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Umlani camp and Africa on foot MAY 2017


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the Ashtons shuttle service takes about 6 hours but it is a whole lot cheaper than the alternatives and you arrive in time for the initial game drive on day one , so I regard it as the best choice


following the grounding of SA express by the air safety regulator due to a failure in safety backup systems over one weekend in 2016, the shuttle may well also be more reliable



As per last year I purchased a bag of apples from Woolworths at ORITA level one and eat nearly them all on the trip


this is may well be the best thing to do as the trip leaves early, way too early for a hotel breakfast and the first rest stop is more than one hour into the trip .


The bus leaves from the airport from where the hotel shuttles collect guests and the long distance coach services have their small offices.


there is a clean public toilet in the area, which is large enough to take your bag in with you.


before leaving, the driver gets the office to check for anyone who is on their list and has now shown up.

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the scenery on the first part of the trip is not interesting sales yards for trucks and heavy earth moving equiptment, corn fields, coal and assorted other mines and coal fired power stations


the power stations give of a lot of fumes.


the mini bus is air conditioned ,so the windows are shut to avoid breathing it in


bottled water is supplied to the passengers


Ashtons now has a small promotional magazine , it is interesting that expensive Swiss watches think it worthwhile to advertise in something that caters to the cheaper end of the travel market

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@@COSMIC RHINO - I am looking forward to reading this trip report.


If you would like me to post photos for you in this thread, I would be happy to do so again. Just email me the ones you want posted and I'll take it from there.

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there are two stops provided for using public toilets, purchasing snacks and coffee and stretching legs


one is near a game farms in a considerable sized complex with fast food spurs outlet , mug and beans counter and small market


the other is in Lydenberg ,out of the main town with rest rooms, good coffee,snacks etc


the second half of the trip is more interesting with an area of trout farms holiday accom, with fancier restraunts , antique shops , citrus and mango farming and views of some of the distant greater Kruger landscape


some of the fruit farms are netted in an effort to stop crop loss from baboons


the road is being repaired is sections , which slows things down as all the traffic going in one direction has to be temporarily stopped


some drivers provide a bit of a commentary ,others just drive and don't say that much

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I will be using my Safraitalk friends to post emailed photographs from my 2 new trip reports


at the moments I am at the business centre of the Premier hotel ORITA and have yet to visit the Kodak print station at Office works



the shuttle takes their passengers to several collection points phoning ahead to say when they are about to arrive, often the person who takes them onto the camp is already there


sometimes local residents use the shuttle service as the SA Express airfares are very expensive


at a number of the collection points there is an Ashtons sign erected to mark the place


the collection point for Umlani bush camp is Bones pub , a camp vehicle was there to collect me when the shuttle arrived

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as I mentioned last year I am surprised that a small place like Bush Pub has a selection of craft beers and free wifi access


they also have overnight accom rooms and a cafe


staff members from the surrounding lodges go there to eat and socialise if they have an opportunity






This is a well established place and is the cheapest in the area


they share concesssions with surrounding camps to give a traverse area of 10,000


the camp is of the power grid and operates from a combination of bottled gas , fire places and solar power


there is a collective recharge station in the gift shop which operates from solar power with backup storage batteries


this available for use overnight , if you so wish you place your item on the charger at the end of the evening game drive


the gift shop is a seperate small building with a door which is locked overnight


overall if you keep your charger clean the charging time approximately matches mains grid


with this in mind it would be a good idea to carry a small bottle of something like surgical spirit or ecalyptus oil

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the camp is unfenced


in the morning guides check for the presence of wildlife before knocking on cabin doors


all movement after dark is done with a staff escort


the older cabins are made of thatch and wood ,with polished concerete floors and an open to the sky bathrooms


they are lit by solar torches at night


the overall effect is to make them rather dark


it is probably best to bring your own bright torch/flashlight which you may well need to help you find things from your bag in the day


there is an issue with vervet monkeys being a bit of a pest in camp


all people are advised not to leave anything in your bathroom


please take special care if you have been given cabin number 4 which is under the favourite vervet tree

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the main activity are morning and afternoon gamedrives


BRIEF bushwalks can be arranged


there is also possible to arrange visits and overnight sleeping at Marco's Pan tree house


the tree house is not elaborate and does not have proper walls more about that later

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Umlani camp is in the Timbavati reserve near Thanda Tula

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Looking forward to reading more...

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Thanks for giving us so much detail, especially about Ashtons shuttle.

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Yay, you're posting! Can't wait to read! Now going back to the top.

overall if you keep your charger clean the charging time approximately matches mains grid 

with this in mind it would be a good idea to carry a small bottle of something like surgical spirit or ecalyptus  oil 

Can you explain this? Does this clean the charger?

Edited by AmyT
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amy t


if dust gets on the charger ,electric current is not conducted effectively


so it is best to keep it clean .


surgical spirit cleans things well, eucalyptus oil works to remove stains which almost anything else won't


they both dry almost immediately and are applied with a cotton ball

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the earlier post were made from my Johannesburg hotel after the return Nairobi flight


I am now back in Sydney after the long flight which goes via Perth


I made it to the front door by around midnight and rest in bed to 1 30 pm the next day

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I carry the ecalayptus oil to keep my big toe nails super clean, one of them was ingrown in the past and the doctor said to keep it clean to avoid future issues


I t is also great to clean of dust and dry up shaving cuts

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The apples from Woolworth's (last year) is a great start and my interest is piqued for Marco's Pan tree house.

"with this in mind it would be a good idea to carry a small bottle of something like surgical spirit or ecalyptus oil" I know you are referring to keeping the charger clean, but don't I recall that you always travel with eucalyptus oil? I see you have answered that in #15. I knew eucalyptus oil sounded familiar. Hope it worked well for chargers, toenails, and shaving!


Welcome home!

Edited by Atravelynn
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Anyone who thinks or knows that they have forgotten to take a sun hat can buy an ok price locally mare Rouge brand one at shop at either of the comfort stops


well the major difference from last year was the temperature and the condition of the bush



May is a whole lot warmer than June or July when I usually go


Last year everywhere was dry and brown ,with not much water anywhere except artificially pumped waterholes


this year there had been good rain, the bush was thick and green and the water well distributed

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as a result of this it was harder to find the animals


both water and food is more widely available


good green vegetation means that browsing animals can get more of their moisture needs out of just eating it , without having to go of to get water .


given the guide I had this was not well explained, it was briefly mentioned , it is mentioned in books and was much better explained at Africa on Foot, a mere 19 1/2 km away

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the water is ok for brushing teeth and washing only


it is said to have an excess mineral content which could cause stomach problems


filtered water is supplied in large containers which guests can put into their own bottles at no added cost


guests may wash their own clothes and dry them by coat hanger in a tree branch


there is no laundry service


the food is simple family style and of good quality


different food requirements are catered for


there is house wine ,ciders,beer,wine etc supplied at added cost


the camp has a newish Land cruiser which I was in and a ok looking land rover

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the traverse rights are exchanged with several other lodges linked by a two way radio system


this can result with a line up for popular sitings


unfortunately not all the guides know each others traverse rights , meaning that some vehicles are called into areas that they are not allowed to go into


game drives are done for the time that they are justified for and not to a strict following of the time on a clock


with the animal situation it was a fundamentally different experience than last year


since water was more easily available there were not many elephants or buffalos around


they frequented Marco's pan in 2016, for the course of my stay of 10 days there was only 1 brief visit to the area by families of both animals of only around 10 minutes


otherwise they were only seen in very small groups and again only briefly

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the camp is now attracting specialist photographic groups which they are using their better guide for


as before I was with Amos who is good at finding animals but he is not good at explaining things and he did not have a good attitude towards me


for each animal he had a standard statement of only 3 or 4 brief sentences which he repeated multiple times with exactly the same words


theses statements were not always correct


  • hyneas were said to be pure scavengers, in reality they combine being scavengers and are amongst the most effective predators
  • wilderbeest were said to compete for grass with zebras , in reality zebras eat the finer under layers of grass after the wilderbeest


Amos had a very bad attitude to me .


peoples' personal situation is their own affair


as a single traveller , I did not appreciate his joking efforts to matchmake with 2 separate female members of camp staff, and a unaccompied female guest who was also in the same vehicle.


I was especially unimpressed when I firmly expressed my lack of interest in these suggestions , and it just went on.


additionally I was less than impressed when he laughed at me for tying up my boot laces several times after I explained that it was done as I had previously tripped and had a hand grazed and bleeding when the laces became loose in Sydney

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I was less than impressed with Amos' expression of surprise  that a vegetarian was not eating the biltong at sundowners


some of the other guests had a remarkably high rate  of smoking, even to the extent of taking a portable ashtray with a closed lid to use at the morning tea  and sundowner  breaks


anyone including our own Game Warden, would be impressed to  see one of the guests from the photographic group  siting at a dining table and neatly writing up a trip journal  in the dark before the morning game drive using a head lamp as an aid


her aim was to do it day by day


the scenery was great ,even if  the animals were well spread  out  and the guiding very bad 


animals come and go ,but it was the guide's approach to me that I seriously disliked.


white rhinos can be found  and the security has improved ,something not to be gone into on a public forum


for my liking there was a over councentration  on looking for and then observing lions , who were  mainly  sleeping and doing not much else


flat cats as they call them


there are no longer resident males in the area


they were visiting for mating opportunities , something which was  observed by the lamp after dark

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This is an expression ,rather than what most people would understand by the term.


the emphasis is on small and simple


It  is a wooden platform  attached to a tree  with a tarp  mostly covering the top  and some hand rails around the side


it is accessed by a steepish ladder and has a trap door


it is around  a artificially pumped large waterhole which was wonderfully active with elephants,giraffes,impalas and other animals last year , very quiet this year due to the better situation with water and vegetation


regardless of  what is happening it is a great place to be for the wonderful bush around it


it is  possible to  visit it ,anything other than a brief visit  would be best to arrange when you make your booking


the usual options  are


  • to sleep overnight  there are beds, with blankets ,oil lamps, and some light fabric hung around  to block a bit of the air .  people eat dinner in camp then are driven a bit later to the tree house
  • after breakfast
  • after lunch ,for a while  or they will come and collect you with the afternoon game drive



this year I arranged to be left there at the morning tea  and was collected by the afternoon game drive.


sandwiches,fruit and water were delivered  to me as a susbsitute  for the usual camp meals .  If you are interested in this longer stay more elaborate food would not really be practical.


only one person or small group is allowed there at a time


they are left with a two way radio ,shown how to use it and told not to leave the tree house at any time 


it is a considerable distance from camp, well beyond walking distance

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3 hours ago, COSMIC RHINO said:

for my liking there was a over councentration  on looking for and then observing lions , who were  mainly  sleeping and doing not much else

flat cats as they call them




“Flat Cats”.


That's a new one for me.


Better “flat” than “fat”?


Tom K.

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being a bit warmer is all relative


only 2 people briefly used the swimming pool and got out quickly

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