Perfect place to recharge the Paradise batteries
I grew up in KwaZuluNatal. The Wildcoast was my beach playground. Ten years after immigrating to the USA, I returned to South Africa to bury my mother. Bucs provided the perfect place to ground my grief and to reconnect with the earth, sand, salt water, sky, trees and plants of my ancestry. The natural setting is exquisite, the hosts are fun loving yet sensitive to individual guest needs, and very very conscious of their connection to the community: beauty, awareness and art is everywhere. The joy in the atmosphere speaks volumes. This little piece of planet earth seems very happy with the custodianship cards it has drawn this time around, expressing this in birdsong and blooming growth. Bees buzz between flowers, geckos scuttle on walls, frogs hop under leaves. Nature is bountiful and abundantly at play in the fields of spring's renewal here. Set on 8 acres of verdant East Cape coastal vegetation on the banks of the lagoon, nestled just behind dunes from the ocean, Bucs is accessed by a somewhat challenging, winding, bumpy, potholed last few kilometers. Hey, you didn't think it was all going to be a smooth ride to Paradise did you? Once there, it is difficult to comprehend the vast number of rooms, cottages, tents and and facilities which could accommodate 80 to 100 people in high season, so artfully are they tucked away between the lush vegetation which appears wild and abandoned on first sight. A closer look however reveals a master gardener's hand and eye. There are massed plantings of mostly indigenous species while dramatic use is made of exotics in just the right places. Thorn trees are carefully and unobtrusively pruned into arches and swoops, making tunnels and pathways. Vegetation has been nurtured to provide privacy screens, bougainvillea tumbles in drama all cerise froth against blue walls. Elsewhere the linear graphic lines of banana frond and euphorbia make for pleasing variety. Birds in full throated song bring each day to light. Hornbills lurch from tree top to tree top. Hadedahs pierce the soft earth. The colours throughout the place speak of an artist's eye -- carefully chosen shades of blue, greens, pink, red and yellow meander through the maze of buildings. Frida Kahlo goes Africa. It comes as no surprise that at least one family member has a fine art degree from no less an illustrious institution than Rhodes University during the period when the incomparable Professor Robert Brooks was at the helm (who just happened, coincidentally, to have been my marvelous mostly supine host in Port Elizabeth leg of this journey). The dining room in the main house, used for breakfasts and occasional evening feasts, is a gallery of South African artists, mostly with strong East Cape roots. There are canoes on the lagoon for guests to use freely as they wish.. As I relax into my salt water retreat, I feel my old South African courage and independence of spirit rise from that back corner of my being where the USA nanny society has squelched it. I cannot help noticing the difference from anxious North America with all its rules and indemnities, cautions and caveats. The only admonition here is to bring the paddles back. Ah yes! this is how I grew up -- taking responsibility for myself. Thank you Bucs, for reconnecting me to my roots! If walking the beach and the bush paths doesn't suffice, there are other activities guests can indulge in. Most of these activities incur an extra charge which, in the scheme of world economics, is pocket money and real good value for money. There are daily beach rides or cultural excursions to a local Xhosa village, mountain bikes and game drives to a local private nature reserve. If one has a week or two of disposable time one can get involved with volunteering in the community, help with computer literacy in the local school, contribute to horse or wildlife rehabilitation, assist with other social projects. Ching! Ching! more good karma points all around. Share the love, peeps! Evenings in the Skebenga bar are noisy. The weekend I stayed, an excellent djembe drummer, Richard Siphiwo, fresh from a 3 month European tour, was the classy featured act. During the day guests could book private djembe classes with him. For the rest he mingled freely with the backpackers giving pale foreign women a hard time about not being able to get their tongues around the clicks in the Xhosa language. Of course with a steady flow of guests each new "victim" reacted afresh as if they were the first honored with this local lesson. For me watching, it got old after a while, this acting out of power and control over compliant, slightly dazed and confused women. In the evenings though all is forgiven as he certainly got the beat on. Falling asleep to contemporary djembe drumming foregrounding the crash and roar of surf, under canvas and African skies -- a priceless experience. I chose to stay in a safari tent even though,a day or so into my stay, heavy rain and driving wind causes some major flooding. I could have moved to dry accommodation at no extra cost. Staff and the owners were very anxious that I be comfortable but also respectful of my wishes to tailor my Bucs experience as I wished. There is free tea and coffee in a communal kitchen and lounge where the tv is almost perpetually tuned to some sport channel and Xhosa staff can be found lounging and chattering between tasks. All day the entire Bucs establishment is bustling with armies of these people going about their business of reception, cleaning, gardening, maintaining, guiding, entertaining, bartending, cooking, eating, smoking, interacting with guests. At night there is at least one security guard trudging the rounds. The place felt exceptionally safe. Having grown up in one of the most violent societies in the world, I pride myself on having a pretty finely tuned, intuitive safety sensor. I spent the whole time at Bucs with all my belongings in an unlocked tent, undisturbed by unwanted human hand,. Rain and wind were the only intruder. For guests who are anxious, the rooms have lock with either keys or code entry systems. There is also a big safe at reception so one can relax into being there, instead of worrying about stuff. What a relief! My only suggestion would be that, with all their environmental awareness, the Bucs administration think about making cigarette smoke free zones and doing something about raising the awareness in guests that tossing cigarette butts everywhere is really bad practice. Smoking is way too prevalent everywhere, in my not so humble opinion. It is not pleasant to be sitting on a bench overlooking a spectacular view and have a member of staff light up a cigarette six inches from one's nose. Some of the lack of consideration on the part of some of the passing through guests really horrified me. Dead soldiers of beer bottles strewn about everywhere in the early mornings, unwashed pots, dirty dishes and used coffee mugs in the lounge and kitchen. Come on backpackers of the world -- clean up after yourselves! Have a bit of respect and learn to leave no trace even in dorm and hostel situations. Or go back to the paving Paradise and putting up parking lots attitudes on your own continents. Just don't do it here where Paradise still prevails. Viva Buccaneers Backpackers, Viva!!