Zimbabwe

Hwange

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The Look Up

The Look Up

Looking up
Looking up
CHARLIE RANDELL

When Imvelo Safari Lodges built Camelthorn Lodge deep in a patch of Hwange woodland we had a dilemma. We didn't want to attract large numbers of tree-hungry elephant to our special patch, so we couldn't have a big waterhole in front of our new flagship lodge. But we still wanted a very special wildlife experience for our guests.

About a kilometre from Camelthorn in the southeast corner of Hwange National Park is Stoffie's Pan, providing water for the multitude of wildlife that occurs on Ngamo plain, including of course lots of our favourites - elephant.

On the eastern side of the pan is a huge, ancient miswiri or Leadwood tree, Combretum imberbe ,providing shade over a patch of ground overlooking the waterhole. We chose this spot for an underground blind (also known as a hide).

We wanted an elephant-proof blind at toe level and within splashing distance of the elephants. We knew from experience that having an en-suite toilet would also make our blind a little more user-friendly and allow for a relaxing time in this environment. A heavily reinforced 40ft steel shipping container was our starting point. To this we added a sprung and hinged steel door, staircase, our flush toilet, taps and wash basin, padded seats, teak wood counters, hinged photography portholes, a glass emergency exit - we had a very special blind.

We knew we wanted to be in the shade under our magic miswiri tree and facing the sunset over the waterhole for those iconic ‘Hwange elephants drinking in the sunset’ photos. But of course we realised that for much of the afternoon the sun would be in our eyes and hence camera lenses. We needed our big grey subject matter also to have light on them and not behind them. Problem.

Once inside, under the staircase you'll see a series of water pipes and gate valves - our solution. Thanks to Ted Davison's legacy, Hwange's elephant have been drinking piped water from troughs from the day they first learnt to use their trunks to drink water at Grandma's feet. From inside our blind we can control the water flow to four troughs spaced out in a semi circle, to offer our photographers their perfect sunset pictures, as well as the classic sundown photos in the golden light of evening.

Now that it is buried and camouflaged as an ant heap, the sheer thrill of sitting in our blind in safety and comfort, close enough to the elephant to count the cracks on their toenails, has surpassed every one of our expectations. You look straight up at them from toe level - really awesome.

Which leads us to the next problem - a name. We couldn't call it ‘The Hide’, our next-door neighbours wouldn't approve, and the ‘Underground Blind’ is a bit dull. ‘The Bunker’ has several negative connotations.So, until somebody has a brighter idea, we're calling it ‘The Look Up.’

Read more about the region in our destination guide:
Hwange

Read more articles from this issue:
Zambezi Traveller (Issue 14, Sept 2013)

Zambezi Traveller Directory:
Imvelo Safari Lodges