As a fairly seasoned safari goer, I have avoided Balule Reserve having had a bad experience at a poorly run lodge, as well as very few game sightings in 2004, but I decided to give it another try during my recent return home to South Africa. Toro Yaka’s reputation looked like it may change my mind.
The reserve is beautiful and Toro Yaka certainly has some stunning land to traverse and explore. As there aren't many lodges in this area and therefore few vehicles out on drive, you will experience Steve’s skills and the adrenaline rush of tracking, as well as the disappointment of not finding your quarry (i.e. not 'tracking by radio' which is often the case in reserves with numerous lodges traversing the same area). Thus, if you are looking to tick off your list of Big 5 during a short stay, you may be disappointed. That said, during my 3 day stay I was more than delighted with two separate sightings of a big herd of buffalo, 7 lion with very full bellies, a rhino up close and very personal, as well as warthogs, zebra, impala, wildebeest, waterbuck, giraffe, numerous birds and glorious sunsets over the Drakensburg mountains. In particular, I treasure the times spent by the Olifants river just listening to the world around us, the impromptu walks during drive and the very real joy of being a part of the bush, tracking, smelling, listening, observing, just being.
Steve’s enthusiasm, passion and strong opinions are interesting, if somewhat blunt and provoking at times - he says it as he sees it. Nicole is a warm and lovely lady who has created a comfortable environment in which to relax and feel at home.
I left with mixed feelings, but overall I believe that Nicole and Steve and their team work incredibly hard and Toro Yaka is a peaceful and beautiful haven for the weary soul looking for stylish and comfortable rooms, lovely guest areas, tranquility, delicious and copious amounts of food and an interesting and enjoyable bush break at a reasonable rate.
My impression of Balule Reserve dramatically improved thanks to them.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Owner/Manager team Steve & Nicole Baillie would like to invite you to visit Toro Yaka Bush Lodge. This special lodge is nestled in the heart of the Balule Nature Reserve, a 38 000 hectare conservancy, which forms part of the Greater Kruger National Park area. ToroYaka means “My Dream” in Northern Sotho, one of South Africa’s local languages, and the creation of Toro Yaka Bush Lodge has fulfilled the dreams of Steve and Nicole, by establishing a haven of peace and tranquility from which to share their passion for nature. The lodge has been designed in a modern elegant style, with a relaxed atmosphere, allowing guests to sit back, relax and feel at home. The six en-suite double rooms ensure tranquility and comfort at all times. Steve has spent more than a decade sharing his knowledge and love for the bush with clients from all over the world at luxury game lodges throughout South Africa. Nicole is a qualified holistic massage therapist and takes care of all the tiny details. Together with the Toro Yaka Staff, they will ensure your stay to be a memorable one. Balule is home to a large variety of plants and animals. From the smallest spider to the largest elephant, from the tiniest flower to a 1000 year old Leadwood tree, owls at night and eagles by day, every aspect of the ecosystem is explored. The Olifants River, which flows year round through the Balule, is home to hippos and crocodiles, and the whole area is one of scenic splendor, with the northern tip of the Drakensberg mountain range being visible from many points. Together with all of this, Toro Yaka Bush Lodge offers you good home cooked food, friendly service, warm South African Hospitality and loads of enthusiasm. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Toro Yaka Bush Lodge South Africa/Balule Nature Reserve