Tired of photographing animals from your Fortuner? Get down to water-level in one of Southern Africa’s incredible underground hides.
Since an increasing number of people are switching their focus from mere game viewing to wildlife photography, classic platform hides are slowly but surely being replaced by sunken hides that are clearly designed with the perfect photo in mind. The waterholes they overlook are smaller, the directions they face ensure that every guinea fowl, buffalo and giraffe they attract are perfectly lit, and their comfort levels make Lake Panic’s benches feel like torture. We’re talking high-back swivel chairs, moveable gimbal heads and, in some cases, even air con! Here’s everything you need to know:
1 When to go
Going to an underground hide during the wet season (November to May) is like going to watch the Bulls play Super Rugby this year – disappointment is virtually guaranteed. Animals are more likely to quench their thirst at flowing rivers and pools of rainwater. Rather book between June and October when the hides’ pumped waterholes are the only reliable sources of water in the area.
2 What to expect
What makes this experience so exhilarating is the fact that you’re looking tree squirrels and blue waxbills in the eye when you photograph them, and up at everything that’s bigger. Not only does this give your photos a fresh angle, but it also makes it possible to blur the background of even the smallest of subjects – something that’s nearly impossible from within a vehicle.
3 Which lenses to take
You never know what you might need, so pack your camera bag like you would a first-aid kit – take everything you have. Short lenses (24-70 mm) are a must if you’re expecting to photograph large mammals like elephants or herds of antelope, and long prime lenses (500 mm and 600 mm) are perfect for small birds. A zoom lens (like a 70-200 mm or 100-400 mm) is also very handy for everything in between, including Egyptian geese, herons, baboons, warthogs, etc.