The untouched and secret part of the Wild Coast at the Mtentu River mouth is one those places that made me catch my breath in awe.
In the heart of Pondoland it’s a scene dotted by colourful Xhosa huts, cows on the rolling hills, an untamed ocean and beaches without footprints on the sand. The river is actually a protected estuary. On its southern bank is the beginning of the Mkambati Nature Reserve and on the northern bank is Mtentu River Lodge, a place where chilling and taking it all in is the order of each day. We stayed there at this rustically wonderful little lodge with its location that knows no contender.
Russel and Bridgette are the go-getters behind this gem and are backpackers at heart, just like their lodge. Their objective when opening the place was to include and uplift the community through it as well as ensuring it has as little impact on the environment as possible. Goals achieved!
1. Solar and Wind Power
After doing all the research Bridgette and Russel installed a large, top quality solar panel just outside the communal area of the lodge. This baby works like a bomb. It supplies solar energy used to light the lodge, cabins and wooden walkways between the cabins. During those windy Eastern Cape days, a small wind powered generator contributes a little to the camp’s power storage too.
2. Solar Showers
These two outdoor showers overlook the ocean and epitomise Wild Coast freedom as you surrender to proper coastal living. They’re made private by their wooden shelters but you’ll feel completely part of your natural setting. If it’s been a sunny day, the hot water provided by the solar panel next to them is plentiful and the perfect warm temperature.
3. Eco Showers
The other two showers at Mtentu work on a paraffin system where you need to follow the steps provided using paraffin, candle wick and the water provided. All the action that’s needed is for you to put the wick into the paraffin and light it to get the water warming. It’s very clever. A bit of effort is required on your behalf but at least no energy is wasted.
4. Veggie Garden
The local ladies who do the cooking for guests are absolute gurus in the kitchen. They use seasonal produce and if you’re lucky maybe even crayfish caught by locals will be on the menu when in season. Most of the vegetables that end up on those plates are freshly harvested from the lodge’s organic veggie garden.
5. Compost Heap
Very little goes to waste at Mtentu River Lodge. Not time, not energy, not opportunities and even the lodge’s waste products are not wasted at all. Any biodegradable food waste is thrown on the well maintained compost heap which in turn is used in the wild and beautiful gardens around the lodge.
6. Community Upliftment
Mtentu does not exist in isolation, although its location may make you feel like it does. Behind the scenes the local community is actively included in the lodge’s successes. Through it jobs have been created, business partnerships launched and value has been added to the local economy. The chief is consulted when big decisions are made but generally the community and lodge coexist happily side by side in each other’s company.
At Mtentu we filled our days with beach and river activities such as canoeing to see the waterfalls, walks and swims, scenic drives and exploration of the vast great-outdoors the area has to offer. The lodge’s bar and bonfire areas hum with atmosphere created by the friendly faces there. The lodge can accommodate 24 guests in 6 wooden cabins- all with incredible views. Socialised doggies are welcomed guests too which is a huge bonus to those of us with canine travel buddies. It’s a very special piece of untouched paradise, completely off the beaten track with green tendencies that adds to its allure and friendliness.
Mtentu River Lodge
Rates start from R700 a cabin a night (sleeps four). Catering is an additional R280 per adult, kids aged 8 to 12 are R120 and kids under 8 are free. Keep an eye on their website for special offers which run throughout the year. (2016 update: self-catering is no longer available.)