Balule Nature Reserve is a protected area in Limpopo Province, South Africa which forms part of the Greater Kruger National Park as a member of the Associated Private Nature Reserves (APNR). As part of a wildlife conservation initiative, all fences separating APNR reserves – Balule, Timbavati, Klaserie, Umbabat, Grietjie Private Nature Reserve – and the Kruger National Park have been removed. The ecological benefits of this initiative has made the region a popular ecotourism destination and conservation efforts have ensured that the wildlife population includes all of the Big Five game: Lion, African elephant, African Buffalo, African leopard and black rhinoceros.
The Balule area of the Greater Kruger National Park initially consisted several separate fenced game farms. In the early 1990s, landowners decided to remove the fences separating their properties in aid of conservation in order to increase the grazing area for the local wildlife and to diversify the animal gene pool. By the end of the decade, most Balule landowners had joined in the venture creating a much larger area for game to roam unhindered by fences, and hunting was curtailed. Kruger authorities noted the ecological benefits and decided to incorporate the Balule area into the Greater Kruger National Park by removing the fence between the Kruger Park and Klaserie Game Reserve as well as between the Klaserie and Olifants Game Reserves. Today the Balule reserve covers around 40.000 hectares in area (The area periodically extends as more landowners join the initiative and become incorporated).[
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. More than 220 different kinds of birds inhabit the area including raptor species such as Kori bustard, Ground hornbill, Lappet-faced vulture, Pel’s fishing owl, Martial eagle and Saddle-billed stork. There are over 30 species of mammals ranging from plains game such as zebra, wildebeest and giraffe to predators such as lions, leopards and cheetahs. The rivers and other watering holes are home to large herds of hippos and crocodiles, and in the long dry seasons these areas are heavily trafficked by wildlife and safari tour groups alike.