. With no fences between the private sector and the Kruger it is known as the Greater Kruger National Park. Umlani Bushcamp is situated in the heart of the Timbavati, making it a prime destination to visit as it allows you to explore a large portion of the reserve not only in search of wildlife but also to experience the rich diversity that this reserve has to offer.
The Timbavati Game Reserve has been open to the Kruger national Park for roughly 40 years, which means that animal movements between the two areas has been established and wildlife moves freely between the two areas.
Umlani prides itself on a home away from home experience. Yes, it is rustic, but it is more than comfortable. Walking through the lodge you are always greeted by friendly faces, filling you with a sense of being home and surrounded by family. The camp is situated on the banks of the Nhlaralumi river, whos river bed remains dry for the majority of the year. Only when there is heavy rain over the Drankensburg mountain range will this river flow. Umlani Bush Camp is what a safari should be, rustic yet all the comforts that make it feel like home.
The Lodge & Rooms at Umlani Bushcamp
From the moment you arrive in the car park, you are greeted by the incredible camp staff who immediately make you feel welcome. Walking through the camp you can see beautifully spread out and spacious it is with a variety of areas to sit back and relax during a bit of downtime between game drives. There is a beautiful deck that overlooks the dry riverbed and a small waterhole, a great spot to relax, with a GnT in hand, whilst watching a variety of wildlife come down to have a drink during the middle of the day. For those hot days, the is the best place to be to cool off.
Umlani has two room types, the Standard Reed huts and the Eco Hut, which further add to its rustic bush feel. The very comfortable, double and family huts are African reed and thatched rondavles with an open-air bush shower. If you are looking for a bit more luxury the Eco Hut would be the best option. Due to its design this hut is warmer when its cold outside and much cooler when its hot outside. The Eco also has an outdoor shower and still allows you to have a sense of being immersed in the African bush.
My personal highlights from Umlani Bushcamp
As my first real bush experience, Umlani Buschamp will always have a special place in my heart. From the friendly faces around camp, great game viewing, sharing your days game drives stories a fire at the boma or enjoying a delicious meal in the candle lit dinning area it all adds to the experience. My personal highlight would have to be the night in the treehouse sleep out where all your senses are heightened. After dinner I was taken to the treehouse with a few essentials, including a radio and torch, where I then spent the evening.
The feeling experience when listening to the zebra drinking at the waterhole right in front of me, or the elephants ripping at the grass beneath me in the middle of the night when its pitch black is something that no words can describe. Every little rustle in the bush gets your imagination going. Falling asleep in the open air with a clear sky filled with stars and being woken up at the crack of dawn by hyena calls in the distance is, in my opinion, the best way to disconnect completely and enjoy the beauty nature has to offer.
Umlani Bushcamp in a nutshell
Who should go? Anyone looking to immerse themselves in nature in a proper rustic Bushcamp setting, enjoy great company and disconnect from the outside world.
When to go? The Timbavati is great all year round for game viewing. The summer season is from October to April, with January to March usually having the highest temperatures. This is also the birthing season for some animals as well as its rainy season which brings with it lush, green vegetation. May to September are the dry, winter months, with clear blue sky and cool temperature. Vegetation during this time is driers and less dense, often making game viewing easier.
How to get there: There are two flight options. Firstly, Federal Air connecting directly from OR Tambo International Airport to Rick Fig Airport where you will then be collected from and transferred to Umlani Bushcamp. Secondly, Cemair flies from OR Tambo International Airport directly to the Hoedspruit Airport (1h20 min flight) followed by a 60 minute road transfer to Camp. Umlani also offers complementary road transfers from OR Tambo International Airport to the camp when booking a minimum of 3 nights stay. This is a scheduled road transfer which is roughly a 6-7 hour drive.
Suggested length of stay: I would recommend a minimum of three nights to really immerse yourself in a proper bush experience.
Insider Tip: A night in the Umlani Treehouse sleep out is a must (weather dependant). It is a great and safe way to experience raw nature. The Treehouse is situated at a waterhole not far from camp, which provides some animal activity during the night.