Wildlife experiences come in many different forms. Out here in Madikwe, we have the traditional vehicle-based safari’s and the thrill of a walking safari. We however, have a little something that not many other lodges can brag about. We have an eye level, photographic hide, situated in the middle of our pan. This can often be the highlight of guests stay, which can have you close to the animals, without them even realizing you’re there.
Being a hide in the water does make for a certain amount of seasonality though. We tend to find that the larger animals, particularly Elephants, utilize the hide pan mostly towards the dry season with the peak around August, September and October. At this time, it’s not uncommon to have an aggregation of more than 100 Elephants at a time. This does also correlate with a time that the day time temperatures well exceed 30 degrees Celsius. The Elephant interactions are astounding to watch, as they swim and splash. Some serious playtime for the Elephants. This doesn’t mean that other animals aren’t attracted as well, a procession of Wildebeest, Impala, Zebra as well as many more species of general game visit during the day.
The resident Nile Crocodile, is also a source of a lot of entertainment as well. While I haven’t managed to get the shot yet, I’ve seen a number of guests showing photographs of the Crocodile hunting Weavers and the Tilapia that we have in the pan. He has however given me a number of good photo opportunities.
As we go into the rainy season, so the numbers of game decreases at the pan. The birds then make up for it. A great number of species are attracted to the pan and an attentive photographer can get some really good shots of fishing birds doing their thing, FISHING! Pied Kingfishers hovering above the water.
Our local predators are also attracted to the pan. The African Wild dog pack are common visitors, as well as Cheetah. We have on several occasions witnessed the Cheetah hunting Impala from the hide. Our local Lion pride, the Kwena pride often make the pan their residence for the day, providing awesome moments for the guests.
A few photographic tips:
- Have 2 lenses in the hide, something like a 70-200mm would be perfect, but a longer lens from 400-600mm really lets you get the arty shots and bird shots. If you don’t have a long lens, we rent 100-400mm Canon lenses to our guests.
- The longer you spend in the hide, the luckier you’ll get.
- Mid-day provides the best moments for the Elephants, so if you do have a polarising filter, that will definitely help.
- Concentrate on the little things, while you wait for the big guys to come. The birds can really provide some good photographs, probably better than just a drinking mammal.
Text and Photographs by Darren Donovan