During a safari, you spend most of your time in a safari vehicle to watch the wildlife. However, many properties in South and East Africa have created a unique and exciting alternative by building photographic skins so that guests can observe wildlife from a protected location outside of a vehicle. These skins differ in appearance – some are buried in the ground, some are viewpoints at height, and some are even in the middle of the water. Regardless of their shape, however, they offer special vantage points for observing the wildlife and enable travelers to feel closer to the action.
Mashatu Lodge, Botswana
One of the better known skins is in the Mashatu Game Reserve in the eastern part of Botswana. The Matebole Elephant Hide is a favorite with guests – it is located next to a watering hole and has a large number of animals to visit. It is well known for the number of elephants that visit each day. Beginners and professional photographers alike will enjoy this experience. Another big advantage is that a professional wildlife photographer is in hiding with you to improve your photo skills!
Shenton Safaris, Zambia
Shenton Safaris offers many different skins to choose from depending on the experience you are looking for. The owner Derek Shenton is an avid photographer himself and even has a photo workshop at Kaingo Camp where he helps you edit your photos. The Carmine Bee-Esser fur, which points directly to one of their nesting places, is a unique experience. The hiding place can change every year and it can be a fun trip to get there! Knowing that not everyone is an avid bird watcher, they also offer more traditional experiences such as the hippo and elephant skins.
Little Makalolo, Zimbabwe
The wooden stack skin in Little Makalolo consists of fallen tree stumps. These are packed around the seating area to keep the elephants away, but offer an excellent view of the majestic animals. This skin is a short distance from the camp – far enough away that more mysterious creatures like sable come and drink by the water without fear of people in the camp. In the dry season from June to November, it is not uncommon to be surrounded by a few hundred elephants when you are hiding in the late afternoon!
Ol Donyo Lodge, Kenya
There are two photographic skins in the Ol Donyo Lodge – one near the ground and one in a sunken container. There is a water hole in front of the lodge with both skins facing it. The waterhole is created from recycled gray water used by the lodge and then filtered through a lava stone system before it reaches the waterhole. This place is heavily frequented by the famous “Big Tusker” elephants who call the Amboseli region home.
Singita Pamushana, Zimbabwe
This photographic hideaway is located at one of the waterholes in Singita Pamushana and is very nicely decorated, in a real Singita way and with great furniture. They even bring down a cool box of drinks to enjoy while watching the animals. There is a large selection of wild animals here – not only elephants, but also many pastures, leopards and even rhinos. This skin is particularly productive during the dry season.
If you are interested in photographic skins, talk to your advisor about options for your next African safari. Photographic skins are just one way to diversify the way you look at wildlife, and your advisor can come up with other fun ideas too!
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