There are currently nine 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 and Tamboti Overnight Hides are currently the only hides 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.
Scavengers Hill has been likened to being in a wildlife documentary, whilst our Forest and Tower Hides were built to experiment in photography of the Fever Tree forest’s feathered inhabitants
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. 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.
Photographers are seated on comfortable executive-style chairs, which glide effortlessly and quietly on across the wood laminate flooring. The hides are spacious and soundproofed with carpet on the walls to muffle the sound. Benro GH2 Heads and tripods are provided at all seats (1 per chair) but guests can bring their own support systems along if they prefer to do so. Arca Swiss plates can be collected at Main Lodge’s reception at no charge to guests.
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. Where possible Zimanga’s hides harness the power of the sun, with all the electricity demands for the hides met by solar installations.
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. 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.