5 Community-based Lodges to try in South Africa

Posted on 18 March 2024

Tourism in South Africa is the fastest-growing and one of the largest economic contributors to our GDP, making up 7.1%.

It may not be the answer to all of South Africa’s problems, but through supporting tourism growth, the country could reap many benefits.

Five such communities have realised this and are creating unique experiences for travellers through their community-based lodges. In return, guests who stay in these lodges contribute to the communities’ local economies, constant job creation, and even education.

These five community-based lodges will have you going back again and again for the luxury, experience, and one-of-a-kind holiday, while subsequently benefitting a community.

1. Tamboti Bush Camp, Somkhanda Community Game Reserve, KZN

community-based lodges

Picture: Somkhanda Community Game Reserve

Somkhanda is a ‘flagship project for land restitution and transformation in South Africa.’

During the 2005 land reform process, the Gumbi community claimed 35 000 ha of land. They chose to keep most of the land under conservation and develop a game reserve that could economically benefit the community. Somkhanda Game Reserve became the first community-owned game reserve to be formally named a nature reserve in February 2009.

Through resource-utilisation practices and sustainable tourism, this Big 5 game reserve serves as an economic stream for both the Gumbi community and neighbouring ones.

Somkhanda is the first community-owned land to have taken part in the WWF Black Rhino Range Expansion Programme, introducing the critically endangered black rhino onto their reserve.

Further, through their metapopulation conservation programmes, they have successfully maintained a healthy wild dog population, among many other conservation successes.

The community actively plays a role, even a leading role, in providing jobs and resources in society, as well as rolling out successful conservation programmes.

2. Buffalo Ridge Safari Lodge, Madikwe Game Reserve, NW

community-based lodges

Picture: Buffalo Ridge Safari Lodge

This is one of South Africa’s first wholly-owned community-based safari lodges.

The Balete Ba Lekgophung community who own the lodge reside in a village just outside the Madikwe Game Reserve. All staff, trackers, and guides originate from the Lekgophung village. Further, community members can train for careers in the tourism industry at Buffalo Ridge Safari Lodge.

In partnership with The Nature Workshop and North-West Parks, they have a 45-year lease to run the lodge and benefit from the revenue and opportunities that come with it.

Staying at Buffalo Ridge will give you the opportunity to visit the community, potentially ‘meet the Kgosi (chief), and learn about the ethnic heritage, cultures, and ancestral history of the local people.’

3.Tintswalo Safari Lodge, Manyeleti Game Reserve, Mp

Picture: Manyeleti Game Reserve

Manyeleti Game Reserve borders the Kruger National Park, Sabi Sands, and Timbavati Game Reserves.

Founded in 1963, it was the only game reserve that non-whites were allowed to visit during apartheid. It had few visitors and even less governmental support.

Today, the game reserve is owned and managed by the Mnisi Tribe. They successfully claimed the land in line with South Africa’s Restitution of Land Rights Act. Three privately owned lodges have been built in the reserve on a concession basis, leasing the land from the Mnisi community.

Because the reserve is relatively unknown compared to its neighbours, it’s more isolated and exclusive. It offers visitors an escape from the noise and busyness of everyday life.

4.Bulungula Eco-Lodge, EC

community-based lodges

If you’re in the mood for a beach vacation, consider a stay at Bulungula Eco-Lodge. Bulungula is 100% owned and managed by the coastal Xhosa community which lives in Ngileni village.

Stay in a traditional Xhosa rondavel, go fishing with the local fishermen, join a guided hike, or learn how to drum. Everything you partake in is run by the community and sustains them.

On top of supporting the local community, the lodge aims for carbon neutrality, as well as integrating development strategies in nutrition, health, education, and sustainable livelihoods.

  • Rates: From R660 p p (Forest Cabins)
  • Location: Bulungula/ Nqileni Village, Elliotdale District, Eastern Cape
  • Website: bulungula.co.za
  • Contact: [email protected]

5.!Xaus Lodge, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, NC

community-based lodges

The Mier and ‡Khomani San communities reached a historic land settlement agreement with SANParks and the South African government in 2002. The two communities now own a portion of land within the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, but lease it back to SANParks.

The settlement agreement allowed for funds to be used by the community for building and owning the ‘Co-operation Lodge,’ otherwise known as !Xaus Lodge, and has become another of South Africa’s unique community-based lodges.

Black-empowered Lodge Management Company, Transfrontier Parks Destination manages the lodge on behalf of the two communities. The ‡Khomani San and Mier receive a monthly rental fee and almost all employees at the lodge come from the local communities.

Pictures: Getaway Gallery

Note: Prices may be subject to change

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ALSO READ: 5 Eco-friendly getaways in South Africa

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