"Take nothing but photographs; leave nothing but footprints." This advice is especially appropriate in Africa, where you can stay in eco-sensitive lodges in spectacular locations, and encounter wildlife in pristine natural habitats. Experienced bush guides always advise photographers to enjoy the view for a moment before picking up their cameras and capturing their safari memories. With this in mind, join us on a tour of our favorite places for wildlife photography in southern Africa. And, learn from the experts on how to photograph wildlife on safari.
The Hide Safari Camp, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
The Hide has remained true to a slower approach to life and offers guests an incredible sensory experience in the iconic Hwange National Park. The perfect antidote to the rush and crush of modern life, the emphasis is on taking the time to truly see, hear and even smell the bush, doing as many – or as few – activities as you wish. One you definitely should not miss is spending time in one of the hides. Cunningly disguised as natural features like termite mounds, they give you a front row seat to all the wildlife action while ensuring you remain completely unobtrusive, and safe.
Enter the "window on the waterhole" hide and settle down with your cameras for the wildlife to come into focus. Enjoy the sense of anticipation as you wait for the first thirsty visitors – but remember that the hides are so well camouflaged that they are sometimes completely surrounded by elephants! You may be a bit late for dinner, but that’s not a problem – the Hide is situated in a private concession within the Park, meaning you can round out your hide experience with a night drive as you head home by starlight.
Changa Safari Camp, Matusadona National Park, Zimbabwe
Also in Zimbabwe – home to some of the best safari guides on the continent – Changa Safari Camp sits on the shores of Lake Kariba. Many of the animals in the area today are descendants of those rescued during Operation Noah as the valley filled behind the Kariba Dam wall.
Matusadona is a magical environment of mountains, lake, and streams. The name comes from the local word for ‘falling dung’, which gives a clue to the identity of the most prominent species in the area. Elephants thrive in the lakeside habitat, and with almost three miles of private shoreline, Changa is perfectly located for photographing these magnificent creatures.
It’s also one of the best places in Africa to see tigers – tiger fish, that is! Named for the black stripes on their flanks and their outsized teeth, they are much prized by anglers.
Mashatu Lodge, Mashatu Game Reserve, Botswana
Like all the other destinations on our list, Mashatu offers not just the opportunity to photograph African animals, but also to capture the landscapes they live in. Mashatu’s dramatic sandstone ridges, baobab trees, and undulating savannah make wonderful subjects in their own right.
With advice from one of Mashatu’s resident professional photographers, learn how to make the most of the "golden hour" of perfect light each morning and evening, and enjoy the thrill of lying in wait in a hide for animals coming to drink. Pause until they fill the frame before you push the button and create another memorable image.
Guests at Mashatu can also take advantage of their underground elephant hide. This hide is sunken into the ground right next to a busy waterhole, putting the viewers’ head at ground level where all the action happens.The video above says it all!
Chitabe, Okavango, Botswana
Chitabe is one of the best-kept secrets of professional wildlife photographers. Hidden away on an island in the southeastern Okavango Delta, Chitabe is surrounded by a dynamic mosaic of habitats, with a dazzling array of wildlife. It has a justified reputation for predator sightings and is consistently one of the best places in southern Africa to see wild dogs.
The guest tents offer far-reaching floodplain views from raised decks, making the landscape of the Okavango Delta the first visual treat. As you head out with your guide, keep your camera to hand: whether you enjoy landscape, macro, or wildlife portrait photography, Chitabe offers a wide variety of subjects. The guides are keen and accomplished photographers themselves and enjoy spending time each evening reliving the day through your images and discussing composition and technique. The next day they’ll be ready to help you put that advice into practice as you take even better pictures!
Chiawa Camp, Lower Zambezi, Zambia
Family-run Chiawa Camp provides the mighty Zambezi River as the backdrop to your photographs, whether you are reflecting on the perfect sunset from the Camp’s upstairs viewing deck, or snapping the crocodiles on the banks.
As Zambia’s premier luxury photo-safari camp, Chiawa really raises the bar in terms of food and accommodation – and also gives you the luxury of returning home with wonderful, unique images. Combine time in the Scouts Hollow hide with a guided bushwalk, and hunker down at animal-eye-level on the banks of the Zambezi as the animals come to drink and bathe.
Think of it as your VIP backstage pass to the bush, with unobstructed views of the river and its wildlife – plus the benefits of expert guides to identify each species, explain their behavior, and give you insider tips on getting the best possible shots.