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Departs June 2018   |   Price.. £3495pp   |   8 nights (excl international travel)



Zimanga, in South Africa, is the first wildlife reserve to be designed specifically to satisfy the needs of wildlife photography enthusiasts as well as safari clients who have a deeper appreciation for the bush, both of whom crave an unhurried and exclusive experience.

Spread over 6000 hectares of pristine bushveld, fever tree forests and rolling hills, Zimanga is bisected by the Mkuze River and home to a huge variety of animals and birds. From leopards to wild dogs and elephants to cheetah, nearly every sought-after sighting is accounted for. There are over 400 bird species recorded at the reserve. Zimanga is a primary wildlife photography destination and its reputation continues to grow. As a consequence these popular trips sell out quickly. BOOK NOW TO AVOID DISAPPOINTMENT.

The Experience

You will be accompanied by professional wildlife photographer John Birch who will happily provide one-to-one and group tuition in the technical and aesthetic skills of wildlife photography; provide brief workshops and a critique of your images at the days end and assist you with your post-processing techniques. On the other hand, if you would rather be left alone to do your own thing and learn on your own, that's fine too.

The trip to Zimanga caters for six people with any level of photographic expertise from beginner to serious enthusiast. Our aim is to provide guests, regardless of prior experience or equipment, with the best opportunity to improve their photographic knowledge and expertise and leave with some stunning images of wildlife. We are also quite happy to accommodate partners or other non-photographers who just want to enjoy an amazing wildlife adventure.

All the places we visit are renowned for their spectacular wildlife, but they are not zoos. By its very nature, wildlife is unpredictable and although we will do our best for you, we cannot guarantee sightings of specific creatures or species. Furthermore, our ethical stance is such that we will do nothing that endangers or puts wild animals at risk merely to obtain a photograph. Although John will be taking pictures, the needs of guests are the priority and he will always give way.

Above all, we provide a personal and honest service.


    - One night in accommodation at Fairmont Zimbali Hotel near Durban to relax after international flights.

    - Internal transfer along South Africa's famous Dolphin Coast.

    - Six nights in the newly built luxury lodge accommodation at Zimanga Private Game Reserve.

    - Access to Zimanga Game Reserve and the best, professionally designed and located wildlife hides in South Africa.

    - Game drives in a Toyota Landcruiser accompanied by professional wildlife guides. Unrestricted access to all parts of the reserve to maximise game viewing opportunities.

    - Support and besoke one-to-one tuition and group workshops from John Birch in all aspects of wildlife photography including camera set-up; auto-focus, exposure, composition, equipment advice, Lightroom techniques and any other facet of photography.

    - Small group, maximum size of six (four required for the trip to run).


    Zimanga Main Lodge

    Ours will be one of the first groups to stay at the Zimanga Main Lodge.

    The Lodge includes spacious lounge areas inside the main building, on the decks as well as an elevated view of the Mkhombe valley from the roof lounge. Other facilities include a boardroom, library and quiet lounge attached to the south-eastern wing for those seeking to escape the crowd. The term crowd is loosely used here as the lodge will only sleep a maximum of 14 guests, hosted in six, free standing, two-bedded units with two additional single rooms, offering privacy within a splendid KwaZulu Natal lowveld setting.

    NOTE: The Lodge is currently under construction with all building work expected to be completed prior to the end of 2017 and finishing touches applied well before our visit. In the extremely unlikely event of a crisis preventing completion, all guests will be accommodated at Ghost Mountain Inn and in this event, substantially reimbursed commensurate with the change in accommodation.

    Addendum: I visited Zimanga in November 2017 and can report that the building of the main lodge is largely completed and work is expected to be completed early in 2018.

    30 Jan 2018: I now have confirmation that the first guests are expecting to be staying at the Main Lodge as early as March.

     Artist's Impression: Zimanga Main Lodge

    Artist's Impression: Zimanga Main Lodge


    The Hides

    Mkhombe is Zimanga’s first birdbath or reflection hide and seats four photographers in comfortable office chairs. Mkhombe faces west and allows water-level images of the multitude of bird species that come and drink at the hide in the early morning.

    Bhejane is Zimanga’s second reflection hide, and the site was carefully chosen to lure shy bird species that prefer thicker habitat. The main attraction at this hide is pink-throated twinspots; a rare endemic with a limited range in South Africa. The same size as Mkhombe, Bhejane also seats four photographers in comfortable chairs, with tripods, gimbals and lens plates provided.

    Zimanga Lagoon Hide was the first step in diversifying viewing and photographic opportunities on Zimanga. The ambitious project took more than a year to complete, and was constructed on a modified natural peninsula that juts into the large Hlambanyathi Dam. This is by far the largest hide on Zimanga and seats five photographers, with photographic opportunities any time of day, whether you prefer shooting with the sun, or into it.  Like the first hides, each seat is equipped with a top-quality tripod but is also set on wheeled dollies, so switching direction is quick and easy as the heavy-duty dollies silently roll across the smooth floors.

     Zimanga Lagoon Hide

    Zimanga Lagoon Hide


    The mostly shallow waters of the Lagoon draw in a variety of waterbirds, from tiny plovers and sandpipers, to large birds like herons, storks and fish eagles. In the summer months crocodiles are regular visitors, with large specimens basking on the shoreline and smaller growing crocs actively catching fish at night.

    The hide itself is an engineering marvel, as 24 tonnes of water is displaced to keep the hide at the level it is without floating.  The entire hide is built out of stainless steel to keep rust at bay and ensure a long lifespan for the Lagoon.  All electricity needs are met with a nearby solar panel installation and battery bank, allowing use of air-conditioning, fans, and the water pump which circulates 9000 litres of water per hour through the lagoon, keeping the water cool and fresh.

    The Umgodi Overnight Hide is an entirely new hide concept for Zimanga, in which up to four photographers can be accommodated and sleep over in the air-conditioned hide, built into a waterhole with the large window opening up a few centimeters above water level. Animals that visit the waterhole drink only a few meters from your bed. The drinking edge is 4m from the photographers’ chairs, and to date a large variety of mammal and bird species have visited.

     Umgodi Overnight Hide: Elephants come into view in the early morning light

    Umgodi Overnight Hide: Elephants come into view in the early morning light


    After sunset photographers make use of the LED floodlights installed at water level to beautifully illuminate subjects that approach the water’s edge.

    Zimanga’s Mobile Bee-Eater Hide can seat two to three photographers. Unlike the other hides, seating is provided in camping chairs. There is a solar and battery system installed to maintain two small but powerful fans to provide air movement. The white-fronted bee-eaters add exciting photographic opportunities as they prefer to flock, resulting in much activity and interaction between individual birds.

    The latest addition to Zimanga’s ever-expanding hide network is the vulture hide placed on Scavenger’s Hill.  The hide is elevated above the Doornhoek valley, and the sweeping view from the top serves as a backdrop to this vulture restaurant. The remains of predator kills (when found) are placed at the site, and to date, five species of vultures and numerous other scavengers, both avian and mammalian, have used the site. The hide seats 4 guests, and each station is supplied with a Manfrotto Tripod and Benro head.

     Scavenger's Hill Hide

    Scavenger's Hill Hide


    Getting There

    The tour commences at Fairmont Zimbali Lodge, Zimbali Coastal Resort, South Africa on Wednesday 20th June 2018.

    The Fairmont Zimbali Lodge is about a 30 minute drive north of King Shaka International Airport, Durban. If you are travelling from the UK, there are daily, overnight flights to Durban from London Heathrow via Johannesburg (please note: international flights are not included).


    Wednesday 20th June 2018

    The group will meet at Fairmont Zimbali Lodge, where accommodation has been booked to enable everyone to relax after the rigours of a long journey.

    Thursday 21st June 2018

    After breakfast we will take a three hour taxi transfer from the hotel north along the Dolphin Coast to Zimanga Private Reserve.

    You will arrive in time for the afternoon activities in the Park and stay at the luxurious Zimanga Main Lodge for six nights.

    Friday 22nd - Wednesday 27th June 2018

    Five full days of mixed photographic experiences at Zimanga Private Reserve comprising game drives and hide sessions.

    Game Drives

    Game drives on Zimanga are in a converted Toyota Land Cruiser with three rows of seats behind the driver. As a rule the game drives guarantee every guest a window seat. This allows more room for kit as well as the ability to shoot from both sides without anybody sitting directly next to you. This is ideal for photographers and non-photographers alike who enjoy a bit more space and freedom of movement.

    As a reserve Zimanga encourages clients to spend as much time as they like at any particular sighting. Due to the very low number of vehicles on the property at any one time you will never have to abandon a sighting to make room for another vehicle. The guides they use are all highly experienced as well as accomplished photographers in their own right so they will be able to position the vehicle in the best light as well as anticipating any action that is about to occur.

    Should a subject be inaccessible from one of the tracks then Zimanga game viewers are permitted to drive off-road to get you into that perfect shooting position. This is particularly important when following a predator on a hunt! With most of Africa’s larger predators in residence as well as plenty of various prey species, this is a common occurrence on Zimanga.

    During each game drive there will be an opportunity to stop for refreshments. In the morning, tea and coffee are served with rusks and in the afternoon, cool drinks, beers, wine or selected spirits are served shortly after sunset allowing photographers to make the absolute most of the last of the sun’s rays in the golden hour. Start times vary according to the seasons.

    Hide Sessions

    The hides on Zimanga are like no others found in Africa. Many hours of planning and testing have gone into each hide to ensure that each one is perfectly suited to the photographer as well as the subject.

    The two reflection hides are Mkhombe and Bhejane. Each of these hides takes a maximum of four photographers seated on executive style chairs in a climate controlled room positioned to photograph at water level through a specially imported one-way-glass window.  The Lagoon hide seats five occupants in a similar but larger layout than the reflection hides, with the opportunity to photograph in the light direction of your choice.

    Each session in the hide is 3.5 hours long.

    The morning session will have you settled in the hide just before sunrise and the start of the bird activity for the day. The afternoon session is timed to maximise the action towards sunset. During the heat of the day the birds tend to retreat to the shade of the trees and bushes and therefore we do not recommend staying in the hides for the entire day.

    Whilst in the hide there is plenty of room to set up your tripod and the temperature and humidity are controlled by the built in air-conditioning system. The window through which you photograph allows you to view and capture images with absolutely no disturbance to the subjects. Any loss of light through the glass is minimal (1.3 f-stops) through its specialist fabrication and design, meaning that high shutter speeds are easily achieved.

    During the session we ask that fluid intake is kept to a minimum as there are no toilet facilities in the hides and exiting the room during the session may cause a break in the action to the detriment of the experience.

    After the morning session the guide will arrive at the entrance and tea, coffee and rusks will be served. In the afternoon you will exit only after the sun has set, when refreshments will be served in the twilight.

    Thursday 28th June 2018

    After morning activities and breakfast on 28th June, we will transfer to King Shaka International Airport, Durban for return flights to the UK or other international destination.

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    More Information

    A detailed kit list advisory (camera equipment etc.) will be sent with joining instructions prior to departure.

    More information can be found by clicking on the links to the following websites:

    Fairmont Zimbali Lodge

    Zimanga Private Game Reserve


    What's Included in the Price?


    • Internal transfers from Fairmont Zimbali Lodge and return to Durban International Airport
    • All food and accommodation at Zimanga
    • All guided activities at Zimanga

    NOT included:

    • International Flights
    • Transfers from Durban International Airport to Fairmont Zimbali Lodge
    • Meals at Fairmont Zimbali Lodge
    • Gratuities
    • Alcoholic drinks
    • Items of a personal nature
    • Travel insurance (essential)

    Terms and Conditions

    All of the information on this website and the relevant eBrochure must be read in conjunction with the full terms and conditions for this tour which can be found on the link below.


    The payment of a 20% deposit per person will secure your booking. The balance will become due 90 days prior to departure. Payment can be made by debit or credit card (no surcharges) or bank transfer.

    If you are interested in joining us on this wildlife adventure of a lifetime, please click on one of the links below.