After our first night in Johannesburg we hit the road direction North/East of South Africa to go on the long anticipated safari and spend some time in the bush. The roads to Hoedspruit mainly are in a good condition, just the occasional heavy truck driving 20 km/h was testing our patience. A little more than half-way we had a little break is the cozy little town of Dullstroom which looks like everything but South Africa. Surrounded by green mountains with needle woods and ponds to go trout fishing it actually looks way more like Ireland than Africa at all. After we stocked up with Biltong and Dry Wors we took the stunning road through the JG Strydom Tunnel into the Lowveld which is a scenic drive throughout!
From Hoedspruit our camp Umlani was about an hour drive and after entering the Greater Kruger National Park we immediately were sort of on our first game drive because on the main road between the gate and the turn towards the dirt road to the camp we had plenty of animal sightings including giraffe, elephant, kudu, impala and a large number of birds. What a way to start our holiday the bush! After about 20 minutes off the main road we finally arrived at Umlani Bush Camp, immediately the receptionists gave us a warm welcome paired with a chilled drink and our luggage was carried to our rooms while we were receiving the safety briefing.
Almost immediately after this briefing our outstanding ranger Shadreck and his tracker Cabinete welcomed us aboard their game drive vehicle and we took off to our first "real" game drive and we saw many more elephants, giraffe, kudu, a herd of buffalo and then suddenly Shadreck took off at a high speed to reach the wonderful sighting of a Leopard who had just killed an impala. We were all very excited since Leopards are really shy animals and difficult to spot. The next 2 days we had similar or even better experiences, we even made the Big 5 on one game drive. I have been on game drives quite a few times and I have seen the Big 5 several times but truly Umlani/Timbavati was outstanding in number of animals as well as in the quality of sightings!
My personal favorites were the pack of wild dogs hunting, an animal I was desperately looking for many years, somehow I always just missed them or I had to leave when they were in the area but on Timbavati I finally saw them, I can hardly express my excitement. Not less exciting was the sighting of an Aardvark on our way back at night, a very shy animal which is extremely rare to be seen and the big leopard male which walked across the banks of the dry riverbed just opposite the bar/restaurant area which a crew member spotted at night while we were having a drink.
The rooms in Umlani are comfortable, the food is good, the service is very friendly and makes you feel welcome from the first minute on. To sum it up it was a great success and I can recommend as well Timbavati as Umlani as a camp. Thanks to everyone who made this stay a special one!
I hope you enjoyed reading this review as well and stay tuned for a review of the next destination Sausage Tree Safari Camp.