I recently had the privilege to join a press trip to the remote Wild Coast to visit some of the FTTSA accredited community tourism projects in the area. One of the establishments we visited was Bulungula Lodge, situated on a remote stretch of the Eastern Cape coast, overlooking a deserted beach and surrounded by rolling hills and coastal forest.
Bulungula Lodge is one of the most unique eco-lodges in South Africa and also one of the first establishments to receive Fair Trade in Tourism accreditation. The lodge was established by Dave Martin in 2004 and the Ngileni village has a 40% ownership. Besides being eco friendly with solar power, rocket showers, compost toilets and a strict recycling scheme, the lodge is also actively involved in assisting community members to set up enterprises that provide a service to visitors to the area, and a number of tourism entrepreneurs have emerged. Activities on offer at the lodge range from horseback riding, canoeing and fishing excursions, village walks and excursions to a nearby forest with a traditional herbalist.
During our stay we signed up for the Nqileni Women Power Tour and spent a day with Khululwa to find out more about the daily life of Xhosa women in this rural community. Traditionally it is the duty of the women and young girls to perform all household chores while men tend to livestock or take jobs in the cities. Before we could join Khululwa and assist with her daily tasks, we had to get our faces painted and decorated in traditional Xhosa “make-up”. Whilst we assisted with the collection of water from a nearby freshwater spring and gathering dry firewood from the surrounding coastal forest, Khululwa prepared a traditional lunch of chopped and cooked cabbage and maize meal or “ipapa”. While the pots are simmering, visitors 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 about village life in general.
For travelers who are spending a couple of days at Bulungula (you really need a week to do everything on offer) a relaxing paddle down the nearby Xhora River is another option offered by the people of Nqileni village. Grab a packed lunch from the lodge (or opt to stop at the village restaurant) and set off in a two-man canoe for a gentle paddle along the Xhora River past lush forest cliffs and riverbanks lined with ancient cycad trees. The guided excursion takes about 4 hours and the trip ends at the Xhora River Mouth from where you can return to the lodge along the beach.
Accommodation at Bulungula is provided in traditional Xhosa style huts and the lodge run off solar power. Facilities consist of rocket showers (a device using parrafin to heat water) and composting toilets.
For more information visit their website