Thursday, June 23, 2016

Zimanga Private Game Reserve, Mkuze – Jeremy Williamson

There are numerous Private Game Reserves in South Africa that offer really excellent game viewing. 

Well Zimanga Private Game Reserve takes it all a step further, and offers guests the opportunity to see the wild animals and birdlife really close. A photographer’s dream!
Charl Senekal has engaged with Hungarian, Bence Mate, the pioneer in low level, one way glass, hide photography, and together they have structured a number of diverse hides on the Zimanga Game Reserve, where different aspects have been created, in order to offer a wide spectrum of photographic opportunities. A visit to Zimanga Private Game Reserve is truly a “Bucket List Experience”.

The sites chosen for the hides bring into account; the direction of the light, the backdrop ( which offers a reasonably uniformly toned bokeh, ‘the out  of focus background’ ) and even the prevailing wind direction – this especially important for the soon to be opened Vulture Hide. The raptors should be facing the hide directly as they come in to land!

All the bird hides have solar powered air-conditioning and lighting.
The morning light birdbath hide – ‘Mkhombe Hide’

Green-winged Pytilia

Acacia Pied Barbet

Afternoon light birdbath hide – ‘BhejaneHide’

Pink-throated Twinspot

Red-billed Firefinch

A”birdbath” hide is located overlooking a watering point for, in particular, small birds, although some visitors have been fortunate to have larger animals visit. Here the cameras are located just above the water level, offering low aspect photography of the images.

The Lagoon hide was a massive undertaking, sunk into a ‘coffer type dam’ on the edge of Zimanga’s main large dam. This cleverly designed structure offers an eastern and western viewing aspect – here photographers are able to take advantage of all lighting options.

Lana in the air-conditioned Lagoon hide.

The back-lighting can be stunning.

The 'coffer' dam can be restocked with fish which attracts the birdlife,

and  when a suitable carcass is available, this could be strategically placed to attract crocodile!

Then there is a mobile Bee-eater Hide. This can be moved to a location where the White-fronted Bee-eaters are nesting, with consequently wonderful photographic opportunities prevailing. I have yet to experience this at Zimanga. Note the solar panel which charges the battery for an electric fan within.

The latest hide to open was the overnight Umgodi hide, this very comfortable hide can accommodate up to 4 guests. Four photographers might be too many for long all night vigils, so beds are provided for those wishing to take a rest. The water edge is 4,5 meters from the one-way glass facade, behind which huddle the expectant photographers.

The overnight Umgodi hide.

The beautifully constructed overnight hide. Entrance to the kitchen / area which then leads to the lower viewing area.

For the not too vigilant, there is a motion detector that announces the arrival of your photographic subject. Through a door is a separate toilet and a kitchenette with kettle and microwave, a fridge stocked with milk and bottled water. Teas and coffees are provided too. This is presently the only hide which is connected to the National electricity grid,. This hide has WiFi as well, which is such a good idea, one can post the tremendous photographs taken or even go on line to while away the quiet hours.

Arrived, had a look and then went to feed nearby

Returned lated for a drink - seemed to spill most of it

Zimanga Private Game Reserve is however not just about the hides. Although trapped in the severest drought since records were kept, from over 100 years ago, the general wildlife sightings are excellent.
I have had amazing encounters on foot with two different cheetah,

 the pack of wild dog and their pups,

An inquisitive fellow !

One of the pack having returned to the den and regurgitated meat for the pups.

The Alpha female suckling here brood.

I think a little too large a prey ?

then something a little more the right size, a warthog, quite a fleet footed one I might add, watch as he pulls away from the canid.

Left in the dust

and then on the open vehicle, super photo opportunities with elephant,

This herd of elephant spent ages frolicking in the waters

white rhino

and some antelope, giraffe, zebra

and warthog.

Lana and I took advantage one day and arrived early, in order to explore the magnificent Aloe garden. Such a diversity of species, there must be an example of each of South Africa’s Aloe variety here.

Of course with the Aloe’s , racemes in bloom, come the Sunbirds. These seemed a bit wary of our bazooka lenses though.

Scarlet-chested Sunbird

For reservations at Zimanga for the excursions  and accommodation opening in September 2016 contact
We offer alternative accommodation presently at the really good and nearby Ghost Mountain Inn.

All photographs by Jeremy and Lana Williamson

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