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Seeking Hides for Unforgettable Safari Photos

Photographic hides offer an excellent way for photographers of all levels to complement their African safari photos with up-close, candid images of a variety of animals, from the very large to the quite small. Learn about the photo hide experience, and which safari camps offer them.


Photo hides are structures built to create optimum conditions for photographing animals. First and foremost, they need to be located in an area that draws wildlife, generally near a waterhole. They are then positioned taking many factors into consideration: the angle of the sun, the background, and the angle of the viewer in relationship to the wildlife. In the extreme, they may be permanent structures, like this elephant-proof, partially submerged container at Mashatu, they may be constructed of sturdy materials like logs, and some are semi-permanent, able to be repositioned as the seasons change.

Travelers get close to a wild elephant from a hide


A session photographing from the hide may be scheduled as an alternative to a game drive. Sessions last about three to four hours, and are offered in the mornings and afternoons, concurrent with game drives. Generally morning sessions are preferred over afternoon sessions as the animals are more active at that time of day. Photographers of all levels and non-photographers alike are welcome in the hide, where they will be accompanied by a specialist photo guide from the camp.  Generally no more than four photographers can be accommodated in the confines of the small structure, and because silence and stillness are so important, it’s not a great activity for children, or other restless souls!

Traveler views a wild elephant from a hide


Mashatu’s Matebole hide, ideally positioned next to a waterhole, is located in prime elephant habitat. Inside the hide viewers’ heads are at ground level. As the animals draw near to quench their thirst, photographers capture stunning safari photos featuring animals and birds in a variety of poses, some only three meters away! Kudus, giraffes, impalas, baboons, hyenas and even some large cats have all been photographed at the hide.

Elephant sprays water at travelers in hide

The unique perspective of this elephant could have only been captured from ground level.

Slender mongoose drinks some water - photo by Kyle de Nobrega

Smaller mammals, like this slender mongoose, can also be photographed at close range.

Close up a wild giraffe - photographed from a hide

And this photo forgoes the famous neck of the giraffe to focus on its soft muzzle and long lashes.


While Mashatu offers the greatest variety of hides, including its elephant-proof, ground-level hide, semi-permanent hides, an infinity bird hide from which seed-eating birds can be photographed at eye-level, and a hide based at a white-fronted bee-eater colony, other safari camps offer less-extensive photo hides constructed of log piles for safe, up-close photography in a variety of habitats. Savuti Camp and DumaTau Camp, in northern Botswana on the deep, clear waterway of the Savute Channel, each have well-positioned hides of this variety. Little Makalolo, in the heart of Hwange National Park, has a log-pile hide overlooking a waterhole in camp. And in Kenya’s Ol Donyo Lodge, famous for its Mount Kilimanjaro views, also offers an open-air hide, or “log-jam.” Including any of these camps in your safari planning will ensure you return home with a variety of safari photos.

Bushtracks traveler photo of traveler photographing a wild elephant near Zaremba Ol Donyo Lodge


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