Zimanga Private Game Reserve is the first reserve in Africa to be designed specifically to satisfy the needs of wildlife photographic enthusiasts as well as safari clients who have a deeper appreciation for “the bush”, as both of these groupings crave an unhurried and exclusive experience. Spread over more than 6000 hectares of bushveld, fever tree forests and rolling hills, Zimanga is bisected by the Mkuze River and is home to a variety of animals and birds. From leopards to wild dogs and elephants to cheetah, nearly every sought-after sighting is accounted for. For the birding enthusiast, there are over 400 bird species recorded at the reserve.
Game drives at Zimanga Private Game Reserve are in an open safari vehicle with three rows of seats behind the driver. As a rule the game drives on Zimanga limit the number of clients to only two people per row. This allows for more room for kit as well as the ability to “shoot” from both sides of the vehicle without anybody sitting directly next to you. This is ideal for photographers and non-photographers alike who enjoy a bit more space and freedom of movement. As a reserve Zimanga encourages clients to spend as much time as they like at any particular sighting. Due to the very low number of vehicles on the property at any one time you will never have to abandon a sighting to “make room” for another vehicle. The guides are all experienced as well as accomplished photographers in their own right so they will be able to position the vehicle in the best light as well as anticipating any action that is about to occur. Should a subject be inaccessible from one of the tracks then Zimanga vehicles are permitted to go off-road to get you into that perfect shooting position.
Whilst the game drives at Zimanga are top-notch, the truly memorable experience at Zimanga is their two hides that are currently in use. Both of the 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. 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.
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Photographers are seated on comfortable executive-style chairs, which glide effortlessly and quietly across the wood laminate flooring. A solar-powered air conditioning unit situated in the roof of the hide controls the temperature and humidity within. These two hides can accommodate a maximum of four persons and are soundproofed with carpeting 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. These 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.
There are plans in place to construct and open up more hides at Zimanga Private Game Reserve, including, but not limited to, the following, with the construction of the Lagoon Hide well advanced:
- The Large Mammal Hide: For capturing animals such as giraffe, buffalo, rhino and elephant from ground level as they drink from and occupy a waterhole.
- The Vulture Restaurant: Situated in an area of high vulture density, this hide should attract over 100 birds at a time when carrion is present.
- The Lagoon Hide: Positioned offshore in the largest of Zimanga’s three lakes this hide will be similar to Bence’s Theatre Hide in Hungary, attracting animals like hippos and crocodiles as well as a huge variety of water birds and raptors.
Zimanga has a diverse range of wildlife including four of the “Big Five” and also including cheetah and wild dogs. The reserve has plenty to offer in terms of unbelievable sightings, from the smallest shrew to the largest of all African mammals, the elephant and over 400-plus recorded bird species.
So, who should visit Zimanga?
- Well, for starters, serious NATURE / WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHERS of course. One just has to have a look at some of the photos from this reserve to see the quality of the images produced by advanced wildlife photographers.
- Just ORDINARY PHOTOGRAPHERS as well. The ease with which one is able to photograph from the two hides means that any person with a camera has the opportunity to get close to small birds, something that is very difficult under normal circumstances.
- BIRDERS, well yes, of course birders. There are just so many different birds that visit in a fairly short period that one cannot but tick that elusive twin-spot!
- NATURE ENTHUSIASTS – those people who have a deeper appreciation for “the bush”, and who crave an unhurried and exclusive experience, whether in the hides or on a game drive - people who don’t mind watching a particular animal for the sheer joy of it.
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