Learn the traditional way of life in Nqileni village

Bulungula Lodge in Nqileni village – a traditional African village at the Bulungula River mouth, 40km south of Coffee Bay, offers a variety of interesting cultural experiences and adventure activities. The lodge is owned by the small community in Nqileni village.

A popular tour is the Woman Power tour where guests get to experience a typical day for village women. Guests get to transport buckets of water on their heads, fetch firewood, grind maize on a stone, brew beer, make mud bricks, paint their faces and prepare traditional food.

On the herbalist forest tour, guests visit the forest in search of herbs and roots that are commonly used to treat ailments. Local fishermen show guests how to catch fish with throw nets and make their own fishing rods, and guests can also canoe up the beautiful Xhora River and enjoy horse riding on the beach.

Bulungula Lodge offers a shuttle service from Mthatha on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays. It’s also possible to self-drive to the lodge or hike there along the coastal route from Coffee Bay with overnight stays at Lubanzi Backpackers or a traditional Xhosa village overlooking the Mncwasa river mouth.

Hike the beautiful Wild Coast and stay in a traditional village

Mtentu Lodge is about 48km by road from Port Edward or a 20km beach horse ride, hike or cycle from the Wild Coast Sun. The lodge offers walking, cycling, horse riding and cultural tours through the Amadiba ancestral lands.

The lodge’s five-day 'Amadiba Explorer' package starts at the Wild Coast Sun in Port Edward and takes guests on a hike along untouched beaches where they encounter ancient fossil beds and isolated communities.

In Nyameni village guests get a taste of Pondo culture, eating local food, watching traditional dances and spending the night in a traditional Pondo homestead. The next day they can opt to explore the beautiful Red Desert on foot, on horseback or by bicycle as they make their way to Mtentu Lodge, an eco-lodge beside the Mtentu river mouth. A second full-day adventure begins with a hike to the legendary Mkambati Nature Reserve, swimming under waterfalls, jumping out of baboon caves, and paddling up the Mtentu River.

For those with limited time, a three-day Amadiba Explorer package is offered.

Explore Nelson Mandela’s childhood home

The Nelson Mandela Museum experience in Qunu and Mthatha offers insights into the life of Nelson Mandela, with guided tours and a heritage trail that follows in his footsteps.

Guests visit the Mandela Youth & Heritage Centre in Qunu, which is part of the Nelson Mandela Museum, and walk through the village to see the remains of his primary school and the old stone church where he was baptised. They meander through the pastures where Mandela roamed as a young shepherd boy, visit his original home in Qunu and also his private home there, where he received many international dignitaries.

Visitors can try their hand at stick fighting and other indigenous games and visit the iThemba arts project where arts and crafts depicting Xhosa culture are practised. Hikes and traditional dancing can also be arranged.

A visit to the Nelson Mandela Museum in Mthatha, with its permanent exhibition of gifts and artefacts presented to Mandela and where temporary exhibitions illuminate different aspects of his life, is another fascinating experience.


Take a culinary tour of the Eastern Cape

A new culinary tour of the Eastern Cape combines cultural experiences with delicious Karoo cuisine. The tour starts in Port Elizabeth, with a stop at Nanaga Farm Stall en-route to Somerset East. The farmstall is famous for its pies, and visitors can see how the pies are made.

In Somerset East, guests enjoy a slow-cooked lamb shank expertly prepared by Alan and Annabelle Hobson, owners of Angler and Antelope Guest House, after experiencing some of the town’s tourism activities.

The next day, it’s on to Bedford where visitors meet Kim van Niekerk and Nadine Dixie, owner of Kim’s Green Gardens and creators of Bedford’s Soulfood Festival, an annual edible foods festival. Guests learn about the many edible plants found in a Karoo garden and enjoy a healthy lunch, which they help to prepare.

In Cradock, they overnight at Die Tuisehuise, unique Karoo houses that have been restored to their original 1840s’ style. Here they enjoy a three-course dinner, with a focus on beef.

After mid-morning tea at a local coffee shop, where they hear stories about famous South African author, Oliver Schreiner, they join Mandela’s former personal Xhosa chef for a day of traditional cooking. A game drive to the Mountain Zebra National Park is optional, with dinner at Die Tuisehuise focused on cured meats, salamis and the preservation of food.

In Niue Bethesda, the tour visits the fascinating Owl House, created by artist Helen Martins, before lunching on a typical Karoo potjie at the Waenhuis. It’s then off to Ganora Guest Farm to experience a working sheep farm. In the evening, guests enjoy a traditional farm dinner of Karoo lamb, and after a farm breakfast, make their way to Graaff-Reinet for the Karoo Food & Historical Tour, with lunch spread among six venues and ending with a wine tasting at the historic Drostdy Hotel.

They then visit the Valley of Desolation in the Camdeboo National Park, after which they are treated to a bush barbecue in the Mount Camdeboo Private Game Reserve.