Family volunteering - Hands-on Rhino & Elephant Conservation

Zimbabwe

Bring the kids, as you get closer than you ever thought possible to endangered rhinos and elephants. Experience the thrill of interacting with these iconic animals while doing valuable conservation and community work.

This is a hands-on conservation programme which gives families the unique opportunity to experience wild animals in a safe and natural environment. Based on a 10,000 acre private game reserve in Zimbabwe, this family volunteer programme is truly one of a kind. Where else could your children touch the leathery skin of a black rhino, look an elephant in the eye and learn bushcraft and survival skills? Learn about endangered species conservation and the battle that these ancient animals face to stay alive.

The Hands-on Rhino & Elephant Conservation Programme is the sister project to this family volunteer experience and is one of our most popular projects. The programme has been slightly adapted to make it more family-friendly and has activities added which we know children (and parents!) will love! The reserve has run children's bushcamps for more than 20 years and have wonderful guides who are experienced at teaching children to appreciate and understand the bush, as well as helping them develop leadership skills and empathy towards rural communities and the wildlife which surrounds them.

There are four of Africa’s Big 5 game found in the conservancy - lion, elephants, rhinos and buffalo, and a huge range of plains game including kudu, waterbuck, wildebeest, crocodile, giraffe, zebra and rare sable antelope. With 150 species of birds and lots of reptiles and small mammals, it is truly an animal-lovers paradise which will enchant your whole family.

Quick Facts

Who can join: Families with children aged 8 and up (please contact us if any of your children fall outside this age)
Programme dates: 18th December 2017 - 1st January 2018
Accommodation: Volunteer House
Transfer time: 2 hours (Harare)
Pick up from: Harare
Meals: 3 meals a day included
Project numbers: 8-12
How much: $1,495 per person

Programme Activities

The project will of course focus on rhino and elephant conservation! Learn about these amazing animals and hear the fascinating story about the reserve and learn their amazing animal stories. Enjoy nature walks and game drives with experienced guides, get your hands and clothes dirty doing work around the game park and engage with local communities to experience a different way of life.

WILDLIFE CONSERVATION & ANIMAL INTERACTION

Increase your knowledge of rhinos and elephants and get up close to these endangered animals. Learn about the animals, birds, trees and environment as you immerse yourself and your family in game park life.

Activities:

  • Walk with the rhino and elephants and learn from their experienced handlers
  • Learn about rhino conservation and the challenges the species faces to survive
  • Help put the rhinos and elephants to bed and make sure they have adequate food and water
  • Track and locate the white rhino using telemetry
  • Learn to recognise different animal tracks and signs as you hike through the bush
  • Go on nature walks and game drives and learn to identify different animal and bird species - prepare for spot tests!
  • Enter the kingdom of the nocturnal creatures as you go on night walks after dark

GAME PARK WORK

Get involved with every aspect of the game park, and get a behind-the-scenes peek into the running of a 10,000 acre conservation area.

Activities:

  • Go on patrol to check for evidence of snares and traps, and report damage to the boundary fence
  • Deliver feed and nutritional supplements to sable, zebra and other plains game. Help feed the lion and hyenas
  • Join the Anti-Poaching Unit (APU) as they undergo training exercises
  • Assist with fence building and repair
  • Help with game park projects such as building fireguards and repairing roads
  • Remove invasive plant species and help with tree planting

BUSHCRAFT & SURVIVAL SKILLS

Your programme director is one of Zimbabwe's most experienced youth leaders and his knowledge of the bush is unsurpassed. Learn how to survive in the bush, how to find water and how to navigate without a compass - all activities which are great for developing leadership skills. Take part in practical conservation lessons and learn how to work together as a team.

Activities:

  • Learn bush survival skills - how to find water, how to nagivate using the natural environment, how to make a fire and find food
  • Use the trees and grasses around to you make rope, a bush shower and even a toothbrush!
  • Do physical training with the APU on the obstacle course and abseil from the top of Castle Kopje
  • Learn about the night skies and the constellations - so different from the ones at home. Learn to navigate at night using the stars

CULTURE & COMMUNITY

The heart of the game park is our community. The programme's vision is to share the importance of protecting the wildlife and environment with rural communities and school children, to better secure the future of all Africa's animals, in particular the black rhino. 

Activities:

  • Play sports and games - challenge yourself in a soccer or volleyball game
  • Immerse yourself in the Shona culture; learn to cook sadza and nyama, sing songs and move your feet in traditional dances. Meet members of the local community and exchange ideas and experiences
  • Visit Markwe Caves and learn about the ancient Bushman paintings and the history of the Wedza area
  • Brave the ladder and climb to the top of Castle Kopje as you learn the game park's rich history and listen to fantastic stories!

Accommodation

Pre-programme accommodation

We recommend you arrive into Harare the day before the programme starts and settle in, ready for your pick-up the next morning. You will be collected from your hotel, guest house or backpackers on the Monday morning and transferred by vehicle to the game reserve (around 2 hours).

We recommend the following accommodation in Harare:

Budget: Small World Lodge (backpackers, clean, basic and comfortable accommodation with a pool)
Lodge: Kutandara Lodges (beautiful lodges in a tranquil garden with a pool)
Hotel: The Bronte Hotel (small, independent hotel in the city centre with lush gardens)

Please ask us for other recommendations according to your budget!

Accommodation on the project

During your time on the project you will accommodated in our beautiful volunteer house, situated in the heart of the game park on the banks of a large dam (lake). You will sleep in comfortable twin, double or dormitory accommodation with shared bathrooms and hot and cold water. There are also three outside solar showers with an amazing view of the sunset! All bedding, linen and towels are provided. 

You will enjoy three home-cooked meals a day during your programme and there is also an option to have a lovely 3-course meal one night at the lodge within the reserve (additional cost). Tea, coffee, water and juice is freely available during the day and there is a small bar selling fizzy and alcoholic beverages.

The volunteer house has wifi (additional charge - on a token basis) and a housekeeper who will make beds, clean and do any laundry you might have.

About Zimbabwe

Weather and Climate

According to International Living Magazine in 2011, Zimbabwe ties with Malta as having the best climate in the world. With the sun appearing an estimated 90% of the year and 300 fully sunny days a year, who can argue with that?

Summer is from November to March where temperatures range from an average minimum of 15°C to an average maximum of 35°C with localised, intermittent rainfall. Winter is from April to early September and is dry, with an average maximum temperature of 25°C. Temperatures can drop to 5°C at night but frosts are rare except on high ground and the daytime temperatures are extremely sunny and comfortable. When packing during winter, think layers!

Travel Hotspots

The country is safe to navigate and there are is a good public transport system between Harare, Bulawayo and Victoria Falls. Car hire is very expensive to go city-city or to go on your own self-drive safari. However there are a number of good tour operators and private guides who can organise exciting experiences for you!

Victoria Falls or Mosi-au-Tunya (“the Smoke that Thunders) has 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 with Zambia. Victoria Falls is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World. As well as the Falls being a definite must-see for visitors, Victoria Falls town is a lively centre for adventure. For white-water rafting the best time to visit is when the waters in the Zambezi are low (August - December), and these rapids have been referred to as the best one-day white-water rafting in the world. From Victoria Falls it is also easy to organise day trips to Chobe National Park in Botswana.

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 should 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. 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 which has no physical boundaries and animals are able to move freely throughout the area.

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 near Victoria Falls to Kariba town 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 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.

Please ask if you are itneresed in visiting any other areas of Zimbabwe and we can assist you with booking transport or organising flights and guides.

Project Gallery - Family volunteering - Hands-on Rhino & Elephant Conservation

Testimonials

Family volunteering - Hands-on Rhino & Elephant Conservation An incredible family experience Submitted by Patsy B | July 2016 What an amazing experience we have had on the family volunteering project here at Imire. Our leader, Dolf, shared his passion for the bush with us in such a humble way, imparting his knowledge to us all, keeping the boys interested, motivated and involved in all the activities. Wow, what a priviledge it has been to be at Imire, taking part in the day to day ... Patsy B, Dubai Read More

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