Mthokozisi Mabaso (45) is making his mark in the white-dominated tourism and adventure industry.
Mabaso is a beneficiary of government’s Operation Vula Fund, which aims to create jobs and grow the economy. The entrepreneur now hopes to see his business generate half a million rand in revenue.
He took advantage of the free-to-use land that was available in his village of Ngodini in Eshowe, KwaZulu-Natal, and in 2016 created an adventure tourism business called Ngodini Bundus.
Ziplining, river tubing and rafting, paintballing, 4x4 track and quad biking and hiking are among the outdoor activities offered.
Reflecting on his journey, Mabaso says he approached his local chief to use 27 hectares of densely forested land.
“I was exposed to this type of business at a young age because quad biking is my hobby. So I identified suitable land in my village and the advantage was that we do not pay for land in rural areas. I got it free of charge from the chief.
“Clearing the land and making the roads was a mission and I needed support to make it a safe and attractive place. My brother, who is in a similar business, assisted me,” he says.
He says one of the challenges he faced was marketing, especially given that he was located in an out-of-the-way rural area. He sought assistance from the Small Enterprise Development Agency (Seda), a subsidiary of the Department of Small Business Development, and was given the skills he needed to put his business on the map.
Business training sessions he took part in through Seda helped him to restructure his business and his revenue grew by 40%, he says.
“We now have camping facilities, team-building exercises and host live music shows. Our annual five-day events attract over 6 000 people, even from neighbouring countries.”
The company has 20 permanent employees and during big events, hires another 300 temporary staff members.
Ngodini Bundus was badly impacted by COVID-19 and more recently, the KwaZulu-Natal flood, which washed away some of its infrastructure. Fortunately, it received a R700 000 boost from the provincial Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs’ (EDTEA) Operation Vula Fund.
“The fund will assist us to add more attractions,” he says.
To benefit from Operation Vula, businesses must submit completed applications at the EDTEA head office at 270 Jabu Ndlovu Street, Pietermaritzburg, or at any EDTEA district office. Alternatively, apply online via the dedicated online application platform – www.operationvula.gov.za