Frequently Asked Questions

We're sure that you'll have lots of questions about volunteering in Africa, about where your money goes, how to book and what you'll need to pack, so we've tried to cover lots of them here.

If you have any other questions about us, our programmes or there's something we haven't covered on the website, please send us an email!

Questions about volunteering

What kind of people volunteer?

Everyone and anyone can volunteer in Africa! We meet the most unexpected people in this business and our programmes attract volunteers from around the world, of all ages and from all walks of life, each with their own story to tell and experience to share. The diverse mix of people provide the greatest value to our programmes, from gap year students, career breakers, retired people exploring the world, university groups and even honeymoon couples! Everyone is welcome whether you can only volunteer for two weeks or if you’d like to stay longer and really immerse yourself in our programmes.

Why should I volunteer?

Why should I volunteer?
For you:

  • To take a break from daily life, to take stock and examine yourself
  • To appreciate what you have and what opportunities and choices you are able to make freely
  • A great opportunity to travel to new places, experience and value different cultures and meet new people
  • Enhance your CV and career prospects
  • To change your career!
  • To feel valued and involved in something worthwhile
  • To do something totally different and new - it could be life-changing!
  • For our volunteer programmes:
  • To promote a global community
  • You will help protect and preserve Africa for future generations
  • Share your experiences with people who have never travelled abroad; help enrich other people and expand their horizons
  • Our programmes need volunteers; without them the work we do would take longer to complete and things would take longer to improve
  • Make your mark on someone else’s life

Do I need any specific skills to volunteer?

Our programmes generally accommodate all levels of skill and expertise. We ask that you come with enthusiasm, ideas, flexibility and patience (this is Africa and time is different here!) - if you are ready with an open mind, then volunteering in Africa is for you! Your skills and experience from living in the first world usually mean you can help in most situations, whether it is card tricks, building or computer skills, teaching children new songs or drawing - every skill is valued and can help.

What's life like as a volunteer?

When you volunteer in Africa, your life is busy! Many tasks can be challenging but schedules are designed to be enjoyable and fun and include time off or time doing and seeing new and exciting things. You will have lots of time to make new friends and visit new places.

What's the accommodation like?

Accommodation will vary according to the volunteer programme you choose and ranges from a beautiful thatched house on the shores of a lake (on the Hands-on Rhino & Elephant Conservation Programme) to camping in the wild on the banks of the Zambezi River (on the Big 5 Wildlife Conservation Programme). All our project accommodation is in safe locations, many have their own outdoor pool and communal areas and most projects have a cook who will prepare and serve meals. In addition, project staff are always on hand to deal with any problems that you might have while you are on your programme.

Questions about funding

Why do I have to pay to volunteer?

All credible volunteer programmes charge a fee to cover their operating expenses including the costs of housing, feeding, supervising and transporting volunteers as well as the costs of organising and maintaining accommodation, advance organisation of the programme and the administrative and booking support which goes to volunteers. Paying to volunteer is often a strange concept, but volunteers can leave home knowing they are guaranteed to work at a legitimate project which has real tangible benefits, as well as knowing that their programme is organised to help them get the most out of the experience.

Conservation Travel Africa are not a government organisation, nor are we a charity, so we do not receive an ongoing funding from any government or other organisation so we rely on financial contributions and hard work from volunteers and the work done by our staff, both in the offices and on the ground.

There are volunteer placements available at a very low cost, but these involve a great deal of self-organisation on the part of the volunteer and often, upon arrival, the placement is not exactly what was expected. These placements often rely on the volunteer finding their own accommodation and food on a daily basis.

Take a look at our article for more about why projects charge a fee to volunteer.

Where does my money go?

  • Most of the money you pay goes straight back into the project you have chosen, whether it is to buy new materials, enable new research to go ahead, improve security or increase the amount of educational materials at schools. The fees help to fund the projects to help them acheive their aims and objectives.
  • The costs of each project usually include the following (note, check in the “what’s included” section of individual programmes for specifics):
  • Financing which goes back into the programme directly for specific items such as building materials, equipment, supplies and food
  • Pre-departure pack and orientation upon arrival
  • Collection (usually from a major airport) and transfer to your project base
  • Daily transfers or drives
  • Full board and lodging including three meals a day
  • Laundry service or the facility to attend to it yourself
  • 24 hour assistance from project staff on the ground

How do I fundraise for my programme fee?

There are many organisations, companies and individuals who we know are prepared to sponsor or donate money towards a worthwhile volunteer programme. There are many opportunities to fundraise - see it as a challenge, be creative and communicate the value of the work you will be doing and what you will be helping to achieve in Africa. It often helps to do something which relates to your volunteer programme.

Some ideas which we have found to be successful:

  • Sponsorship for an event you undertake to complete - half marathon, swim, walk, stair-climb at the gym
  • Organise a raffle or prize draw with donated prizes - approach companies to ask for the prizes
  • Organise a car boot sale or coffee morning
  • Organise a ticketed event such as a champagne party, fashion or talent show, or concert
  • Approach a local newspaper or radio station to publicise your adventure indicating the desire for sponsorship. It might be possible to write a future article for them on your experiences of volunteering in Africa
  • Research and approach charitable organisations that support deserving causes or approach organisations offering grants
  • Approach companies for sponsorship - you could use company branded equipment or clothing

Take a look at our article about how to fundraise for your big adventure

Questions about booking

Can I combine two or more volunteer programmes?

Absolutely - and we recommend it highly! Many volunteers combine more than one volunteer programme - perhaps spend two weeks at our Hands-on Black Rhino Conservation Programme getting hands on with our rhino, then two weeks in the wilderness of Hwange National Park monitoring Big 5 game in their natural habitat and then help out in the beautiful Save Valley on one of our Conservation and Community Development Programmes.

Why should I book with Conservation Travel Africa?

  • We offer first-class service from the moment your initial enquiry is submitted
  • We have a unique range of carefully-selected programmes, many of which are unavailable through other agents
  • We handle bookings on behalf of organisations who recognise we are experts in what we do; they entrust 100% of all their enquiries and bookings to us
  • Committed to our partners and programmes
  • Focused on supporting volunteers from the moment they book to the moment they get on the plane to return home
  • Committed to responsible travel
  • We will only develop and sell programmes who meet our strict criteria on sustainability, long term focus and commitment to the preservation of Africa
  • We are a small business with a passion for Africa and with a heart in Zimbabwe
  • Once you travel with CTA to Africa, you’ll never go anywhere else!

Find out more about Conservation Travel Africa

How do I book?

  • Decide on the right project or projects for you - please do get in touch with us if you have any questions at all.
  • Get in touch with us and let us know when you would like to book, how long for and which projects you are interested in. We will check availability and provisionally reserve you a space. 
  • There are three options for your payment. You can pay in full; you can pay a 50% deposit which is refundable (less bank charges) up to 30 days prior to your project starting; or you can pay a non-refundable deposit of $300. If you are booking within 1 month of the date of travel, you will be required to make full payment immediately.
  • Payments can be made by bank transfer or via credit or debit card.
  • Once the deposit is received a comprehensive pre-departure pack will be sent by email to help you prepare for your trip and you will also receive an invoice for balance of the project fee, which is required 60 days prior to your trip.
  • If you have any questions during the project, please get in touch with a member of our team who will be more than happy to assist you.

What are the payment terms and conditions?

Provisional Bookings       

Provisional bookings will be held for 14 days and will automatically be released where no written confirmation or cancellation is received.       

Provisional bookings made within 14 days of the programme start date will be held for 48 hours and then released if no written or telephone confirmation is received

There are two options for payment. Option 1: pay a 50% deposit to secure the booking, with final payment due 60 days prior to the programme start date. Only once we have received your deposit is your place on the programme confirmed. The 50% deposit is refundable up to 60 days prior to your project start date (see below for our cancellation and refund policy). Option 2: pay a non-refundable deposit of $300 with the balance due 60 days prior to your project start date.

All bank charges and credit / debit card fees are the responsibility of the volunteer. Please make sure the correct amount will arrive into our bank account or you will be liable for the balance upon arrival on the project.

Cancellation Policy       
You may cancel your travel arrangements at any time. To do this you must advise us in writing to       
If you have chosen to pay the 50% deposit, once the deposit is received into our account, our cancellation policy is as follows:      
- 60+ days prior to programme start date - full refund (less bank charges)      
- 31-60 days prior to programme start date - full refund less 50% deposit. You may transfer your money to a new booking with a start date within 1 calendar year of the original project start date.
- Less than 30 days prior to programme start date - no refund. You may transfer your money to a new booking with a start date within 1 calendar year of the original project start date.

If you have chosen to pay the $300 non-refundable deposit our cancellation policy is as follows:
- 60+ days prior to programme start date - no refund of deposit
- 31-60 days prior to programme start date - full refund of any additional payments made, no refund of the $300 deposit.
- Less than 30 days prior to programme start date - no refund of any additional payments. You may transfer your money, less $300, to a new booking with a start date within 1 calendar year of the original project start date. The $300 deposit is not transferable onto any new booking.

Cancellation during a programme      
Once you are on a programme, should you decide to end your stay before it is due, there will be no refunds.

We highly recommend you take out full insurance at the time of booking which should, in most cases, include cancellation refunds.

What support do you provide?

We want you to feel safe and secure through the entire booking and volunteer experience so we offer the following support services to all volunteers:

Before you travel

  • Every volunteer receives a comprehensive pre-departure pack relating to their booking and the programme(s) they are booked on.
  • If customers wish to be put in contact with volunteers who have been on that programme, we will contact past volunteers and with their permission, provide an email contact.
  • If volunteers wish to be put in touch with other volunteers booked onto the same programme at the same time, we will also endeavour to do so.
  • We can tailor-make an itinerary for people who wish to see more of the country and do more than one volunteer programme. We can also provide travel assistance and advice should you wish to extend your stay and see more of the country (not on a volunteer programme).
  • We are always available to answer any questions you might have - don’t hesitate to drop us an email or skype message!

On your programme

  • Local volunteer co-ordinators and managers offer support and guidance during your volunteer programme in Africa and they will help ensure you get the most out of your trip.
  • You will be transferred from the airport of bus station/drop-off by one of our local support staff or a volunteer co-ordinator.
  • Should you have any complaints during your programme(s), in the first instance talk to your volunteer co-ordinator and if they cannot or do not solve the problem to your satisfaction, get back in touch with us.

After your programme ends

  • Conservation Travel Africa will contact all volunteers upon their return to check all went well and with a link to a feedback survey.
  • All volunteers have the opportunity to enter into our monthly and annual photography competition with the chance to win travel vouchers.
  • All volunteers will have the option to sign up for regular news updates and newsletters.

Will someone be there to meet me?

Yes. We will ensure that every volunteer is picked up on arrival at the airport or bus depot and transferred to the project by one of our local staff. If you are arriving prior to your project starting, we will arrange for you to be collected from your hotel, B&B or lodge on your first day.

Do I need a visa?

You will almost certainly need at least a tourist visa to enter most Southern African countries. You must check your individual visa requirements for each country you intend of visiting or transiting through, before you travel.

Several of our projects in Namibia require volunteers to obtain a work visa prior to their arrival. We can assist with this. Bear in mind that work visas can take up to 8 weeks to arrange, so in some cases you will need to move fast to get everything organised.

Is it safe?

We take the safety of our volunteers very seriously regardless of which country they choose to visit.

It is extremely unlikely that you will encounter any security or safety issues while you are in Africa, and we advise that you exercise the same levels of caution as you would in any poor, third world country - don’t wear excessive or expensive jewellery, keep hold of your bags and don’t travel after dark (more because of animals, potholes and people in the road, than for personal safety reasons). Be aware of your surroundings and try not to venture out in high density areas on your own. African people are amongst the friendliest and most helpful anywhere, and they desire to see tourists so they can show off their beautiful country.

While you are at your placement, you will be supervised by project staff and receive a full orientation into the local area, places to visit and how to behave. If you have any concerns before you travel, please get in touch and we can talk you through any issues you might be worried about.

Questions about packing

What should I bring?

You will receive a comprehensive packing list tailored to the programme and location of your programme(s). Below are some things which everyone needs to remember!

  • Copies of all your important documents (passport, insurance, flight tickets) - keep them separately from your originals!
  • Any medical prescriptions
  • A good hardwearing bag (a rucksack is not always necessary)
  • Insect repellant, sun cream, aftersun and good quality sunglasses with UV protection - Africa is bright!
  • Small first aid kit
  • A towel
  • Cell phone (enabled for roaming) - be aware that many of our bases do not have cell phone signal and roaming costs in Zimbabwe are extremely high. Don’t forget your charger!
  • Torch (a head torch is always useful as well)
  • Camera, batteries and charger
  • Small backpack or daybag
  • Ear plugs - you will often have to share a room with others, so if you are a light sleeper, ear plugs can be invaluable

What can I donate?

While we are trying to move away from a hand-out mentality, there are so many pre-schools, schools and orphanages which are in desperate need of supplies and educational materials. Staff and children get very excited about new resources - from pencils and coloured paper to games and creative play items. Many children do not even have blank exercise books to write in and pens, pencils with rubbers, basic reading books and coloured pencils are always useful. Educational posters, flashcards, games and stickers, chalk and paints are always well-received.

You will receive in your pre-departure pack, a list of donations specific to your programme(s).

Are there books and films I should read/watch?

There are many interesting books available to give volunteers an insight into the fascinating and beautiful continent of Africa. A selection are listed below:

Books and films on Africa

  • A Long Walk to Freedom - Nelson Mandela
  • Don’t Lets Go to the Dogs Tonight - Alexandra Fuller
  • North of South - Shiva Naupaul
  • Scramble for Africa - Thomas Packenham
  • The Power of One - Bryce Courtenay
  • A Grain of Wheat - Ngugi wa Thiong’o
  • I Write What I Want - Chris Hani Diaries
  • A Safari Companion - Dick Estes
  • Hotel Rwanda (2004)
  • Out of Africa (1985)
  • Tsotsi (2005)
  • The Last King of Scotland (2006)
  • Blood Diamond (2006)
  • Shooting Dogs (2005)

Books on Zimbabwe

  • When a Crocodile meets the Sun - Peter Godwin
  • King Solomon’s Mines - H. Rider Haggard
  • Nervous Conditions - Tsitsi Dangarembga
  • Dinner with Mugabe - Heidi Holland
  • Safari - Tony Park
  • Beyond Tears: Zimbabwe’s Tragedy - Catherine Buckle
  • Imire: The Life and Times of Norman Travers - Catherine Buckle
  • Against the Grain - Memoirs of a Zimbabwean Newsman - Geoffrey Nyarota
  • Elephant Song - Wilbur Smith
  • Zimbabwe: The Bradt Travel Guide - Paul Murray
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