Destination: South Africa’s Wild Coast

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“Check out,” says David, a commenter on an earlier EcoTravelLogue post. “The local communities have cooperative and equity partnership…. Bulungula has composting toilets, solar electricity only, banana circles for waste water treatment etc.” So I checked it out, and it looks like a pretty great place.

For starters, Bulungula is in a spectacular setting on South Africa’s Wild Coast. “Beach, forest, lagoon, rolling hills, dolphins, whales, you name it,” says the Web site. “The sky is so clear, we guarantee shooting stars — look at the night’s sky for half an hour without seeing one, and you stay that night free.” The place runs on solar power, their rocket showers are legendary and the 10 huts are positioned for great sea and forest views. Sarah, a resident artist from London, spent nine months custom-painting each hut and even the odorless compost toilets.

Take a walk around the village at any time of the day and night and you’ll be invited into the mud huts for a drink and a chat. The Nqileni village owns 40 percent of the lodge and are an integral part of daily life there. No fences, no crime, no beggars, no hassles, just friendly smiles, the Web site says.

During the day you can wander around the village — horses are available — or you can chill out in hammocks or on the beach. Local fishermen will show you how to catch fish with throw nets, catch crayfish and octopus by hand and make your own fishing rod from wood and wire. Canoe trips up the Xhora River take you into the wilderness where kamikaze fish jump into your boat and Malachite kingfishers hunt in the forested cliffs. Ancient cycad trees, relics from the dinosaur era, line the riverbank.

“And at night there are the parties: real booming beach fire parties — we dance until dawn. And if you’re lucky you’ll dance on the stars.” Not sure what that means about dancing on the stars, but I reckon if you take some time to visit Bulungula, you’ll find out.

Fair Trade in Tourism gives the place a thumbs-up. “Bulungula has helped the Nqileni community start a number of 100 percent community-owned and operated enterprises… These have created jobs and income for 33 families over and above those employed directly at the lodge.” Bulungula also has established a number of HIV awareness programs and helps local residents to access treatment at the local clinic. The community is undergoing intensive training on permaculture and organic farming to improve nutrition and create surpluses that can be sold to the lodge restaurant.

But what about all the pollution you would cause by flying all that way on an airliner? Here’s a response from Dave Martin, one of the lodge’s operators, that he sent to the Guardian.

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