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Resort review: Umshanti – Swellendam


When next you venture to the Swellendam area, a stay at the Umshanti resort and campsite is a must. Umshanti is set on the banks of the Buffeljags Dam, offering incredible vistas of flat calm waters with extensive bird life, cascading waterfalls, boat trips, water sports and much more.

When we arrived, we were greeted by the owners Kosie and Jorina. This resort is managed by the couple as the land and buildings are owned by the Buffeljags municipality. That being said the self-catering houses that sleep 10 have all the necessities for a comfortable stay and are very clean and tidy. The cottages are old-school and each contains a bedroom with a double bed, and two additional bedrooms with three single beds each. In addition, there are two single beds in the lounge. Each cottage has a kitchen, a lounge and a private bathroom, as well as their own outside braai area with a bench and chairs. All one’s self-catering needs are met with crockery, cutlery, fridge, freezer, grill and microwave. The 10 sleeper cottages are suited to bigger groups or larger families.

Kosie the owner went out of his way to make our stay a happy one, taking us on the double decker barge for a sunset cruise on the dam and then to the many waterfalls that flow into the dam in his 4×4 golf cart. While we climbed the mountainside to get to the waterfalls, Koosie threw some boerewors on his small portable braai, and the tasty treats were ready when we returned.

Kosie ensures the smooth running of the resort and he makes a great boerewors braai on the fly.

Umshanti is really set in such a picturesque environment, with the beautiful dam and surrounding mountains as a backdrop. With all the water in the area, expect green lawns, lush foliage and old forests with large trees. The views at this resort certainly have the wow factor. Lie on a blanket on the manicured lush green lawns bordering the dam with a book and let time stand still. Take a walk down to the jetty and dive into the mineral rich waters of the dam. Don’t forget to drink straight from the dam, it’s the sweetest water you’ll ever taste. There are some stunning mountain pools in the rivers that flow into the dam which offer invigorating swimming.

Clearly these high-energy chaps were enjoying their time at Umshanti.

Umshanti also carters for large groups and when we were there, a hockey team from Paarl Boys was at Umshanti , on their way to a hockey tour. It was wonderful to see them having such fun, jumping from the top of the barge into the dam and getting up to mischief. Actually, they were very well behaved and I even managed to get them to stand still for a few seconds while I snapped a photo on the upper deck of the barge during the cruise.

Kosie standing next to his self-built teardrop trailer & his vintage Moto Guzzi.

We also had the opportunity to view the small teardrop trailer that Kosie has built and a friend painted. It’s certainly a clever piece of small caravan ingenuity. And, if you’re into two wheelers, Kosie has something like 30 vintage motorbikes that are highly sought after and worth a pretty packet. We got to see some really old and highly desirable motorbikes that go way back in time.

Wayne & his sidekick Chewbacca on their way for a quick spin on the bike.

We also bumped in to Wayne and his wife Lourentia with their yapper called Chewbacca. Apparently Chewbacca has his own Instagram channel and enjoys riding up front on Wayne’s motorbike with his custom goggles on. He’s about the size of a hot dog, but he’s really one cool cat.

The Chapel is perfect for two.

The Chapel is a beautiful fully-equipped wooden cottage set right on the dam wall and is the perfect haven for a couple. It’s nickname is the Honeymoon Suite, so be careful, you might well end up tying the knot while you’re here and staying for an extended honeymoon.

The campsite has 6 camping stands, each with a 3 x 3m shade covering, braai, electricity and dedicated wooden table with beautiful mountain and dam views. It’s an intimate campsite that assures you peace and quiet, without too many other campers on your doorstep and it’s a few metres from the jetty and the dam. During our stay, the campsite was abuzz with happy campers.

The small campsite is private, offering peace and tranquility.  

There is a conference room and a communal house with a bar, fireplace, dining room, pool table, dart board and satellite television that is open for everyone’s use. It’s great for getting together to build some “gees” with other holidaymakers.

The communal house is aptly called “Drikgat” and is a place of fun, chats and braais. 

We had the wonderful opportunity of enjoying a cruise on a double decker barge, which takes groups of up to 30 people. The barge gets parked up in the gorge on the far side of the dam and then its braai time, right on deck. There you can take the canoes right to the waterfall, swim, relax or go for a scenic hike. The canoes can be used for fishing, exercise or sightseeing.

The Buffeljags Dam pulled out all the scenic stops for us on this adventure. 

Don’t forget to bring your bicycles as there are some stunning routes along the river to the mountain pools and water falls. The Jakobskloof trail is a well suited to walks and mountain bikes. Buffeljags Dam is perfect for water sports, so feel free to bring your own boat, canoes, water wings and tubes.

Necessities such as wood and ice are available at the small shop. We sat outside at the braai for hours chatting with a sparkle of stars above us, lulled by the crackle of the fire and a good glass of red. Umshanti is beautifully maintained and the lawns are lush and green. Kosie is also a microlight pilot and has his own private runway on the property. If you’re lucky, and you can track Kosie down during his busy day, you might be able to arrange a flight over the dam and surrounding area. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Don’t forget your camera, as every which way you turn, there is a photo opportunity.  

We loved our stay at Umshanti and will definitely be back for a visit when we are in the Swellendam area in the near future. The setting of this resort is awe-inspiring. What’s the most important thing they say about property: location, location, location. Umshanti is set in the most amazing location.

If you know who to ask, you might find a river crossing & some off-road driving. 

There is free Wifi at the cottages for those with the desire to stay connected, or you can simply switch off and enjoy a tech-free holiday. Umshanti is just 12km from Swellendam, which is a quick drive for groceries or to go for a bite to eat when you’re tired of lighting a braai fire. Thanks again for having us Umshanti, you certainly are lucky to live in such a scenic oasis.

Accommodation offerings

  • The Chapel: 2 sleeper cottage
  • Gypsy: 2 sleeper cottage
  • 10 sleeper cottages x 5:  Windgat, Hardegat, Slapgat, Tweegat, Draaigat
  • Camp sites x 6:  each with a 3 x 3m shade covering, braai, electricity, wooden table and beautiful mountain & water views.
For more information or to make your booking at Umshanti, simply fill in the enquiry form below and they will contact you directly with their affordable rates and availability.

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