"Spectacular...something very special... should be on your must-do list."
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.
within South Africa: 047 577 8900
for the Bulungula map (driving directions)
Why you should come to Bulungula
The Bulungula Lodge is the realisation of a dream dreamt during years of travels through the most remote parts of Africa, China and South America: to create an eco-friendly backpackers lodge in the most beautiful place in South Africa, owned and managed by a vibrant, traditional community.
The lodge is situated in the most beautiful location of any lodge in South Africa - on the breathtaking Wild Coast. Have a look at the photo’s. Beach, forest, lagoon, rolling hills, dolphins, whales, you name it. The sky is so clear, we guarantee shooting stars – look at the night’s sky for half an hour without seeing one, and you stay that night free.
We run on solar power, our rocket showers are legendary and our 10 huts have been positioned for great sea and forest views. Sarah, our artist friend from London, spent 9 months creating a visual spectacle – each hut has been theme painted and our odourless compost toilets are the most colourful in Africa.The community of Nqileni village owns 100% of the lodge and is an integral part of daily life here. No fences, no crime, no beggars, no hassles, just friendly smiles. Take a walk around the village at any time of the day or night and you’ll be invited into the mud huts for a drink and a chat.
During the day you can wander around the village – with or without a guide – or you can chill out in our hammocks or on the beach. Our music collection is superb and aims to introduce guests to new and old pan-African sounds as well as eclectic chillout vibes. Girls can head off with the village women for a crazy day of face painting, brick-making, maize stamping, traditional food preparation, beer brewing and firewood collecting. Local fishermen will show you how to catch fish with throw nets, catch crayfish and octopus by hand and to make your own fishing rod from wood and wire. Zameka will lead you on your journeys through the village and local culture. We have a lot of wise old people in the village who have seen it all and have amazing stories to tell. Go meet uTata Ntsundu, the elder who can tell you anything you want to know about the history of the area… despite having children who are now pensioners, he still remembers everything. Or maybe you want to wander through the beautiful indigenous forest with Mel'dinga, the traditional herbalist, and learn about the weird and wonderful natural remedies found here. Nolamete, the sangoma/igqirha, is always the first to laugh, and will beat the drum into oblivion after a few jugs of Umqombothi beer. Weekends are merry – it seems every second hut has brewed beer and you won’t escape without trying some. And if you're here mid-month you will have crazy fun in the village at the traditional, two-day uHube party - where you'll definitely learn some new dance moves.
The community offer canoe trips up the beautiful Xhora River where kamikaze fish may jump into your boat and Malachite kingfishers hunt in the forested cliffs upstream. You will also see the ancient cycad trees, relics from the dinosaur era. All this with a cooler box of beers... If canoeing is not your thing, you can also explore the village and gallop along the beach on horseback.
But don't take our word for it, click here to see what other travellers
Why you shouldn’t come to Bulungula
If you are on a whistle-stop tour ticking off locations on your list in a mad rush to "do" South Africa in ten days, then you're probably not going to be able to fit us in on your hectic mission. It is not worth coming here for just 1 night. We believe travelling is about immersing yourself in new experiences and being open to the possibility that you'll click with a place and stay for a week or more. If your time is very limited, rather spend more time at fewer places.
As we have become more well-known over the years, we have noticed that occasionally we have guests who choose to ignore all our descriptions of what Bulungula is and how we are a part of a traditional Xhosa community in a remote village. These guests choose Bulungula after merely looking at the price and the proximity to the beautiful beach and then are unhappy (which makes us unhappy) when they find that Bulungula is not a resort with a fence with the “locals” on the outside and the guests on the inside. Bulungula is an integrated space where you'll sometimes find yourself sharing common areas with members of our community who may not speak English but are friendly and interesting (there'll always be a manager around who can translate if necessary). So please take the time to read through this website and make sure that we are offering the vibe you're looking for. This is not an old-style, white South African beach resort.
Obviously racists, sexists and other negative people are not welcome at all.
As the Lonely Planet says, we "overlook one of the most spectacular and remote beaches on the Wild Coast [and the lodge is] something very special, and should be on your must-do list, but getting there is a mission".
Paradise is by definition hard to get to, but we reckon it's a fun mission. Which ever way you choose to travel, please call us the day before to let us know.
SELF-DRIVE (click here for map): 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 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.
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.
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 R80 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.
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:
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).
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!
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 (R25), cooked breakfasts (R50).
LUNCH: monster toasted sandwiches (R30) and Xhosa traditional lunch (R40).
DINNER/SUPPER: (all include side salad and cost R70): 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 R20).
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.
What to bring
The only things you need to bring other than the obvious is a towel, a torch, a raincoat in the rainy season and a smile.
We have helped the community start a number of 100% community-owned and run businesses including horseriding, canoeing, fishing, guiding, baking, sewing, cooking, wood-carving and environmental protection projects. We have helped some women in the village start the now legendary iLanga Fire Restaurant with the best sweet and savoury pancakes in Africa. Two women from the village have been professionally trained as masseuses and offer luxurious full body and Indian head massages for those needing some pampering. All these community-owned businesses have created jobs and income for 33 families over and above those employed directly at the lodge. Obviously 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.
Over the years we have launched a large number of education, health and infrastructural projects to assist members of our community escape the poverty trap. In 2007 we decided to formalise these projects within a separate non-profit NGO called the Bulungula Incubator (BI). Since then the BI has rehabilitated our local primary school, built and run four world class pre-schools and two mini- clinics in our surrounding villages, embarked on a number of ambitious agricultural projects, implemented various clean drinking water initiatives and lots, lots more.
You can visit the Bulungula Incubator's website at www.bulungulaincubator.org
There is still much to do and, with this in mind, we encourage you to visit the BI website where volunteer needs are listed.
within South Africa: 047 577 8900