Experiencing Greater Kruger: Balule Game Reserve

An African safari has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember, so our first safari experience in South Africa was nothing short of amazing.

Before we arrived in South Africa we had been looking at heaps of different safari options. There are seriously so many different options, from safaris on a budget to the ultimate luxury experience with options for multi-country trips and anything from about 3 to 54 days. No matter what kind of adventure you’re looking for, what exotic animals you want to see or what kind of luxury remote camps you want to stay in, you’re sure to find exactly what you’re looking for.

safari in kruger national parkviva safaris in kruger national park

Booking our safari with African Budget Safari

We were on a tight schedule and a tight budget for our first trip in South Africa, we only had about 2 weeks in Africa itself, so not a lot of safari time. We were so happy when we came across African Budget Safaris. These guys had more safari options than you could possibly imagine, with customisable itineraries and endless possibilities, from heaps of countries across Africa. They were also experts in the area, with tonnes of safari options in Kruger National Park.

The best part about African Budget Safaris is their customer service. They’re so quick at getting back to you and always there to help answer any questions, share tips about the region and recommend safari options that might work best for your time frame and budget. After a bit of back and forth with Ingrid in their customer service team, we had decided to book onto the 4 Night Kruger Park Treehouse Safari.

We were going to sleep in a treehouse on safari in Africa. What could be better than that?

Termisana Lodge
termisana lodge

Day 1: Termisana Lodge in Balule Game Reserve

On the first morning of our safari we were picked up bright and early from our hotel in Johannesburg and loaded into a mini van for the 6 hour drive through the South African countryside and all the way to Kruger National Park.  The drive takes you through beautiful green countryside, twisting and turning through the hills and offering stunning views at different points along the way.

At the end of the very long drive to Kruger we arrived at our first safari accommodation, Tremisana Lodge in Balule Game Reserve. Balule is part of the Greater Kruger area, which means it technically lies outside of Kruger National Park, however as there are no fences animals are able to roam freely between all areas of Kruger National Park and Greater Kruger, so there are just as many wildlife spottings in the Greater Kruger area.

We checked into our room for the night, grabbed a drink and watched as the cheeky monkeys on the property swung from the treetops and drank water out of the pool.

12 Hours in Johannesburg

Within an hour of arriving at Tremisana we were already loaded up on an open 4×4 for our first sunset safari. A small group of only 6 people allowed for a more intimate experience, as there was more opportunity to ask questions and really understand the land we were exploring. Our driver Luke was incredibly knowledgeable about the area, the animals that inhabited Kruger and their daily patterns. Often the same animals will visit different areas of the park at the same time each day, so to the guides and drivers of Kruger it’s easy to recognise the different animals.

The animals around the park are completely un-phased by the presence of safari vehicles. In fact, unless you’re directly in their way they really don’t seem to pay attention to you at all. Thankfully, it has been a long time since game hunting has been allowed in Kruger, so it’s nice to see how noticeably relaxed the animals are as they stroll around.

sunset on safaribush braai on safari

A traditional bush braai dinner

Despite not coming across many animals on our first safari drive, we still enjoyed every moment of the experience. We did spot a couple of giraffe, as well as lots of wildebeest and impala and even a chameleon, but the big 5 had eluded us on that first drive. We also spotted lots and lots of different species of birds, as well as heaps of animals tracks, so we knew that the animals were around there somewhere. Probably laughing at us from behind the bushes!

We spent about two hours driving around the reserve before making our way to a bush braai, also known as a traditional barbecue, at Marula Tree Boma in the middle of the reserve. This is when we came across the biggest find of the night, a HUGE male elephant who was stamping his feet and making so many tooting noises with his trunk. He was definitely one of the biggest elephants we have ever seen and he was literally right in front of the entrance to the bush braai, guess he liked the smell of BBQ for dinner too!

Finding The Lion King On Our African Safari

It was incredible to be eating dinner so close to this beautiful animal, eating his plant based dinner in his natural environment. The bush braai was a beautiful intimate dinner by candle light in the middle of the reserve. You could hear monkeys and elephants talking to each other in the far off distance as you ate your dinner. Watching the end of the sunset over the mountains just topped off the whole day.

We made our way back to the Lodge completely exhausted and joyful after such an amazing first day on safari.

giraffe in greater kruger national park

Balule Game Reserve was just the first stop of our safari, we still had two more days of game drives and exploring around this epic wildlife filled region to go.

So far our safari was even better than we had imagined, it was definitely a top bucket list experience! Stay tuned for our next blog post on day 2 of our safari, when we venture into the main area of Kruger National Park.

Find out more about the safari we went on: 4 Day Kruger Treehouse Safari

On Safari in Kruger National Park

Explore more of our adventures around Africa.

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Emma is a travel writer, photographer and blogger, chasing the sun around Australia. Travelling in her recently renovated vintage Viscount caravan, along with her husband Thom and daughter Macey, she's sharing the very best experiences from around her beloved sunburnt country.

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