One of the coolest things about returning home from a bush holiday is reliving your holiday by checking out the magnificent pictures you’ve taken during your holiday. Alas, our photographs of the beautiful birds and animals we see on our travels don’t always come out the way we planned and while driving around in safari vehicles with a big group of fellow travellers might be a great way to view animals with the human eye, it doesn’t always give you the best angles or vantage points from which to take breathtaking photos. Avid photographers have no doubt experienced these issues when on a bush holiday but now there’s a new private game reserve with plans to change all that. Zimanga Private Game Reserve is the first game reserve designed specifically with photographers in mind and their hides are unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
The 600ha reserve in KwaZulul-Natal was dreamed up by general manager Char Senekal, a passionate wildlife photographer who wanted to create a place dedicated to those who have a passion for both wildlife and photography. The reserve is home to over 400 bird species, wild dogs, leopards, elephants, and other animals and guests are given the opportunity to see these animals from a range of different vantage points during their visit. Like most reserves, Zimanga offers traditional game drives but with a twist. Each game drive offers limited seats (drives are limited to 2 people per row of seats) to allow more room for equipment and to allow photographers to shoot from both sides.
In addition to the game drives the reserve also offers three innovative photographic hides where guests can get incredible vantage points of the birds and animals in the reserve. Two “Bird Bath Hides” (Mkhombe and Bhejane hides) and a lagoon hide have been carefully designed and built to ensure that the lighting, focal lengths, backgrounds and animal behaviour all fall into place so that photographers can produce images of startling quality and originality. The newest hide, The Lagoon Hide is positioned offshore in the largest of Zimanga’s three lakes and was built in March 2014. This hide attracts animals like hippos and crocodiles as well as a huge variety of water birds and raptors. The reserve also has plans to open up a number of new hides in the coming years including a large mammal hide (for capturing animals such as giraffe, buffalo, rhino and elephant from ground level as they drink from and occupy a waterhole) and the Vulture Restaurant (situated in an area of high Vulture density).
The hides are also decked out to make sure that photographers are comfortable while they shoot. One-way glass makes them invisible to their subjects, comfortable executive-style chairs allow them to glide effortlessly and quietly across the wood laminate flooring, solar-powered air conditioning regulates the temperature within the hide, and soundproof carpeted walls help to keep the sound in so as not to disturb the subjects on the outside. Basically, the hides tip the balance heavily in favour of the photographer to get that amazing shot.
But that’s not all! All the guides in the reserve are accomplished photographers so they know the best places to shoot in the reserve and along with these guides the reserve also plans to run photography workshops in the future. Right now all bookings at the reserve are going through Pangolin Photo Safaris and rates start from R550 for a game drive to R1200 for hide sessions. Pangolin also offers a range of workshops for those who want to learn more about wildlife photography. The reserve doesn’t offer accommodation on site just yet, but accommodation can be booked at neighbouring lodges.