Big 5 Conservation Experience

Zimbabwe

Explore one of the world’s most sought after destinations, get hands-on experience in conservation management, wildlife research and community development and live in the heart of a stunning private game reserve.

During your volunteer programme in Victoria Falls your knowledge of practical wildlife conservation and African wildlife will be enhanced, you will get a strong understanding of current conservation issues and challenges and you will have contributed to on-the-ground conservation and community projects in Zimbabwe.

The programme has five core pillars - education, conservation management, wildlife research, community development and sustainability. In addition to activities on the reserve, volunteers will work alongside the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF) and will also participate in the Children in the Wilderness community teaching and literacy programme.

The conservancy where you will be based is a privately owned Big 5 game reserve situated just ten minutes outside the vibrant and bustling tourist town of Victoria Falls in eastern Zimbabwe. The Victoria Falls area is recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage site and Victoria Falls is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.

 

WHY CHOOSE THIS PROJECT

Get hands-on conservation experience and enjoy the excitement and adventure of being based just outside Africa’s adventure capital, Victoria Falls. Learn from experienced conservation professionals and get an insight into conservation management projects.

Quick Facts

Who can join: Anyone aged 18 years and over
How long can I stay for: 1 week - 12 weeks
Accommodation: Single room with shared ablutions
Transfer time: 30 minutes
Pick up from: Victoria Falls Airport
Meals: 3 meals a day included
Project numbers: 20 (including Nature Guide students)
Start dates: Sundays throughout the year. Project closed from 18th December 2016 - 15th January 2017
How much: from $1,275 (2 weeks)

Background

This wildlife conservation programme is based on a 2,500 hectare (6,000 acre) private game reserve on a piece of pristine African wilderness just outside Victoria Falls in Eastern Zimbabwe, on the border of Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana. It is home to all of Africa’s Big 5 game (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo) and hosts vast species of birdlife.

The focal point of activity at the Reserve is preservation and conservation through sustainable activity in order to sustain and support the various ecosystems.

The Reserve is the only Big Five area in the vicinity of Victoria Falls and, since its fencing in 2000, is an Intensive Protection Zone (IPZ) for black rhino in the area. An intensive black rhino monitoring programme is in place, with the aim of increasing the population in the area, fighting against the recent and widespread poaching of rhinoceros in southern Africa.

The Reserve falls within the recently-declared KAZA Transfrontier Conservation Area, the largest conservation area in Africa. The KAZA TCA extends across the boundaries of five countries: Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and Angola, and aims to achieve goals of sustainable ecotourism in the area.

The vegetation and fauna characteristics are similar to that of the surrounding National parks and safari areas, with large numbers of raptors being present due to the vulture restaurant programme in place on the Reserve. The dominant vegetation type is Zambezi Teak forest. The reserve also holds a large dam along the Masuwe River which flows through the Reserve, and into the Zambezi River.

Highlights

This Big 5 Conservation Experience is the perfect programme for volunteers dedicated to making a difference.

  • Join a behind the scenes conservation programme where volunteers make a direct impact on the operation of the reserve
  • Undertake wildlife research and community development projects on the reserve and in the Victoria Falls area
  • Improve your understanding of conservation issues and what is being done to address them
  • Immerse yourself in African wildlife and learn about the plants and animals, trees and birds which surround you
  • Live just outside Africa’s adventure capital, Victoria Falls, where there are plenty of adrenaline activities to experience!

What sort of things will I be doing?

The programme has five core pillars - education, conservation management, wildlife research, community development and sustainability.

Education:
This project aims to expand volunteers’ knowledge of conservation issues and conservation management, both to enhance the volunteer’s own understand and to raise awareness of the challenges outside of Africa.

  • Learn about current conservation practices from experienced and qualified staff members and game reserve managers
  • Enjoy guest speakers covering topics such as rhino conservation, anti-poaching and environmental protection
  • Work on a mini-project about a current issue within the reserve which is presented on your final evening
  • Learn from local post-graduate researchers and help with their field work

Conservation Management:
Get hands on with all conservation and game park management activities which are vital for the success of the conservancy:

  • Alien species removal
  • Maintenance of the vulture restaurant
  • Fence patrols
  • Bush patrols with the IAPF
  • Game counts
  • Road maintenance
  • Predator checking
  • Waterhole creation and maintenance
  • Game capture
  • Get extensive knowledge about the wildlife, birds, trees and plants which are in the area
  • Learn about tracks and signs

Conservation Research Projects:
These projects are determined by game reserve management and enable better and more in-depth understanding of specific species. These projects are often connected to Vulnerable or Endangered species:

  • Oxpecker and Ground Hornbill monitoring
  • Raptor conservation
  • Bird species data collection for Birdlife Zimbabwe
  • Monitoring rhino, elephant buffalo and predator for ongoing research projects

Community Development Projects:
Volunteers assist in a local rural school just outside Victoria Falls. The school is supported by the Children in the Wilderness Foundation, a Wilderness Safaris outreach programme.

  • Assist in literacy teaching in line with the CITW curriculum
  • Help with English and life skills lessons
  • Run homework workshops
  • Tutor small groups of children in basic maths and English who are struggling to keep up in class
  • Maintain school vegetable gardens
  • Conduct community clean-up operations with the children

Sustainability:
All facilities on the reserve, including the volunteer camp, are committed to green operation to minimise their impact on the natural environment. Green projects which volunteers get involved with:

  • Installation of solar pumps at waterholes
  • Maintenance of the reserve vegetable garden
  • Managing the indigenous tree nursery
  • Recycling initiatives


At weekends:

  • Experience local Zimbabwean culture in the bustling town of Victoria Falls
  • Activities on offer in Victoria Falls include white-water rafting, river-boarding, canoe trails, bungee jumping and boat cruises
  • Take a day trip into Chobe National Park in Botswana or go on an overnight fishing or canoe safari

Details

Do I need any experience to volunteer on this programme?

You do not need any prior wildlife experience to enrol on this course but volunteers should have a good grasp of English if it is not their first language and a keen interest in conservation.

How do I get to the project?

We will arrange transfers from Victoria Falls Airport before and after the programme.

What does the cost include?

Full board and lodging for the duration of your programme including laundry (exc. alcoholic and fizzy drinks)
Bush walks and drives
Practical instruction on wildlife and plant identification
All programme-related transport and equipment required to do your work
24 hour support and guidance from the volunteer programme staff

The programme cost excludes:

Transport by air or bus to Victoria Falls
Visas
Any expenses prior to your programme start date
Any personal items such as alcoholic drinks, snacks, additional food or souvenirs
Personal medical and travel insurance, which must cover the entire duration of your programme and should include cover for repatriation, air evacuation and any activities you may undertake or plan to undertake
Any additional trips outside the volunteer programme
Telephone calls and internet

A day in the life

Volunteer activities will usually start around 6.30am before the day heats up.

Get up early and head out into the game park to do some maintenance. Get hands on as you dig run-off trenches and rebuild washed away roads.

After a hearty breakfast head back into the game park to locate a missing rhino. Learn about the difference tracks and signs in the park and how to identify different bird calls. Once you have found the collared animal, mark the location for reserve managers and rangers.

Enjoy lunch back at camp and watch the animals come to drink at the waterhole in front of the dining deck. Take a dip in the pool to cool off during the heat of the day.

Spend a few hours relaxing before heading out again mid-afternoon to help with the vegetable garden. This garden provides food for you, staff and guests at the safari lodge. Learn about sustainable gardening and permaculture - and how to maintain a garden when there is no water!

Head back to camp and enjoy a hearty dinner as you chat about the animal sitings of the day. Evenings are generally at leisure but there will be plenty of opportunities for camp outs, learning about the night skies and finding nocturnal animals and birds.

Pricing and Dates

When can I volunteer
We ask that volunteers arrive in Victoria Falls on a Sunday, for a Monday start. Departures are also on a Sunday. The project is closed from 18th December 2016 - 15th January 2017.

Project Pricing 2017:
1 week - $915
2 weeks - $1,275
3 weeks - $1,850
4 weeks - $2,215
6 weeks - $3,185
8 weeks - $4,140
10 weeks - $4,915
12 weeks - $5,665

View our booking terms and conditions

Accommodation

The student centre, where volunteers and FGASA students are based is in the heart of the game park overlooking a stunning waterhole. There are 20 single rooms with 1-4 people sharing a bathroom with shower, toilet and basin. Rooms are equipped with bedding and a ceiling fan. There is no mosquito nets but volunteers are able to bring their own if they wish.

Three meals per day are provided in the kitchen and served in the stunning open-air dining area and at weekends you may have a braai in the entertainment area. Some meals (usually breakfast or lunch) will be packed and taken out into the game park if you are having a full day out in the bush. Please let us know if you have any dietary requirements before you book - vegetarians and vegans can be catered for.

The camp has a swimming pool, comprehensive resource library and fully kitted out lecture room with presentation equipment. There is a small safe on the premises for cash and phones and a weekly laundry service. Try to ensure your clothing and towels are labelled to make sure you get all your laundry back! Wifi is available and internet airtime can be purchased from the Facility Manager. There are also internet cafe’s in Victoria Falls town and students can also purchase local sim cards which makes calling and text much cheaper.

It should be kept in mind at all times that the camp is in the middle of a dangerous game area and students are not permitted to exit the camp unless accompanied by one of the co-ordinators.

Reviews

I had a great time and enjoyed this conservation programme. My favourite activities were building a dam, tracking and being in the bush. Our guides, Dean and Damian were brilliant! Thank you for a great time!

Daniella, Germany
February 2015

Had an excellent experience, Justine made you feel like family. My favourite parts of the programme were visiting Masuwe Primary School and the rhino tracking. The accommodation was excellent, the staff are very supportive and helpful, and the meals are outstanding. This is an excellent programme.

Clara, USA
January 2015

There can only be one word for the centre, staff and programme, “Amazing”. Every day we learnt something new. My favourite part was coming face to face with the elephants. The accommodation was nice and clean, lovely shower, nothing negative. The staff are outstandingly friendly. The meals were full of flavour, good variety (fish and chips were lovely). I certainly hope this programme is still going when our children are old enough to experience the magic we have!

Ashley, UK
November 2014

Conservation education is high priority – I enjoyed this the most.   Dean’s knowledge paired with Damian’s, wow! Favourite parts: building the gabion, concealing pump house, restoring Derry’s garden greenhouse. The accommodation was just fine, especially daily service and laundry weekly. The staff are honest, courteous and capable. The meals were all fine. Justine is a very capable administrator, always available to help. Dean is the best in the biz! All great!

Wendy, Canada
November 2014

I absolutely loved the programme! Can’t choose a favourite part –  the baby rhino, camping, game drives, working, Dean’s fun facts! My least favourite part is that I stayed too short.

The accommodation was clean and convenient. Hot showers were amazing. The team were the best part! Dean and Justine are the dream team and everyone else was very friendly and helpful. The meals were delicious! I was vegetarian and they were so nice. Would just like to say a massive thank you! Justine – you are so organised, thank you so much for all your help with everything, you’re amazing! Dean – thank you for all your knowledge! I love all your facts and your passion/enthusiasm is contagious.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Natasha H, Australia
July 2014

 

Destination

Volunteering in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is the true home of Conservation Travel Africa as our founders were all born and still live there. Zimbabwe is often in the international news for the wrong reasons but the reality is quite different and tourism is beginning to grow again in one of Africa’s most beautiful and unspoilt countries.

The country offers something for every traveller - from the absolute wilderness of Gonarezhou and Mana Pools to the ruins of Great Zimbabwe and the hustle and bustle of Africa’s adventure capital,  Victoria Falls. Zimbabwe is rich in colour and the people have retained their resolve, sense of humour and friendliness.

No trip to Zimbabwe would be complete without a visit to Victoria Falls. Mosi-au-Tunya (“the smoke that thunders) is accepted to have the largest sheet of falling water in the world (1,708m wide and 108m high) and is located on the far western tip of Zimbabwe on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. Victoria Falls is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. As well as the Falls being a definite must-see for visitors, Victoria Falls town is a also lively centre for adventure. For white water rafting the best time to visit is when the waters in the Zambezi are low (August - December) - these rapids have often been referred to as the best one-day white water rafting in the world.

Hwange National Park: at 14,000 square kilometers, Hwange is a wildlife enthusiast’s dream. With some of the most unspoilt wild areas in Zimbabwe, an abundance of elephants as well as leopard, lion, rhino, buffalo and over 100 bird species, a trip to Hwange must be on everyones To Do list.

Mana Pools National Park: Mana Pools is synonymous with the Zambezi River, elephants, lions, wilderness and remote beauty. It is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site based on its wildness and beauty together with its wide range of large mammals and birdlife. The name “mana” means “four” in Shona, relating to the four large pools inland from the Zambezi River, the remnants of four ancient ox-bow lakes. Spread over 2,196 square km, the Park is part of a region of 10,500 square km, from the Kariba Dam to the Mozambique border, which has no physical boundaries and animals are able to move freely throughout the area. It is the only National Park where visitors are allowed to walk unaccompanied by a guide.

Lake Kariba: the world’s third largest man-made lake offers spectacular elephant and buffalo sitings on its shores as well as being home to the ferocious tiger fish! Take the 24-hour ferry from Milibizi on the southern tip to Kariba town in the north and witness the beauty of remotest Zimbabwe.

Great Zimbabwe: a ruined stone city in south Zimbabwe, which was the capital of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe during the country’s late Iron Age, in around the 11th Century. One of its most prominent features are its 5m high stone walls, constructed entirely without mortar and the ruins are some of the oldest, largest and most impressive stone structures in Southern Africa. The city was built over a period of 300 years and it is believed that over 18,000 people lived there at its peak before being eventually abandoned and falling into ruins.

Nyanga: Zimbabwe’s Eastern Highlands is home to rolling green hills, majestic waterfalls and the country’s highest peak, Mount Inyangani. A tranquil retreat from the heat of Victoria Falls, Nyanga is a haven for bird-lovers and hikers and is also home to rivers ideal for tubing and canoeing.

What will the weather be like?

During the Zimbabwe summer (October - April) temperatures in Victoria Falls average 30-32°c. Volunteers should bring light clothing in neutral colours (not white), a wide-brimmed hat, polarised sunglasses, a water bottle, plenty of high factor sunscreen (and after-sun!), strong mosquito spray and closed shoes. A light waterproof jacket is also essential for sudden downpours! Average lows are around 17-20°c.

During winter (May - September) daytime temperatures average 25-27°c with no rainfall at all. Temperatures during the night and in the mornings and evenings can get down to 7-10°c (and it has been known to frost!) so volunteers are advised to bring lots of layers including fleeces and a warm hat for nighttime camping with a wide-brimmed hat or cap and loose light clothing for daytime.

Excursions

Do I get some time off?

Volunteers get weekends to either relax on the reserve or enjoy the hustle and bustle of Victoria Falls. There are plenty of activities to entertain even the most demanding of travellers, whether you want to enjoy a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River, white water rafting or a trip to Chobe National Park in Botswana. Staff can help you book activities.

Combination Projects

We highly recommend making the most out of your trip to Africa and consider combining two or more volunteer projects. You could start and finish in the same place (Harare to Harare) or use it as an opportunity to get from one country to another (e.g. Zimbabwe to Namibia).

Take a look at a selection of tailor made itineraries that previous volunteers have enjoyed.

Project Gallery - Big 5 Conservation Experience

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