Photograph animals and birds at eye-level.
Apair of blacksmith lapwings usually arrive before us at the Onkolo Hide. My wife, Di, and I get settled in the hide and set up all the camera gear. As the sun starts rising at about 6.45, the first finches and waxbills with their beautiful colours fly in: blue, black-faced and violeteared waxbills, green-winged pytilia, golden-breasted bunting, scaly-feathered finch and red-billed quelea, to mention a few.
Soon afterwards, Cape turtle doves and emeraldspotted wood-doves make themselves heard, as well as noisy helmeted guineafowls and grey go-away birds. Throughout the day, kori bustards come and go. They have the most peculiar way of drinking, by bending their legs forward… Other game, including the shy grey duiker, also arrives early morning.
As the day warms, herds of springbok, zebra, wildebeest, impala, giraffe, kudu and gemsbok come down to drink, followed by a black-backed jackal or two. The ever-present warthogs drink and roll around in the mud, while a slender mongoose
– a common resident – scurries past. And come
late afternoon, the resident terrapin suns itself on the rock in the middle of the waterhole.
You experience all of this, mere metres from your nose!
In September 2018, we spent every day for two consecutive weeks in the Onkolo Hide. What makes this hide so special? It’s underground and the windows are at water level, which means you can take photos of birds and wildlife from a unique angle.
The hide faces directly south. When seated in the early morning, the sun rises on your left and moves behind you. In the evening, the sun sets to your right, affording a different angle to shoot from.
Another advantage of the hide is that most camera lenses will be able to capture the images on these pages – sometimes even a smartphone will do the trick! We met a group of photographers from Finland who sat at the back of the hide. They took amazing images of an elephant with their phones.
We spent most mornings and evenings in the hide. While I took photos, Di recorded every species of bird and animal we observed.
We walked to the hide in the dark with a torch – one morning we were surprised by a small spotted genet. As the sun rose, the temperature climbed, sometimes reaching 40° C. We were lucky to see a cheetah come to drink in the mid-afternoon, and early one morning a spotted hyena came to drink and wallow. A family of banded mongoose also made a visit.
There were even some anxious moments, as the animals can get quite close to the openings in the wall of the hide. To hear the hoofs of a giraffe only
2 m from the hide was amazing. And when that hyena came to drink, he looked at us as if we were prey…
In general, hides are great places to quietly observe and photograph wildlife. More often than not, the animals are oblivious to your presence. Onkolo offers the same experience, but at the next level!