The one word that perfectly sums up our stay at Umngazi River Bungalows. We visited Umngazi 5 years ago, when I was pregnant with Hannah, as a stop on our babymoon and we were blown away by everything they have to offer, especially the many facilities & activities for families. Since then we’ve been dreaming of returning with our children. It is honestly the most ideal family holiday destination. I won’t give it all away just yet, but let’s start with the location…
Umngazi is situated in Port St. Johns, on the Wild Coast. This coastline is rural, rugged and for the most part, untouched. Cows roam on the beach and you’ll see African huts dotted along the hillside. Located on the banks of a beautiful river, just a hop on a boat that crosses all day long and you’re on the beach, Umngazi’s location couldn’t be more ideal… it’s so peaceful and sheltered from the breeze. We were super spoilt with a sea-facing bungalow, with the most incredible position, looking out across the river.
Since we visited in May and Winter seemed to have snuck up on us in Johannesburg already, I was hesitant to pack a swimsuit to visit Umngazi. I was actually shocked… it’s as if Winter doesn’t touch this place. We had temperatures up to 28 degrees celsius and we even had a swim in the pool & laid in the sun to soak up some much needed vitamin D. It seems this time of year is actually the ideal time to visit… Not a breath of wind, the most beautiful days and very moderate nights.
Umngazi is a very popular destination and many families have annual bookings, so it’s often difficult to get a reservation in high season or school holidays, so I would highly recommend booking for May and other off peak months. Especially if you’re a family with young kids, not yet in school – you can avoid school holidays when the masses descend on Umngazi. You’ll be able to make the most of the daylight hours outside, not hiding from the harsh Summer sun and you’ll enjoy the cozy warmth of the fire in the lounge area at night. It’s the best of both worlds.
This is the word I would use to describe everything from the food to the amenities to the staff. The food is out of this world and you’ll be really spoilt for choice. On our first night we had a 4 course set menu which was absolutely delicious, you are spoilt with options, too! Breakfast is served buffet style, with a bountiful spread from warm breakfast options to fruits, fresh baked treats and everything your heart could desire. Tea rolls around just as quickly as you’ve recovered from breakfast, with a table laid out on the dining room deck, overlooking the pool area. Once again, freshly baked goodies are served up with a lovely cup of tea or coffee. Lunch is another buffet spread, usually something very tasty and laid back, but once again, there is something for everyone.
For the kiddies…
Where do I even begin? The facilities & activities for children are next level… Umngazi literally covers everything from the children’s dining room, to the Pavilion, packed with beanbags and movies on show each night. Let’s start with the dining room – this is an ingenious way to simplify a family holiday – the children’s meals are taken care of a bit earlier than the parents, so families can get their kiddies sorted at a reasonable time. The food is toddler & child-friendly, plastic plates & cups, high chairs , you name it, it’s taken care of. Plus, it’s super cute! The creative corner is a hub of daily activity, with a playground & sand pit outside, too. Every hour there is a different creative activity, as well as toys and an indoor pirate ship that the girls absolutely loved. There is also a massive outdoor jungle gym, playground and trampoline, facing the river, so there is never a shortage of space to play. The finishing touch for us was our nanny, Bongi. She helped us for two days, taking the girls to play, while we looked after Ezra and relaxed. We always knew that they were well taken care of, with someone at all times and she could come find us at any point. She was a huge help at meal times, since 3 kids is always a bit of a juggling act. We highly recommend hiring a nanny during your stay. It allowed us to have a bit of down time to ourselves, but also to connect as a family with good, quality time when it was just the 5 of us.
Getting to Umngazi
While the Wild Coast may seem like a daunting, rugged part of South Africa (If you’ve never been there before) it’s really not that difficult to get to Umngazi. The last 12km is dirt road, but other than that, the road is easy going, with the most amazing views of the rolling Transkei hills. We chose to fly from Johannesburg to East London and we drove the remaining 4 hours to Umngazi, which was a good way to break up the trip. If you’re from Durban, it’s also about 5 hours by car. If you’re looking for the quickest way to get there though, they offer weekly flights on a Friday from Virginia Airport (Durban), so check out their fly-in packages, too.
Why you NEED to visit Umngazi…
Absolutely everything here is taken care of, so you can literally just relax… We were able to just reconnect as a family and spend good, quality time together. As parents, quality time as a couple is often difficult to carve out in day to day life, so spending dinners child-free, by candlelight was a real treat. It was a far cry from the busy nights at home, but it gave us a chance to just soak up good conversations and really enjoy our time together. This is an incredibly special place and I don’t think I can fully do it justice, so you’ll have to see for yourself… If you’ve got a special anniversary or birthday, coming up, or even if you’re just in need of a really rest-filled holiday – go check out the availability & book asap! You will not be disappointed.
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We were hosted by Umngazi on a sponsored basis, in exchange for our honest review.