Three of the best photographic hides in Zambia
As much as I would love to write about how fantastic I think Kaingo and its sister camp Mwamba, in South Luangwa National Park, are – and they really are – I have decided to focus on their hides, as these were quite spectacular and very special. The idea was conjured up by Derek Shenton, of Shenton Safaris, some years ago as a small project and their growing success means that there are now seven hides in total, of which I was fortunate enough to visit three. They are regularly used by the likes of the BBC and National Geographic – and I can see why.
1 Kaingo’s Hippo Hide
For starters, there’s the Hippo Hide – my favourite – which sits at the confluence of the Luangwa and Mwamba rivers, beside a busy hippo pool of bachelor and breeding pods. We walked down some 20 steps to a dark, earthy underground room, which contained several windows, offering perfect views of the pod at water level. Observing these huge animals from here was incredibly exhilarating. Later in the season, the team builds a tunnel to keep up with the receding water levels.
2 Kaingo’s Elephant Hide
Another worthy contender was the Elephant Hide, which very much resembles a treehouse and overlooks a regular elephant crossing point on the Luangwa River. This is also an amazing sleep-out platform. I sat here for a couple of hours one lunchtime watching a breeding herd tentatively begin to traverse, led as always by the matriarch ushering and, once her patience had run dry, pushing the smallest of the family across. The euphoria I saw from the young calves once they were safely on the other side was magical, and I felt really privileged to have been able to ‘spy’ on their journey.
3 Shenton Safaris’ Carmine Bee-eater Hide
Perhaps the most unique one was the Carmine Bee-eater Hide, a permanently moored boat that sits close to the high riverbanks and nesting sites of these colourful, busy birds. It is, of course, a birder’s idea of paradise, but for photographers, it offers a brilliant opportunity to take shots of the bee-eaters up close and in flight, which, by any other means, is always a challenge.
Not only are these hides a photographer’s dream, but they are also wonderful for those who, like me, simply enjoy sitting and quietly observing the scenes playing out around them. After all, this is what Africa is all about.