Wild Coast accommodation at Bulungula Backpackers Lodge, Transkei, Eastern Cape, South Africa

Bulungula Lodge

THE BULUNGULA LODGE

Situated on the breathtaking Wild Coast, the Lodge is nestled in one of the most beautiful locations in South Africa. An eco-friendly, Fair Trade certified, affordable, multi-night destination for South African and overseas visitors alike; the Lodge is superb for backpackers and cultural wanderers of this Earth.

The Bulungula Lodge sustains local culture and the planet, and is 100% owned and managed by the vibrant, traditional Nqileni village, a Xhosa community. The Xhosa community is an integral part of daily life in and around the Lodge. With no fences, no crime, and no hassles, the village is full of friendly smiles and lots of animals. You are invited to be part of this community throughout your stay - becoming part of the Bulungula Lodge and village community is the whole point of coming here!

The Lodge is powered by the sun and includes the legendary ‘rocket’ hot-water showers, our water comes from our own borehole and the virtually odourless compost toilets are the most colourful in Africa. 10 theme-painted traditionally built rondavel huts have beautiful sea and forest views. Stay in permanent tents on platforms under the trees or bring and pitch your own tent. Whichever roof you choose, you'll sleep well, to the sound of the Indian Ocean's surf.

THE EXPERIENCE

Dump your plans and get into the Wild Coast groove. Bulungula is an opportunity for intrepid travellers to experience real paradise. It is about immersing yourself in new experiences and being open to the possibility that you'll click with this place and even stay for a week or more. We think you need at least 3 nights to get a really worthwhile experience. This is not a whistle-stop destination.

Guarantees: 6km of pristine untouched white sandy beaches Almost guarantees: dolphins at sunrise and sunset; whales (July – October); shooting stars on a clear night; cows on the beach; wide range of bird life and/or freshly caught line fish or crayfish (ask in advance).

Bulungula is an integrated space where you'll find yourself sharing common areas with members of our community who are friendly and interesting, and may not speak English. (Though there is always a friendly English speaking staff member around who can help ease communication). This is an opportunity to open your eyes, mind and soul and experience life with a vibrant Xhosa community. Bulungula is not a resort with a fence with the “locals” on the outside and guests on the inside.

The Lodge

Traditional Xhosa hut accommodation

The Lodge

Have fun with kids from the community

The Lodge

Relax and chill around the bonfire with
breath-taking views of the ocean

The Lodge

Take a break from the inside showers
and have an outdoor hot forest shower

The Lodge

The most colourful rain harvesting in
South Africa

The Lodge

Take some beers and some friends on a
sunset ride up the Bulungula River

ACTIVITIES

Lots to do at Bulungula

Something different happens every day. Explore the forest and gather herbs with the local herbalist. Ride a horse over the hills and far away. Canoe the magic river. Go on a guided history and culture tour. Learn how to fish in the sea, or watch the sunrise on the beach with hot pancakes. Challenge yourself by learning the basics of womanpower along the Wild Coast. Or have a fantastic massage.

All these businesses are 100% owned and run by members of the local community so your money goes where it’s most needed.

Many of these businesses are still in their infancy and are not always as professional as you would find in the big cities (no-one in our village had any experience of tourism prior to 2004). But everyone puts there heart and soul into their new venture and as a result there is a unique, fresh edge to these activities..

The Bulungula Incubator

You are also welcome to visit our local award-winning NGO, the Bulungula Incubator. Their mission is to be a catalyst in the creation of vibrant and sustainable rural communities. They work with our community members from conception to career with an integrated development strategy in education, health and nutrition and sustainable livelihoods. All projects are designed, prioritised, implemented and managed in partnership with our community and through traditional and elected leadership structures. Click here to visit Bulugula Incubator's website

GETTING TO BULUNGULA

Paradise is by definition hard to get to, but we reckon it's a fun mission. Please read carefully the options set out here.

Whichever way you choose to travel, please call the Lodge the day before to let us know your mode of travel and approximate time of arrival.

The Lodge

Witness magical sunsets

The Lodge

Learn about our local fauna and flora

PLANE TO MTHATHA: SAA flies directly from Johannesburg to Mthatha daily and from Port Elizabeth to Mthatha once a week (book well in advance to get cheaper seats). There is a new low-cost airline flying between Johannesburg and Mthatha called Blue Crane. Click here for their website. You must catch a flight that gets to Mthatha before 3pm so you can catch our shuttle (Tue, Thur, Fri and Sunday) or alternatively you can hire a car at Mthatha Airport (Avis, First Car Rental and Europcar) and drive to our parking area.

MTHATHA SHUTTLE: Our shuttle collects from the Mthatha Shell Ultra City (Baz Bus, Translux and Greyhound bus stop) at 3pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays. You MUST call us the day before to book your seat and thus ensure that the shuttle is sent to fetch you. The shuttle costs R120 per person. If you are coming from Coffee Bay please call us the day before for shuttle arrangements - we will collect you from the Bulungula/Coffee Bay turn-off (called Lutubeni) so you don't need to go all the way back to Mthatha.

HIKING: You can hike the stunning coastal route from Coffee Bay to Bulungula over two fairly easy days - overnighting in Lubanzi at the backpackers or the homestay). We will transfer your bags free of charge from Coffee Bay to Bulungula, so you only need to carry an overnight bag. Please email us for details and costs.

SELF-DRIVE: it is now possible to drive to the lodge with any car (thanks to the new village gravel road). Please note that the last 30km is bumpy gravel/dirt road, but normal two-wheel drive vehicles come to Bulungula on this road every day. This road is in poor condition but if you drive slowly, anyone can arrive and leave in a normal small car even if it's raining. We do however occasionally get guests who freak out about the condition of the road, while on the same day a mom and her young child have no complaints... so it is hard to know how to describe our road other than that it is driveable. (For those have been here before, it is the same as it's always been, except that now the road comes all the way into the village.) Please print our map and measure your kilometers carefully and make sure you get here well before dark otherwise it is easy to miss the landmarks given in our directions. The new road comes to our parking area which is 5 min/500m walk away from the lodge. Parking costs R15 per car per night.

PLANE TO EAST LONDON: SAA flies to East London from Cape Town and Joburg. FlySafAir is the best budget airline flying to East London from both Cape Town and Johannesburg. Kulula (budget airline) flies from Joburg to East London too. From East London Airport you can either hire a car (we recommend Around About Cars and Argus Car Hire which are cheap and have unlimited kilometres) or you can catch the Airport Shuttle (Tel: 082 569 3599) to the East London bus station where you can catch a Greyhound or Translux bus (these depart EL at 12pm) to Mthatha where our shuttle collects on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays from the Shell Ultra City at 3pm.

LOCAL TRANSPORT: We believe that most backpackers in South Africa are missing out by not travelling around the country on local transport. Not only are minibuses and non-tourist buses much cheaper and quicker but they are also often the best way to meet interesting people and to learn about local culture. We recommend a crowded bakkie taxi filled with people, chickens, groceries and laughs over luxury transport any day. Coming by local transport is definitely the best way to appreciate the unique location of the lodge (read a travel story about this journey here). In fact, anyone who arrives at the lodge by local transport from Mthatha gets the first night free.

Please take the following precautions when using minibus/bakkie taxis:

Only catch taxis from a taxi rank not on the side of the road (remember that taxi ranks are popular with pickpockets); Don't get into a taxi with a drunk driver; Women travellers should be wary of taxis that have only male passengers; this is unlikely to be a taxi and is more likely a football team car or something; To get to us by taxi, go to the Mthatha long distance taxi rank which is about 300m west of the Shoprite at Circus Triangle. Ask for the taxi to Xhora/Elliotdale. It costs about R25 and takes about an hour (on the way, you may stop and change taxis at Mqanduli - the driver will organise this).

From Elliotdale/Xhora, you have 2 options. There are a handful of taxis that come directly to our village. Ask for the taxi to Nqileni or Bulungula or "Dave" (the last one leaves Elliotdale at about 3pm). OR catch a taxi from Elliotdale to Nkanya (R25, 2 hours). Before you get onto this taxi, confirm that they will drop you at the ferry ("eskepeni"). You will have to walk the last 800m from where the road ends to the ferry. The ferryman will row you across the Xhora river (R5). From there it takes about 35 minutes and is a stunning walk through a beautiful friendly village. If you want the cheapest and quickest way to get to Mthatha from Cape Town, take the DMJ Transport bus from the main Cape Town bus station (the DMJ office is next to the Greyhound office).

The bus is as luxurious as the Greyhound (toilet, video, drinks, etc), costs R350, takes only 13 hours (it uses a much shorter route than Greyhound/Translux) and on your return to Cape Town they drop you at the door of your lodge/house for free. (Tel: 021 419 4368). The only down side with coming to Bulungula on the DMJ bus is that it gets into Mthatha at around 9am while our shuttle only leaves Mthatha at 3pm... a long wait... (wait in the Wimpy in the shopping centre at the bus stop). Therefore, if you come by DMJ the best bet is to continue on local transport (minibuses) all the way to Bulungula (and get your first night free).

FOOD

EATING AT THE LODGE :

We fully cater for 3 meals a day at very reasonable prices: we cook excellent meat and veggie options every day. Our menu:

BREAKFAST :

Cereals/porridge (R30), cooked breakfasts (R60).

LUNCH :

monster toasted sandwiches (R40) and Xhosa traditional lunch (R60).

DINNER / SUPPER :

(all include side salad and cost R80): Malay Chicken Curry with Rotis, Lamb & Butternut Bredie,Cape Malay Bobotie with Yellow Rice, Swiss-style Alplermacaroni (a la Wood 'n' Spoon restaurant in Port St Johns), Sausage Stew with Umngqusho, Thai Green Chicken Curry, Fish & Veggie Frikkadels with Dhal... Delicious!!

DESSERT :

we have some wonderful desserts baked fresh daily including Sticky Toffee Malva Pudding, Tipsy Tart, Chocolate Cake, Apple Crumble and Peach Cake all served with either cream, hot custard or ice cream (all R25).

BAR :

our bar stocks beers, ciders, cold drinks, wine and some spirits. There is also munchie food: chips/crisps, chocolates, biscuits as well as cigarettes.

For self-caterers, there is only a very basic spaza shop nearby, so it's best to bring supplies with you but please leave as much packaging behind at the shop as possible. Also, there is limited fridge space, so please bring as few perishables as possible or bring a cooler box with ice.

ACCOMMODATION

For accommodation, we have 5 beautifully decorated huts with 4-6 beds and 5 beautiful huts with double beds (or 2 single beds). They all have bedding and beautiful views. We also have accommodation in lux safari tents which are on wooden platforms in the forest (most have sea views) and have a double bed or 2 single beds with bedding and an electric light... you can watch the dolphins from your bed!

The Lodge

Single, twin or double room R480 for the room per night

The Lodge

Camping: R120 per person per night (3-man tents or smaller only. Unfortunately no 4x4 self-catering campers allowed. Trans-African 4x4-ers get double room at camping rates!)

Triple room R570 per night

Triple room R600 per night

The Lodge

Dorm R190 per person per night

Luxury safari tent R420 per night

Luxury safari tent R450 per night

CANOEING and FISHING

Canoeing :

For a picturesque half day guided trip, why not paddle down the stunningly beautiful Xhora river? Take an easy 35 minute through the village with fantastic views of the bay and the valley until you reach this large, mangrove-lined river. Paddle upstream in the community’s two-man canoes past lush forested cliffs, ancient cycad trees, kamikaze jumping fish and vibrant bird life and choose a spot to chill and enjoy the view. Paddle downstream to the ocean and take an easy stroll back to the lodge along the beach. The round trip takes about 4 hours. Alternatively, if the pancake restaurant is open, you can stop there on your way back to the lodge.

Fishing :

There are many fish in the sea, particularly here in Bulungula. Let Mkhuseli teach you to catch one. Mkhuseli, who learnt from his dad, a master fisherman, will take you for two hours of angling on the rocks. He'll show you how to get bait – perhaps even a crayfish. Here crayfish are regarded as cockroaches, and no self-respecting fisherman would eat one! He'll arrange all the equipment for you and teach you how to bait you hook, cast your lines and catch the big one. If you do catch a whoppa, it's yours to cook and eat. He regularly lands some real giants – like in the photo - but of course there are no guarantees in this game. Learn to enjoy the wait, watch the dolphins and whales, dream about that fat one which is busy checking out your bait and enjoy the peace. Like surfing, fishing is as much a meditative sport as a physical one

HORSERIDING and VILLAGE TOUR

Wild Coast Hike

Take a spectacular guided hike along the pristine Wild Coast coastline and through friendly villages to Lubanzi or Coffee Bay. It takes 4 hours to Lubanzi, where you can sleep over at Wild Lubanzi or Mbolompo Homestay, and another 4 hours from Lubanzi to Coffee Bay. It is possible to walk to Coffee Bay in one day but it is a tough 8 hour trek. The lodge can arrange for your bags to be taken around to Coffee Bay, if organised in advance.

Guided Village Tour

Although the beach and river are the most visually striking features of Bulungula, the focus and culture of the lodge is the local village community. So far, the highlight for most of our guests has been a guided walk through the village with a translator. Each walk is different: some days you’ll visit the sangoma and stop off at a shebeen and have a few drinks with the merry old folk who’ll have a hundred questions about your marital status, how many cows you pay for a wife in your country and why you don't have kids yet, etc. On other days there might be a village party/funeral/wedding/feast in which case everyone will demand that you join in the festivities... there’s no telling what might happen, but one thing’s for sure, you will come away with a new sense of what a real “community” is and perhaps see that Western society’s greatest failing is its obsession with the individual at the expense of the community. Or maybe you’ll just have a laugh, and come stumbling back merry on umqombothi beer

SUNRISE PANCAKES and WOMEN POWER

Sunrise Pancakes

Watch a beautiful Bulungula sunrise on the dune overlooking the sea while munching on delicious pancakes with tea and coffee. In season (winter and spring) you're almost certain to see whales and dolphins. This activity is done at sunrise Wednesday mornings and requires a minimum of three people, so encourage other guests to sign up. To book, please write your name on the Sunrise Pancakes booking sheet by 8pm the night before. Please also pay the manager on duty the night before (to avoid no- shows). The date and meeting time should already be written on the booking sheet. The meeting point is in the lodge bar. If you are a group of three or more and want to do this activity on another day , then speak to the lodge manager and s/he'll see if Nosipho is available.

Nqileni Women Power

Are you wondering what the women in the village get up to during an average day? Why not spend a day with Nomentiza and be a local woman for a day? You'll s tart at the river where you'll be taught how to carry water on your head. Next it's off to the forest where you collect wood for the fire. Then it's off to find , pick and cook a delicious traditional lunch.

While the pots are simmering, you'll get involved in whatever activities are happening on the day: making mud bricks, hewing the maize field, re- dunging the floor, mud-plastering the walls or just hanging out and chatting over a drink at the shebeen.

Although this day focuses on women in the village, guys are more than welcome to join in - seeing men carry water and firewo od will do wonders for the cause of gender equality in our community! This day is all about spending time getting to know our community, so ask lots of questions and get involved! Nomentiza is still learning English so speak slowly and practice your body language!

TESTIMONIALS

  • Spectacular... something very special... should be on your must-do list. Lonely Planet's Pick of the Wild Coast.

  • Second Best Eco-lodge in the World.

  • Ethical Travel Award: Worldwide runner-up

  • One of the World's Top 25 Ultimate Ethical Travel Experiences

  • One of the first lodges in the world to be Fair Trade accredited.

CONTACT US

Directions:

The Lodge

Address:

Postal: P.O. Box 43 Mqanduli 5080 South Africa
Physical: Bulungula / Nqileni Village Eliotdale District

Email/Phone:

Tel: +27 (0)47 577 8900
Alternatively try: +27 (0)83 391 5525
Email: paradise@bulungula.com