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GETTING TO BULUNGULA

Paradise is by definition hard to get to, but we reckon it’s a fun mission and it is oh so worth it. We are located on the Wild Coast of the Eastern Cape, formerly known as the Transkei Region. Destinations like Coffee Bay and Lubanzi are only a hike along the beach away.

In July 2023 Bulungula Lodge became the first lodge in Africa to offer a Solar Powered Tourist Shuttle! This shuttle fetches guests in Mthatha and Coffee Bay. See below for details.

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. Currently Google Maps is suggesting routes that are undrivable. So if you are driving, please use only the Google Navigation links given below under “SELF-DRIVE”. These links will show you the correct route using Google Maps. Make sure to download Google Offline Maps (via the round top right icon in your Google Maps app) before you start driving as you won’t always have a connection. 

Notice to Guests: Beware of Common Scam

When driving in South Africa, you will never need to pay money to roadside officials for tolls or any other reason. This is a common scam. Only stop for official police vehicles at roadblocks or large protests. Always refuse to pay and drive on.

SA Airlink flies directly from Johannesburg to Mthatha daily (book well in advance to get cheaper seats). If you would like to catch our SOLAR POWERED electric shuttle (Tue, Thur, Fri and Sunday, R200 per person, 3:30pm), 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.

When booking your return flight home, please book a flight that leaves Mthatha at 2pm or later (on Tue, Thur, Fri, Sun). If you wish to travel on non-shuttle days please contact us to help arrange a special taxi (more expensive than our shuttle).

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 please only use the Google Direction links below to avoid Google taking you on insane shortcuts that are undrivable. 

If you are driving from EAST LONDON to Bulungula, please click on this link:

https://goo.gl/maps/AgpXxLmUTkM8vXxj7

 

If you are driving from MTHATHA to Bulungula, please click on this link:

https://goo.gl/maps/E1FSmtrT7qyhfKFq9

 

If you are driving from COFFEE BAY in a normal car (not a 4×4) to Bulungula, please click on this link:

https://goo.gl/maps/exqxek8chKyooBQk8

 

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. Please use this parking and do not park directly at the lodge / at the rondavels. 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. Please click on this link for correct Google directions:

https://maps.app.goo.gl/6oHZPGMBensL1vWJA

When following the above directions you will arrive at a new bridge across the Bulungula river. Cross over that and then cross two more streams until you arrive at the Bulungula parking. Leave your car there and walk the last 500m to the lodge. Please use this parking and do not park directly at the lodge / at the rondavels. Parking costs R15. 

Our SOLAR POWEREDD electric shuttle collects from the Mthatha Shell Ultra City N2 (Translux, and Intercape bus stop) at 3:30pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays (R200 per person). You MUST call us a few days before to book your seat and thus ensure that the shuttle is sent to fetch you. 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).

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 R60. 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 3:30pm… a long wait…. Therefore, if you come by DMJ the best bet is to continue on local transport (minibuses) all the way to Bulungula or relax at the Steers restaurant at the Mthatha Shell Ultra City.

SA Airlink flies directly from Johannesburg to Mthatha daily (book well in advance to get cheaper seats). If you would like to catch our SOLAR POWERED electric shuttle (Tue, Thur, Fri and Sunday, R200 per person, 3:30pm), 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.

When booking your return flight home, please book a flight that departs from Mthatha at 2pm or later (on Tue, Thur, Fri, Sun). If you wish to travel on non-shuttle days please contact us to help arrange a special taxi (more expensive than our shuttle).

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. Other airlines include:  CemAir, Airlink and SA Airways.  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 an Uber or Bolt cab from the Airport to the East London Windmill Roadhouse bus station where you can catch an InterCape bus (these depart EL at 10:50am) to Mthatha where our shuttle collects on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays from the Mthatha Shell Ultra City at 3:30pm, R200 per person.

It is usually possible to drive to the lodge with any car. However the recent rains made the road more rocky than usually, so we currently only recommend driving it with a high clearance car (this means you can use a normal small car which has a ground clearance of more than 190mm). Also be prepared to having to drive slowly and plan your timings accordingly. Please use Google navigation to find us BUT please only use the Google Direction links below to avoid Google taking you on insane shortcuts that are undrivable. 

NOTE: Should you be traveling with a small clearance car, please rather use the option of having our electric shuttle pick you up in Mthatha. Please contact the lodge to make arrangements to be picked up in Mthatha (i.e. at the airport, where you can also leave your car). The shuttle operates on Tue, Thur, Fri and Sundays, departing Mthatha at 3:30 pm, and costs R200 per person. Special shuttles (more expensive) can be arranged for other days.

If you are driving from EAST LONDON to Bulungula, please click on this link:

https://goo.gl/maps/AgpXxLmUTkM8vXxj7

 

If you are driving from MTHATHA to Bulungula, please click on this link:

https://goo.gl/maps/E1FSmtrT7qyhfKFq9

 

If you are driving from COFFEE BAY in a normal car (not a 4×4) to Bulungula, please click on this link:

https://goo.gl/maps/exqxek8chKyooBQk8

 

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. Please use this parking and do not park directly at the lodge / at the rondavels. Parking costs R15 per car per night.

Road blocks
It’s election season in South Africa, and in the Eastern Cape that can occasionally lead to community roadblocks. These roadblocks are a form of protest by communities complaining about very real problems related to water access, school-building conditions and the bad state of the roads, amongst other issues. These protests are not always a waste of time and in some cases, they lead to problems being solved.

Roadblocks on major highways like the N2 are normally cleared by the police within a few hours. So the best thing to do is either wait, or to ask the police if there is an alternative route that you can use.

Roadblocks on smaller roads including gravel roads can take the whole day to clear. The best bet is to talk nicely to the protesters and to explain that you are a tourist and ask them for their advice as to what you should do. Protesters are normally friendly and are complaining to the government about really important issues – you as a tourist are definitely not a target in any way.

NEVER try to drive through or around a roadblock without permission – that is a very, very serious offence. And please don’t be sarcastic or a know-it-all talking about the futility of protest and the need to “vote better” or whatever. You do not know the local realities, so just be cool and friendly and treat it as an opportunity to learn about local life. If you encounter a roadblock, please contact us as well as we will also be able to advise on alternative routes. Roadblocks are very rare, so the chances are that you won’t see one during your entire holiday.

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 please only use the Google Direction links below to avoid Google taking you on insane shortcuts that are undrivable. 

If you are driving from EAST LONDON to Bulungula, please click on this link:

https://goo.gl/maps/AgpXxLmUTkM8vXxj7

 

If you are driving from MTHATHA to Bulungula, please click on this link:

https://goo.gl/maps/E1FSmtrT7qyhfKFq9

 

If you are driving from COFFEE BAY in a normal car (not a 4×4) to Bulungula, please click on this link:

https://goo.gl/maps/exqxek8chKyooBQk8

 

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. Please use this parking and do not park directly at the lodge / at the rondavels. Parking costs R15 per car per night.

Our SOLAR POWERED electric shuttle collects from the Mthatha Shell Ultra City N2 (Intercape bus stop) at 3:30pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays (R200 per person). You MUST call us a few days before to book your seat and thus ensure that the shuttle is sent to fetch you. 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).

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 next to the BP petrol station in Madeira Street (use Uber or Bolt). Ask for the taxi to Xhora/Elliotdale (two names for the same place). It costs about R60 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 R60. 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 similarly luxurious as the InterCape (toilet, video, drinks, etc), and takes only 13 hours (it uses a much shorter route than Intercape) 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 3:30pm… a long wait… (wait at the Mthatha Plaza mall where there are lots of restaurants). Therefore, if you come by DMJ the best bet is to continue on local transport (minibuses) all the way to Bulungula.

Get in touch!

Tel: +27 (0)47 577 8900 | WhatsApp: +27 (0)83 391 5525
Email: paradise@bulungula.com
Postal: P.O. Box 43 Mqanduli 5080 South Africa
Physical: Bulungula / Nqileni Village, Elliotdale District
For bookings click here. Download our map here: map