All About Us

Welcome to the Lowveld, South Africa: All about the location, local history, weather, your hosts and our wonderful staff

A view of the Legogote Mountain in the Kruger Lowveld, South Africa


Where exactly are we: Accommodation Near Kruger National Park

South Africa is often described as 'a world in one country' as the South African landscape offers a breath taking variety of scenery: from desert and lush forest, to soaring mountains and vast empty plains. Culturally as diverse as the landscape, many visitors are drawn to experience for themselves the miracle of the peaceful overthrow of Apartheid. Others are attracted by endless golden beaches, big game, diving, snorkelling or bird watching.

Whatever their reasons, visitors will find their holiday in South Africa to be a positive experience due to world-class infrastructure, transport and accommodation.

An aerial view of umSisi House, located near Kruger National Park in South Africa

umSisi House is situated in Mpumalanga ('the place where the sun rises') which is South Africa's most easterly province bordered by Mozambique to the east and the Kingdom of Swaziland to the south.

A view of the Blyde river Canyon on the Panorama Route, South AfricaThe Mpumalanga province has a rich history of pioneers and explorers, and is evocative of the old Africa of romance and adventure. It is a lush, land-locked province; filled with deep ravines, verdant valleys, crystal-clear streams, magnificent waterfalls and plenty of wildlife. It is considered to be the heartland of South Africa's classic safari territory, and is home to the famous Kruger National Park game reserve. Mpumalanga enjoys a subtropical climate and is very fertile. There are many huge plantations growing produce ranging from avocado pears to bananas to pecan nuts to citrus as well as hundreds of thousands of hectares of timber plantations.

umSisi House is a mere 20 minutes away from the Kruger National Park and 20 minutes away from Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (KMIA), which is the main destination for visitors flying into the Kruger Lowveld region. Renting a car when flying into KMIA is hassle free as the airport offers numerous car rental options.

White River, the nearest town to umSisi House (15 minutes away), is the pretty floral gateway to the Kruger Lowveld region and can be found just north of Nelspruit (the provincial capital of Mpumalanga).

Nelspruit offers all the modern amenities of a first world city from shopping malls, family entertainment, medical facilities and banking to tourism services.

Looking slightly further afield Maputo, the buzzing capital of Mozambique, is only two hour’s drive from Nelspruit and is en route to the many popular and pristine African beach destinations that the country has to offer. The beautiful kingdom of Swaziland is approximately a three hour drive from Nelspruit and offers a world of bygone African traditions and culture.

It is recommended that you hire a car when staying with us for longer than three nights. On shorter stays, we are happy to arrange your transfers and activities; but be warned transfers are expensive!

Our GPS co-ordinates are S 25⁰13.506, E 031⁰04.321. Please be advised that our dirt road does not appear on any satellite navigation systems. PLEASE PAY CAREFUL ATTENTION TO THE DIRECTIONS THAT WE WILL PROVIDE YOU.

Retail Therapy

Enjoy a unique shopping experience just up the hill where Europe meets Africa

retailAt umSisi House, we have some notable South African shopping experiences on our doorstep. So if you're looking for a uniquely South African shopping vacation, it's easy to incorporate an element of retail therapy into your accommodation near Kruger National Park.

Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre on the outskirts of White River, and within minutes of umSisi House, is a unique shopping destination and has something for everyone with its shops, motor museum, theatre, cinema nouveau, wellness centre, exclusive gym with personal trainers, restaurants set in tranquil gardens and petting zoo for the kids. Some must visit shops are Africa Joy, Courtyard Framing, Equilibrium and The Eloff Gallery.

Opening hours:  9am - 4.30pm Monday – Saturday and 9am – 4pm on Sunday

Perry's Bridge Trading Post in Hazyview offers another unique shopping and dining experience. Together with its own reptile park the centre offers a large South African curio shop, a choice of restaurants, clothing boutiques, a bakery, an interior decorating store, hairdressing salon, an adventure and safari centre as well as another brewery.

Opening hours: 10am – 5pm all week

Delagoa African Arts and Crafts in Graskop is an upmarket African curio shop reputed to be the best curio shop in South Africa. Delagoa stock a unique and extensive selection of the best hand crafted objects available in South Africa and work with local communities around the country. They specialise in authentic African artefacts and contemporary tribal arts and crafts. They ship worldwide. While shopping in Graskop it is recommended that you stop for lunch at the legendary Harries Pancakes, established in 1986, which attracts crowds from all over the world for meal sized sweet and savoury pancakes. It's also worth popping round the corner to Curio D'Afrique to see what collectables they have.

Opening hours: 8am – 6pm all week

Shopping in White River and Nelspruit is easy and there are a good selection of supermarkets and access to pretty much anything else that you could possibly want. Please ask us for directions and recommendations. The commercial Riverside Mall and The Grove with their shops, fast-food outlets, cinemas and restaurants lie between White River and Nelspruit.

White River History

In case you want to know more about the area before you get here

In the north eastern corner of Mpumalanga, the White River (a tributary of the Crocodile River) flows through the town of White River. The name itself is a translation of the Swazi 'emansimhlope', which means 'white waters'. The name also refers to the colour of the water in the river which has a milky appearance caused by the high presence of Kaolin.

White River has had two other names in its short history. It was known as 'Mhloppemanzi' by its African name and 'Wit Rivier' by its Afrikaans name.

The first farmers moved into the area in the 1880's and the farming community that settled here after the South African (Anglo-Boer) War has remained virtually unchanged to this day. The agricultural farms tend to be relatively small but are intensive with tropical and citrus fruits in abundance, and vegetables and cut flowers readily available.

After the First Wold War the village of White River consisted of a cottage, the Magistrates residence, an out span on the site where the Dutch Reformed Church is today, the White River Hotel, a police station and stables, and the Magistrates Court. All of these were connected by a single main street. There were no cars at the time and transport consisted of mule wagon, donkey cart, or horseback.

The Peebles area was a stopover on the route from Lydenburg to Delagoa Bay (now Maputo, capital of Mozambique) by the transport riders of the 1800's, and for a very good reason!

As the number of wagon drivers increased, so did the demand for leather thongs. Chains were scarce and leather thongs were ideal for getting heavily loaded wagons along difficult tracks and across high mountains. These leather straps did not last long and a good supply was needed as making them was time consuming, so the transport riders preferred to buy them along the way.

Sotho people living in the vicinity of Nsikazi were skilled at the task. Wagon drivers would give them hides of oxen and other large animals to be made into leather thongs from their 'workshops' in the caves and rocky hide-outs on Legogote.

In 1875, Bill Sanderson, a Scotsman settled at the foot of Legogote. In 1914, the farm Legogote was divided into two parts. The upper part remained 'Legogote' while the lower part became known as 'Peebles'. One can only assume that Bill Sanderson came from the Peebles area in the Scottish Borders and named the area after his hometown. It has remained Peebles to this day. It was during this time that Sir Percy Fitzpatrick and Jock of the Bushveld frequented the Peebles area and a Jock plaque can be found at Sanderson House a few kilometres away from umSisi House.  And this is why we are located in the Jock of the Bushveld Conservancy!

There are several derivations of the word Legogote. Some say that it is derived from the word 'lugogo' which means a skin of an animal thus we have Legogote 'the place of skins'. However, others claim that it has been named for its resemblance to a 'klipspringer' or a 'lion's head' or even a 'rock that leans over'.

Legogote is of particular interest and is regarded as the 'sentinel of the Lowveld'. This distinctive rock formation has become White River's trademark. It was used as a navigational landmark by people who traversed the territory for over a thousand years and today has huge spiritual and cultural significance for the local people. In fact, the local Swazi believe that ‘if you live in the shadow of Legogote, your life will always be blessed’.

The San (Bushmen) were thought to be the first inhabitants of the area and rock art paintings in their hundreds show how the San lived and hunted here long before the first settlers arrived.


We have the highest sunlight hours in the world and sub-tropical thunderstorms to match

For many people weather plays a very critical role in holiday planning. So it's not surprising that we often get asked about the different seasons in South Africa and what holiday makers can expect. We've outlined the main seasons for you below. But only you can decide whether you want to experience a South African winter or a South African summer. All we can add is that each season has a charm of its own, so it's never a bad time to visit our accommodation Near Kruger National Park!

Summer Months in South Africa

November through to March is summertime in South Africa. You can expect humid, balmy weather as it is our 'rainy season' in the Lowveld. You should prepare for rain – and quite a lot of it – in the form of short-lived African tropical storms which will leave you marvelling at their ferocity. Daytime temperatures can reach 40° C (104 ° F) while night-time temperatures are a pleasant 22° C (72° F) - in fact you may even need a light sweater.

In October and April there is typically less rain and a very slight reduction in temperature.

Winter Months in South Africa

May through to September is wintertime in South Africa. In stark contrast to our summer weather in South Africa, these months are predominately dry with the odd, isolated storm. The temperature only starts to drop noticeably in May, and by the time mid-winter is upon us in June and July the maximum daytime winter temperature is still around 26° C (85° F), although the nights can get very chilly which is why we have a roaring fire in the evenings!

Changing Weather Patterns

We are certainly experiencing the effects of global warming in Mpumalanga as nothing is as predictable as it once was. Please therefore be prepared for anything ...

To view current weather conditions please visit: South African Weather Services

Owners of umSisi House, a 5 star villa near the Kruger National Park


A dynamic English couple who’ve made Africa their home for everyone to enjoy

umSisi House is owned and operated by Paddy and Amanda Bond Gunning from their luxurious country house in the Peebles Valley in Mpumalanga. umSisi is the first-of-its-kind, European style, fully serviced, private country house villa and gourmet getaway accommodation solution to appear on the market in South Africa's Kruger Lowveld region. umSisi House has been created to appeal to the discerning traveller who values exclusivity and privacy above all else and is looking for an 'at home in Africa' experience.

umSisi House is so much more than just another safari destination. It is situated within the pristine Jock of the Bushveld Conservancy, just 20 minutes away from the Kruger National Park, and focuses on promoting the Lowveld lifestyle - the weather, the beauty, the proximity to nature and the wonderful ambience of Africa itself. umSisi House also boasts beautiful rock gardens, 10 kilometres of mountain trails and the chance to explore secret hideaways.

Paddy and Amanda have been working in the tourism and hospitality industry for the last 12 years. Leaving England in 1999 they travelled southern Africa extensively in their own Land Rover to create a comprehensive library of photography and video footage. Together they have driven over 95,000 kilometres through desert and dunes, across plains, down rivers, over pans and into the delta in their Land Rovers in search of the very best wildlife and wild places that southern Africa has to offer.

In 2003, they set up Genesis Room, an environmental studio, working to promote awareness of ecology, nature, eco-tourism, conservation and travel within southern Africa. They were involved in a number of promotional design and copywriting projects for clients such as Botswana Tourism and Sanctuary Lodges.

In 2005, they decided to leave their desks and return to the road to update their photographic and video library. During the course of this expedition, the concept behind Black Pot Safaris was born leading to its successful launch in 2006 and operation during mid-winter months only. This allowed Paddy and Amanda to accept a position overseeing the maintenance, management and marketing of a luxurious, privately owned guest house in the Lowveld later that year.

They resigned this position in May 2009 to set up umSisi House. This project is the culmination of many years hard work and their vision of the perfect villa-holiday experience.

Their doors opened on 1 March 2010.

Please click on the articles below if you're interested in some further background information on Paddy and Amanda:

umSisi Getaway ArticleumSisi Get It Lowveld ArticleumSisi Prime Property Article


The people involved in ensuring your stay is truly memorable

Staff at umSisi House, a 5 star villa near the Kruger National Park in South AfricaOur staff are the backbone behind the successful operation of umSisi House. Sunday and Lindo live on the property while Emmanuel chooses to live at home with his family in Masoyi and commutes to work weekly. We also employ a number of part-time staff who live in Masoyi. They all work tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that your umSisi House experience is unforgettable.

Sunday Matola is Swazi-speaking and is the longest-serving member of our current team. He works as our General Assistant and helps with every aspect of the business. You will get to know him well during your stay! Lindo Maphanga and Emmanuel Khoza are also Swazi-speaking. Lindo is responsible for keeping the property immaculate and will look after all of your laundry requirements. Emmanuel works in the garden and is also responsible for the hiking trails. They are always ready to greet you with a big and welcoming smile! We are very lucky to have them all as part of our team!

Staff Tips

All of our staff would be grateful for any appreciation you care to show them in the form of tips. We have a tip box available. R60 per guest per day is suggested and is dependent on length of stay and is entirely at your discretion. This amount will be shared between staff members on a quarterly basis.

Contact us

T.  + 27 (0) 13 750 1520
M. + 27 (0) 82 479 9700
M. + 27 (0) 82 969 4455
F. + 27 (0) 86 548 5686

Postal Address: 
PostNet Suite 123, Private Bag X11326, Nelspruit 1200, Mpumalanga, South Africa

Contact us