Umgodi is an entirely unique hide concept pioneered on Zimanga, in which up to 4 photographers can be accommodated and sleep over in the air-conditioned hide, built into a waterhole with the large window opening up a few centimeters above water level.  Animals that visit the waterhole drink only a few meters from your bed.  The drinking edge is 4m from the photographers’ chairs, and to date a large variety of mammal and bird species have visited the water-source.

The unit consists of a custom-built metal hide with chairs and camping-style bunk beds, built adjacent to a small and well-equipped kitchenette to store and warm up food or make a steaming cup of coffee to keep you awake during the long hours of night.  Toilet facilities are available in the hide.  The modus operandi would be to enter the hide in the afternoon and photograph through the backlit afternoon session, and after sunset make use of the LED floodlights installed at water level to beautifully illuminate subjects that approach the water’s edge.  The hide’s main lights are installed on either side, and the high CRI rating of the lights ensures true-to-life colour and illumination of your subject.  The following morning the sun rises behind the hide, bathing the drinking edge in golden light, adding a third dimension of lighting to an Umgodi hide session, and offering guests a variety of images to take home, all incorporating Zimanga’s trademark low angles, carefully selected backgrounds and quality natural lighting.

Wi-Fi is available in the hide to assist in keeping guests occupied during periods of low activity. The hide is also equipped with a VoIP telephone for communication with guides, as there is no cell-phone reception inside Umgodi.  A ventilation system is installed in the hide, to constantly draw in fresh air and to release air from inside the hide quite a distance away, limiting the chances of subjects detecting occupants inside the hide.  A network of 22 passive infrared beams keeps a lookout over the drinking edge, warning you of an animal’s approach with a soft beep, hence you do not have to permanently sit at the window whilst waiting for subjects to arrive, and you can grab a book from the sizeable collection in the hide, many of them authored by award-winning international photographers, and relax on your bed whilst waiting for subjects to arrive.

Some pointers when photographing from Umgodi hide:

  • The hide does not have an adjustable sunscreen as all our other hides are equipped with.  This allows the use of wide-angle lenses but also makes the photographers more visible to the subjects outside.  It is therefore extremely important to wear dark long-sleeved clothing in the hide, as any light or bright colours reflect easily in the one-way glass, casting unwanted light patches on images.  Black gloves and even balaclavas can assist in completely obscuring photographers and eliminating reflections.
  • Gaffer tape strips or black insulation tape should be used to cover the usually white-branded printed logos, model numbers etc. on the front of your camera bodies.  These markings do not usually influence one’s own images, but can reflect off the glass and create white spots in fellow photographers’ images, especially when photographing at angles.  This is again especially important when photographing into backlighting.
  • This is the hide with the nearest drinking edge at 4m, hence the importance of remaining silent in the hide cannot be over-emphasised.  Cameras that have the silent shutter release function can assist in keeping noise down.  High-speed bursts are not recommended at these close distances as it can disturb wildlife at close range.
  • Recommended lenses for Umgodi would include wide-angle lenses from 20mm and upwards as calculated on full-frame bodies.  A 24-70 f/2.8 is extremely versatile, and for tighter images a lens like a 70-200 f/2.8 is recommended.  The most important factors to consider for nocturnal photography are to use a camera body with a good Signal to Noise ratio, as high ISOs are required at night, and to use lenses with increased light gathering ability (preferably f/2.8 or larger).
  • Flash photography is not allowed in Umgodi hide, except for Tour Operators who have entered into Zimanga’s agreement regulating flash use in the hide
  • It is of utmost importance that the hide remains dark inside, especially at night, hence inside lighting is limited in the hide.  A LED head-lamp with soft red-light capability is extremely handy to bring along.
  • Due to limited space in the hide it cannot be booked as a standalone or once-off activity.



Elephants at Umgodi, 24mm


Night images using floodlights.  All of Zimanga’s rhinos have been dehorned to protect them