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Although part of the greater Kruger National Park, the 38000ha Balule Nature Reserve is a privately-owned fenceless conservancy located along the Olifants River, thick with green-swathed vegetation and home to a host of animals, including the Big 5 (leopard, lion, rhino, elephant and buffalo). The animals are able to walk freely between the two parks and other neighbouring game reserves to widen the gene pool and to ensure the preservation of all species.
The Balule Nature Reserve lies in the beautiful Limpopo Province, renowned for its game parks. Here the climate is considered temperate, summers are generally hot while in winter, the early hours are chilly and gradually warm up to acceptable temperatures during the day. The rainy season occurs in summer with the occasional spectacular thunderstorm.
Any water source is a magnet for wildlife and the Olifants River is ideal for both game viewing and bird watching. Visitors to Balule Nature Reserve are afforded this luxury on their doorstep, it’s the consummate bushveld escape.
Top 6 reasons to visit Balule Nature Reserve
1. The best times for a game drive is early morning or late afternoon when animals are most active. At Balule, some of the game lodges offer spotlights over the water to watch the movement of nocturnal animals rarely seen during the day.
2. Certain camps offer guided wilderness trails to enjoy the bushveld on foot. Experience smaller creatures amongst the thicket and chance up-close encounters with larger mammals and reptiles.
3. The Masorini Village Museum is a reconstruction of an ancient Iron Age village where trade items, tools and weapons were discovered. The village holds a fascination for anyone interested in anthropology, ancient cultures and history.
4. Find a [safe] spot along the river banks and use binoculars to watch the vast birdlife around the river. The area has over 150 recorded species of bird that include various raptors and waders. The striking lilac-breasted roller is a common sight.
5. Enjoy a meal out in the open at a picnic spot or rest camp, many of which are found in the Punda Maria section of the Kruger National Park.
6. Sit out on the patio when the sun goes down to watch the sea of stars above and listen to the sounds of nocturnal animals. Try and identify the calls of lion, leopard, hyena and other animals that prowl the plains under the moonlight.
Balule Nature Reserve is 34km from the Eastgate Airport at Hoedspruit, for connecting flights to Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban international airports. Another airport nearby is the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport, 170km from Balule. There is a car rental agency located at the Hoedspruit airport and several in Nelspruit (Mbombela), otherwise order a vehicle online. The best form of transport for this region is a hired vehicle, preferably with 4x4 drive.
Did you know?
We all know of the Big 5 mammals but there is a Big 6 amongst birds too. They are the saddle-billed stork, the kori bustard, martial eagle, ground hornbill, lappet-faced vulture and the pels fishing owl, all top of the food chain in the world of birds.
Never feed wild animals, they may become accustomed to being fed by humans and could either turn aggressive or destructive, resulting in rangers being forced to move or put down the animal.
Although the Balule and Kruger reserves are considered malaria-free, it is always best to take precautions before entering the area.