- posted on Mar 18, 2019
- by Leanne Sturrock
This amazing conservation project gives you the once in a lifetime chance to work hands on with both rhino and elephant in breath-taking Zimbabwe!
Built upon a pre-existing reserve, the Rhino and Elephant Conservation Project was founded back in the 1950’s by English farmer Norman Travers. Since then the project has grown into the expansive 10,000-acre game reserve it is today. To this day the project has remained under the leadership of the Travers Family, this ensures a real close-knit, family feel to this amazing volunteering programme. The project began life as a cattle, maize and tobacco farm, but under the vision and leadership of the Travers family it has changed focus and they have been able to create a wildlife haven in an area where it was previously thought this was impossible to do.
Located just 90 minutes from Zimbabwe’s capital Harare, this project is found in the beautiful Mashonaland East Province of the country. Here you will find a plethora of different landscapes ripe for exploration, from the vast grasslands that are frequented by rhino, elephant, giraffe, and many other species through to the rocky pillars that give you a spectacular view of the entire conservancy from the top. The reserve is home to the big five, so during your stay, you might just spot all of Africa’s famous wildlife in its natural environment.
As a volunteer on this project, you will essentially become a member of this extended conservation family, aiding with running the reserve. Alongside your fellow volunteers, you will tackle crucial conservation activities such as feeding and walking with the reserve's elephants and rhinos, volunteering at a local school to help educate the children and supporting general maintenance around the reserve. On this project you will have the once in a lifetime opportunity to volunteer with elephants and rhinos, assisting in their conservation and helping to ensure they have a future for years to come!
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!
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.
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 received 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.
This World Rhino Day (22nd September), learn about the plight of one of Africa’s most famous and at-risk species. But while white rhinos are something of a poster-child for conservation, it’s important that their Asian cousins are not forgotten - in fact, it is the continents own Javan species which is the most endangered rhino of all.
During your stay on this project, you will be living in a beautiful thatched farmhouse 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 adjacent to the beautiful dam! Please note WiFi is not available at the accommodation but 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; breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served in a buffet style, and you are free to select what 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.
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 bringing 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 daytime 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.
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 2pm to ensure you can get the transfer, and you will be collected from the Cafe Espresso at Harare International Airport at 3pm to begin your journey to the project site.
When leaving the project, you will need to book flights that leave after 12pm.
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 to 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.
The 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.
My favourite moment was walking with the rhinos on the wild side of the reserve. Climbing up Castle Kopje. The majestic Mac and his gentle giant ways. And all of the staff and people there. Particularly Bright, Sam & Vera. Incredible people.
Louise Sinnock, 2018
The first morning after I arrived, I met the elephants and instantly fell in love. I was blown away at how massive yet gentle they were. A once in a lifetime experience! An excellent mix of hard work and cultural learning. I felt like the projects we were helping with were making a difference on the reserve. An amazing community and for a short period of time, I felt that I was a part of that community.
Heather Simpson, 2018
I will cherish every moment I spent here. The staff were amazing, as were the animals! Weekend excursions to Victoria Falls would ideally need to be booked in advance as we enquired when we were there and the price was extortionate and the availability wasn't great, therefore, we missed out on doing this.
Vicki Heritage, 2018
The moment I will always remember is watching the elephants playing in the lake, right outside the volunteer house, it was incredible!
Cassie Lightfoot, 2018
One morning we went searching for Black Rhino in the wild part of the reserve and had to run into a boama because a rhino magically came out of the bush and was coming towards us! The project is a unique experience with a full range of activities, expertly organised. Would fully recommend!
James Callingham, 2018
If you have any questions about this project or would like help finding the perfect project for you then please feel free to give us a call or send us through your enquiry and we will be happy to help.
Nikita & team.