Balule Private Game Reserve, also known as Balule Nature Reserve, shares an unfenced border with the renowned Kruger National Park, in Limpopo Province in South Africa. It forms part of the Greater Kruger Park, a huge unfenced area comprising 23,000km2/8,880mi2. Balule offers a great experience for first-time safari-goers as well as seasoned Africa-lovers, with an exclusive selection of beautiful private lodges. It is home to the Big Five and is famous for its variety and abundance of wildlife and rich birdlife. The top five reasons to visit Balule Nature Reserve are detailed here.

  1. A Great (Unfenced) Outdoors

Balule is part of the Greater Kruger Park – with no fences between it, Kruger National Park and the neighboring private reserves. So Balule is part of a vast, wild 2.4 million ha/5.9 million ac conservation space. There are only a few lodges in Balule. This means exceptional Big Five viewing in a private area, with limited guest numbers and few, if any, other vehicles at sightings.
One of the big advantages of Balule being a private reserve is that your guide can drive off-road to follow the animals into their world, which can make for fantastic photographic opportunities. Open vehicles add a greater sense of adventure for close encounters with African wildlife. You can also go for private guided nature walks on Balule – a chance to learn about the plants and little creatures.

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Wildlife Watching Opportunities

Of course, when going on safari, great wildlife sightings are your number one priority. Balule is home to the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo and elephant), as well as other plains animals such as giraffe, wildebeest and zebra. The wildlife is attracted by the permanent water of the Oliphants River. Good wildlife numbers in turn attracts predators. Balule has a great variety of predators which, if you’re lucky, includes wild dog and cheetah, as well as lion, hyena and leopard. Civet and honey badger are just two of the more unusual species sometimes encountered. As well as white rhino, Balule has a healthy population of the rarer black rhino. These are much trickier to spot, as they tend to stay hidden in thick bush, but Balule’s experienced guides will be able to spot their tracks. Finally, the reserve has an impressive hippo population which can be found wallowing in the river during the day – you will hear their snorts and grunts.

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  1. Excellent Birding

One of my favorite five reasons to visit Balule Nature Reserve, is that as well as animals, Balule also offers great birding with more than 250 avian species recorded. Favorites include stunning lilac-breasted rollers, beautiful bee-eaters and colorful kingfishers. The perennial Olifants River, which runs through the center of the reserve attracts many waders and other water-associated birds. The reserve is also excellent for birds of prey including eagles, healthy numbers of vultures, owls and top of many birders’ wish list: the elusive Pel’s fishing owl.

  1. A Chance to Unwind

Although the game drives are thrilling, it is only part of the safari experience. Equally important is the whole lodge experience – taking time out to relax, unwind and switch off. The lodges provide peaceful, tranquil accommodation with fantastic service and delicious food. After an early morning start looking for wildlife, the middle of the day is spent relaxing back at your lodge, napping, reading or sunning yourself by the pool. Balule’s Toro Yaka Lodge also offers a massage room. Aromatherapy, Swedish massage, Indian head massage, shiatsu and reflexology are some of the relaxing treatments on offer. All of the treatments are inspired by the tranquil natural surroundings and are suitable for both women and men.

Varied Landscapes

Balule has a very varied and interesting landscape, with the permanent Olifants River running through it. Balule is made up of a ‘mixed woodland eco-zone’, which is why it has such a great variety of fauna and flora. The northern tip of the Drakensberg mountain range is visible from many points, which makes for some stunning and photogenic sundowner spots.

This article was written by Harriet Nimmo from the Expert Panel.