(Image from Zimanga.com)
Today I am en route to South Africa for a couple of weeks of wildlife photography, which I’m quite excited about. I’m traveling with my friend Fernando Boza – we’ve done a number of great photography trips together. It’s a long haul to get there – we started out with a 4 hour flight from Denver to Newark (New York City), and are now on a marathon 15 hour flight from Newark to Johannesburg. We will stay overnight at a hotel by Joburg airport, and tomorrow morning have a short one hour flight to Durban, then a 3 hour drive from there. So overall I calculate that to be a 48 hour journey, from leaving home to arriving at our first destination in South Africa!
Our primary destination is a private game reserve called Zimanga, about 3 hours north of Durban. They are very geared to photographers. In addition to the typical game drives that you do on any safari trip, they have a variety of different photo hides, where you can get a different perspective on the wildlife. The most distinctive of these are two overnight photo hides, located right next to waterholes which are illuminated at night. These give you a great close up and low angle of view of the animals drinking at the waterholes – they are only around 4 meters / 12 feet away from you! And you also have the possibility of getting some great reflection shots, at day or night. We will be at Zimanga for seven nights, and will get two overnight hide sessions during that time, where we spend 16 hours or so in the hide, to take in sunset, night and sunrise. They have bunk beds, toilets and refreshments in the hides – and even a motion sensor with an alarm that can wake you if there is action while you are sleeping!
While I hesitate to set expectations too high, here is a great video giving a flavor of the sort of sightings that are possible at Zimanga:
When we first inquired about availability at Zimanga, back in November of 2021, they only had one six day slot available for the dry season (April to October) during 2022, which is when you get the best activity at the waterholes. Six days is the minimum booking length to get you a session in the overnight hides (you get two sessions). So we jumped at that and booked the last room available, for seven nights.
Since Zimanga is so hard to get into, and we obviously want to make the most of our time there, we decided to allow a little contingency in our travel plans and have a bit of time to recover from the long journey. We ended up booking 3 nights at another game reserve called Falaza, that is about an hour away from Zimanga. While Zimanga has a fixed schedule of two photo activities every day, one drive and one hide session, Falaza is more a la carte, so we can decide when we get there how we balance photo activities versus relaxing and recuperating ahead of the all out photo extravaganza we anticipate at Zimanga!
Stay tuned for further updates and photos over the next couple of weeks!