Exclusive Photographic Hides

In a first for photography in Southern Africa, PhotoMashatu has an exclusive concession to provide dedicated photographic hides within Mashatu Game Reserve.

Guests can sit quietly and watch animals moving directly towards them, all the while taking pictures from unique angles, resulting in unique and exceptional quality photography.

What are photographic hides?

Photographic hides are structures built to maximise the photographic potential of the animal subjects that visit them. These hides can be used to view wildlife in the normal manner but have been positioned with consideration of the angle of the sun, the background and the angle the viewer occupies in relation to the animals and birds.

A professional wildlife photographer will accompany participants to the hides. They are on hand to tutor both aspiring and experienced photographers in camera techniques which will see a vast improvement in the quality of their images.

The Concession

hide (5 of 10)A resident wildlife photographer is based at Mashatu Lodge to guide participants when they are in camp. Guests can also enlist his/ her services while on game drives should they require further tutelage over and above time spent in the hides.

The services of a professional photographer in camp and the use of the photographic hides can be booked through Mashatu reservations as an additional activity over and above the daily rates for accommodation.

Guests at Mashatu may use the hides for normal game viewing purposes as well as for photography. It must however be noted that regardless of their preference, they will always be accompanied by the photographic guide in the hides or a ranger from Mashatu Game Reserve.

why photography at mashatu?

  • warthogMashatu is a semi-arid area, which means that animals are attracted to water in the dry season (June – October). This makes it an excellent location where animals literally come to you!
  • Drying pools in the rivers attract flocks of storks and herons late in the rainy season (February – May). This is where the semi-permanent hides will be in use.
  • Excellent elephant sightings at the elephant hides and out in the reserve.
  • Excellent birdlife for the bird photographers.
  • Open landscape that makes for easy photographing of wildlife.
  • Relaxed plains animals.
  • Excellent and varied birdlife with many good perches in certain areas making good bird photography very possible.
  • Excellent leopard sightings and photo opportunities.
  • Good lion and other predators.
  • Open landscape makes for easy photography with no distracting grass or thick bush.
  • Dry riverbeds frame subjects well.
  • Drying pools create fish traps attracting flocks of herons, stroks, etc.
  • Wilderness area relatively close to the major cities.
  • Good night skies and night photography.

Matebole Elephant hide

20120725-070-2-Edit (2)An entire hide has been sunk into the ground right next to a waterhole that is in prime elephant habitat. Inside, seating is arranged so that viewers’ heads are at ground level.

The waterhole attracts all manner of animals beside elephants including kudu, impala and baboons. However the real attraction is the elephants. These massive pachyderms tower above photographers as they splash and drink in the water as close as 3 meters away! The hide is a strong metal structure and totally elephant-proof allowing for total peace of mind. It is also located on a major elephant thoroughfare on route to shade on the banks of the Matabaole and Majale Rivers where the elephant wait out the heat of the midday sun. Shortly after sunrise, when the mornings heat up, the elephant herds pass the hide and drink.

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Being in a very animal-rich area, predators are also abundant. Viewers may just be fortunate enough to see a large cat at the waterhole too!

The hide can take 4 photographers in one session. Concessions will be made where groups up to 6 are from the same group.

Best time of year for viewing from the hide is June – November when the elephants generally visit the waterhole every day.

TIP: Morning sessions are usually better than evening sessions at the hide.

Click here to view a time lapse video of the Elephant Hide. Click here to view footage of Sally Hinton’s Elephant Hide experience.

Recommended lenses: Wide angle 12-70mm, 70-200 and up to 500mm.

Elephant Valley Hide

hide (9 of 10)The Elephant Valley photographic hide is the newest to compliment the already highly successful Matebole hide on Mashatu. Situated in an area vastly different to the location of the Matebole Hide, this facility, also accommodating a maximum of only 4 clients, is likely to offer a very different experience to that offered by the Matebole Hide.

The productive Matabole hide will be complimented by the Elephant Valley hide at varying times of the year. It offers excellent photographic opportunities due to its location away from the rivers on Mashatu in an area called Elephant Valley. In its first few weeks of operation the hide proved to be very active, drawing a variety of species to the hide including the valley’s resident leopard, giraffe, zebra, jackal, hyena, steenbok, impala, eland, warthog and of course a variety of bird species. This hide, consistent with the Matebole Hide will become busier as the Mashatu wildlife learn of this water resource in closer proximity to their feeding grounds.

Recommended lenses: Wide angle 12-70mm, 70-200 and up to 500mm.  

Semi-permanent hides

This hide has been built as a mobile hide capable to being moved from one location to another, enabling viewing from the best seasonal locations within the reserve. This hide goes up intermittently, based on specific sightings or special events, and can only be erected in certain sections of the reserve. For these reasons, the hide is only erected once every few months. The semi-permanent hides can accommodate up to 3 photographers.

Each year at the end of the rainy season, many
 pools of water are left in the drying rivers within Mashatu. These pools attract storks, herons, ibis’
and hamerkops ‘by the dozen’, all of which are drawn to the natural ‘fish traps’. The hides are positioned in such a manner as to allow for unparalleled photographic opportunities. Expect to see black winged lapwings, cape turtle doves and three banded plovers in among the storks and herons. Pied kingfishers are likely to come a-diving, and carmine bee-eaters are seen bathing in the afternoons.

Other animals – including elephants – are also drawn to the water allowing for a diverse image portfolio. These are very active pools indeed, so expect to be kept busy.

Recommended lenses: 70-200, and up to 600mm.

Please note that all hides are seasonal and activity may change due to climatic, or other reasons. You will be notified upon making your reservation if the hides selected are not active. 


Photographic Vehicle

Designed and built by the same wildlife photographers who built the world famous hide (1 of 5)underground hides at Mashatu, the PhotoMashatu photo vehicle is a fully customised vehicle built exclusively for Mashatu Game Reserve. Its design and concept stem from wanting to give clients unparalleled access to the excellent wildlife of Mashatu and allow them to photograph the wildlife in an uninhibited and unconstrained manner. The PhotoMashatu professional photographers have many thousands of hours on safari vehicles in Africa, many of them offering attributes, some positive and some negative. This specialist photo vehicle is the culmination of this wildlife photographic experience and it offers unparalleled photographic ease, speed and comfort.  No element of design was left out.

What is it?

The vehicle is a totally customised design, equipped with sliding gimble heads allowing for comfortable, quick and well supported photography in a 270 degree radius for each photographer. Bean bag arches allow you even faster access to get the initial shot. Cushioned, dust and waterproof bag storage compartments allow for fast access to your lenses and other photographic equipment. The vehicle comes with your specialised photographic guide and a Mashatu field ranger.


Lens Rental 

Why Rent a Lens for your safari?

  • The ability to rent-a-lens eliminates the worry of in-flight weight restrictions and carrying the extra load on-board. International travel weight restrictions have become stricter each year, making it difficult to travel with large amounts of camera gear; a large lens being by far the heaviest piece of camera equipment you will bring along.
  • With the large cost to purchase a lens that may be used a few times a year, it makes sense to rent a lens specifically chosen to be the best for the few days in the year that you are on safari.
  • We have carefully chosen a selection of lenses that are perfectly adapt for the terrain and wildlife viewing of Mashatu. The lenses we offer are suitable for the beginner enthusiast through to professional. With the open terrain that characterizes Mashatu, it is optimal to use lenses that offer the photographer great reach in order to zoom in on your subject. This is why all our lenses exceed the standard reach of 300mm that allows you ‘fill your frame’ and eliminate excessive cropping during post image editing.
  • It gives you the opportunity to “see through the eyes of a professional photographer” and capture the same type of images that professional wildlife photographers take.
  • You do not need to be a professional to use the lenses. Our staff will give you a 5 minute introduction to using and caring for the lens before you start taking great images with it.


What will renting a Lens offer YOU?

 If you don’t own or use a long reach zoom or Prime lens, then the immediate difference in your image quality when using one of our lenses will be the first noticeable effect. The lenses have been crafted for high end results offering the best in sharpness and speed.

If you already own a Lens, then the ability to rent one eliminates the need to bring along your own. Many people don’t own super zoom lenses that reach beyond 300mm. Our lenses all go beyond 300mm zoom length. This allows you to get crystal clear and close up images of your subjects. Some of our lenses extend to 600mm which allows for extreme zooming in to get images of small birds and the “eye of the elephant”. At Mashatu, the desired zoom length for photographing wildlife is between 400 and 500mm.

Renting a lens will offer you:

  •  Less weight to carry while travelling
  • The opportunity to experience and test out professional quality lenses while on safariC4 Lenses 4
  • Use lenses beyond 300mm in length, a focal range that not many travellers ever get to experience.
  • Photograph Mashatu’s wildlife with the optimum range of 400-500mm and thus increasing your chance attaining of excellent images
  • Use lenses that perform best in low light. A lot of animal activity occurs at dusk and this is when these lenses still work very well.
  • We supply beanbags and other support for the lenses when you rent them from PhotoMashatu.
  • To see the world and take images like a professional photographer


Our selection of Lenses:

 C4 Lenses 7Sigma’s motto is not to be the biggest Lens Company in the world, but simply to be ‘revolutionary’. There new range of SPORT Lenses is a true testament to this and they are on top of the game when it comes to versatile zoom lenses. The close focusing distance of 150mm and the far reaching 600mm ensure that weather you are in the hide or out on game drive, you can capture all the action. The aperture of f5.6 at the short end of 150mm tapers off to f6.3 at the long end at 600mm on this zoom lens. These lenses offer extreme versatility and flexibility, which in turn, means it is very easy for you to use and take excellent images with.

Our Canon 500mm f4 and Nikon 600mm f4 Prime Lenses offer quality that match their impressive size. A Prime Lens is a fixed focal length and thus versatility is not an option. However, it doesn’t come as a surprise that professional photographers worldwide opt for these lenses to ensure the highest quality images in terms of sharpness and clarity. A low aperture of f4 means the fastest range of lenses on the market and perform exceptionally well in low light conditions. The Autofocus on these two lenses is exceptionally fast and for action or birds in flight, these lenses are outstanding.


PhotoMashatu Units
Nikon Sigma 150 – 600mm f5.6 – 6.3 Lens 1
Canon Sigma 150 – 600mm f5.6 – 6.3 Lens 1
Nikon 600mm f4 Lens 1
Canon 500mm f4 Lens 1


When choosing the lens that will best suit you, there are a few factors to keep in mind that will ultimately help you take better photographs. The best Lens is the one that suits the photographer the most.

Ask yourself the following:

  • Can or do you want to be able to hold it by hand?
  • Do I want to be able to zoom, particularly if you don’t own a zoom already to use alongside the large fixed focal lenses?
  • Do I want to change lenses on a game drive if the fixed focal lenses have too much ‘zoom’?
  • Do I want to sacrifice the lighter weight and smaller size of the SIGMA lenses over a slight edge in sharpness, heavier weight and marginally faster speed of the lens autofocus like the big fixed focal 500mm and 600mm lenses?
  • Do I want a lens that will perform marginally better in low light conditions?
  • Do I want to rent a lens that will cover all wildlife, from birds to close ups?


Pro’s and Con’s over the Sigma Zooms vs the Fixed Focal Lenses

 SIGMA 150 – 600mm

  • Lighter than 500mm or 600mm fixed lens
  • Versatile, ie: can zoom from 150mm to 600mm
  • Can be handheld if necessary
  • For clients wanting to get a feel for a professional photographers point of view but without the burden of too much weight.
  • Can fit into larger camera bag, making it easier to carry
  • Great all round lens for all types of wildlife.
  • Easy to manage and hold while out on game drive
  • Easy to operate


CANON 500mm & NIKON 600mm

  • Needs support ie: beanbag (supplied) OR tripod/monopod OR Gimbal head (tube clamp provided)
  • Excellent quality and fast autofocus
  • Great in low light conditions
  • Wide aperture for low light and shallow depth of field
  • May be too much zoom for when close to your subject, so preferable to have a backup wider lens eg: 70-200mm
  • Perfect for bird photography and action
  • Unparalleled sharpness and image quality
  • EXCELLENT for use in the hides


Cost of lens rental:

The cost for 2016 and 2017 USD $95.00 per lens per day, and USD $105.00 per lens per day for 2018.

This includes:

  • Hand over to the client
  • Insurance of the lens
  • Maintenance and cleaning


The Canon 7D Camera Body: (1 unit available) 

The Canon 7D is a great choice for keen enthusiasts. It has top image quality and functionality without the bulk of the top level professional bodies. The 18mp CMOS sensor, 100% coverage viewfinder, 1.6 crop factor and up to 8 frames per second in continuous shooting, makes it an ideal camera for great wildlife and bird photography.

Cost of services in USD per person:


Type Rate 2016 Rate 2017 Rate 2018
Hide Session – Half Day (Morning or Afternoon Session) USD 65 USD 70 USD 75
Hide Session – Full Day (Morning and Afternoon Session) USD 130 USD 130 USD 140
Tutoring at camp. Not included in hide fee USD 50 USD 50 USD 60
Lens Rental (Per day)  USD 95 USD 95 USD 105
Canon 7D Body (Per day)  USD 50 USD 50 USD 60
Exclusive use of hides (total rate per day, and not per person) *  USD 500 USD 500 USD 600
Photographic Vehicle (total rate per day – max 4 pax)**  USD 500 USD 500 USD 600
**Photographic vehicle includes 1 optional tutor session per day & 1 hide session subject to availability upon booking. Ideally suited for 2 pax, but can accommodate 4 pax. For dates 1 December – 1 June each year, book 3 days, pay 2 and book 4 days, pay 3 special on photo vehicle.

Conditions of Use

* Exclusive use is for groups or single photographers who would like the hides for their own private use. The rate is a per day cost and gives clients access to all hides during that day. If you are a group of 4 photographers or more it is usually more cost effective to use the exclusive use rate than the per person rate. 

All guests using the hide have to be accompanied by a PhotoMashatu wildlife photographer or a Mashatu guide.

We recommend that photographic hides are pre-booked prior to guests arrival.

The hides will be closed for maintenance at year end. Please contact our reservations team to enquire about availability and hide closure dates.

Guests will be required to sign an indemnity form before using the hides. This is separate to the Mashatu indemnity.

Maximum number of guests per hide:

    • Matebole Elephant Hide – 4 clients
    • Valley Elephant Hide – 4 clients
    • Mobile hide – 3 clients


The graph below is an indication of activity. All the hides are seasonal and activity may change due to  climatic or other reasons. You will be notified upon making your reservation if the hides selected are not active.

Lenses to use at Mashatu


Photo skill Level Beginner-Intermediate- advanced
  • 1-2 Pro-sumer/Pro camera bodies if photographing birds
  • 1 consumer camera body if only photographing mammals
  • 500-600mm lens for birds
  • 70-200mm lens for the scenic images
  • 100-400mm range for mammals
  • Beanbags

All your drives will be from an open vehicle with a ranger driving and guiding you. This means that a monopod or a beanbag will be the best types of support for your cameras and lenses. The vehicles are allowed to drive off road here so they will be able to position you for the best angle for photos at sightings. Most of the mammals are very relaxed around vehicles meaning a 400mm lens is more than enough to capture them. Of course having a zoom aids in your compositions here, especially when photographing action scenes or changing from a full body photo to a portrait. Here I suggest a lens in the 100-400mm range. Most predators are either moving fast or move in the dark hours of day (lion and leopard). Having a lens that you can easily maneuver around makes a big difference here. An extra 2 seconds to set up your camera is a long time when photographing action.

If you are keen on bird photography, then a 500-600mm lens is very handy. With most birds you are able to get relatively close, so this is the one place where a 500mm lens will do for bird images.

With the relaxed elephant herds you can expect to use your wide-angle lens as well as the longer lenses. This is the one place you will have opportunity for every focal length when it comes to elephants. A wide-angle 12-24mm lens will frame an elephant very nicely against the sky. With them coming so close to you, this is quite easy to do. If you drive in front of an approaching herd and sit quietly the herd will envelop around you without any fuss. The only sound will be the camera shutters working away!

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