Anti-Poaching & Wildlife Management, Victoria Falls

Zimbabwe

Join anti-poaching patrols as you support rangers in critical anti-poaching activities. Learn about the challenges facing those fighting poaching and be part of the solution.

This programme gives volunteers a rare opportunity to get involved in the the anti-poaching fight. Challenge yourself and learn survival skills as you join programme staff on extended patrols in the African wilderness. Carry out wildlife surveys, GPS mapping and animal monitoring to help protect and maintain one of Zimbabwe's most stunning safari areas.

Based about 45 minutes from Victoria Falls in an unfenced private game reserve, volunteers join anti-poaching patrols and monitor evidence of poaching. Anti-poaching volunteers learn to identify the signs of wildlife poaching and other illegal activity, and are responsible for collecting data to support long term patrol planning. Volunteers are instrumental in supporting rangers in patrols, animal tracking, snare collection, dismantling animal traps and helping identify poaching Hot Zones.

In addition to a number of wild elephants, the reserve is also home to two elephants who have been previously used for elephant rides in local tourism operations. The elephants are going through a "re-wilding" transition, where they will eventually have no close human contact. Volunteers will work with the elephants, monitoring their feeding and sleeping patterns, their movements and territories.

You will also monitor and record the activities, numbers and species of animals around waterpoints and other specific points across the reserve, which will be used to identify areas of potential poaching which need increased protection.

Volunteers will also help achieve the programme's objectives of helping lift local communities out of poverty, to reduce the levels of subsistence poaching in the area.

Quick Facts

Who can join: Volunteers aged 18 - 60 years
How long can I stay for: 2 - 8 weeks
Accommodation: Bush camp
Transfer time: 30 - 45 minutes
Pick up from: Victoria Falls International Airport
Meals: 3 meals a day included
Project numbers: 6-8 (larger groups can be accommodated - please enquire for details)
Start dates: Mondays throughout the year (very flexible)
How much: from $595 (1 week)

WHY CHOOSE THIS PROJECT

As poaching of Africa's flagship species escalates, this is a unique opportunity to help reduce poaching and the threat of poaching. Working alongside permanent project staff, you will learn about the challenges facing those fighting poaching and be part of the solution. Perfect for active volunteers who want to challenge themselves and learn new skills.

Background

The organisation behind this project, Kariba Conservation Programme, was formed in 2014 to provide holistic solutions to anti-poaching threats, focusing on operations in Zimbabwe.

Poaching is a wildlife crime with many drivers and causes, which make it an extremely complex crime - part of the multi-billion dollar illegal wildlife trade. KCP's objectives are to give communities the tools and training to improve and maintain their own environment, to reduce poaching and to reduce the need for poaching. This work begins with showing a community how integral wildife is to their lives. Once a community is able to sustain itself, KCP can then move into other areas and begin the process again, while always being available for further advice, training and support. 

From 2014-2016 KCP worked extensively with the Zimbabwe Department of National Parks and Wildlife in the Charara South area of Lake Kariba, in northern Zimbabwe. They built a base camp in the heart of the Charara South Safari area and instigated anti-poaching training and support for the Parks Department staff. International volunteers were instrumental in adding additional manpower to the operation and also helped with community programmes and building projects.

KCP have now teamed up with a responsible travel partner in Africa's adventure capital, Victoria Falls, and are operating from a base in the unfenced Masuwe game reserve just outside the town. The reserve is  home to wild elephant herds as well as herds of kudu and hyena, plus a wealth of other wildlife. There are also two elephants in the conservancy who are going through a transition phase, from being used for tourism, to being re-introduced to the wild. These elephants will continue to play an important role in conservation education for local children, but will eventually have no direct human contact, except from a safe distance. The area is also a game corridor, but one that has seen substantial poaching in recent years. The volunteer programme will undertake anti-poaching work alongside a dedicated Anti-Poaching Unit to make the area safe and attractive for game to return.

At all times, volunteers work alongside the permanent team of the Kariba Conservation Programme

Highlights

One of the very few hands-on anti-poaching volunteer programmes in Africa, this project is perfect for adventurous volunteers who want to experience a new challenge and help make a difference on the ground.

  • Leave civilisation behind, clear your mind and enjoy pristine wilderness areas
  • Live amongst nature and learn new skills from professional anti-poaching and conservation experts
  • Learn about the challenges facing those fighting poaching and be part of the solution
  • Help study and rehabilitate elephants as they go through a "re-wilding" process
  • Challenge yourself as you learn essential bush survival skills, camp in the bush and learn to track big game
  • Learn to identify signs of poaching and illegal activity
  • Camp out under the night skies and experience the kingdom of the nocturnal animals
  • Help restore a previously thriving wilderness area
  • Work in the local community in permaculture gardens, help with their cattle, learn about bee keeping and work on building and maintenance projects

What sort of things will I be doing?

Volunteers will work alongside the permanent staff members of the Kariba Conservation Programme as you put your new tracking and identification skills into good use. Look for the signs of animal activity, monitor known herds of game, check for evidence of poaching and map the locations of snares and poaching activity. You will also monitor and record the activities, numbers and species of animals around waterpoints and other specific points across the reserve, which will be used to identify possible areas of poaching that need increased protection. Volunteers will also conduct GPS surveys of roads, water points, seasonal rivers and mountains to better assist the park's management in the maintenance of the area and collecting data for other organisations.

Anti-Poaching and Wildlife Monitoring:

This is an unbelievable opportunity to get off the beaten track and explore some of Zimbabwe’s most pristine wilderness areas. All your anti-poaching efforts will deter poachers and trappers from entering the area.

  • Learn about the challenges facing those fighting poaching and be part of the solution
  • Challenge yourself as you learn essential bush survival skills, camp in the bush and track wildlife
  • Learn to identify signs of poaching and illegal activity 
  • Go on morning and evening wildlife monitoring patrols 
  • Identify animal footprints, scent, feeding signs, paths and auditory signs and report anomalies to the permanent Anti-Poaching Unit
  • Develop tracking skills as you patrol wilderness areas
  • Collect and document the location of wire snares and identify poaching Hot Zones
  • Camp out with experienced scouts on night patrols

Elephant Rehabilitation - "Re-wilding"

The reserve is home to two elephants, a bull and a cow, which have been used for commercial purposes including elephant riding and walks. These elephants are going through a transition as they move from being used for tourism, to being allowed to live in the wild. Their handlers will also be retrained in conservation and conservation education. Volunteers will assist with the rehabilitation of these elephants as they go through the transition of ceasing hands-on contact with humans.

  • Volunteers will locate the elephants and make a note of unusual activity or behaviour
  • Establish feeding patterns (when they are eating, what, where and how much) and sleeping patterns
  • Work with the elephant rangers and learn about these amazing animals
  • Create and maintain permaculture gardens for the rangers, the Anti-Poaching Unit and their families
  • Ensure that the land is not being over-browsed by the elephants and repair elephant damage 

It is important that volunteers spend a lot of time observing the elephants as they are an important umbrella species. Their existence affects the well-being of so many species of animal, insect and plant, plus they affect water quality and availability for a huge number of animals.

Wildlife Management:

  • Collect data on snared animals for use in future anti-poaching operations
  • Establish game populations, movements and territories to assist researchers. Create reports of wildlife, birds, insects and reptiles - these are indicators of the health of an area
  • Build and repair roads, map waterpoints and repair damage, especially during and after the rainy season
  • Undertake bush clearance and gulley maintenance around the reserve
  • Undertake spoor transect surveys to build a picture of the resident wildlife and what animals move though the area. The reserve is unfenced, and surrounded by a game corridor that is very important to the biodiversity of the area

Research and Data Collection:

  • Learn to recognise and identify the different tracks and signs in the bush and begin to understand animal behaviour
  • Carry out large animal and bird population surveys
  • Collect and record poaching data information for use by the dedicated Anti-Poaching Unit in the area - this is essential for building heat maps to deploy scouts into the right areas

Community engagement projects

The aim of Kariba Conservation projects' is for local communities to take responsibility for the success of bringing game back to the area, and to enable them to make a living from tourism, farming and conservation, rather than relying on subsistence poaching and trapping. Volunteers will assist the project team and community leaders to:

  • Bring conservation education into local schools through the Community Environmental Programme - help with school trips into the reserve
  • Support Community Permaculture Projects in schools and villages to promote land use and care for trees and plants
  • Dig boreholes and water points, install irrigation systems and ensure there is good water supply throughout the concession during the dry season
  • Poverty alleviation projects such as beekeeping, farming and vegetable gardens

What impact will I have?

The presence of people on the ground in wilderness areas deters poachers from entering those regions, which in turn allows wildlife to return and thrive. Volunteers and staff patrol and check for signs of poaching, monitor the populations and territories of animals and identify the impact of these animals on the eco-system. 

At weekends:

Volunteers will typically work 5 days on and 2 days off, but this will depend on what activities are planned and what has been happening in the area.

During your leisure time there are many opportunities to see Victoria Falls and take part in the adrenaline sports which it is well known for. Have sunset drinks by the Zambezi river, visit the Falls themselves and even take a day trip into Botswana to Chobe National Park. All activities can be booked through a local supplier, and for every activity volunteers book, a donation is made to Kariba Conservation’s efforts in Victoria Falls.

Details

Do I need any experience to volunteer on this programme?

We welcome volunteers aged 18-65 years, who bring a passion and interest in wildlife conservation and have the ability to communicate in English. You must be fit and healthy as there is foot-based tracking, hiking and physical work involved in the programme. If you are happy to get involved, share your enthusiasm and join our passion for conservation, you are welcome!

You will receive practical instruction in a number of topics including wildlife tracking, spoor and sign identification, animal, bird and plant identification and animal behaviour.

How do I get to the project?

We will arrange transfers from Victoria Falls International Airport before and after the programme. If you would like to spend some time before or after your programme in Victoria Falls town, we will arrange transfers to and from there instead.

A day in the life - in the bush

Volunteers have a permanent tented camp in a private unfenced game reserve about 45 minutes from Victoria Falls town. Accommodated in basic tents, complete with stretcher beds and linen, you will eat breakfast surrounded by the sights, sounds and smells of the bush.

Go on a sunrise snare patrol, checking for evidence of poaching, fresh tracks and wildlife movements. Document the location of any unusual activity or wildlife sitings. Learn basic tracking skills, animal and bird identification, de-snaring and get wildlife photography tips.

Head back to camp for a hearty breakfast and collate and review the data collected. In the afternoon you might head back into the reserve to locate the two elephants under rehabilitation. Observe their behaviour and make notes on feeding and browsing. Deliver salt licks around the reserve and make a note of any tracks you see on the way, using your new identification skills!

Dinner will either be served at camp or out in the bush as you chat about the day’s sitings underneath the incredible starry night sky. Volunteers retire to sleep in comfort and to a background of animal cries and calls.

Although this is characteristic of a typical day, some mornings may start at 3am or may continue beyond midnight into the kingdom of nocturnal creatures.

Pricing and Dates

When can I volunteer

We ask that volunteers arrive in Victoria Falls before 3pm on the day their project starts. 

We recommend that 2-4 weeks is the optimum length of time to make the most impact. From October - March the project will only run for two weeks at a time due to the heat in the area, which can be quite debilitating.

Volunteers can start their programmes on any Monday from mid March 2017 - mid December and then from mid-January 2018 onwards.


Project Pricing 2017:

1 week (on request) - $595
2 weeks - $1,165

Each additional week $570

The Kariba Conservation Programme have asked that volunteers consider contributing a $50 donation to the projects which Kariba Conservation are working on in the Victoria Falls area. More details on these projects coming soon.

What does the cost include?

  • Full board and lodging for the duration of your programme (exc. alcoholic and fizzy drinks)
  • Return transfers from Victoria Falls (airport or lodge in town)
  • Bush walks and drives
  • Practical instruction on wildlife and plant identification
  • Full safety briefing and orientation
  • 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, laundry
  • 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
  • Drinks from the bar and activities during the weekend / leisure time (e.g. bungee jumping, rafting, game drives, river cruises etc)

View our booking terms and conditions

Accommodation

Whilst in the bush, volunteers will be based at a permanent tented camp in a private game reserve about 45 minutes from Victoria Falls. Your camp is in the heart of the bush in a purpose built camp with field kitchen and basic ablution facilities, including hot and cold running water. Tents are shared by no more than two people (same sex) and have mosquito nets and stretcher beds. All linen is provided but please bring a sleeping bag with liner (a 3-4 season sleeping bag in winter). Catering and dining are done in camp. The camp has basic solar lighting but there are no charging facilities here. We recommend you bring a supply of camera batteries and memory cards.

Three meals per day are provided on a help yourself basis and will be simple stews, curries, pasta, barbecues and vegetables. You will learn how to cook over an open fire and cook a traditional braai or potjke!

Please let us know of any dietary requirements before you arrive. Vegetarians and vegans can be catered for.

Family Volunteering

Interested in family volunteering in Africa? Want to do a family safari with a difference?  

This project is perfect!

The programme welcomes adventurous families who want to bring their children to enjoy this amazing African experience. The project will accommodate families at a separate time to other volunteers and will try and get a couple of families to volunteer together. The activities will be very similar to those on normal volunteer programme but can be tailored for younger children, and there will be plenty of amazing experiences which everyone will love!

Please enquire for details about this family volunteer experience.

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.

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 near Victoria Falls to Kariba town in the north and witness the beauty of remotest Zimbabwe.

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. In 2015 Hwange was voted No.19 of Africa's Top 50 Game Parks.

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. In 2015 Mana Pools was voted No.4 of Africa's Top 50 Game Parks.

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 Kariba average 30-32°c and can get up to 40°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?

Students get 1.5 - 2 days off per week to relax at the camp or go into Victoria Falls town, where you can check your emails, go shopping or do some extreme activities! 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 and if you book through our preferred supplier, you will not only get a discounted rate, but also know that a contribution to the programme has been made for each activity booked.

 

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). Victoria Falls is a local hub airport, with flights to a number of African destinations including Cape Town, Johannesburg, Windoek (Namibia) and Maun (Botswana).

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

News

15 July 2015 - the first ever Matusadona National Park Game Count to be held in August - volunteers needed!

Find out more

March 2016 - project update. Read about what volunteers have achieved in the first three months of 2016 and what impact they are having on the area. 40 snares removed, 50 overnight patrols complete, no large animals killed in 2016 and fish nets galore removed.

Find out more

Project Gallery - Anti-Poaching & Wildlife Management, Victoria Falls

Testimonials

Anti-Poaching & Wildlife Management, Victoria Falls Saving animals Submitted by Sandra T | 23rd February 2016 I had an absolutely wonderful time on the project and I got to feel that I actually helped out, and I have gained a lot of good experience. Everything from knowledge about animal behavior, anti-poaching, tracking and conservation, to walk in the bush, up hills to see stunning views, beautiful sunrises and sundowners and get new friends for life. It is so inspiring to meet someone who puts ... Sandra T, Sweden Read More
Anti-Poaching & Wildlife Management, Victoria Falls Submitted by Sebastien B | January 2016 I chose thise programme because it looked like a real volunteering programme where I could learn a lot and be useful. I loved the activities and I had the feeling that every single day was different from the previous one. I was never bored and I always felt useful, and very ready to rest when I got the opportunity. Camping was a really exciting experience - it was also nice ... Sebastien B, France Read More
Anti-Poaching & Wildlife Management, Victoria Falls Back in the Bush Submitted by Pete K | November 2015 Being South African and living in London I missed the bush, I missed the smell. The smell of the dust, the water, the plants. I missed the African red sunrise and I missed the African sunset. The sounds of rock pigeons and guinea fowl calling. I missed it all and I wanted to see it again. Then a friend told me about ... Pete K, South Africa Read More

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