Fair Trade at Sani Lodge Backpackers

Posted by Ondela Mlandu on 8 October 2018

The word Fair Trade is used occasionally, but how many of us fully understand the concept of Fair Trade Tourism? Fair Trade Tourism is one of the leading organization that represents responsible tourism in Africa.

I explored the Eastern Cape’s Wild Coast by staying at Fair Trade run businesses for my Drive the Wild Side article in the September issue of Getaway Magazine. From there, I made my way to KwaZulu-Natal to wrap up my Fair Trade journey. This is what I found at the foot of the Drakensberg.

I was heading inland – a six-hour drive to the Underberg via Mthatha. From Mthatha, I continued along the N2 through the village of Qumbu – where Winnie Mandela attended a Methodist mission school during her childhood. I made my way through Mount Frere and Mount Ayliff before crossing the provincial border into Kokstad, where I stopped to stretch my legs.

The roads were slightly smoother, and the language on the radio stations changed from isiXhosa to isiZulu. The countryside in KwaZulu-Natal was peaceful and the views of mountain peaks enhanced my eagerness to get to Sani Pass.

Image by Ondela Mlandu

Indigenous forests covered the landscape and there wasn’t a single car in sight. My playlist was on full blast and the thought of being at the foot of the stupendous Drakensberg Mountain Range excited me. I continued driving to the Underberg, before turning off to Himeville.

Sani Lodge is set along the Mkhomzana Valley in the Southern Drakensberg. It’s not in a local village, however, you’ll find the Lodge on left-handed side of the Sani Pass Road.

Russell Suchet, owner of Sani Lodge Backpackers, grew up visiting the Drakensberg on family vacations. In May 1992 he opened the doors – ‘in the days when backpackers were called youth hostels’ – and it’s grown over the years from having only two dorms, three rondavels and a long-drop toilet to a five acres piece of land with a restaurant, self-catering cottages, dormitories and rondavels. ‘We joined Fair Trade in 2006 and most of our staff come from the local community’ says Russell.

Fortunately for me, the weather wasn’t too chilly and so I set off on a short self-guided hike to the Giant’s Cup Trail. Day hikes in the area vary from 1-8 hours on clearly marked trails. You can get route maps and the necessary wildlife permit to access the trail from Sani Lodge.

The trail was moderately easy and you don’t need to be an experienced hiker to do it. Two hours later, I had worked up quite an appetite so I went to Giant’s Cup Café to enjoy a home-cooked meal of steak, chips and salad made by Mbali Mtolo, from the KwaThintwa community. On another occasion, I enjoyed the freshly baked scones and a delicious milkshake.

The sun in the Underberg rises a bit later, which made me feel less guilty about sleeping in a little. I was also in no hurry to return to the city. After going ‘back to basics’ over those few days, I gained an appreciation for living simply and it felt good. The knowledge that money spent on the privilege of enjoying this space improves other people’s lives felt even better.

Image by Ondela Mlandu

Where your money goes

Sani Lodge Backpackers started an education fund in 2014 for children in the community. The Funda Reading Club is also reading book project with age appropriate books donated by South Africa authors. The project aims to develop the community children’s imagination and knowledge. Choose to travel in an environmentally and socially responsible way. Fair Trade makes this easier, ensuring ethical, transparent regulation and distribution of profits to the community.

Image by Ondela Mlandu

Do this

Sani Lodge Backpackers has a variety of accommodation options ranging from camping facilities (R95 per person), dormatries (R180 per person), standard rooms (R500 for two), en-suite rondavels (R640 per person). 0337020330

The Sani Lodge has many activities for visitors to take part around Sani Pass, such as visiting the Bushman rock art, a day or overnight stays to the Drakensberg and Lesotho, horse riding and birding.

Image by Ondela Mlandu

Giant’s Cup Café, Sani Pass (Grab a bite) The coffee here is made from Fair Trade organic coffee beans. Fresh milk and dairy products are all made from the Jersey cow on the property. Be sure to try their milkshakes from R15. Open daily. 0337020330

Image by Ondela Mlandu

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