Balule Nature Reserve - Greater Kruger National Park

Balule Nature Reserve is a protected area in Limpopo Province, South Africa, which forms part of the Greater Kruger National Park. As part of a wildlife conservation initiative, all fences separating these associated reserves - Balule, Timbavati, Klaserie - and the Kruger National Park have been removed. Conservation efforts have ensured that the wildlife population includes all of the Big Five game: Lion, Elephant, Buffalo, Leopard and Rhino.

The Reserve is just under 60,000 hectares, and is potentially home to over 70 species of mammal, and the variety of birdlife in the Reserve is some of the best in the country, offering over 430 different species, including the Big Six (Kori Bustard, Ground Hornbill, Lappet-faced Vulture, Pels Fishing Owl, Martial Eagle and Saddle-billed Stork).
Located in the subtropical lowveld, the Reserve contains multiple eco-zones, resulting in significant variety in the flora with over 336 documented tree species in the region. Leadwood’s, Knobthorns, Marula and Mopane Trees are dominant species in this wooded savannah. The diverse flora accommodates a diverse array of fauna.

The rivers and other watering holes are home to hippos and crocodiles. Maninghi is fortunate to be situated on the banks of the Olifants River, which flows through the Game Reserve, and attracts a wide variety of different animals.

The term Greater Kruger Park is used to describe a number of private game reserves (Balule Nature Reserve being one of them) situated along the recently unfenced mid-western border of the Kruger National Park when private landowners saw the benefit of joining the iconic national park to allow game to flow freely through the area. One of the main advantages of a safari here is that there are limited amounts of persons as one has to be staying in one of the private lodges and for this reason, you will experience a less crowded safari with no more than two game vehicles per sighting. Finally, the smaller lodges here are more up-market than the rest camps found in the Kruger National Park and thus offer a more exclusive safari experience.

The Kruger National Park

Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in Africa. It covers an area of 19,485 square kilometers in the provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga in Northeastern South Africa, and extends 360km (220 mi) from north to south and 65km (40 mi) from east to west. Areas of the park were first protected by the government of the South African republic in 1898, and it became South Africa's first national park in 1926. To the west and south of the Kruger national park are the two South African provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga. In the north is Zimbabwe, and to the east is Mozambique. It is now part of the great Limpopo Transfrontier park, a peace park that links Kruger national park with the Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe, and with the Limpopo national park in Mozambique. The area that the park covers today was part of the last wild frontier in the Eastern half of Transvaal before the second Anglo-Boer war. Paul Kruger, president of the republic of South Africa at the time, proclaimed the area, which was inhabited by the Tsonga people, a sanctuary for the protection of its wildlife. Today it is against the law to farm or hunt animals in that area The park was initially created to control hunting] and protect the diminished number of animals in the park. James Stevenson-Hamilton became the first warden of the reserve in 1902. The reserve was located in the southern one-third of the modern park. Shingwedzi reserve, named after the Shingwedzi river and now in northern Kruger National Park, was proclaimed in 1903. During the following decades all the native tribes were removed from the reserve and during the 1960s the last were removed at Makuleke in the Pafuri triangle. In 1926, Sabie game reserve, the adjacent Shingwedzi game reserve, and farms were combined to create Kruger National Park. After the proclamation of the Kruger National Park in 1926, the first three tourist cars entered the park in 1927, jumping to 180 cars in 1928 and 850 cars in 1929. Warden James Stevenson-Hamilton retired on 30 April 1946, after 44 years as warden of the park In 1996 the Makuleke tribe submitted a land claim for 19,842 hectares (198.42 km2) in the northern part of the Kruger. The land was given back to the Makuleke people, however, they chose not to resettle on the land but to engage with the private sector to invest in tourism, thus resulting in the building of several game lodges. In the late 1990s, the fences between the Kruger and Klaserie game reserve, Olifants game reserve and Balule game reserve were dropped and incorporated into the greater Kruger park with 40 000 hectares added to the 2002, Kruger National Park, Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe, and Limpopo National Park in Mozambique were incorporated into a peace park, the great Limpopo Transfrontier park. All the big five game mammals are found at Kruger national park, which has more species of large mammals than any other African game reserve (at 147 species). There are webcams set up to observe the wildlife. The park stopped culling elephants in 1994 and tried translocating them, but by 2004 the population had increased to 11,670 elephants, by 2006 to approximately 13,500, by 2009 to 11,672, and by 2012 to 16,900. The park's habitats can only sustain about 8,000 elephants. The park started an attempt at using contraception in 1995 but has stopped that due to problems with delivering the contraceptives and upsetting the herds. Kruger supports packs of the endangered African wild dog, of which there are thought to be only about 400 in the whole of south Africa. Out of the 517 species of birds found at Kruger, 253 are residents, 117 non-breeding migrants, and 147 nomads. Some of the larger birds require large territories or are sensitive to habitat degradation. Six of these species, which are by and large restricted to Kruger and other extensive conservation areas, have been assigned to a fanciful grouping called the "big six birds". They are the lappet-faced vulture, martial eagle, saddle-billed stork, kori bustard, ground hornbill and the reclusive pel's fishing owl, which is localized and seldom seen. There are between 25 and 30 breeding pairs of saddle-billed storks in the park, besides a handful of non-breeding individuals. In 2012 178 family groups of ground hornbills roamed the park and 78 nests were known, of which 50% were active.