Balule Private Nature Reserve safari | Travel guide

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Balule Private Nature Reserve in the northeast of South Africa is a medley of private properties that combined into one beautiful nature reserve in the 1990’s. Balule now shares an open border with the world-renowned Kruger National Park and is part of the same ecosystem.

All major safari animals are present, and game drives are conducted in open safari-vehicles, which can go off-road to get the best possible experience.

The Olifants River attracts an abundance of wildlife, including elephants, buffalo, waterbuck, lions and giraffes. The reserve also has an impressive hippo population which can be found wallowing in the river during the day.

Why visit Balule Private Nature Reserve?

Balule Private Nature Reserve safari

A Balule safari tour will take visitors through the main habitats in the park including savannah, woodland and grassland. Scenic highlights are the perennial Olifants River, which runs through the center of the park, and the Drakensberg escarpment, which forms a dramatic background.

Civets and honey badgers are just two of the rarer creatures sometimes encountered. Balule also offers great overall birding with more than 250 species recorded.

The enduring Olifants River, which runs through the center of the park, attracts many waders and other water-associated birds and the area is excellent for spotting raptors (eagles, in particular).

Apart from the river and wildlife highlights, safari goers will enjoy the mixed woodland eco-zone, one of several eco-zones in the lowveld, and the one with the greatest variety of fauna and flora as well as the rolling landscapes.

Animals

As South African safaris go, visitors to Balule will find an authentic wildlife experience. All safari animals are present including the Big Five and are able to wander between the property and neighboring Kruger.

A large concentration of giraffe, waterbuck and wildebeest attracts predators in great numbers. Large herds of buffalo and elephants often roam the area.

The Olifants River attracts an abundance of wildlife, including elephant, buffalo, waterbuck and giraffe. Lions are often nearby and leopards and cheetahs are also present but less easy to see.

The reserve has an impressive hippo and crocodile population. The former can be found wallowing in the river during the day, and the latter can usually be spotted on the riverbanks. Civet and honey badger are just two of the rarer creatures sometimes encountered.

Birds

Balule offers great overall birding with more than 250 species recorded. The perennial Olifants River, which runs through the center of the park, attracts many waders and other water-associated birds.

The magnificent fig trees along the riverbank attract fruit-eating species such as trumpeter hornbill, purple-crested turaco, black-collared barbet, African green pigeon and plum-colored starling.

The area is also excellent for raptors (eagles, in particular) and owls might be seen on night drives. Migratory birds are present from November to April.

Other notable birds include the African fish eagle, the African pied wagtail and the European roller.

Trees

Balule is located in the subtropical lowveld, an area with multiple eco-zones resulting in significant variety in the flora with over 336 documented tree species in the region.

Baobab trees, fever trees, knobthorns, marula and mopane trees are predominant species in this wooded savannah. The diverse flora accommodates a diverse array of fauna.

Other activities at Balule Private Nature Reserve

Other South African activities that visitors to Balule Private Game Reserve can look forward to on their trip:

  • Game drive: Exploring Balule Private Nature Reserve’s wildlife with spectacular views of large concentrations of wildlife and watch four of the Big Five in the open wild.
  • Bush walks: Walk with professional guides at a peaceful, relaxed pace through the extraordinary Balule Reserve where you can see birds, wildlife and beautiful tree species.
  • Braai: Barbeque the South Africa way with chairs and tables scattered around making Balule Camp an ideal place to relax after a day’s safari with cooking and braai (barbecue) facilities provided.
  • Animal tracking: Track Elephant and Lion on foot, learn and observe fascinating facts about the African bush on your suggested itinerary in Kruger Park. Some of the wildlife found in this region include Leopard, Waterbuck, Baboon, Hyena, Kudu, Giraffe, Zebra, Waterbuck, Buffalo, Sable, Roan, Eland, Tsessebe, Crocodiles, and Hippopotamus, can be seen in the pools and rivers.

How to get to Balule Private Nature Reserve?

By Plane

To arrive into South Africa and indeed to the park, visitors can fly to one of two airports: Cape Town International (CPT) or O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) in Johannesburg.

O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) in Johannesburg is the arrival point for most visitors to Balule. Once there, a connecting flight to Hoedspruit Airport (HDS) can be arranged.

Most accommodations provide transport from Hoedspruit Airport, which takes up to an hour depending on the exact location of the lodge. There are two carriers that offer domestic flights to Hoedspruit.

A South Africa visa will likely also be required per the latest entry requirements.

By Road

Hiring a car is an option – this can be done in Johannesburg. Balule is located alongside the R40 between Hoedspruit and Phalaborwa, west of Kruger National Park.

The 450km/279mi drive from Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) takes approximately five hours. Carrying a small amount of South Africa currency, the rand (ZAR) is advised for smaller purchases.

Tariffs & Regulations

Entrance fee

All Balule Private Nature Reserve fees are payable at the gate at time of entrance. Park fees are valid for 24 hours.

The Balule Conservation fee/Road Levy for guests self driving is ZAR 90 per vehicle plus an additional ZAR 220,00 per person in the vehicle.

Regulations

If you keep to park rules, you can stay with the animals as long as they are not disturbed by your presence.

Accommodation on a Balule safari

Tourists at Balule Private Nature Reserve can choose from a number of different options when deciding where to sleep with accommodation ranging from luxury safari lodges to lower budget camping.

Lodges

The Reserve is managed as an eco-tourism destination and there are a number of private commercial game lodges located within the Reserve. The following lodges and bush camps offer accommodation in the Balule Reserve:

  • Grietjie Reserve Accommodation
  • Amukela Game Lodge
  • Baluleni Safari Lodge
  • Campfire Safaris Academy
  • Ezulwini Game Lodge
  • Greenfire Game Lodge
  • Isambane
  • Kurhula Wildlife Lodge
  • Leopard View Game Lodge
  • Masodini Private Game Lodge
  • Maninghi Lodge
  • Mohlabetsi Safari Lodge
  • Mpala Lodge
  • Naledi Game Lodge
  • Pondoro Game Lodge
  • Raptor Retreat Game Lodge
  • Struwig Eco Reserve

Of particular note is Isambane, which features accommodation with a year-round outdoor pool, free WiFi, a bar and a shared lounge. Some units have a patio and/or a balcony with pool or mountain views.

The lodge offers a continental or buffet breakfast and a terrace can be found as well as a private garden.

Camps

Balule River Camp is a truly luxurious safari experience in South Africa. The lodge is situated in the “big five” area Balule Nature Reserve in Greater Kruger Park.

The lodge has six double rooms, which all have magnificent views of Olifants River and the bush. Sausage Tree Safari Camp is an excellent alternative.

Campervan

Guests on a self-drive safari with a campervan can make significant savings by sleeping in their vehicle.

Bars/restaurants/amenities

Lodges will typically have all meals and drinks included in the lodge package.

Useful information

Geography

Balule Game Reserve is located along the Olifants River in Limpopo, bordering the renowned Kruger National Park and visitors typically arrive via O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) in Johannesburg with a connecting flight to Hoedspruit Airport (HDS).

Safaris here can be combined with trips to Kruger National Park or Phinda Game Reserve.

Weather

Winter and summer occur at opposite times in Balule Nature Reserve as they do in North America and Europe. The summer months, October through April, are wet, hot and humid and recognized as the Wet season.

The winter months, May through September, are mild and warm, and this is the Dry season. During the winter, the nights and early mornings are cold. Thundershowers are common during the Wet season, although it would be a rarity for it to rain the whole day.

Best time to go

Understanding the best time to visit South Africa is important as this will impact accommodation, flight prices, availability and the weather that visitors can expect on their safari vacation. A South Africa visa for entry may also be required.

The dry months during winter (May through September) is the best time for wildlife viewing in Balule. The vegetation is thinner, and animals gather around water sources. As winter progresses, animal spotting tends to improve.

September is a great month, in particular, as it is warmer than the rest of winter. Prime wildlife viewing time happens to be in the ‘off-season’ for tourism, which makes it all the more attractive.

Health

Although the risk is slight and generally only occurs during the hot summer months (October-April), malaria is present in Balule.

Antimalarials and other vaccines for South Africa are advised, as well as covering up in the evening and using mosquito repellent (those containing DEET are most effective).

It is recommended to visit a travel clinic before coming to South Africa. Several South Africa vaccinations are recommended and usually administered before your departure.

FAQs

Where is Balule Private Nature Reserve located?

Balule Game Reserve is located along the Olifants River in Limpopo, bordering the renowned Kruger National Park and visitors typically arrive via O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) in Johannesburg with a connecting flight to Hoedspruit Airport (HDS).

What animals will visitors see at Balule Private Nature Reserve?

Visitors to Balule Private Nature Reserve will see the Big Five including the lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and African buffalo. Other species found are the waterbuck, giraffe, cheetahs, hippos and crocodiles.

How much is the Balule Private Nature Reserve entrance fee?

The entrance fee for Balule Private Nature Reserve is ZAR 90 per vehicle plus an additional ZAR 220,00 per person in a self-drive vehicle.