EcoOdyssey Conservation Experience


The ultimate conservation experience in Victoria Falls! Complete an accredited Safari Guide course, get an Introduction to Tracking Certificate and receive a full Advanced First Aid qualification.

This 12 week African safari guide course will immerse you in nature and wildlife and covers a wide variety of topics from animal and bird behaviour and identification, guiding and hospitality procedues, environmental studies, navigation and orientation, ecology and local cultural history. Split between learning in the classroom and practical activities in the bush, this course is a must for those who want to pursue a career in wildlife or simply want to add to their knowledge of the African bush.

This course forms a solid foundation for a career in field guiding and many other wildlife-oriented careers. However, many participants enrol onto the course to get an in-depth gap year or student travel experience, or have an extended bush holiday.

The key elements of the programme are run by two of South Africa’s best Field Guide and Nature Training schools as well as Zimbabwe’s leading Medical Rescue Services (MARS) . Successful participants will receive full FGASA Level 1 accreditation once they have passed their theory and practical assessments at the end of the course.

As well as gaining your accredited FGASA Level 1 Field Guide qualification, MARS Advanced First Aid certificate and Introduction to Tracking qualification you will also participate for four weeks in the Big 5 Conservation Experience which is run at the reserve and join a one week white water rafting adventure on the Zambezi River.

The conservancy where you will be based for your training 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 is home to one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.



Three amazing courses in one ultimate conservation experience. Successful students will gain their Level 1 FGASA accreditation plus an Advanced First Aid qualification and complete an Introduction to Tracking course. The ultimate course for a career in wildlife conservation, anti-poaching or scientific research.

Quick Facts

Who can join: Anyone aged 18 years and over
How long can I stay for: 3 months (mandatory) - can be extended afterwards
Accommodation: Single room with shared ablutions
Transfer time: 30 minutes
Pick up from: Victoria Falls
Meals: 3 meals a day included
Project numbers: 9-20 (9 students plus volunteers)
Start dates: 3rd August 2015
How much: $10,495


The course 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.


Every day of this 3 month programme will be a learning experience. You will be submerged in nature and constantly exposed to the African bush.

  • Complete your Level 1 FGASA Field Guide course
  • Undertake game walks and drives accompanied by experienced professional trainers and guides
  • Complete the Introduction to Tracking course - CyberTracker
  • Learn to identify human and wildlife tracks and interpret signs
  • Enhance your understanding of animal behaviour
  • Participate in the Big 5 Conservation Experience, working hands-on in conservation management, wildlife research, community development and sustainability
  • Participate in a five-day Adventure Experience, rafting down the Zambezi River
  • Get a foundation for a career as a nature guide
  • Immerse yourself in African wildlife and learn about the plants and animals, trees and birds
  • 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?

This 3 month course is split into four sections:

MARS Advanced First Aid Training - 5 days

You will cover modules including:

  • Body structure
  • Fractures and breakages
  • Shock
  • Poisons and toxins
  • CPR
  • Gunshot wounds
  • Drowning
  • Bites and stings

FGASA Level 1 Field Guide - 55 days

If you intend becoming a field / safari guide or pursuing other careers in wildlife, this FGASA accredited course is an excellent starting point as it is required for many jobs across Southern Africa.
This course covers 16 modules through both classroom lectures and practical field activities.

You will learn about:

  • Introduction to the natural environment
  • Guiding and radio procedures
  • Geology
  • Astronomy
  • Weather and climate
  • Basic ecology
  • Basic taxonomy
  • Plants and grasses
  • Insects
  • Amphibians, fish and reptiles
  • Birds
  • Mammals
  • Animal behaviour
  • Conservation management
  • Historical human habitation

Students will gain skills in off-road driving, guiding and hosting clients, navigation and orientation and tracks and signs in the bush. These will be covered in formal lectures and workshops as well as out in the field - observing and learning about what is around you.

FGASA students will also enjoy visits to Chobe National Park in Botswana, the Zambezi National Park in Zimbabwe and the spectacular Victoria Falls themselves. These trips also allow students to experience different areas, wildlife, biomes and biodiversity.

This course is endorsed by FGASA - the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa.

While this course forms the foundation for a career in guiding, many students enrol for a gap year holiday or extended bush experience. You do not have to pay for and take the field guide assessment at the end if you simply wish to use the course to further your own knowledge. Participants of any age over 18 are encouraged to enrol.

Introduction to Tracking - CyberTracker - 10 days

This is a ten day adventure where you challenge yourself while learning to recognise the different tracks and signs in the African bush. The ability to track and understand signs is key to many fields within conservation including wildlife research, eco-tourism, guiding and anti-poaching. You will learn to recognise tracks and signs and enhance your understanding of animal behaviour.

Learn to recognise and interpret each and every sign of animal presence including:

  • Ground spoor (footprints)
  • Scent
  • Feeding signs
  • Urine and faeces
  • Paths and shelters
  • Visual signs
  • Vocal and auditory signs

The course will provide you with the foundation for developing your tracking skills to a point where, with practice and experience in different environments, you are about to trail animals successfully.

Big 5 Conservation Experience - 28 days

Enjoy four weeks with other volunteers from around the world as you participate in the Big 5 Conservation Experience. This project integrates conservation, education and the community to ensure the region’s wildlife is protected and valued long term.

Education: understand conservation management, learn about conservation issues and enjoy talks by team members, reserve management and guest speakers.

Conservation management: get involved with practical conservation management activities including alien vegetation removal, fence patrols, bush walks with the anti-poaching team, road and riverbank maintenance, game capture and game counts.

Conservation research: collect data to support the current research projects on the reserve to enable staff to make informed planning decisions. Current research projects include oxpecker and ground hornbill monitoring, raptor conservation, bird species data collection and freshwater ecosystem analysis.

Community development: volunteers will assist at the local school and get involved with tutoring, homework workshops, community clean-ups, vegetable garden maintenance and sports coaching.

Adventure week - 5 days

Also included in your 3 month programme is a five day white water rafting adventure - camp alongside the banks of the Zambezi River as you canoe the rapids!


Do I need any experience to volunteer on this programme?

You do not need any prior wildlife experience to enrol on this course but students must have a good grasp of English if it is not their first language and a keen interest in conservation. You will be required to write a covering letter explaining your interest in this course.

You must be 18+ and hold a valid drivers licence (to drive a manual / stick shift vehicle).

How do I get to the project?

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

A day in the life

Volunteers will usually get up around 6.00-6.30am to get started before the day heats up.

Your morning activity may be a bush walk or game drive where you will learn about a specific area such as tree identification or mammal tracking. Take a look and see if you can identify what nocturnal animals have left tracks in the sand and try and identify which way the elephant herd was moving. Play the part of the guide as you take your class-mates on a perfectly guided game drive!

After breakfast head into the classroom for a lecture to learn the theory behind the environment you are working in and learn the differences between different biomes.

Enjoy lunch with the volunteers on this programme 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 studying in your room (there is a lot to learn!) before heading out again mid-afternoon for a game drive. You will learn about the geology and ecology of the game park and learn to navigate using the trees and the natural environment around you.

Head back to camp and enjoy a hearty dinner as you chat about the animal sitings of the day. Students on this course will also use evenings to learn about the night skies and using the stars to navigate and will also do night drives to learn about and see the nocturnal animals and birds.

Pricing and Dates

When can I volunteer?

Two FGASA courses in Victoria Falls are run per year and they tend to get full very quickly so be sure to book early to avoid disappointment!

2015 start dates are:
23 Feb – 16 May 2015
3 Aug – 24 Oct 2015

3 months EcoOdyssey FGASA Level 1 Field Guide Course - $10,495

What does the cost include?

  • Full board and lodging for the duration of your programme including laundry (exc. alcoholic and fizzy drinks)
  • Instructors and Training
  • MARS first aid course / Tracking course / Adventure week
  • Bush walks and drives
  • T-shirt, shirt and cap
  • Practical instruction on wildlife and plant identification as well as spoors, tracking and animal behaviour
  • 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
  • FGASA registration, exam fees and workbooks
  • 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

View our booking terms and conditions

Want to stay for longer? Why not stay on after your course and join the Big 5 Conservation Experience run at the reserve.


While you are doing your nature guide course in Zimbabwe, your comfort is a top priority to enable you to study hard!

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.


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.


Do I get some time off?

Students get one day off per week to either relax (and study!) 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 or white water rafting. 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 - EcoOdyssey Conservation Experience

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