Rhino and Elephant Conservation Project

Experience Zimbabwe’s fantastic wildlife whilst aiding rhino conservation efforts on one of the country’s most impressive reserves!

Built upon a sprawling 10,000 acres of land, the Rhino and Elephant Conservation Project stands as a testament to meaningful wildlife conservation efforts in Zimbabwe. The reserve was founded in the 1950s and has seen the arrival of a range of impressive species, from impala to antelope, waterbuck and more, though it has also played witness to a number of tragedies, including the poaching epidemic of the 1980s. It is during this time that Zimbabwe’s black rhino population plummeted from 10,000 to less than 1000 in the space of just a few years, though the project’s conservation efforts have seen the animals’ numbers stabilise.

The team at the Rhino and Elephant Conservation Project are proud to run a breeding programme for both black and white rhinos, and as a volunteer you will support their efforts to introduce the animals back into the wild. This will be done by monitoring the rhinos on the reserve to ensure that they are progressing well towards their eventual release. However, while the project’s main focus is to improve rhino populations, you will also assist in the day-to-day running of the reserve, and this includes providing care for another one of Zimbabwe’s most famous animals: the elephant! By engaging in enrichment walks with these gentle giants and enjoying a unique ‘breakfast with the elephants’ out in the bush, you can be sure that your experience on this project will never be forgotten.

From aiding African wildlife to assisting in the education of the local community, there are many ways in which you can make a difference during your time in Zimbabwe.

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Lauren Mackinnon

Activities

Looking to volunteer as a family? Take a look at the Rhino and Elephant Conservation Project - Family Programme.

Rhino Observation
Rhino Tracking & Observation The project runs a successful breeding programme, which seeks to raise rhinos in as natural an environment as possible whilst providing them with ongoing protection on the reserve. It is hoped that the rhinos will someday be released into the wild, but in order to provide them with a sense of freedom, they are fitted with trackers to allow the project’s anti-poaching team to locate them whenever necessary. You will use telemetry to help locate and observe the rhinos, paying close attention to their behavioural and feeding patterns. The information you gather may contribute towards management decisions, such as whether to give the rhinos supplements to balance out their diets.
Volunteers Walking with Elephants
Elephant Observation & Care Unlike the rhinos on this project, the elephants are sadly unsuitable for release and therefore will spend the rest of their days on the reserve. The project aims to provide them with as high a quality of life as possible, and this can be achieved through enrichment activities (such as elephant walks). You will study the elephants as they roam the reserve by your side, while an experienced guide will educate you on their behaviours and any indicators for their happiness. Additionally, you will help to monitor their feeding patterns to ensure that their diets remain balanced and that they aren’t undereating, either due to stress or a lack of appropriate food sources.
Fence Repair at the Rhino and Elephant Conservation Project
Maintain & Repair Enclosures Another way to keep the elephants on the reserve as comfortable as possible is to ensure that their bomas remain clean and secure. From refreshing their hay bales to conducting checks and repairs on any fences, your assistance will help to ensure that their homes are a safe, cosy place to return to at the end of each day.
Herd Monitoring by Horseback
Herd Monitoring by Horseback If you have experience with horse riding, you may be invited to assist with herd monitoring by horseback. This is an excellent way of monitoring the reserve’s animals, as they are less likely to retreat – the arrival of a vehicle may spook the herds, but the gentle manner in which you approach the reserve’s animals will allow you to get closer in order to accurately record the size and health of each herd. Please note that this is not a guaranteed part of your time on the project.
Volunteers Eating Breakfast with Elephants
Breakfast With The Elephants This activity often proves to be a favourite amongst volunteers, and understandably so, as it’s not every day that you can say you’ve eaten breakfast in the presence of elephants! You will head out onto the reserve in search of the elephants’ most recent location, settling in as a member of the project team prepares your breakfast on-location. It won’t be long before the elephants arrive, and you will be invited to learn more about these amazing animals from up-close.
Game Drives
Game Drives Game drives frequently appear on the bucket-lists of wildlife enthusiasts, and during your time on the project you will have the opportunity to embark on some spectacular outings. You will head out onto the reserve in search of the project’s most enticing species, from the rhinos and elephants themselves to giraffes, zebras, and maybe even a lion! Be sure to bring your camera along for the ride, as this experience is certainly photo-worthy.
Weapons Training & K9 Unit Demonstration
Weapons Training & K9 Unit Demonstration It’s time to get competitive! The anti-poaching team will invite your group to take part in target practice, where you'll test your shooting accuracy with a paintball gun! This is an informative activity where you'll learn the basics of safe weapon handling in a wildlife area, but it’s also a fun way to challenge yourself and your fellow volunteers. You may also have the opportunity to witness a K9 unit demonstration, where you'll meet the dogs, learn about their training, and understand their role in protecting the reserve's wildlife.
Carnivore Feeding
Carnivore Feeding Among others, the reserve is home to two very hungry carnivores: a lion named Mambo, and a crocodile called Crispin! You will be invited to witness the animals’ most innate behaviours from up close whilst an experienced guide tells you about each individual. This is a fantastic opportunity to see some of Africa’s most revered predators and by helping to feed both Mambo and Crispin, you will be contributing to their ongoing care.
Painting a Fence on the Rhino and Elephant Conservation Project
Conservation Activities As an expansive home to a wealth of animals, life on the reserve can be quite demanding! There are a range of important activities which must be carried out each day, from the distribution of food and supplements right through to ‘cattle dipping’, which helps to control parasite populations between herds. You’re sure to be kept busy during your time on the project – all that we ask is that you’re willing to be flexible and to get involved!
Volunteering with Children at the Rhino and Elephant Conservation Project
Community Outreach The project is fully integrated within its surrounding communities, and as a volunteer, you'll be involved in a number of meaningful community initiatives. From assisting at a local school with building projects, teaching assistance, sports, gardening and conservation education to working with a women's support group or visiting a village and learning how to make peanut butter or how to plough, you'll have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture and help empower rural communities.
Cultural Evenings
Cultural Evenings Every so often, the project team will hold a ‘cultural evening’ at the volunteer house. You will be joined by members of the local community, each of them eager to tell you all about the traditions and cultures of the Shona tribe. It’s not uncommon for the youngest members of the community to want to showcase one of their favourite pastimes for you, so get involved as they encourage you to sing and dance the night away!

Itinerary

The itinerary below is an example of a two-week stay and is subject to change. Please be advised that although we can offer an 7-night option, a minimum duration of 14 nights is recommended for a more in-depth experience. If you take part for only 7 nights, there is no guarantee that you will be involved in all the activities listed.

Day 1 - The Adventure Begins: You will arrive into Harare International Airport, where you will be met by a member of the project team before taking a private transfer to the project site. Upon arrival, you will have the opportunity to meet your fellow volunteers and some of the team before settling in for the evening.
Day 2-14 - Project Days: These are your project days, during which you will take part in a wide range of activities. Most days run from 6am-5pm, though on occasion you may be invited to take part in later activities, such as a ‘cultural evening’ or a game drive at night! Every Sunday is a free day, and you can relax at the volunteer house or take part in some extra activities for an additional cost. In this case, the project team will be happy to suggest options once you arrive!
Day 15 - Return Home: Today is your final day, so after saying goodbye to your fellow volunteers and the project team, you will be transferred back to the airport to catch your return flight home or to continue with your independent travel plans.

Start Dates & Prices

To secure a place on this project, a deposit of $245 is required at the time of booking. The remaining balance is due 60 days before your start date.

Flexible Payment Options: If you select a start date more than 3 months in advance, we offer convenient payment plans, allowing you to pay off your balance in instalments.

Select a duration below to see the available start dates and book your place today!

Duration Price
Please choose a trip using the select menus to the left.

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Payment breakdown


Accommodation

Accommodation

During your time on this project, you will be living in one of three beautiful thatched houses located within the conservancy. These houses can host up to 12 volunteers, with rooms being shared and single beds provided along with all bedding (duvets, pillows and extra blankets for winter). Shower and toilet facilities are also shared, and hot water is available. Please note, Wi-Fi is not available at the project site and whilst not all bedrooms have power sockets available, they are available in the communal areas.

Meals & Beverages

Three meals a day are provided for you on this project. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served in a buffet-style, and you are free to select what you want to eat. Water, juice, tea and coffee are also available throughout the day. On Sundays, the chefs have a day off, but you are free to use the food provided in the kitchen to prepare your own meals. Vegetarian and limited vegan options are available upon request.

If you have a specialist diet (such as gluten or wheat intolerance), you will need to bring appropriate food with you; however, the chef will be happy to prepare your food for you. There is also a small onsite bar at the volunteer house which offers a variety of snacks, as well as both alcoholic and soft drinks.


Project Details

When is the best time to volunteer?

Most of the activities on this project run year-round, with the exception being any work with the school children (which may be impacted by the school holidays). As this is an active reserve, you will see wildlife no matter when you choose to volunteer, although the weather may impact which time of year you choose to visit.

Summer (November-March) – Also thought of as the ‘wet season’, this is the rainiest time of the year. Rain may fall throughout the afternoon and can even continue for a few days; however, more rain does often equate to more activity on the reserve. Vegetation springs into life which, in turn, means there are improved food sources for the animals, and you may have a greater chance of spotting them grazing. Temperatures throughout the summer can still be rather warm, reaching around 32°C/90°F at their peak, so be sure to pack lighter clothing as well as a waterproof jacket, sunglasses and adequate sun protection.

Winter (April-October) – This is the dry season, during which there is minimal rainfall. The reserve’s animals may congregate around waterholes and rivers when the other water sources dry up – in fact, it’s not uncommon to catch sight of one elephant, Mac, as he searches for water near the volunteer house! Temperatures are quite cool throughout the season, not often exceeding 10°C/50°F in the mornings and 28°C/82°F in the afternoons. Night times are even colder, so we advise that you pack a fleece and some gloves in the event of an evening game drive!

Getting There

You will need to fly into Harare International Airport on your project start date, arriving by 1pm, as the private transfer from the airport to the reserve departs shortly after. Additionally, your return flight must depart Harare after 12pm in order to provide enough time for your transfer back to the airport. Airport transfers outside of these times can be arranged for an additional fee of US$120.

Visa Requirements

Citizens of most countries, including the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and most of those within the EU will be granted a 30-day tourist visa upon arrival into Zimbabwe. Please be aware, however, there is a charge for this of approximately USD $55. We advise checking this charge before travelling as it can change and it is your responsibility to ensure that you are aware of the correct rates and have the cash with you to pay this.

If you are unsure of your individual visa requirements, we recommend speaking to your local Zimbabwean embassy at least 2 months prior to travel.

Fitness & Skills

Each day on the project can be rather busy and may involve a range of physical activities, therefore, we recommend that you have a moderate level of fitness if you wish to take part. No specific skills are needed for this project – all we ask is that you arrive with a willingness to get involved with all activities, and that you are dedicated to the project’s ethos. Most importantly, we ask that you have respect for your environment, your fellow volunteers, and Zimbabwe’s incredible wildlife!

Vaccinations

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.


Videos

Rhino and Elephant Conservation Project
Rhino and Elephant Conservation Project

Take a look at the amazing Rhino and Elephant Conservation Project video and become our next volunteer in Zimbabwe!

The Rhino And Elephant Conservation Project Volunteer Accommodation Run Through!
The Rhino And Elephant Conservation Project Volunteer Accommodation Run Through!

Watch as volunteer coordinator Morgan gives you your very own tour of the stunning accommodation on the Rhino And Elephant Conservation Project!



Reviews

Franziska Henze, 2024
         

I really enjoyed getting to know all the locals. They let us in very warmly into a part of their world and made it easy for us to adapt to all experiences. Additionally, the memories we shared with the rhinos, elephants, and just the nature itself are unforgettable. It is amazing how they combine wildlife experiences with maintenance work and community visits so that we get an almost complete understanding of the culture.


Patrick Thompson, 2024
         

It has been a great trip! Lovely conservancy and it's accommodation, real pleasure to have upclose interaction with Mac the elephant, fun village activities, beautiful views from the big rock, was nice to have first hand experience of the African grassland and seeing both rhino species in their natural habitat.


Mohamed Alyammahi, 2023
         

The project has exceeded all my expectations by miles and I’m really impressed with how the project was coordinated and all the activities provided in the program. You are greeted by the wonderful staff as soon as you arrive and shown around the place plus getting to see your weekly schedule with all the activities planned ahead. I got to do much of what was advertised by the activities list and we got up close with the animals numerous times. Meeting the elephants and the rhinos for the first time was surreal. Helping throughout the week to feed, clean and walk the elephants was incredible and very rewarding. Any off time we were given there was a multitude of options to do like kayaking, swimming in the pool, card games.. etc. There was never a dull moment. The accommodation as well was perfect with clean rooms and bathrooms as well as housekeeping and the kitchen staff. It was an amazing experience and I can’t recommend it enough, don’t hesitate to book!



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What's Included

  • Accommodation
  • Airport transfers
  • Three meals per day
  • Tea, coffee, water and juice
  • Laundry service
  • A donation to the project

What's Not Included

  • Flights
  • Visas
  • Travel insurance
  • Soft and alcoholic drinks