Tucked away along the western boundary of the world-renown Kruger National Park, a pristine and untrodden wilderness awaits within the Balule Nature Reserve.
At the forefront of conservation, Balule Nature Reserve forms part of the Associated Private Nature Reserves (APNR). As a key role-player in an initiative that aims to remove all fencing separating APNR reserves – Balule, Grietjie, Klaserie, Timbavati, Umbabat – and the iconic Kruger National Park, a rich tapestry of sustainable biodiversity is created.
The APNR project is the successful integration of several separate fenced game farms in the early 1990’s. The aim of this collaboration was to include larger grazing areas for local wildlife and to encourage genetic diversity. As a result of overwhelming success shown by the project, the Balule area was incorporated into the Greater Kruger National Park by removing fencing between the Klaserie and Kruger National Park, and also between the Klaserie and Olifants Game Reserve.
The result of this groundbreaking conservation effort is approximately 40,000 hectares of unrestricted wilderness – a haven for keystone species such as the iconic “Big 5.” Along with over 30 mammal species, from towers of giraffe to dazzles of zebra, iconic predators such as cheetah and wild dog also occur and freely roam the reserve.
The sub-tropical Lowveld eco-zone boasts an impressive biodiversity in both fauna and flora. With over 336 documented tree species in the region, ranging from ancient Baobabs to the iconic Marula, the dominant woody savannah is accentuated with plenty to see and accommodates an impressive diversity of bird life. For the avid birder there are over 220 documented species to be found. Various raptors, such as the endangered Lappet-Faced Vulture, Pel’s Fishing Owl, and Martial Eagle, can be observed. This extends to larger birds, such as the Southern Ground Hornbill, Kori Bustard, and Saddle-Billed Stork, amongst a plethora of other species.
Rivers and occasional watering holes are sanctuaries for an eclectic array of wildlife. Pods of hippo, crocodile and frequenting elephants often make for an intimate viewing experience. These interactions are often heard in the evening, where the characteristic whooping of scavenging hyena are also often complimented by the guttural roar of lions.
Located within close proximity to the conservation hub of Hoedspruit (20km), the reserve is easily accessible, yet the acoustics of the wilderness and striking visuals of the adjacent Drakensburg Mountains cannot but make one feel secluded and very much attune with the surrounding wilderness.