On a photo safari in South Africa – Balule Nature Reserve

Storm cloud over the Olifants river in South Africa

If you want to immerse yourself in Nature, this reserve could be the perfect spot.

Where is it?

It is close to Hoedspruit, one of the gateways to the Kruger Park and part of the Greater Kruger area. The Greater Kruger area are those reserves that confine with the famous Kruger National Park and where the fences between the reserves have been removed leaving only the outer fencing. This provides the animals with a much bigger space to roam in. You can easily fly into Hoedspuit from Johannesburg or Cape Town. It will take you then another hour driving to the reserve.

view on Struwig nature reserve in south africa
View over Struwig Eco Reserve

We stayed for a few nights at the Struwig Eco Reserve, which is part of the Balule Nature Reserve. Beautifully located on the Olifants river, it is a really peaceful place. The lodge is basic, but there’s everything you need. There are not many chalets, so there will never be many people at the same time. You have your own little kitchen and braai area, just remember to bring your food if you want to use those. We joined the staff during lunch and dinner and had good meals and conversations.

rocks in struwig eco reserve
I’m always hoping to find a leopard sunbathing on the rocks, but the rocks by themselves are beautiful as well.

What animals can you see?

The main reason for coming here is of Nature. On our first evening we were very lucky as a bushbaby looked down from a tree in the middle of the camp. We were just chatting and saw these big eyes looking at us. He or she was quite curious and we felt very priviliged to see this shy animal up close. Unfortunately my camera was in our chalet… but the sensation of seeing a greater bushbaby or galago with its long fluffy tail will remain.

We have done several game drives in the reserve. The landscape of the reserve is absolutely stunning. There is the Olifants river, hills and plains. The landscape varies a lot in a relatively small space. It had rained, and it rained while we were there, and everything was very green. The reserve is home to the Big Five, but there’s much more to see than just these 5 species.

lion-licking under the trees
This lion was trying to find some shade under the trees

On our first drive we were lucky enough to see lions close to the road. They were just laying around, but were not too happy that we wanted to drive passed them. It had rained during the night and even though it wasn’t that warm yet, now that the sun was out they preferred the shade of the tree. They gave us a few fierce looks, but in the end they were too lazy to really show their teeth. The teeth you see in the photo was just one of them yawning. But you can easily see why it’s better not to look for trouble with a lion.

lion showing its teeth
This lion is showing off its teeth

The reserve is an excellent place for birding. We’ve seen many species of which I can’t remember the names, but were beautiful to watch. Bee eaters are very beautiful with all their colours. The go-away bird got his name from the calls it makes, which sounds a bit like it says ‘Go away!’. Here are a few photos I managed to take before they flew away.

white fronted bee eater bird
A white fronted bee eater

 

grey go-away bird
Go away bird named after the call they make

This was the first reserve in which I have seen klipspringers. In general these little antelopes are rarely seen during the day, but we saw this pair for a few minutes before they disappeared between the green bushes. They’re very small, just 60 cm of shoulder height. Cuoples tend to stay very close to each other, most of the time even within 5 meters! The couple eat in turns while the other watches out for danger. They have a beautiful black and white painting on the inside of their ears as you can see in the photo. This was a couple, it was impossible to take a decent photo of them together as one was always behind a bush.

klipspringer antelope
The female of the couple of klipspringers

Waiting until the sun goes down at Struwig Eco lodge is relaxing. The view over the river is beautiful and most of the time there is wildlife around. It might be the vervet monkeys going through the trees that are growing around the chalets. Or the bush bucks that come the graze on the lawn around the swimming pool. Or the hippos in the river. On our last evening we saw a small herd of water bucks with a little one on the river bank. Mother and child stayed close to each other. The young water bucks are a bit more red-brown compared to the grey-brown of the adults, but the characteristic white ring on their butt is already there.

Waterbucks grazing on the river bank

Nature Photo Tours can organize your next wildlife photo tour. We can help you select a beautiful reserve and of course will help you take beautiful photos. If you wish to combine this with landscape photography you could combine some days in the Greater Kruger area with our custom made Colours of Cape Town tour. Just send us a message and let us know what you want to do and where you wish to go.

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