With the advent of digital photography and the incredible photographic abilities of the average smartphone, everyone is suddenly a professional photographer – or is at least capable of capturing a great shot – whilst not having to worry about lugging heavy photography equipment around with them. Of course, getting up-close to or amongst African animals is another matter. Fortunately a number of camps have developed hides that are well camouflaged, often partially sunken so that unsuspecting zebras, cheetah and other photogenic species wander right past your lens!
While hides are not new to the safari scene, hides these days are far more comfortable and safe, are built downwind and have viewing ports that prevent unwanted snatches of a paw or jaw. Even if you’re not interested in capturing the perfect image, you could while away hours sitting in this ‘worms-eye’ viewpoint watching the passing wildlife. One of the more sophisticated hides even has tunneled access so that you can come and go even when a herd of lions refuses to budge.
Here are a few of our favorite camps with hides:
Mashatu – Tuli Reserve, Botswana
Set in arid semi-savannah near the borders of Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa where the grand Limpopo and Shashe River converge, lies this well stocked private game reserve. Mashatu is part of the MalaMala Group and is a contemporary styled camp, down-to-earth yet comfortable, with a range of activities on offer besides game viewing. They have a number of hides, including one sunken beside a watering hole, some semi-permanent tented hides that are moveable and a new reflection hide perfect for bird watching and taking breathtaking nature pictures. The waterhole attracts all manner of animals including impala, kudu and baboons. The real attraction, however, is the elephants that frequent the watering hole.
Shenton Safaris Kaingo Camp – South Luangwa, Zambia
Boasting a hippo hide, elephant hide, carmine bee-eater hide and also the curiously named ‘Mwamba’s Last Waterhole’ hide, this camp and it’s nearby sister camp is all about ‘hiding’ close to wild animals and getting that perfect shot. A favourite with documentary film-makers, the Kaingo Camp is an ethnic affair, all thatch and reeds, but luxurious (complete with an outdoor bath), sitting as it is on the edge of the Luangwa River. In these hides, you are literally meters away from the yawning mouths of wallowing hippo, making it a dream location for budding photographers!
The Hide Safari Camp – Hwange, Zimbabwe
As the name suggests, this rustic camp in the Hwange National Park is themed on hides, with the main one looking directly on to a watering hole and accessed by a tunnel. This park is teeming with wildlife so taking phenomenal pictures of animals is a given, plus it offers very affordable safari accommodation without skimping on comfort. The bonus of this camp is that you’re only an hour away from Victoria Falls, with its world famous landmark, and international airport.
Andersson’s Camp – Etosha National Park, Namibia
A trendy Afro-fusion styled camp with a comfortable hide, this camp sits right in the vicinity of the famed Etosha watering hole. It’s a family-friendly safari camp, is unpretentious and can accommodate a total of 20 guests. Game is plentiful in the savannah of Northern Namibia and this landscape with its contrasting colors lends itself perfectly to incredible nature photography.
Bird Island – Lambert’s Bay, South Africa
This isn’t exactly the choice for those seeking a safari park experience, but it is a birding enthusiast’s paradise and rewarding non-the-less for the more colourful and smaller species that inhabit this coastal wilderness. Located up the quiet and starkly beautiful West Coast, north of Cape Town, this island is the world’s only accessible spot to see Cape Gannets. Other common species include the African Penguin, the Cape Cormorant and the Kelp Gull. It’s a public nature reserve with plenty of activities for the whole family. The island’s hide is well situated for capturing all sorts of birds and is the ideal place for an amateur photographer to cut his teeth.
Whether you are a wildlife photographer that is seeking that elusive shot to complete his portfolio, or someone that simply loves the outdoors and snapping that perfect memory, these hides offer you the opportunity to get up close to some of the most arresting and incredible wildlife that the African continent has to offer.