PLEASE NOTE: If your booking is for within 48 HOURS, please phone us instead to make your reservation – thanks!
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. Download our map here: map
SA Airlink flies directly from Johannesburg to Mthatha daily (book well in advance to get cheaper seats). If you would like to catch our shuttle (Tue, Thur, Fri and Sunday), you must get a flight that arrives in Mthatha before 3pm. You’ll need to use the Bolt app (like Uber) to get a lift to the Mthatha Shell Ultra City (+- R80). Alternatively you can hire a car at Mthatha Airport (Avis, First Car Rental, Hertz and Europcar) and drive to our parking area.
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.
It is possible to drive to the lodge with any car. Please note that the last 40km 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 use Google navigation to find us but only begin navigating to the lodge once you are already on the Coffee Bay tar road (otherwise Google uses a crazy shortcut on bad roads). If you don’t use Google Navigation, 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 road to our village comes to our parking area which is 5 min/500m walk away from the lodge. Parking costs R15 per car per night.
If you have a 4×4 or a pickup/bakkie and it is not raining, then there is a nice shortcut to Bulungula that shortens the journey by 45 minutes. There is a new bridge that does not yet appear on Google Maps navigation, so you need to navigate as follows: First navigate to HERE. Cross over the new bridge and then begin navigating to HERE. Continue straight over the Bulungula river and across two more streams until you arrive at the Bulungula parking. Leave your car there and walk the last 500m to the lodge.
Our shuttle collects from the Mthatha Shell Ultra City N2 (Baz Bus, Translux, Greyhound and Intercape 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 R130 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.
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.
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 (two names for the same place). It costs about R40 and takes about an hour (on the way, you may stop and change taxis at Mqanduli – the driver will organise this).
From Elliotdale/Xhora 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) – it costs about R40. 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), and 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. 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).