Tag Archives: tourism

Bulungula Lodge: Green and Serene

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BULUNGULA LODGE: Green and eco-friendly

THERE are very few lodges in the world that can say they run on the same amount of power used by a toaster; a full 24-hour day on what a toaster uses in an hour, to be exact. Bulungula, situated just south of Coffee Bay on South Africa’s Wild Coast, is one such lodge.

Where hills and sea meetThe Wild Coast earns its name by being a watery graveyard to several shipwrecks. Whale bones dot the coastline and it is largely an unfenced area populated by pastoral communities. Bulungula was founded where hills meet sea and is in among a variety of flora and fauna. From the lodge one looks down onto a glorious beach and estuary. The backdrop is those lovely velvety hills with springy grass that spills down the dunes and kisses the rocks and sand below. Goats, cows, chickens, ducks, dogs, donkeys, pigs, sheep and horses all roam freely, and down by the river’s edge, mangroves flourish.

Bulungula, with its use of solar power, rocket showers and compost toilets, is a living example of how tourism can, in fact, be eco-friendly, clean and sustainable. Grey water from the sinks feeds the vegetable garden and the lodge has calculated its annual carbon footprint and plants trees to offset this. Cultural fusion is at its heart, and the realisation that there are many different ways to live your life is something that will have you hankering for more.

Accommodation at Bulungula Lodge

Bulungula Safari TentBulungula offers lodgings in either rondavels or safari tents. Four-bed dormitories are available for those on a budget­. The huts are more spacious and central, but the tents are more private­. I opted for the latter and although I often had to fight my way through the dune bush in pitch darkness, the double bed that awaited was cosy and the wooden deck perfect for star gazing.

(It says on the Bulungula website that if you don’t see a shooting star within half an hour during a clear night, you get that night’s accommodation free. I checked and saw three).

One is able to go to bed with the tent door left open with the roar of the ocean in your ears. In the mornings you can view the sunrise over the horizon without lifting your head from your pillow.

Bulungula Lodge: South Africa

Crime and safety at Bulungula Lodge

It’s hard for a South African to think of any place in the country as crime free. Because the Bulungula community owns 40% of the lodge, there is a vested interest, and since its establishment in 2004, there has been no recorded incident of even the most minor theft. Once you accept that crime is non-existent, it’s quite liberating not having to constantly worry about your belongings going walkabout.

Cellphones lie in a neat row on the kitchen windowsill while cameras and laptops lay about on tables and couches. Anything can be left quite safely in your unlocked hut or open tent. So long as an inquisitive goat doesn’t mistake your goods for lunch, everything can be left with peace of mind.

The Bulungula Lodge is the realisation of a dream dreamt during years of travels through the most remote parts of Africa, China and South America: to create an eco-friendly backpackers lodge in the most beautiful place in South Africa in partnership with a vibrant, traditional community.” – www.bulungula.com

The people you meet at Bulungula

A place like Bulungula attracts people of all ages from all walks of life and from all corners of the globe. During my four-day stay, I crossed paths with Sam — a video editor from north London, Matt — a surfer and ex-banker from New Zealand who sold all his possessions to spend a year travelling through South America; sweet, tattoo-clad Stephanie from Switzerland, Melissa, the 23-year-old Canadian who is bravely journeying from Cape to Cairo, Keegan from Cape Town, and a few American girls doing missionary work. It was a real treat to interact with such well-travelled, open and friendly people.

Things to do at Bulungula Lodge

BulungulaIf lying on the grass with a beer and good book or wallowing in a rock pool isn’t enough action for you, there are several things to do at Bulungula. The lodge and its activities have completely uplifted the surrounding villages and several community members have started their own small businesses. There is much to learn too if you immerse yourself within Xhosa culture.

I indulged in a two-hour horse ride which started along the beach and then headed inland and uphill. With the horses being as tame and well-disciplined as they are, no riding experience is required. Other options are to take a tour with the local herbalist, enjoy a full body massage, hike, fish, crayfish dive, glide down the Xora River in a canoe, or learn how to play the hypnotic bongos. Popular board games are available for rainy days.

I honestly can’t commend Bulungula enough. However, if luxury, comfort and privacy is your thing, it may not be your cup of tea, but I think it’s a must-do for any city dweller with a sense of adventure. The laid-back nature of the place, the hospitality, safety and friendliness may well change one’s outlook in pretty profound ways.

Just be warned that the ride is rough when driving there. It is unknown how solid your bones need to be in order to traverse a severely pot-holed road for 36 kilometres. But then again, isn’t being hard to get to one of the definitions of a paradise?

The Mauritius holiday experience

With times being so tough and people feeling increasingly crabby about life, you might like to know that affordable holidays do exist out there. Mauritius is one such destination that is the perfect place to get away from it all and is one superb and reasonably priced holiday experience.

TRAVEL: The Mauritius holiday experience

Air MauritiusMAURITIUS is a multicultural mix of people, places and melodies. The language is French, the cuisine Indian and Chinese, the massages Swedish and below the turquoise waters – something totally out of this world.

There is something very special about island life. The atmosphere is friendly and relaxed and there is a sense that the surrounding waters protect one from the harshness of the rest of the world.

A brief history of Mauritius

Vasco De Gama checking out MauritiusMauritius has an interesting and unique history. Originally discovered by the Portuguese and visited by the Dutch in the 16th century, the island was eventually colonised by the French. They established Port Louis as an important rest-stop when travelling to the Indian spice lands.

The British soon realised the usefulness of having a colony at Mauritius, and after a few naval battles with the French, soon took the island for themselves. Labour came in the form of Indian and Chinese immigrants, which had a major influence on Mauritian culture.

Languages of Mauritius

EducationMauritian school boys and girls and educated in both English and French. However, one can also happen across a few Italian and Hindi speakers. Being addressed in an accent that can only be described as a thick mixture of an Indian and French accent, can be difficult to understand, but is entirely enchanting when spoken by the female persuasion.

The Le Palmiste Resort & Spa

BeachThe beaches of Mauritius are adorned with hotels and resorts with new construction underway 24/7 – even on Sundays. I was surprises to find the holiday destination largely under-developed. However, the locals appeared to feel apprehensive towards their natural beauty becoming more of a tourist island. According to a local taxi driver, tourism is booming – with three planes arriving from South Africa alone per day.

Le Palmiste Resort & SpaThe Le Palmiste Resort & Spa is a three star hotel that can be found on the north-western part of Mauritius. Having not experienced much hotel-life myself, I found the service, amenities and food to be far better than expected.

The hotel has three swimming pools, lounge chairs aplenty, table tennis, a volley ball area and hosted a bingo night and an evening of traditional song and dance known as Sega. The average age at the Le Palmiste was about 60, but you can spot the love-birds like an over-dressed penguin at a party.

Hotel roomI lazed in the biggest bed I’ve ever slept in – in an air-conditioned room with a balcony and a view. After being too fearful to touch the minibar on the first night, I was delighted to discover that everything in it was complimentary; and replenished every day! The room and on-suite bathroom were thoroughly cleaned once a day and there was a huge TV across from the bed if one wished to watch some French television. Perhaps the only thing lacking was a large bath.

Mauritian Food & Drink

St Aubin Mauritian RhumI wouldn’t say that Mauritius has any traditional cuisine. Their food is a mix and Indian and Chinese and seafood; so lots of spices, fried rice and noodles and seafood of every variety. They also like their chilies!

Food at the Le Palmiste is buffet style – so all you can eat at every meal. Breakfast was a real treat and came in the form of pancakes with chocolate sauce, croissants, hams, cheeses, fruit and filter coffee.

Mauritius has just about as much sugarcane as Kwa-Zulu natal, so the obvious bi-product is Mauritian rhum. There is vanilla rhum, coffee rhum, caramel rhum, orange or pineapple rhum and then of course the specialty – St Aubin Mauritian rhum. Every guest is offered a bottle upon arrival.
One glass resulted in a hangover.

Mauritius Ocean Life

SnorklingIf you are a diver, snorkeler, or just interested in marine life, you will be spoilt for choice in the waters of Mauritius. The ocean is wave-less due to a seemingly never-ending coral reef, and the water is crystal clear. Diving in just about anywhere will see you immediately immersed in a colourful underwater universe simply teaming with life!

There are options to go six feet under in a submarine, enjoy a glass-bottomed boat ride, be pulled behind a boat on tubes, parasail, windsurf, ski, just about anything a veteran beach-goer could wish for. A great experience is to take a catamaran trip to the smaller, northern islands for a full day. Food is served, the snorkling is fantastic and the complimentary cocktails go down really well.

One does need to be careful not to be taken for a financial ride however. I soon learnt to haggle prices down 50% or find another local who offered the same services for a better price. Everything for a tourist is negotiable.

The solo experience

solo travellerMauritius was my first time traveling overseas and I chose to go at it alone. There are pros and cons to the solo traveling experience, but I couldn’t have enjoyed my own company more. Being able to escape from your more real existence and do as you please, when you please, is just blissful. You certainly never feel alone with this holiday experience.

I did however meet an Afrikaans mother and daughter from Pretoria who had taken the same holiday package deal. They were more than welcoming and friendly and really made my whole experience that much more enjoyable.

Irene and Adri MalanIt is also quite difficult to take photos that include yourself or keep an eye on your stuff when you’re on your own. More importantly, it is really great to share these sorts of experiences with someone, and I am forever grateful for having met such accommodating travelers on my trip.

This holiday was booked through Pentravel and cost R10 480 on a half-board basis (breakfast and dinner daily). The price included a return air ticket ex Durban, transport to and from the airport and seven nights in the Le Palmiste hotel in a single occupancy superior room with comprehensive travel insurance. The Afrikaans mother and daughter I met booked the same package but with twin sharing accommodation ex Johannesburg through Computicket and paid R7 499 per person sharing.

If a relaxing holiday is what you’re looking for, Mauritius is certainly a great choice. Bon Voyage!

A first in the history of the universe

Since the days of Copernicus it has been humankind’s dream to fly. But not just paragliding off a cliff or traveling at 20 000 feet in a commercial airplane – that’s easy. No we want to reach outer space and experience weightlessness that modern day dieting doesn’t quite allow.

This is soon to be made possible with the unveiling of eccentric billionaire Richard Branson’s WhiteKnightTwo. The ship is to be officially launched at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California this week and is expected to take to the ‘skies’ by late September.

WhiteKnightTwo is being knighted as the world’s most advanced payload carrier with the best fuel efficiency of any aircraft ever built in history. It is also the world’s first 100% carbon composite aircraft and will be the first commercial vehicle offering tourist trips to outer space.

According to Virgin Galactic (the world’s first spaceline) WhiteKnightTwo will reach an altitude of 50 000 feet before releasing SpaceShipTwo – an aircraft that will take six passengers and two pilots up to 360 000 feet. Traveling speed: just over three times the speed of sound.

WhiteKnightTwo takes to the skies

Tickets to get onboard WhiteKnightTwo aren’t cheap bordering around $200 000. However, some 254 people have already forked out enough cash to earn priority seating in the first couple of years of sub-orbital flying, making total sales in the region of $36 million.

For those of us back on Earth, WhiteKnightTwo has been designed with additional abilities in mind. With a staunch under-carrying capacity, engineers are looking to see whether the aircraft can be used as a forest fire water-bomber. Other ideas are to use the vehicle for microgravity science flights, high-altitude testing, and to toss a few microsatellites into low Earth orbit while its up there.

But no doubt Branson’s new toy is primarily another multi-billion dollar enterprise, but at least it’s a first in sub-orbital history,

“It is these spaceships that will allow affordable sub-orbital space tourism for the first time in the history of the universe”

Richard Branson