Spend an afternoon with the giraffes in this South African treehouse

The final segment of our trip to South Africa included two nights and four game drives in the Timbavati Game Reserve, a private game reserve in the Greater Kruger National Park. There are several lodges and camps within Timbavati and for our visit we chose Umlani Bushcamp.

By far the highlight of Umlani Known was “Marco’s Dam Treehouse”. This exclusive hideaway is located about 1.5 miles outside of Umlani Bushcamp, and guests have the option to book the treehouse for an afternoon or to spend the night. While we met other couples who had booked the treehouse for the overnight option, we opted to spend an afternoon there between lunch and the evening game drive. After lunch, our guide drove us to the treehouse, provided us with a cooler of drinks and helped us get situated.

The treehouse is simple, but the simplicity is what makes it feel almost like a natural part of the wild surroundings. It consists of two beds, a couple of benches, and a small bathroom in the corner. Even though it was over 95 °F that afternoon, being up in the tree provided a constant cool breeze, making it feel like a desert oasis.

The water hole at the base of the tree is frequented by all kinds of wildlife that inhabits Timbavati. Earlier that day on our game drive, we saw a herd of over 200 cape buffalo gathering at the water hole, and the previous evening we encountered a male lion relaxing in the shade just across from the treehouse. Part of the reason we decided to spend the afternoon in the treehouse rather than stay overnight, was simply due to visibility. We knew that the treehouse in the afternoon would be the perfect place to watch the animals that came by for a drink. That’s not to say that the overnight wouldn’t also be an unforgettable experience. One of the couples that we met that slept there said that while they couldn’t see what was below them, they could constantly hear animals wandering around the water hole during the night. They knew there was a lion nearby, but every sound they heard was a mystery, which sounds equal parts terrifying and amazing.

When we arrived in the treehouse, we were immediately greeted by a herd of about ten giraffes, of which two stopped for an extended period of time. Since giraffes are probably some of the most peaceful creatures on the planet, the experience of watching them in total silence from the tree as they drank from the water hole left us in awe. Of course they weren’t the only visitors that afternoon. There were constantly groups of impala taking turns stopping to drink, as well as kudu, bushbuck, and the massive buffalo herd resting nearby.

Our magical afternoon came to an end when our driver pulled up under the tree to take us on the evening game drive. While on our drive that evening, our driver got a call on his radio that someone had seen a leopard at the base of the tree were we had been only two hours earlier…Looks like we just missed out.

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