Best Photography Hides in Southern Africa
Photography hides are changing the face of an African safari. Available at a few select lodges, they provide the wildlife photographer – beginner or professional – with the perfect foil to traditional game drives and walks. Whereas drives and walks focus on finding animals, photographic hides are all about letting the wildlife come to you – naturally.
And you will be at eye level with them. Photography hides – or blinds as they are sometimes called – are set over waterholes and usually dug into the ground – a bunker, if you like – to provide their occupants with closer-than-close views of wildlife at water.
Free to use and open to all, they are a great way to enrich your safari experience, especially as waterholes are often most productive during the heat of the day when you are at camp between activities. Such waterholes are magnets for predators, and you can even stay in some hides after dark to photograph Africa’s rarely-seen nocturnal animals.
So grab your camera and a pair of binoculars and let’s settle down quietly in Southern Africa’s best photographic hides and see what turns up.
DINAKA – CENTRAL KALAHARI, BOTSWANA
It’s always a good idea to watch for wildlife at waterholes in the great thirsty Kalahari; Dinaka lodge has an underground hide that can seat eight photographers at eye-level with the water. Set on a private reserve and mixing game drives with guided walks, this is a destination to photograph the Kalahari’s unique wildlife such as black-maned lions, the rapier-horned oryx antelope and rare brown hyenas.
THE TERRAPIN HIDE – MADIKWE, SOUTH AFRICA
You’ll certainly see these freshwater turtles at the Terrapin Hide, one of the many offerings at Jaci’s lodges in the Madikwe Private Reserve. It’s a malaria-free environment which makes it great for a family safari and Madikwe is home to Africa’s Big Five – lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhino. See how many you can photograph from the vantage of the underground hide.
MAKUMU – PRIVATE KRUGER RESERVE, SOUTH AFRICA
Known as iThumbela – a place to hide – in the local Shangaan language, Makumu’s photography blind looks out over a large waterhole surrounded by open woodland; it’s perfect for elephants and buffalo as well as the other members of the Big Five. The underground bunker comes complete with drinks, a tea and coffee station and reference books.
THE HIDE – HWANGE, ZIMBABWE
You can walk straight off the observation deck at main camp and down into a large and well-appointed bunker at The Hide, overlooking a well-frequented watering point for elephants. There’s also a smaller three-seater photography hide, renowned for its views of wildlife drinking and interacting, and the experience combines well with nearby Victoria Falls.
KING’S POOL – LINYANTI, BOTSWANA
With vistas over water lily-covered lagoons, the hides at King’s Pool put you in the pound seats for wildlife photography. Set between two great wetland ecosystems – the Okavango Delta and the Linyanti – King’s Pool is home to a mix of land and aquatic creatures with plenty of predators too. There’s a sunken hide a short drive from camp which is great for wildlife but birders will want to stake out the hide at camp; it’s especially good for the Okavango’s birds.
KAFUNTA & TAFIKA – LUANGWA, ZAMBIA
At its best during the dry months, the South Luangwa is well-known for its prolific wildlife. The hide at Kafunta gives you views over a teeming floodplain and waterhole; at Takika you can choose between watching elephants at water or – in season – photographing exquisite Carmine Bee-eaters as they fly in and out of their riverside nesting holes.
ANDERSSON’S AT ONGAVA – NAMIBIA
A private reserve adjoining Etosha National Park, Ongava is one of Africa’s last refuges for both black and white rhinos plus elephants, lions and charismatic desert wildlife; the underground hide at Andersson’s camp is a great place to see them at eye level. It’s one of the more comfortable photography blinds with a water cooler plus padded seats and there are photographic facilities at camp.