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By Emma 30 January 2020

YZ’s Favourite Photographic Hides in Africa

A photographic hide gives you the unique opportunity to view wildlife, unbeknown to the animals, at an angle you don’t get from bumping around in a vehicle or trying to approach on foot.

When you mention the word ‘safari’, everyone instantly thinks about being out and about either on foot or in a vehicle exploring a reserve or park. However, a different way to view wildlife, whether or not you’re an avid photographer, is just sitting in a hide near a source of water, watching whatever wildlife comes down to drink.

There is nothing better than spending your time on safari relaxing, while staying hidden from the wildlife and viewing passers-by from a unique angle. I am a keen photographer, a complete novice, but the privilege of going on many safaris has allowed me to explore other interests. As a result, I love a camp with a hide, as it supplies me with a completely different angle from which to view and capture wildlife. It also allows me to play around with my camera settings and improve my photography skills.

Outside the usual activity times on safari, there’s a lot of time for sitting back and enjoying your surroundings – and what better way to pass the time than watching what comes and go? Inspired by my new-found enjoyment of photography, this blog discusses some of the best hides in Africa for watching and taking photos of the local wildlife.

By no means are these the only hides out there – they’re just a few of YZ’s favourites…

1. Shenton Safaris’ hides, Zambia

First to mention is Shenton Safaris – this company boasts some of the best hides in Africa, with each one offering a slightly different perspective or angle. Shenton’s have a number of hides that cater to a range of interests, but it’s worth noting that some hides are camp specific and some are seasonal. For example, the Hippo Hide is exclusive to Kaingo Camp guests. This hide is located on a deep corner of the confluence of the Mwamba and Luangwa rivers, where hippos congregate throughout the season. As the dry season heightens, so does the action at the Hippo Hide – and a ‘lower-level’ hide is installed to give you that eye-level angle.

There’s also the Elephant Hide, again exclusive to Kaingo Camp guests. This overlooks the Luangwa river from a raised platform resembling a treehouse. The platform overlooks a historical elephant crossing point and is best visited after brunch or around teatime. This hide doubles up as a star-bed at night for those looking for a more adventurous night out under the African sky!

The hides at Kaingo

The hides at Mwamba

Exclusive to Mwamba Camp guests, a third hide is located just metres from the camp itself and sits directly over an active waterhole. Although it’s busy with wildlife and birds throughout the season, this hide really comes into its prime come late August when water is scarce. As the season goes on, it is not uncommon for guests to forego their game drives in favour of observing all the activity going on at the waterhole at Mwamba Camp!

Last, but not least, are Shenton’s mobile hides – the Carmine Bee-eater Hide and the Wild Dog Lagoon Hide. These two hides can be accessed from both camps. The Bee-eater Hide gets put in place once the southern carmine bee-eaters have established their nesting sites along the banks of the South Luangwa. These migratory birds usually start arriving in August, but as their arrival is a little unpredictable, the presence of the hide is only guaranteed in September and October. Access to the hide also varies from year to year, so be prepared to cross a shallow portion of the Luangwa river to reach it!

The Wild Dog Lagoon Hide is located on the edge of the lagoon that’s a popular area for wild dog sightings. However, while it is a known hangout for the dogs, it’s more famous for its incredible plains game and bird viewing. This is perfect for the twitchers amongst us or anyone looking to sharpen their skills when it comes to birding photography – whether that be the definition of birds or birds in flight.

2. The Hide Safari Camp, Zimbabwe

The hide exterior

The hide interior

This hide is possibly one of my favourites, as Zimbabwe is home to me, and it’s where my love for safari began. As its namesake, the camp’s hide is very much part of its tradition. The original hide is disguised as a termite mound and it overlooks a waterhole, allowing you to enjoy watching wildlife completely unbeknown to the resident predators and herbivores. You do have to visit this hide with your guide, and the wildlife can be a little farther away depending on the water levels. A second and underground hide gives guests the flexibility to head off independently to enjoy it from camp. This hide sits right on the edge of the waterhole, allowing you to get incredibly close up to the daily visitors to the waterhole, both big and small.

3. Ol Donyo, Kenya

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More of a log pile than a hide, nevertheless this is one of the best places for watching the iconic big tusker elephants that frequent a waterhole. Located just below ol Donyo lodge, this hide is much loved by everyone, and it’s where some of the most iconic images of the big tusker elephants have originated. Part of a natural migratory route between Amboseli and Tsavo national parks, the waterhole sees many of the most famous tuskers come for a drink. You can either sit down here outside activity time or substitute your game drive for a relaxing afternoon in camp and enjoy watching whatever comes down to the hide. Another option is to enjoy lunch while watching the regular visitors to the waterhole.

4. Andersson’s at Ongava, Namibia

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The photographic hide at Andersson’s is connected by a walkway to the main area of the camp, allowing guests the freedom to go back and forth between the camp and the hide. This hide sits overlooking a productive waterhole often frequented by plains game, but it also provides a great opportunity to catch lion and rhino up close! Positioned at water level, the hide gives guests some unique photographic opportunities, and it’s also terrific for travellers who just like to sit and watch from a different perspective.

5. Jaci’s Lodges, South Africa

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Now for a rather unique hide called the Terrapin Photographic Hide, which is located in the middle of a waterhole! This hide is within walking distance of Jaci’s Safari Lodge and it’s easily accessible from Jaci’s Tree Lodge. As it’s submerged, it offers water-level viewing, while its west-facing position guarantees soft morning light and backlit silhouettes in the late afternoon for those interested in photography. The hide is accessible 24 hours per day to all guests, and it comes fully equipped with spotlights, a radio, and interior red LED lights.

6. King’s Pool, Botswana

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Located about 10 minutes from camp, the hide at King’s Pool is a sunken shelter that sits on the edge of a waterhole. This gives guests an eye-level view of the wildlife coming down to drink. Best visited during the dry season, from late July onwards, the hide is a popular spot during siesta time –for elephants in particular.

If you’re a keen photographer, picking lodges with great wildlife hides is essential! Please take a look at our top tips and advice for a photographic safari below, or give our experts a call today to start planning your tailored trip to Safari Africa.