Bulungula is Paradise, Really
Where to begin with Bulungula? I guess it all started when I was reading the lonely planet book to plan my backpacking trip to South Africa. I came across Bulungula without paying too much attention to it. It was only when I was reading the lonely planet forum for ideas that I noticed travelers emphasizing on making a stop in Bulungula. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to spend some time on the Wild Coast because it’s not as easily accessible as the garden route. And of course, that translates into less tourists and unspoiled beaches. So after reading so much about the Bulungula lodge, I decided I would go out of my way and drive 3 hrs on unpaved roads from Mthatha to get there. Oh was I motivated!
You absolutely need to download the map from the site if you plan on going there. You’ll be driving on unpaved roads most of the time and you’ll only see signs once your 5 mins away from the lodge. I was really nervous about the drive and it was such a relief when we got there without getting lost.
Bulungula is an eco-friendly backpacker lodge located in the Ngileni village. The concept began by a young man from Cape Town who wanted to help communities in need. He thought the best way to do so would be to build a lodge in a township and employ members of the community to build and run the place. Bulungula is 40% owned by the community. On the Sunday we arrived, there were many young kids hanging out with us at the lodge. It’s also the only place in the town that has electricity. It’s really cool because they use solar power to cook and their solar toast bread is delicious. Oh, and did I mention they have rocket showers? So cool!
The reason why the lodge was built where it is now is because of its stunning location. It’s paradise. Really! I mean, can you imagine a small lodge with 10 huts near the ocean, surrounded by white sand and sand dunes? But most importantly, with no tourists in your way? That’s the real beauty about this place. It’s so unspoiled that the only “people” you’ll run into are cows who are chilling at the beach. And ok, maybe a few local fishermen. But you get the point!
The lodge offers a few interesting tours to keep you busy if you don’t feel like sunbathing. You can spend time with a local family, a herbalist, go fishing , canoeing or horse back riding. There is also a small local restaurants nearby that’s famous for their pancakes. I didn’t go to tell you the truth because I loved having the solar sandwiches at the lodge. We ate so well there. It’s pretty much the only option you have unless you want to drive 3hrs to a proper restaurant. But there was no need to go anywhere because their breakfast, lunch and dinner menus were delicious! They also offer vegetarian meals. The concept is pretty simple. They have a sheet where they keep track of what people ordered or took during the day. It’s everyone’s responsibility to write it down and of course, they believe in honesty.
Needless to say that places like this are almost non-existent now. It was really nice to see people from townships with little education take the sheet, enter it in excel and calculate costs. These individuals had no background in tourism before the lodge was built so it’s absolutely amazing to see their progress.
I heard the government is considering to build a highway near the shore of the Wild Coast. That unfortunately means that the beaches will soon be accessible and tourists will soon discover this remote place. I’m not sure how the local community will accept the increase in tourism if the roads get built near Bulungula. One thing for sure, if you’re considering visiting this lodge, book your trip as soon as possible!
Spending three nights at the lodge was definitely the highlight of my trip. Its stunning location, closeness to the local community and simply watching the million stars in the sky is something you cannot imagine unless you are there and experience it for yourself.