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The Difference Between a National Park and a Nature Reserve

The Difference Between a National Park and a Nature Reserve

Across the world, sectors of natural beauty and biodiversity have long been set aside for protection and preservation for the greater good of the planet and humankind.

Did you know that, although it‘s generally thought that the world’s oldest formal protected area is the Yellowstone National Park in the United States of America (proclaimed in 1872), it is actually the Tobago Main Ridge Forest Reserve in Trinidad and Tobago that holds this honour?

That’s right – in 1776, the forest was designated for protection by the government.

Following a growing wave of enlightenment and environmental awareness in the 1800s, a number of nations saw the wisdom of protecting tracts of land and water globally, and the concept of ‘nature preservation’ took hold.

Nature Preservation in South Africa

In South Africa, our earliest official protected area was the Pongola Nature Reserve proclaimed in 1894.

However, as it was later de-proclaimed, the accolade for the oldest reserves in our country goes to the St Lucia Game Park, now incorporated into the iSimangaliso Wetland Park World Heritage Site, as well as the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, both proclaimed in 1895 in the province of Kwa-Zulu Natal and managed by designated governmental organisations.

The country’s most well-known and largest game reserve is the Kruger National Park,one of nineteen national parks managed by the governmental body South African National Parks. (National Parks include game reserves – containing ‘big game’ animals – and nature reserves which usually have only smaller game species along with indigenous flora)

Privately Owned Nature Reserves

Outside of the government conservation areas are numerous privately owned game or nature reserves.

One of these is Bellevue Forest Reserve in the Eastern Cape province (near to Addo Elephant National Park), with 2500 hectares of pristine, indigenous forest and Albany thicket rich with a great diversity of animals large and small.

Apart from the obvious difference of management, privately owned reserves such as Bellevue enable us to be far more flexible in our approaches to guest activities and access. 

Along with luxurious accommodation at the Elephants Lodge, and extraordinary escapism at our outdoor Stargazer Camp, we are constantly expanding our range of options to enable guests to fully engage with and experience the bush on all levels.

These include professionally guided walks with qualified guides to get right up close to our magnificent giraffe, indulging in forest bathing or walking out in the bush on a cloudless night to marvel at and learn more about the myriad stars that shine so fervently in our clean mountain skies.

Guests can join in up-close-and-personal buffalo encounters, watching the important veterinary work that takes place.

On our game drives, guides are able to set up intimate drinks stops in outstandingly scenic areas or allow guests to safely exit from vehicles to examine tracks or interesting sights.

Experience the Difference at Bellevue Forest Reserve

At Bellevue Forest Reserve, you can become involved in wildlife conservation volunteering and learn more about responsible tourism through our volunteer conservation projects. We endeavour to involve you in as many ways as possible with the real, hands-on work of conserving our natural heritage and benefitting both the environment AND the communities who depend upon it.

Here, in this lesser known but extravagantly scenic part of this incredible country, the promise of adventure, discovery and wonder is around every corner.

Come and let us help you find YOUR wild.





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