Uniquely Zimanga 2019 - a Specialist South African Wildlife Photo Safari

8, 10 & 11 night specialist safaris

Photograph from state-of-the art low level hides, including the fabulous nocturnal hide, and target the Big Five on exclusive game drives at Zimanga, South Africa’s only private game reserve designed specifically for photographers.

Three dates in 2019

  • June 4 – 12, 2019 (8 nights)
  • June 20 – 30, 2019 (10 nights – only 4 spaces remaining)
  • September 8 – 19, 2019 (11 nights – only one space remaining)

Competitively priced

8 nights: £3,200 pp sharing, single room supplement £750.

10 nights: £3,850 pp sharing, single room supplement £1,000.

11 nights: £4,050 pp sharing, single room supplement £1,000.

Flights not included.

Fully escorted, small group

Maximum of six guests per safari, escorted by two professional wildlife photographers with more than 20 years experience photographing in Africa, offering personalised advice and guidance.

Plains zebra, Zimanga
Lioness at dawn, Zimanga

Special features

  • Amazing nocturnal big game hide
  • Beautiful lagoon waterbird hide
  • Scavenger hide
  • Small bird reflection hides
  • Bee-eater hide if birds are nesting
  • Exclusive game drives

8 Night African Wildlife Photo Safari

10 Night African Wildlife Photo Safari

11 Night African Wildlife Photo Safari


If you’re serious about capturing unforgettable images of African wildlife, then you can’t afford to miss Zimanga.  Zimanga is Africa’s first private game reserve designed specifically for wildlife photographers, with purpose-built hides offering superb mammal and bird photography, and exciting game drives in pursuit of lion, African wild dog, cheetah, elephant, rhino and more.

Located in South Africa’s game-rich KwaZulu-Natal province, Zimanga boasts the first hides designed in Africa by multi-award winning Hungarian photographer Bence Máté. If you don’t know his name, you’ll know his images – he’s won the most coveted prizes in wildlife photography, and with good reason.

Bence’s hides have been designed to get you up close to everything from small birds to large mammals: we’ll be using them all, including the newly-opened overnight hide, where you could photograph anything, from rhinos to elephants to predators.

But we won’t just be ‘hide-bound’, we’ll also be exploring the Big Five reserve by vehicle, in search of great shots of elephant, rhino, lion and much more. Zimanga’s guides use the latest technology to ensure we can find thrilling subjects such as the endangered African wild dog and cheetah, and hopefully we’ll even have the opportunity to photograph some of the most charismatic animals on foot – allowing dynamic low angle viewpoints.

We’ve been visiting Africa for over twenty years, and spend several months each year photographing in its game parks, so you’ll be able to tap into our huge wealth of knowledge and expertise. But we’ll also be working with Zimanga’s guides, who know the reserve like the backs of their hands and really understand the needs of photographers – because they work with them every day.

We’ll be staying on the reserve itself, in the comfortable and exclusive Doornhoek homestead, which means we can respond instantly to the light and weather, and make sure we make the most of every opportunity. And with only six guests maximum, you can be sure of the very best personal attention, and all the help and advice you need.

In 2019 we’ll be running three versions of our Uniquely Zimanga safari: the classic seven nights on Zimanga, with access to all of its hides, including the nocturnal hide, and two ‘super-size’ version, with two or three extra nights, more hide and game drive sessions, and the opportunity to spend a second night in the nocturnal hide if you wish. Both trips include one night in an excellent Ballito hotel (convenient for Durban airport) at the beginning.


African wild dog chewing old impala horns, Zimanga

Our action-packed itinerary

Both Zimanga experiences include one night in a Ballito hotel at the beginning. Ballito is a relaxed seaside resort about 25 miles north of Durban and only eight miles from Durban King Shaka airport. We’ll meet you in the hotel for dinner, then next morning after breakfast we’ll drive the three hours or so to Zimanga. After settling into our accommodation and having a bite to eat, we’ll get straight into our first evening session.

Most of Zimanga’s hides take a maximum of four people, so we’ll mostly be splitting into two small groups – three photographers, accompanied by Ann or Steve. One group will work in a hide, while the other goes on a game drive.  Everyone will have the same number and variety of activities, while enjoying personal attention from ourselves, and not having to share a vehicle with too many other people – which is really important for ensuring great photo opportunities.

During our seven night stay on the reserve every guest will have seven game drives – with special emphasis on the exciting charismatic animals, including lion, cheetah, elephant, rhino and the amazing African wild dogs.  Everyone will have the opportunity to spend a night in the overnight hide – which includes an evening and morning session as well as the nocturnal time (this is entirely optional, but an opportunity not to be missed. If you don’t fancy the overnight hide you will have two other hide sessions instead). We’ll also have five other hide sessions – including at least two in the beautiful lagoon hide.  On our nine and ten night stays in Zimanga we’ll have the opportunity for additional sessions, chosen according to what we’ve found most productive and the prevailing conditions, plus there will be the chance to spend a second night in the nocturnal hide if you wish.

Between activities we’ll have the chance to relax in the four star luxury Doornhoek homestead complete with its rimflow swimming pool on a wooden deck. All meals are included. We’ll have Doornhoek entirely to ourselves.

After our final morning activity we’ll depart Zimanga and drive back to Durban, dropping you back at the airport in the late afternoon.

Elephants drinking at night, Zimanga

Superb wildlife photography on a unique South African game reserve

We’ll be staying in the heart of Zimanga. The private reserve’s 6,000 hectares of pristine bushveld, fever tree forest and rolling hills are home to more than 80 species of mammal, including lion, elephant, leopard, cheetah, buffalo, rhino, giraffe, zebra, hippo, wildebeest and the rare African wild dog. Zululand is also renowned for its incredible variety of birds, and more than 400 species have been recorded there.

There’s excellent traditional game viewing from open safari vehicles, but it’s the purpose-built hides that make this reserve exceptional. These state-of-the art water-level hides were built under the guidance and supervision of Bence Máté, the multi-award winning photographer who won the outright BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year award in 2010, and has more category wins (eight) in that competition than anyone else.

The utmost care and planning has gone into the construction and positioning of these hides to ensure the lighting, focal lengths and backgrounds can produce stunning images of drinking animals and birds. Special, high-quality, one-way glass ensures photographers are invisible to their subjects, with minimal loss of light allowing high shutter speeds where required. There’s solar-powered air-conditioning and comfortable executive-style chairs that can glide across the wood laminate flooring. The hides are equipped with high quality tripods with gimbal heads, and lens mounting plates are supplied. Photographers just need to ensure their lenses are equipped with tripod collars.

The Mkhombe and Bhejane hides (named after the isiZulu words for white and black rhinos) are bird bath hides, offering us the chance to photograph a variety of small, colourful birds, including the sought-after pink-throated twinspot, kingfishers, oxpeckers, barbets, mousebirds and more. They are also regularly visited by small mammals, including warthog, banded mongoose and monkeys, and there’s always the outside chance of a leopard!  The Lagoon hide offers remarkable water-level views of waterbirds feeding, including storks, egrets, herons, thick-knees, kingfishers and more, in gorgeous light. African fish eagles are regular visitors, sometimes snatching fish just metres from the hide. Big crocodiles also often move into the water from the nearby dam, offering great opportunities for dramatic close-ups. Photographers will have at least two sessions in the lagoon hide during the week. There’s also the new scavenger hide, visited regularly by dozens of vultures, as well as occasional jackal, hyena and the possibility of lion and wild dog.

We’ll also be using the exciting new Umgodi overnight hide, offering the chance to capture some truly spectacular images of large mammals under the starry African sky.  This air-conditioned hide has to be seen to be believed – the animals come so close you’ll need a wide angle lens to fit them in, and the hide itself is equipped with bunk beds, toilet, kitchenette, even WiFi! Photographers enter the hide in the afternoon and photograph through the backlit afternoon session, then after sunset make use of the LED floodlights installed at water level to beautifully illuminate subjects that approach the water’s edge (you don’t use flash).  Motion sensors alert photographers when animals are approaching, so you can relax and read a book (there’s a small library of books!) or surf the web, without having to keep a constant look-out. The following morning the sun rises behind the hide, bathing the drinking edge in golden light. The overnight hide is entirely optional, so if you don’t fancy a night in a hide, you can substitute it for other activities, but it’s a great opportunity for some unique images. On our ten night stay at Zimanga you will have the option of a second night in the nocturnal hide.

On game drives each photographer will have a full bench seat with constant access to both sides of the open safari vehicle. Although nothing is ever guaranteed in nature, we’ve an extremely good chance of photographing the charismatic African wild dog, as Zimanga is one of the few places to have a breeding pack of this extremely rare predator. If conditions permit (and they usually do) we will even be able to dismount our vehicle and follow the wild dogs on foot, allowing for unique low angle shots. As well as the wild dogs, lion, cheetah, elephant and rhino are all but guaranteed.

Our experienced drivers/guides understand how to position the vehicle for the light and anticipate action. We will be able to spend as much time as we like at a promising sighting and the low number of vehicles on the property means we’ll never have to abandon a sighting to make way for another vehicle. Game viewing vehicles are also allowed to go off-road to get into the perfect shooting position – vital when following a hunting predator. And we won’t be stopping for sundowners until the very last of the photographic light has gone.

African fish eagle , Zimanga

Is this for you?

This safari is aimed at very keen wildlife photographers who will relish spending lots of time with great subjects and exploiting the unique photographic opportunities afforded by Bence Mate’s remarkable hides. If you’ve photographed on an African safari before, we can guarantee Zimanga will offer you a whole new experience.  You don’t need to be an experienced wildlife photographer to capture some amazing images on this trip, you just need to be enthusiastic and willing to dedicate yourself to a week or more of seriously intense photography.

If you’ve a partner who loves wildlife, but isn’t so keen on photography, they’re welcome to come along and enjoy the magnificent wildlife-viewing, but please understand this is a specialist photo safari. We will not be hurtling round to tick off as many species as possible before rushing back to a luxury lodge for brunch. When we find a good subject we’ll spend time with it, so non-photographers must be happy to do the same.

We’ll be getting up before dawn each day to ensure we’re in place for the best light, and spending a lot of time photographing, which can be tiring, so you’ll need a degree of stamina. On game drives we may also have occasional opportunities to get out of the vehicle and approach certain subjects on foot. We won’t be walking more than a few metres, but you do need to be able to get in and out of the vehicle easily (it’s a high step) and walk across stony ground.  Anyone with an ordinary degree of fitness will have no problems, but if you have any problems with mobility, please talk to us before booking.

We will be working with an experienced and very effective ground crew. But this is Africa, so we’re looking for guests who can take small hiccups in their stride – and understand that wildlife is anything but predictable! We’re a small group so a good sense of humour, a relaxed attitude and boundless enthusiasm will ensure we have a great time and make lasting friends.

We will have exclusive use of the Doornhoek homestead in the heart of Zimanga, which is very comfortable, but has limited rooms. We are able to offer single rooms for a supplementary charge, but only two per safari. Photographers travelling singly who are happy to share a room will not pay a supplement. Twin rooms are spacious, with a separate desk area for each occupant to review and edit their  work.

The cost of our 2019 Uniquely Zimanga safaris, per person sharing, are:

8 nights: £3,200.
10 nights: £3,850.
11 nights: £4,050.

Flights are not included.  A limited number of single rooms are available, on a first come, first served basis. Single room supplement is £750 for 8 nights, £1,000 for 10 or 11 nights.  We do not make a profit on single supplements, which are less than the cost to us.

The cost includes:

  • Seven/nine/ten nights Doornhoek homestead, all meals

  • One night in a Ballito hotel, with dinner and breakfast

  • All Zimanga game activities
  • Transfers between Durban and accommodation.

  • Expert advice from professional wildlife photographers and Africa experts Ann and Steve Toon

The cost excludes:

  • Flights

  • Visas (not required by British nationals or many other nationalities)

  • Drinks

  • Laundry

  • Items of a personal nature

  • Gratuities

Gratuities are optional, and while our drivers and guides will welcome a tip, they are not taken for granted, and certainly not at the level of some high end African safari lodges, where gratuities for game drive guides etc can cost you £50 a day. We are happy to give guidance on tipping, but you needn’t anticipate more than £50 per person for the entire trip. We (Ann and Steve) do not expect a tip!