Zibulo - Photographing Birds at Water Level
It has long been an ambition of mine, to photograph birds at close to water level. I have considered all sorts of methods to achieve this; from floating blinds to boats.
However, the obstacles we have in South Africa are significant. From man-eating crocodiles, poisonous snakes, dangerous locations, waterborne disease, leeches and insect transmitted diseases like tick bite fever and malaria - we have some of the worst problems to overcome.
Then I chanced on the hides at Zibulo the brainchild of avian photographer Wally Tollemache.
There are two water level hides built to put your lens just a few inches from the calm surface of classic Mpumalanga grassland seasonal ponds.
One of the hides allows for photography all day by surrounding the hide with water and scrim nets. You sit, shaded and at peace in the centre of the pond with nesting sites and perches perfectly placed.
It’s a long way to go for a shot, certainly for me at 150km, requiring an early start in summer at around 2:30am in order to arrive before sunrise.
The hides can be hit-or-miss depending on what seasonal birds are attracted but they deliver the absolute best of compositions due to the care exhibited in their building and design.
Getting to Zibulo
From Johannesburg there are a couple of routes to Zibulo but beware there are some dangerous potholes that may take you by surprise. There is a lot of coal truck activity on the roads and the drive can be frustrating.
Option 1 is to head eastward to Delmas on the N12 before taking the R42, R50 & R580 to the Anglo American Colliery at Zibulo
Option 2 is to head out on the N17 and turn towards Zibulo at either Devon or Leandra. This route is slightly longer but more pleasant to drive.