The Bulungula Lodge is situated in Nqileni village ("q" = a click sound) - in "the most beautiful location of any lodge in South Africa". Here the visitors can enjoy the forest, lagoon, rolling hills, dolphins, whales, you name it. The visitors have even a shooting star guarantee - if you look at the night's sky for half an hour without seeing one, you stay that night free at the Bulungula Lodge. The Bulungula Lodge runs on solar power and you can look out for the brand new bicycle powered blender producing the ultimate eco-smoothies. Let's let the representatives of Bulungula Lodge themselves describe what the travelers can experience in Nqileni village:
During the day you can wander around the village - horses are available - or you can chill out in our hammocks or on the beach. Our music collection is superb. You 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. Lindile is your main man who'll 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...
The village is (or has previously been) one of the poorest and also one of the most remote villages in South Africa without no road, school, running water, toilets, school, clinic and electricity. People living in Nqileni had no prior experience of tourism industry before 2004, and as very common, the tourism initiative was introduced to the community from outside. The representatives of Bulungula Lodge describe that the tourism project was started in order to see whether backpacker tourism could be used as an effective poverty-fighting tool.
This tourism initiative has been certified by Fair Trade in Tourism South Africa, which aims to ensure that the people whose land, natural resources, labour, knowledge and culture are used for tourism activities, actually benefit from tourism. The lodge has been a big success as it has created jobs for over 35 people in the village through working at the lodge directly and through the community-owned and run business. After the beginning of the tourism initiative, the Bulungula Lodge started to concentrate increasingly on community development projects. Therefore there was a need to start a dedicated Non-Profit Organization (NGO) called the Bulungula Incubator, which focuses solely on community development work and be separate from the lodge business. The community projects have been aimed to facilitate access to quality education and improved life opportunities - one of the current projects is to rehabilitate the local mud school which collapsed recently. Bulungula Incubator has aimed to improve the health status of the population of Nqileni and surrounding villages and to ensure access to clean water and sanitation facilities.
Tourism has been directly used as a tool to decrease levels of poverty through strengthening and diversification of the local economy. There has been also capacity building on permaculture and organic farming in order to improve nutrition and create surpluses that can be sold to the lodge restaurant. They have also started with a new seedling nursery and selling the vegetable seedlings to neighbor communities has brought complementary income to the people in the community. Bulungula Lodge is willing to offer free accommodation to anyone who has skills identified by the community as being in need. Right now there is a special need for a qualified nurse and a maths and science teacher who can stay with the community at least for 1 year.
Read more about Bulungula Logde and the Bulungula Incubator here.
Text: Emily H?ckert
Images: Bulungula Lodge