Comprising 1800 sq km of rough, inhospitable terrain – dense miombo (moist woodland), bush and evergreens – and a couple of navigable roads, this reserve has been undergoing a renaissance. Once poached, abandoned and encroached upon by human settlements, its fortunes have improved thanks to increased funding, two lodges, and management by African Parks, which was halfway through a historic reintroduction of 500 elephants in late 2016. There are also roan and sable antelopes here, buffaloes, baboons, waterbucks, leopards and even occasional itinerant lions.
Wildlife can be difficult to spot because of the dense vegetation, but the Bua River flows green and scaly with a healthy population of crocs, and come evening at the lodges there's a good chance you'll see elephants crossing the river. Several large rivers cross the reserve, so the birdlife is also varied; there are more than 200 species, including palm-nut vultures, kingfishers and ground hornbills.