Hiding in Zimanga

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Georgina Lockwood zooms around Zimanga’s photographic hides in pursuit of the picture-perfect photograph…

From professional photographers and Instagram influencers to amateur camera enthusiasts, everyone is attracted to Zululand’s Zimanga Private Game Reserve, where they have the opportunity to capture the perfect wildlife image.

Moving away from the traditional safari model, Zimanga owner Charl Senekal has focused on building a series of photographic hides, each one a feat of engineering that illustrates an acute understanding of animal behaviour.

When you’re in the hides, nature comes to you. Leopards that usually stay well out of a photographer’s focal length can be captured drinking at Tamboti or Umgodi Overnight Hides.

At Zimanga Lagoon Hide pied kingfishers photobomb your sandpiper snaps. Jackals, vultures and tawny eagles squabble over meat at Scavenger’s Hill Hide. And the only thing between you and your subject matter is a spotless one-way glass screen.

Tamboti Overnight Hide

Inside the hide.

I recently spent a night in the Tamboti Overnight Hide. On first sight the hide appears to be a floating door in the middle of the bushveld. Open the door and you arrive in a dark tunnel leading down to a hide that is equipped with a fully functioning kitchen, bathroom and bunk beds.

For 12 hours it’s just you, your camera and nature. And if you are not a pro with the camera, guides like Hendri Venter are more than happy to help with your camera settings. You have the opportunity to mingle with family and friends too, as a soft beep alarm goes off when an animal arrives at the waterhole. And arrive they did – from nyala and jackal to safari-viewing heavyweights like buffalo and rhino.

Around 11 pm the alarm signalled new visitors, and red-eyed and disorientated, I made my way to my tripod. A group of buffalo were drinking when a herd of rhino crashed the party, and at a minute to midnight I witnessed a buffalo and white rhino touch noses.

Other hides include the mobile Bee-eater Hide, which is dedicated to photographing birdlife. Bhejane and Mkhombe are reflective birdbath hides set up to capture camera-shy birds like pink-throated twinspots. Forest Hide is set up in the shades and hues of Zimanga’s fever tree forest. The hides of Zimanga have guests saying, “Say cheese” to the most camera-shy of safari animals.

Written by Georgina Lockwood

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