There are currently six photographic hides on Zimanga, including two Bird Bath Hides or Reflection Hides, called the Mkhombe and Bhejane hides named after the isiZulu words for white and black rhinos respectively.  These are ideal for small bird photography.  The larger Lagoon hide focuses on waterbirds and crocodiles in the summer season.  Umgodi Overnight Hide is currently the only hide that is custom designed for large mammal photography.  The bee-eater hide is a mobile unit that can be placed in close proximity to where white-fronted bee-eaters nest and produces stunning results for these colourful birds.  The Scavengers Hill is situated on a hill looking over a valley and beautiful mountain backdrop, and the action can be fierce as up to 5 species of vultures, alongside other scavengers, compete for food.  Please note that the vulture hide is only available should a carcass be obtained.

These hides have been designed and built by the owners of Zimanga and Bence Mate who is not only a former winner of the coveted BBC wildlife photographer of the year award in 2010 but is a world authority in hide design, construction and photography. Bence has previously built hides on his farm in his native Hungary as well as Costa Rica and South America, but these are his first hides in Africa.  Bence’s Wikipedia entry can be found here.

Planning and building hides of this caliber is an exhaustive process. First a location is selected from an extensive short list before a test box is installed and used for several months allowing the design and positioning to be adjusted, often by the tiniest degree, to ensure that the lighting, focal lengths, backgrounds and animal behaviour all fall in to place so that the photographers produce images of startling quality and originality.

Each of the hides is designed for its potential subject whether it is a large mammal like a giraffe or elephant or the smallest of birds like waxbills and twinspots. The photographers are invisible to their subjects behind specially imported one-way glass so as not to startle the subject with any movements or sounds.

Photographers are seated on comfortable executive-style chairs, which glide effortlessly and quietly on across the wood laminate flooring. A solar-powered air conditioning unit situated in the roof of the hide controls the temperature and humidity within.  The hides are spacious and soundproofed with carpet on the walls to muffle the sound. The carpets themselves are inlaid with a fine silver thread to eliminate mildew growth in such close proximity to a water source.

The hides allow photographers a non-intrusive method of wildlife photography and although the subjects are free-roaming, and hence no sighting is guaranteed, the hides tip the balance heavily in favour of the photographer to get that amazing shot.

With the exception of Umgodi, all Zimanga’s hides harness the power of the sun, with all the electricity demands for the hides met by solar installations.

Please note the following important factors when deciding to visit the hides at Zimanga:

  • Be aware of minimum focal distance limitations on your lenses.  Typical subject distances can be seen under each hide description
  • Tripods, Benro gimbal heads and mounting brackets are provided to guests at no charge
  • There are no toilet facilities close by so please limit your intake of fluids and coffee during the hide sessions.
  • The hides are dark to minimise reflections from inside, and are mostly underground.  Please be aware of this if you suffer from claustrophobia


Bence Mate


Based on Bence’s awards won in the past 13 years, he is the most productive photographer in the world where the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year is concerned (read Bences Wikipedia entry here).  In 2010 he won the Wildlife Photographer of the Year award. Also, he has won the Eric Hosking Award for his best collection four times, which is a record in this category.

Since 2004 he has been working as a freelance wildlife photographer. The special hides designed and built by him are essential elements for his photography, as the hides allow the undisturbed shooting of wildlife from close range in comfortable environments. He is also credited with inventing and devising photography through one-way glass which enables photographers to work without disturbing the wildlife.

His books: The Invisible Wildlife Photographer (Hungarian, English) and The Handbook of Bird Photography (English, German, Finnish)

His website: