The Lagoon hide was the first step in diversifying viewing and hide photography opportunities on Zimanga. The ambitious project took more than a year to complete and was constructed on a modified natural peninsula that juts into the large Hlambanyathi dam.
This hide seats 4 photographers with photographic opportunities any time of day, whether you prefer shooting with the sun, or into it. Like the other hides each seat is equipped with a top-quality tripod but in the Lagoon hide’s case also set on wheeled dollies, so switching direction you photograph into is quick and easy as the heavy-duty dollies silently roll across the smooth floors.
The mostly shallow waters of the Lagoon draw in a variety of waterbirds, from tiny plovers and sandpipers, to large birds like herons, storks and fish eagles. In the summer months crocodiles are regular visitors with large specimens basking on the shoreline and smaller growing crocs actively catching fish at night. The hide itself is an engineering marvel, as 24 tonnes of water is displaced to keep the hide at the level it is without floating.
The entire hide is built out of stainless steel to keep rust at bay and ensure a long lifespan for the Lagoon. All electricity needs are met with a nearby solar panel installation and battery bank, allowing us to utilise cooling fans and the water pump which circulates 9000 litres of water per hour through the lagoon, keeping the water cool and fresh. The hide is placed off-centre in the Lagoon meaning there is a long and shorter distance available for photography, allowing close-up as well as action opportunities.
Limited nocturnal photography opportunities are offered here in from November to March
There is no best lens available for the Lagoon hide. Photographers need to take the estimated distances into consideration when planning images, but the subject sizes vary considerably from a 10cm plover to a 1.5m goliath heron.
Lenses around 200-300mm are good for action shots of larger birds, and there is always the opportunity to photograph the abundant aquatic kingfishers and smaller waders using longer lenses. Faster lenses offering greater light gathering ability and wider open apertures are ideal for the hide.
The larger east facing side allows the photographer to shoot against the rising sun (AM) and with the setting sun (PM). Subject distances can vary considerably but are generally 5m to 15m (15′ – 45′) away.
The shorter edge is on the western side of the hide, and is brilliant in early morning light. Late afternoons allow photographers to photograph into the setting sun, getting either silhouette shots or dramatically backlit shots when using wireless fill flash if subjects are in range. Your photographic distance on this edge ranges from 3m to 6m (9′ – 18′).