Feed and Walk The Rhino and Elephants
Volunteers will have the incredible chance to join the elephant and rhino handlers as they walk the animals back to their night time bomas. You will help to ensure that the animals are secure for the night with enough food and water. This gives you a unique chance to interact with the animals close up, and ask and learn more about their history and why they came to the project.
Observe and Record Rhino and Elephant Behaviour
You will assist the team in observing and recording the elephant and rhino’s behaviour and feeding patterns. The information gathered here will help to plan animal movements throughout the reserve, additionally preventing over-grazing and determining whether the animals need any additional supplements to ensure a balanced diet.
It is very important that the rhino and elephants enclosure are cleaned and properly maintained. You will be part of a volunteer team that will help to prepare fresh bedding and thoroughly clean the enclosures. This is crucial to help prevent illness and disease amongst the animals.
White Rhino Tracking
Unlike the Black Rhinos, the White Rhinos do not stay in safety bomas at night as they are nocturnal feeders and the way they are kept safe is through remaining guarded overnight. However, in the morning you will join the scouts and use telemetry to track down the lumbering animals before monitoring and taking notes on their behaviour and feeding habits.
Maintain and Repair Enclosures
With large animals like elephants and rhinos comes the need for a lot of maintenance on their enclosures, as these hulking animals tend to knock things over and break them! As a volunteer, you will help to rebuild and maintain the enclosures of these animals so that they remain safe.
Undertake Snare Patrols and Anti-Poaching Monitoring
Volunteers will undertake bi-monthly snare sweeps around the game park, looking for evidence of poaching and collecting snares and traps. This helps to minimise the poaching of both the small and large animals at the reserve, and is a very important activity which helps the reserve to remain safe for all of its inhabitants.
Herd Monitoring on Horseback
Once a week, you will take part in herd monitoring via horseback, giving the team a chance to observe the animals that have moved away from the roads and are therefore inaccessible by cars. Horses do not spook most animals, so this gives you a unique opportunity to monitor the abundance of wildlife here first hand and accurately assess the herd health and size. (Please note that to take part in this activity, you will have to know how to ride a horse already. There are no facilities to provide this service onsite or nearby.)
Breakfast With The Elephants
This incomparable opportunity enables you to enjoy breakfast sitting alongside the elephants out in the African bush. You will be able to tuck into your toast as you watch the eles strip the leaves from their favourite tree. They need breakfast too, remember, but you’ll be pleased to hear you can have a cup of tea instead of the bark from a tree!
A trip to Africa would not be complete without a game drive, and whilst at the project site you will have the chance to jump in the back of a safari vehicle and head out to take in the phenomenal local wildlife. The ‘Big 5’ are all resident here, so if you keep your eyes peeled you may be able to spot a buffalo lurking in the grass or a leopard heading up a tree!
During your stay, you will experience at least one camp out and have the chance to sleep beneath the stars, but this does depend on the weather! You’ll get the opportunity to cook over an open fire and witness the majesty of the milky way in all its glory, without any of the light pollution that is common in the West.
Often one of the favourite activities of the volunteers on this project, you will get the chance to practise your shooting with a paintball gun on a course devised to test your accuracy. You and your fellow volunteers will take part in some of the drills that the anti-poaching team conducts to counter the poaching threat, but please be aware that this activity does get a little competitive, so bring your A Game! This also presents you with a fantastic chance to learn more about why an anti-poaching team is needed at the project site and ask the team a whole host of questions.
Volunteers are responsible for feeding the lions, hyenas, and crocodiles, and this gives you a great chance to watch these ferocious predators up close. Opportunities to see some of Africa’s most revered predators don’t come around too often, so you should make the most of this exciting event.
As this is an active conservation reserve, there are a lot of tasks that need completing on a daily basis. You may be helping with distributing hay bales and food supplements around the reserve, maintaining fences and roads, or maybe even assisting with the cattle dipping that occurs on the reserve to control parasite populations. There is a lot to be done, so you can guarantee that you’ll always be busy here!
Volunteering at a Local School
The project has partnered with a local school to form a conservation club. You will help to prepare a lesson about an animal, plant, or conservation issue, and then teach it to the children, providing them with a questionnaire to test their knowledge! The kids will then accompany you on a field trip to try to spot the animal, and this is a fantastic opportunity to teach the local youngsters about the importance of conservation.
Cultural Evenings at the Volunteer House
Every so often, volunteers get the chance to enjoy a cultural evening at the volunteer house. Here, they can learn all about the traditions and culture of the local Shona tribe from a member of the local community. You will enjoy a traditional meal, and sometimes the local children will also join you, which often results in a night of traditional dancing, so bring your dancing shoes!
Please note that this itinerary is subject to change so what follows is a rough guideline.
Weekends are free for you to relax or explore the local area. There are activities available for volunteers to take part in at an additional cost, so please speak to your project coordinator when you arrive at the project for more information!
Day 1 - The Adventure Begins:
You will arrive at the project site after being transferred from the airport, ready to begin your adventure. You’ll be given time to settle in and will meet your fellow volunteers and the project coordinators before enjoying a delicious dinner. Make sure you get a good nights sleep too as you'll need it to tackle the amazing activities in the morning!
Day 2-14 - Project Days :
On an average day on the project, you will wake up at around 6am to take part in some pre-breakfast activities before tucking into a filling breakfast at around 9am. At 10am, you’ll head back out to complete the morning's activities, and after lunch (around 2pm) you will venture out into the field for the final activity of the day. A weekly schedule is posted on the wall inside the house so you’ll be able to see what exciting activity you’ll be taking part in each day.
Day 15 - Return Home:
Unfortunately, today is your last day on the project. It is time to say your goodbyes to all of your new-found friends from the project as you will be transferred back to the airport to begin your journey home or onward travel plans.
Dates, Availability & Price
Please be advised, although we are able to offer a 7 night option, a minimum duration of 14 nights is recommended for a more in depth experience. If taking part for only 7 nights there is no guarantee that you will be involved in all the activities listed.
This project begins on Mondays throughout the year.
To secure a place on this project a deposit of £195 is required at the time of booking, with the remaining balance due any time up to 60 days prior to your start date.
Updates & Outcomes
From humble beginnings as a cattle, maize and tobacco farm in the 1950’s, the Rhino and Elephant Conservation Project has since grown into the impressive conservation project it is today. Providing a safe haven for many different animal species, this project is known around the world for its black rhino release programme. In 1985, the project was given seven orphaned baby black rhinos to care for, and this is where the breeding and release programme began. Over the next 20 years, 15 rhinos were born and 11 were able to be released back into the Matusadona National Park, where they were carefully monitored to ensure that they would thrive in the wild.
Unfortunately, in 2000, the release programme was halted due to a lack of funding; today, this ancient animal once again faces the threat of extinction in the wild. In 2007, the project suffered its worst poaching incident ever, and three rhinos were shot and killed along with an almost full-term unborn calf. This left one of the rhino’s calves, Tatenda, a confused and scared orphan who would need permanent care if he was to survive. Tatenda was taken into care, until he sadly died of an illness at the age of just 9 years old.
Fortunately, in 2014 the project got some fantastic news, as one of the remaining female rhinos gave birth to a youngster called Tafika, and this meant that the breeding and release programme could begin once again!
In addition to the rhinos, the project is also home to four elephants. These elephants were orphaned at a very young age and the project has provided them with a home ever since. The in-country team ensures that the elephants have a constant stream of stimulation, and at night time they stay in secure bomas which are protected by armed guards.
As we approach the end of 2017, we’re taking a look back at some of the top stories and experiences from the past year. Yesterday we reflected on the top 5 most heart-wrenching rehabilitation stories across our projects throughout the year, and today we are celebrating the incredible individual actions and group achievements of our volunteers!
A lot has been happening at the Rhino and Elephant Conservation Project over in Zimbabwe this month and we have been sent some pictures by the in-country team which we wanted to share with you. Volunteers on this project get thoroughly involved in all aspects of the project work, and the pictures prove it! Over the past month volunteers have been learning bush skills, taking part in campouts beneath the stars, helping with the new greenhouse and of course seeing the animals!
It's all go on the Rhino and Elephant Conservation Project over in Zimbabwe, and we have received an exciting update from Morgan the Project Coordinator! There are two new additions at the project and volunteers have been working hard, so read on to find out more!
Is this trip for you?
During your stay on this project you will be living in a beautiful thatched farm house set in the heart of the conservancy. This house can host up to 12 volunteers in five large and very welcoming bedrooms: these are a mixture of twin share rooms, and one dormitory style bedroom. There are two main bathrooms in the house, but you also have the option to enjoy an outside shower in the solar-powered shower block, located adjacently to the stunningly beautiful dam! Outside, there is a swimming pool and a large grass area - perfect for relaxing after a hard days’ volunteering. You can also take the opportunity to sit outside and take in the view with a drink from the house’s bar if you wish!
Three meals a day will be provided on this project, and whilst they will be basic they will be delicious - you will never go hungry here! Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served in a buffet style, and you are free to select which elements of the meal you want to eat. The kitchen is always available should you wish to prepare any extra food for yourself, or store any snacks you may have brought along with you. Water, juice, tea and coffee are available throughout the day. On Sundays, the chefs have a day off, so it is up to volunteers to cook for themselves, but you are free to use the food provided in the project kitchen.
If you have a gluten/dairy/other specialist diet, then you will need to bring the appropriate foods with you. There is also a small onsite bar at the volunteer house which offers a variety of snacks, as well as both alcoholic and fizzy drinks. This bill will need to be paid in US Dollars at the end of your stay, so please make sure you have cash with you!
We recommend that you come with a moderate level of fitness, as the days are busy and you will be involved in a whole host of activities! In terms of skills, all we ask is that you arrive with a willingness to get involved with tasks, and with a dedication to the ethos of the project, as well as a respect for the amazing wildlife and the committed project staff with whom you will be working.
The vaccinations required will depend on the individual medical history of each volunteer. We recommend that you consult with your GP regarding your own immunisation needs, as this will ensure you are protected and prepared to travel. In conjunction with this, we would recommend that you check Fit for Travel’s website for more helpful information on what you need to do before your departure.
When is the best time to volunteer?
On this project, almost all the activities run all year round, meaning the main factor that affects people’s decision on when to volunteer is the weather.
The summer months in this area run from October to March, and during these months, daytime temperatures can reach up to 35°C (74°F). Days can be long out in the field, so if you volunteer within these months, please ensure that you take all necessary precautions (including wearing a wide-brimmed hat to protect yourself from the sun’s rays, and taking plenty of water out with you!) Summer is also the rainy season, so this is when the vegetation and animals in the region spring into life!
Winter is between March and September, and whilst the day time temperatures remain in the mid 20’s, temperatures at night time can fall as low as 7°C (44°F) so make sure you pack some warm clothes. Early morning drives can also be chilly in the open safari vehicles, so we recommend you pack a jumper!
The easiest way to arrive at the project is to fly into Harare International Airport via a connecting flight at Johannesburg Airport. The project site is approximately a 90-minute drive from Harare. The project will provide a transfer for you from the airport to the project site so look out for the driver in the arrivals section of the airport.
The project begins on a Monday, so you will need to book flights which arrive on the day. Your flight will need to arrive into Harare before 3pm to ensure you can get the transfer; however, if your flight is due to arrive after this time, please ensure you arrive the day before and we will help you to arrange accommodation for the night in Harare at an additional cost.
When departing the project you will need to book flights that leave after 12.00.
If you would like help booking your flights, please visit our flights page and fill out the form. A member of our team will get back in touch as soon as possible with a suitable quote.
It is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct visa for the entire length of your trip. Most nationalities (including British, American, Australian, Canadian, and those within the EU) should get their visa at the airport upon arrival. Some nationalities will require that your visa is arranged in advance, so please check with the Zimbabwean embassy in your country of residence to establish your visa requirements well in advance of your trip. Please be sure that state that you are a TOURIST on holiday, not here to work, and ensure that the immigration official gives you a 30-day tourist visa. These can be renewed easily (if required) during your stay. Please note that the visa queues at Harare International tend to be very long, so try to get to the front of the crowd if possible! At present the cost for UK residents is $55 for a Visa, so please have the correct amount with you in cash.
Currency and Exchange Rates
most used currency in Zimbabwe is usually the United States Dollar and the
South African Rand. The exchange rate is around 1 ZAR = 0.06 GBP, 0.1 USD, 0.07
EUR. Please note exchange rates are subject to change.
What's included in the price of the project?
- Accommodation during your time volunteering
- Transfers to and from the airport to the project site
- All food and juice, tea and coffee.
- Volunteer activities
- Full time English speaking ground staff
- A laundry service
- Wifi at the volunteer house (at a small additional cost)
What's not included?
- Travel insurance
- Weekend excursions
- Alcoholic beverages, personal snacks etc.