Balule Nature Reserve is a long-established Big Five private protected area and part of the Greater Kruger - there are no fences with the National Park and game roams freely between here, adjacent Private Reserves and the state-owned Kruger. Visitors do not! The large, perennial Olifants River bisects the Reserve with a generous 20km of frontage, and acts as a natural attraction to a wide variety of species, big and small. It is a fabulous location for the freedom of walking in the bush.
These safaris, where the emphasis is on walking, appeal to all with an adventurous mind, keen on a learning experience. Every walk is a book on its own, with the emphasis on interpreting the wonders of nature, big and small. Because of the dangerous aspects of a walking safari, the minimum age is 16; walks can last up to 6 hours and tracking might lead the trail through thick bush, riverbeds and gullies. An average fitness level is required, especially in the hotter summer months (Nov-March). A maximum of 8 people makes up a trail with no minimum.
Set amidst Balule's 100,000 acres (40,000Ha) of prime game territory are two secluded, intimate Lodges specialising in mixed-mode walking and game drive Safaris. Tsakane is a premier traditional bush Lodge with separate thatched accommodation units, whilst Indawo is a full-on bush tented camp with a more rustic level of comfort.
Tsakane Safari Camp lives up to the meaning of its name, 'Happy Place'. This tidy little bush camp has offers thatched accommodation rondawels fanned out along its perimeter (unfenced with the Big Five) and a central pool, bar, lounge, boma, dining lapa and bar.
Morning guided bush walks take you into the natural habitat of the animals you encounter, and provide an experience like no other! Evening game drives with postcard sunsets, and sundowner refreshments under a star-lit African sky are the perfect setting to wind down in the bush.
You have the opportunity to enjoy a bush dinner out in the wild on one of your nights at Tsakane.
Indawo Trails Camp is traditional safari fly camp, closely integrated into its Big Five bush surroundings. Rustic yet comfortable, the camp's facilities include a bush kitchen, open-air boma, lounge deck with magical views of the bush and the Drakensburg Mountains, and a splash pool for hot sunny days. The camp is small and select, creating for its guests a real sense of adventure combined with elegant simplicity.
Tents, each sleeping two people, are positioned around the unfenced camp to give a completely unique experience of being at one with nature. Illumination is by paraffin lanterns underlining the rawness of the atmosphere. During the days and evenings you will hear the bush come alive, and listen to life in the camp and outside your tent. Morning guided bush walks take you from your camp to explore the surrounding bush. You will learn first hand about nature's sights and sounds, and view game close up, on foot, in its natural surroundings.
Afternoon and evening game drives provide picturesque sunsets and the activity of the crespuscular and nocturnal species. Sundowner refreshments with friends, set beneath the African sky complete life in the bush.
A fantastic introduction to magic of the Kruger Private Reserves and Safaris on foot.
These walking Safaris are quite rightly popular and represent particularly good value for money. The operator has been running for twenty years and pioneered the Kruger walking format and continues to wholeheartedly represent the sentiments of the founding Guides who sough to create an intense, immersive exposure to the real wild. Many of the industry's best Guides have cut their teeth and learnt from mentors on these expeditions, and the the flexibility of the current crop's approach to making the most of your time in the bush, reacting and tailoring the experience to the happenings that nature throws at you, and the standard of interpretation and explanation remains an example to the rest of the industry.
Balule is a less well-known destination but, with its rich riverine setting and high density of game, is a particular favourite amongst the local market as the reputation for quality and value is high. These walking Safaris are an excellent introduction to the delights and flexibility offered by the Private Reserves.
David Manttan is a founder of Kruger2Canyons.com