Lee Frost Photography
ZIMANGA WILDLIFE ADVENTURE
After staying at Zimanga, a private game reserve in the heart of Zululand, South Africa, in June 2023, I'm excited to announce that I will be returning for a second group trip in June 2025 (my May 2024 trip has been sold out for months). We will be the only guests staying on the reserve, so we will have exclusive access to its facilities and accommodation.
Zimanga started life in 1998, when Charl Senekal Snr, a successful sugar cane farmer, purchased land which included a small game reserve, known then as Hlambanyathi. At the time, it was unprotected and over-poached, so little wildlife remained. Today, thanks to many years of hard work and dedication, the reserve now has more than 80 species of mammals roaming free, including giraffe, buffalo, rhino, elephant, zebra, hippo, leopard, cheetah and lions, as well as hundreds of species of bird.
What sets Zimanga apart from other reserves is that it boasts a series of hides that have been painstakingly designed and constructed to give you the chance to produce images of startling quality and originality. The hides offer photographers a non-intrusive method of photographing Zimanga's wildlife, often from very close range, and though the subjects are free-roaming, and hence no sighting is guaranteed, the hides tip the balance heavily in favour of the photographer to get amazing shots. All are spacious and soundproofed, with carpet on the walls to muffle the sound, and executive-style chairs. Benro gimbal heads and heavy duty tripods are provided at all seats, but you can bring your own support system if they prefer to do so.
Key to the whole Zimanga experience are two overnight hides that allow you to photograph wildlife illuminated against the black night sky. Each hide accommodates up to four photographers, and during our 8 night stay, because we will be the only guests staying on the reserve, you will have the opportunity to spend a minimum of four nights in the hides if you wish. The hides are equipped with bunkbeds, toilets, a kitchen area and wifi. Meals, snacks and drinks are provided. The night hides also use a passive infrared beam network to alert hide occupants when subjects are apporoaching, so you don't have to keep watch all night long!
The Umgodi overnight hide is located literally in a watering hole - the nearest drinking edge is just 4m away - and you'll be shooting just a few cm above the water! Photographers enter the hide in the afternoon and photograph through the backlit afternoon session, then after sunset make use of the paired floodlights installed either side, beautifully illuminating subjects that approach the water’s edge. The following morning, the sun rises behind the hide, bathing the drinking edge in golden light and creating more amazing photo opportunities.
The Tamboti overnight hide is located at the confluence of two streams in a natural clearing of Tamboti trees. Floodlights illuminate the large open clearing in front of the hide from where anything can appear from the darkness. The hide is east facing, so a session starts in the late afternoon, followed by illuminated night photography and the early morning sun rising in front of you the next morning.
To give you an idea of just how close you will be to the wildlife when shooting from these hides, a 24-70mm zoom is recommended, with a 70-200mm or similar for tighter shots! Fast lenses with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 are also recommended, to keep shutter speeds manageable in the low light, without the need to set the ISO too high.
The other hides at Zimanga also offer breath-taking photo opportunities. Scavenger's Hill Hide is the place to capture vultures feeding, along with other birds of prey, jackal and possibly hyena, against a mountainous backdrop. The Lagoon Hide can be visited in the morning of afternoon. There you can photograph a variety of waterbirds, from tiny plovers and sandpipers, to large birds such as herons, storks and fish eagles. In the summer - when we will be there - crocodiles are also regular visitors.
The Mkhombe Birdbath hide is Zimanga’s first reflection hide. It faces west and allows water-level images of the multitude of bird species that come and drink at the hide in the early morning - more than 80 species have already been recorded at this hide. The Bhejane Birdbath hide is Zimanga’s second reflection hide, and the site was carefully chosen to lure shy bird species that prefer thicker habitat.
The Tower Hide is located 8m abovde ground within the fever tree forests of Zimanga. This hide was built specifically for the arboreal residents of the forest, and for hard-core birders, a patient session spent in the hide can result in spectacular bird photos.
Of course, Zimanga isn't just about hides. We will also go on game drives in the morning and late afteroon in open safari vehicles, to capture the reserve's mammals, reptiles and birds in their natural environment. Everyone is guaranteed a side seat. We will also have the option of a night drive to photograph lions illuminated from multiple vehicles against the night sky.
The accommodation at Zimanga is stunning! We will occupy the Main Lodge and the nearby Doornhoek Homestead, both of which offer luxurious en-suite rooms. The Main Lodge boasts a large deck with sun loungers and looks out over the Mkhombe Valley. There's also a beautiful rim-flowing swimming pool. The Homestead again has its own pool and it's not uncommon to spot elephants taking a drink from it! Delicious meals are served within the dining area of the Main Lodge while a large circular open-air boma provides the ideal spot to enjoy a nightcap and talk about the day's photography around a bushveld fire.
We're staying at Zimanga on an all-inclusive basis, so all meals and drinks are included, consisting of a light pre-activity early morning snack, mid-morning breakfast, light lunch and dinner. Soft drinks, local beers, spirits and house wines are also included (imported wines and spirits are charged extra), and there's a free laudry service.
The daytime hide visits and game drives take place twice a day - early morning before breakfast then mid-afternoon until after sunset. In-between you are free to relax, enjoy a swim, read, edit images and get ready for the next shoot! If you'e visiting an overnight hide, you will enter mid-afternoon one day and emerge the following morning (approx 18 hours in total).
Please note - this is an exclusive stay as we will be the only guests on the reserve, making the whole experience even more unique and unforgettable!
After payment of the deposit, 50% of the trip cost will be payable approx 180 days before departure (mid-December 2024) and the remainder approx 90 days before departure (mid-March 2025).
Advice on clothing, equipment etc will be issued several months before departure.
Please visit https://zimanga.com to find out more about this amazing place!
Also check out my Zimanga portfolio on this website - all photographs were taken during a 5-night recce in June 2023.
At A Glance...
Deposit / Price
£500.00 / £6,600.00
09th - 20th June, 2025
1 night in Ballito at Coco De Mer Boutique Hotel on b&b basis, 8 nights at Zimanga Private Game Reserve on an all-inclusive basis, en-suite accommodation, transfers to and from Durban airport, game drives and hide visits
Flights, insurance, gratuity for guides and staff (suggested amount £100)
Natal, South Africa
Max Group Size