Waterhole: Africa’s Animal Oasis
For those of you who have tuned into BBC2 at 8 o’clock on a Friday night for the past couple of weeks, you will have seen what a vital resource a waterhole is to animals. Based in Mwiba reserve in the South of the Serengeti National Park, researchers have counted eighty-eight different animal species over two, two-week periods, with the third two-week period to be aired this coming Friday. The specially created waterhole has an abundance of specialist cameras, some fitted with infra-red lights, to capture everything that goes on here, morning, noon or night. The newly built waterhole attracted its first visitors within fifteen minutes of it being completed and has attracted the biggest and the smallest of creatures during the dry season. Next weeks sees the waterhole’s visitors during the rainy season.
Whether you enjoy watching the territorial Egyptian Geese, the lone leopard or everything in between, the programme has highlighted the need for water in an eco-system and how animals from near and far are attracted to this life-giving resource.
It is no wonder then, that a number of different lodges throughout Africa have adopted their approach and either created a waterhole in the vicinity of the lodge or located the camp within view of a waterhole. Whilst nothing is certain in the wild, with the lure of fresh water near camp, you can be sure that any time spent watching the waterholes will be worthwhile.
Below are a few of our favourite lodges that have great water viewing access:
Leopard Hills, Sabi Sands, South Africa
The Sabi Sands is South Africa’s most famous game viewing areas. Located adjacent to the Kruger National Park, not only does it have one of the best opportunities at spotting the Big 5, but it also has numerous beautiful lodges. One such lodge is Leopard Hills that is perfectly situated on a kopje overlooking a large waterhole.
Whether you are in your room, or at the open-air dining area, views down to the waterhole are brilliant and frequent visitors include herds of elephant, sauntering hyena and of course the beautiful leopard. Do not forget your binoculars!
The lure of the waterhole means that animals, especially during the dry season, are drawn near to the lodge giving rise to some beautiful sightings, without having to leave the comfort of the camp.
Even in the garden rooms that are not overlooking the waterhole, it is no surprise to have an elephant or two visiting your private plunge pool and enjoying a refreshment directly from it.
The Hide, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe’s Hwange is known as a very dry and at times, desolate landscape, so it is no surprise that the areas containing water attract an extraordinary amount of wildlife. Huge herds of elephant and buffalo frequent the areas, as do large prides of lions.
The Hide has beautiful views across a waterhole but also has an underground viewing hide of the waterholes, giving you an extraordinary insight into life at these precious spaces. You get there through an underground tunnel from camp which is a great way to ensure there is no interruption to any wildlife drinking. The unique angle allows some exceptional photographic opportunities as well as the chance to just sit and enjoy nature no more than a few metres away.
Kwando Lagoon, Botswana
Situated on the banks of the Kwando River, Lagoon camp offers beautiful views across the river which attracts a whole host of animals throughout the year. Wild dogs are often frequent the area and tend to den nearby. The availability of water and the abundance of prey drawn in makes this the perfect habitat for them to breed and hunt.
From the charismatic wild dogs to the large herds of megaherbivores, the viewing deck at the camp overlooks the Kwando River and allows some brilliant sightings without having to leave camp. It makes for the perfect place to sit and relax in between activities and whether you want to do some extra birding or just enjoy watching the mammals come down to drink during the heat of the day, the permanence of water ensures your game viewing experience is excellent throughout your stay.
It really does offer a fascinating insight into life at the waterhole – make sure you don’t miss it!