Africa's Hidden Hides
For expert photographers, dedicated birders and those seeking an alternative and secretive view of the wildlife in Africa, professionally designed hides are becoming the best way to get that perfect shot.
Hides range from the rudimentary thatched huts with just a gap to peer out of up to high-design hidey holes where you can easily spend hours if not days of your trip. As hides have progressed, sunken recesses into the ground overlooking a water hole are superseded by architectural structures designed to maximise photographic opportunities without spooking the wildlife.
Rift Valley Escarpment, Kenya
Wild and untouched, Lentorre is located in the Olkirimatian Conservancy, owned by the local Masai community, in Kenya’s South Rift Valley. Nearby to soda lakes, springs and rivers, woodlands and grasslands, Lentorre has just six villas, two of which are well set up for families. It’s also an excellent spot to get up close to birdlife and nature. A dramatic tunnel leads you to the Lentorre Hide, running almost the whole way from camp down the hillside to your subterranean lair.
Perched on the side of the Great Rift escarpment, the hide here attracts different bird species to Shompole Wilderness on the plains below – trogons with their wild plumage stop on their way through the dense hillside vegetation and with over 350 species in the locale, almost anything could turn up for a drink. On the escarpment you are more likely to see leopard here than lion but the beauty of being the only permanent source of water for some distance in the dry months means that a huge diversity of wildlife uses the waterhole. At the back of the hide is a separate bedroom so up to four guests can overnight – perfect for those who want to capture the earliest morning visitors.
Lentorre’s hide is a magnet for professional wildlife photographers; admire their expert captures in our gallery. Credit: Cyndy B Waters, Jeff Wu, Piper Mackay, Paras Chandaria.
“The hide is fully enclosed, the view onto the waterhole is through immaculate one-way glass and this gives a couple of advantages – firstly that you can move and sneeze undetected by the waterhole visitors and secondly it also allows the hide to be gently airconditioned.”
What you will see
With over 350 bird species in the locale, almost any of our feathered friends could turn up for a drink. Mammals are omnipresent – in the dry months of September and October, caracal are frequent visitors to the hide and a combination of time between here and Shompole would lead to some phenomenal photography shots.
Deep in the heart of Kenya’s southern Maasailand, Shompole Wilderness is an exclusive-use lodge, a riverside oasis under the shade of giant fig trees that dot the camps. A stand-out of Shompole is its newly constructed hide, which was built in collaboration with wildlife photographer Will Burrard-Lucas, who’s record of achievement includes Wildlife Photographer of the Year among a raft of accolades.
The hide is set a short distance from camp, overlooking a productive water hole, this is a predominantly arid region where the waterhole acts a magnet for wildlife. Nothing has been left to chance to frame the perfect shot, from remotely operated lighting rigs which can be placed to create the right backlight to comfortable workstations with positions for equipment and lenses. The hide is open fronted at water level – giving an intimate front row seat to the waterhole’s animal visitors. Sound insulation within the hide means only the spookiest of birds seem to notice any movement. To the rear is a bathroom and comfortable bunk beds for those who can’t be drawn away and of course a fridge loaded with your favourite snacks and drinks.
We’ve used images from professional photographers who’ve used the hide to capture African creatures of all sizes.
“If you were looking for the most knowledgeable highest qualified photographer to help you design a wildlife photographic hide then wildlife photographer Will Burrard-Lucas would be top of the list.”
What you will see
This waterhole is particularly fruitful for lion, antelope and other plains game but rarely a minute passes when a family of firefinch or flock of quelea aren’t dropping in for a drink. Striped hyena are a speciality of this area so this offers the best place to photograph these usually elusive beasts.
South Luangwa, Zambia
Set high up on a rocky ridge overlooking the Kakumbi floodplain, Puku Ridge has exceptional views of the wildlife-rich plains of the Luangwa valley in Zambia. The hide at Puku Ridge is located directly below the main deck of the lodge and this serves several purposes: firstly the wildlife has become habituated to people moving around on the mess deck above so it is less skittish than in other locations and most importantly it means that a quick radio call ensure a constant delivery of food and cold drinks without disturbing the wildlife.
Large herds of elephant frequently cross in front of the lodge, pausing only to drink from the waterhole – giving you an extreme close-up of these goliaths. South Luangwa is famed for its high volume of predators – especially leopard and wild dogs which are an almost daily spectacle. Whilst the hide here doesn’t need beds as it is connected to the main lodge, there are floor cushions and padded benches to offer a range of positions and angles to photograph from.
“To be able to view wildlife and birdlife at such close quarters from the safety of the hide is an absolute privilege and enables extraordinary photographs to be taken.”
What you will see
One of the best captures from within Puku Ridge’s hide comes when herds of elephants roll and wallow in the mud; young elephant calves playing and experimenting with their trunks is a delight.
South Luangwa, Zambia
Recognising that different animal activity occurs throughout the year, Shenton Safaris who have two camps in Zambia’s South Luangwa, have a number of hides in different locations dotted along the seasonal riverbed of the Luangwa River. Each of the hides is located to target specific creatures as well as a further pair of hides which are fully mobile.
Hippo hide is located on a deep corner at the confluence of the Luangwa and Mwamba rivers. Here, hundreds of hippos congregate throughout the season in both bachelor and breeding pods. The hippo hide is carved into the bank of the river directly above these pods and its inhabitants are hidden by a grass screen. Comfortable seating and cleverly designed camera props make this a photographer’s dream. Yawning and fighting wildlife pictures guaranteed! The carmine bee-eater hide moves on an annual basis depending on which bank the bee-eaters decide to take up their annual residency. The birds generally arrive through the month of August, so this hide is only operational in September or October. Sometimes the hide is on a boat moored close to the riverbank, other years it can be on a sandbank close to the colony. The wild dog lagoon hide is an immensely popular hide which draws all manner of plains game and predators but is also very popular with birders as sacred ibis and African jacana are daily visitors.
“Shenton Safari hides create exclusive experiences with wildlife who simply don’t know you’re there, allowing you to capture them in all their undisturbed, candid glory.”
What you will see
With different, moveable hides set up in a variety of locations throughout the year, you could have an extreme close up of myriad animals including hippos, bee-eaters and wild dog among a large cast of characters from Zambia’s South Luangwa.
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