(CNN) — At the lagoon in KwaZulu-Natal, eastern South Africa, nightfall covers the Zimanga Private Game Reserve in a dark blanket. The only light comes from a new moon, slowly drifting across the cloudless winter sky, which paints the perfect backdrop for what lies in wait. Mixed in with nature’s soundtrack is a beeping alarm, which sets off a quiet rush for photographers to get in position — ready for something to happen in an instant.
“A great photograph is but a split second in time, with no second takes,” says Charl Senekal, wildlife photographer and director of Zimanga Destinations, managing the private game reserve.
Senekal’s love for both wildlife and photography stems from his childhood, when his father purchased a new Minolta camera. “He brought this beautiful camera home, and he opened the box and I immediately annexed it,” Senekal says. “He had to buy himself a new one.”
In South Africa, where an abundance of wildlife provides picture-perfect opportunities, a wave of young photographers is emerging — capturing awe-inspiring moments that carry an important message.
These days Senekal combines his passion through his work at Zimanga, a conservation-orientated eco-tourism reserve that also focuses on creating magical wildlife photography experiences. “The idea behind Zimanga has always been a dream to create something that caters for photography,” he tells CNN.
Home to more than 80 species of mammals and 400 species of birds, the reserve is now considered one of the continent’s foremost destinations for wildlife photographers. With nine different photo “hides,” strategically designed and placed around the reserve, both amateur and professional enthusiasts can capture the perfect shot of everything from big game to tiny birds.
Explore the gallery above for some of Senekal’s most epic wildlife images.