Teaching & Big 5 Wildlife Conservation


A great combination of community work and conservation. Volunteer in Zimbabwe, teach English to rural children and experience life on a Big 5 game reserve in an incredible wilderness areas. Deliver an approved English literacy programme to eager-to-learn rural primary school children and make an impact on their early education.

Experience daily life on a 150,000 acre family-owned Big 5 game conservancy in one of Zimbabwe's most stunning wilderness areas, and get hands on experience tracking and monitoring rhinos, elephants, lions and the endangered Africa wild dog. A truly worthwhile and unique programme which gives volunteers a real experience of African life whilst contributing to wildlife conservation and community projects.

This project takes you to the remote wilderness of the Savé Valley Conservancy in Zimbabwe: the world’s largest privately owned conservation area. You will be based in the heart of this 3,400 sqkm conservancy, at the junction of the Turgwe and Save rivers, home to huge numbers of big game and a diverse range of habitats. The area is famed for monster leopards, majestic spiral-horned antelope and, over the past 20 years, the area has also earned a reputation for producing stunning large-maned lions, elephants with amazing tusks and big-bossed buffalo - truly an animal-lovers paradise.

Split your time between teaching English to small groups of children in the local school, and hard work in the game park. Learn about wildlife conservation and provide assistance in the daily running of the conservancy. Join anti-poaching rangers on patrol, track black rhino, and monitor wild dogs and their puppies.

Project videos:

Quick Facts

Who can join: Families, solo volunteers aged over 17

Accommodation: Volunteer house

Transfer time: 5 hours

Pick up from: Harare

Meals: 3 meals a day included

Project numbers: 6-8

Start dates: Any Monday throughout the year

How much: Pricing dependent on group size


Experience Real Africa, as you live in the heart of a private conservation area. Spend mornings in the local school teaching schoolchildren literacy, and enjoy afternoons in the game park supporting the anti-poaching staff, conducting game counts, tracking big game and learning from conservation professionals.


The Savé Valley Story

In 1919 Lucas and Despard Bridges purchased 7,500 sqkm of land in the South East of Southern Rhodesia from Cecil Rhodes’ British South Africa Company, and built the Devuli Cattle Ranch. The building involved the construction of internal fences and the re-routing of waterways - wild animals were locked out of traditional water holes and indigenous grazing animals had to compete for food with cattle. Any predators which threatened cattle were shot and animals carrying diseases harmful to cattle were also killed. The cattle destroyed the the native vegetation which in turned destroyed the quality of the topsoil, bringing the cattle industry in the area to a standstill.

The Savé Conservancy Project

The Save Conservancy was formed after a new black rhino conservation strategy was developed by the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management in the early 1990s. During this time, 33 black rhino were translocated to the area and a 330km perimeter fence was built to protect the conservancy. The project is one of Africa’s biggest conservation success stories and today the Save Valley Conservancy is a beautiful wilderness area with high biodiversity, including all of the Big 5 game. The rehabilitation of endangered game has been so successful that the conservancy is now used as a pool for other areas, especially for black rhino and African wild dog.

Jimmy the Rhino

Jimmy the rhino calf was found alone in the bush during 2007 by Zimbabwean photographer David Hulme, who was out on patrol with ranch rangers investigating the body of a recently poached female rhino. Huddling close to the ground hidden under a bush, was a month-old black rhino calf, watchful and terrified.The calf was transported back to the ranch house and put under the watchful eye of Anne Whittall. Named after James Whittall, little Jimmy soon became one of the family.

Jimmy thrived under Anne’s care and has since been released back into the bush. He has grown into a full-sized healthy rhino and is still regularly seen in and around the conservancy, but is very definitely now wild!


  • Become one of the family and get involved in daily life around the reserve
  • Help improve the education and opportunities for local schoolchildren - inspire them to great things!
  • Learn about conservation from expert guides in Africa's largest privately owned wildlife conservancy
  • Join anti-poaching patrols and help protect Africa's endangered wildlife
  • Experience true African wilderness and enjoy the sights and sounds of the bush
  • Witness incredible animal sitings far off the beaten track
  • Get involved in local projects and learn about the challenges faced by rural communities
  • Make new friends for life and get yourself an African second family!

This project is all about fun, hard but rewarding work, amazing animal sitings and important community work, all set in a family environment in a piece of true, unadulterated African wilderness.

What sort of things will I be doing?

Volunteers enjoy a diverse mixture of wildlife conservation activities, learning about the animals and birds from experienced rangers and teaching in the local school. Interspersed will be more activities dependent on the time of year, movements of the animals and the weather!
Volunteers get involved with:

Teaching and literacy:

  • Deliver a Ministry of Education-approved English literacy programme to small groups of primary school children
  • Help with lessons in computer skills
  • Get involved with building projects at the school
  • Teach basic numeracy and literacy
  • Play sports and games with the children - be prepared for barefoot races!
  • Conservation education - teach children about the importance of caring for the animals and birds which surround them


  • Get involved on the farm - learn about citrus farming and learn to drive a tractor!
  • Help on the sheep and cattle farms
  • Learn about local projects to assist with poverty alleviation - sewing groups and community education programmes

Conservation and Wildlife:

  • Assist with the day to day running of the reserve, learn new practical skills and learn about conservation challenges
  • Go on patrols with experienced scouts and check for snares and evidence of poaching
  • Learn to track rhino and elephants on foot - experience the thrill of tracking and finding these amazing animals
  • Monitor the wild dog trail cameras - especially exciting in denning season (May - October). There are three wild dog packs in the area
  • Monitor other trail cameras and water points
  • Go on game drives to monitor the location of collared animals - have amazing animal sitings!
  • Road, river and fence maintenance, especially during and just after the rains
  • Go birding and on nature walks with knowledgeable guides
  • Help in the workshop - learn to change a tyre, Africa-style!
  • Experience the amazing night skies and experience the kingdom of the nocturnal creatures while on night patrols
  • Learn about the stars and constellation

What about in my spare time?

On your days off and during the week there is plenty of leisure time to play volleyball and football in the river beds, go swimming, fish in the rivers and dams, experience the fun of flying a microlight, have a braai, go for sundowners and enjoy incredible views of the African wilderness.

If relaxing isn’t your thing, then you can also go horse riding, canoeing and help around the game park and farm - there is always something to do!


Do I need any experience to volunteer on this programme?

We welcome volunteers with a passion and interest in wildlife and conservation and the ability to communicate suitably in English. You should be of reasonable mobility and fitness as there is some walking and foot-based tracking involved in the project. As you will be working with young children we do require a recent Police Clearance certificate (no more than 1 year old).

How do I get to the project?

Included in your programme price is a return car transfer from Harare. As the Save Valley is approximately 5 hours from Harare we would ask that volunteers arrive at least the day before their project start date to ensure we can get an early start.


A day in the life

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

Before breakfast; go on a foot patrol and collect all the camera trap films. Note all the tracks you seeand try and identify what animals have been doing during the night (this is especially fun during therains when you may find amazing lion tracks). Count antelope numbers which you pass on the wayand note the condition of the animals. Your tracker will teach you how to identify spoor and you willlearn about the plants, trees and birds you see.

After a big breakfast you will go to the school and spend the morning with the primary school
children and teachers. They will all be VERY excited to see you. You’ll meet your group of kids and
start with their reading. Spend some time with the teachers finding out what challenges they face.

After lunch you will have a short rest during the heat of the day. Check out the film from the camera
traps and upload photos to the computer. Take a note of the animals you see and make a report.
As the day cools down, go for sundowners and enjoy the noises of the evening bush as the daytimeanimals bed down and the noisy nighttime begins!

Dinner is usually served at 6.30pm and you’ll spend the evening at the house, reading, chatting andwatching the Bush Television (the fire!). You will get to do at least one night drive during your stay where you can watch the moon rise and see the milky way in all its glory!

Rates & Dates

When can I volunteer?

Volunteers can begin on any Monday throughout the year (there is lots of flexibility!). Please arrive into Harare the day before and stay overnight, ready for your early morning transfer the next day. We recommend a minimum 2 week stay. The project is closed from mid-December to mid-March each year.

Project pricing 2018:

We will calculate a bespoke rate for you, depending on how long you want to stay and your group size. For families, children over the age of 10 will pay the full adult rate.

Sample rates:
1 adult staying 2 weeks - $2,650
2 adults staying 2 weeks - $2,025 per person
2 adults staying 3 weeks - $2,550 per person
4 adults staying 2 weeks - $1,965 per person
10 adults staying 2 weeks - $1,760 per person

What does the cost include?

  • Programme fee - financing which goes back into the programme your are involved with; this includes funding for equipment, supplies, vehicles and foodstuffs
  • Transfers to and from Harare on the scheduled date and time
  • Full board and lodging for the duration of your programme including laundry (exc. alcoholic and fizzy drinks)
  • 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 Harare
  • 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

View our booking terms and conditions

Family Volunteering

Volunteering with your family? This project is perfect!

We absolutely welcome families who wish to bring their children to enjoy this amazing experience.
There will be some activities which are less suitable for younger children, but there are plenty of
amazing experiences which they will love! This project is a very family-oriented place and you will get to be part of a crazy new family in no time.

Families are usually be accommodated separately from other volunteers and will sometimes do separate activities.

Family pricing:
1 adult and 1 child (aged up to 14)
2 weeks $3,190

1 adult and 2 children (aged up to 14)
2 weeks $4,585

2 adults and 2 children (aged up to 14)
2 weeks $6,380

Children aged 12 and over will be charged adult rates.

Please enquire for more detailed prices.


Volunteers are based in the very centre of the Save Valley on one of the most beautiful of the 15 privately owned areas which make up the Conservancy. The 150,000 acre conservation area is home to all of Africa’s Big 5 game as well as thriving packs of the endangered African Wild Dog - there are dens right by the volunteer house which makes April - August great times to visit!

Your home will be one of two volunteer houses, depending on the number of volunteers on the project. One house sleeps 4-6 people in three shared rooms with two bathrooms and the other is a 2-person self-contained cottage close by. There is a cook and a housekeeper who will make sure you are well fed and looked after! Larger groups can often be accommodated in the lodge on the property if required. There is a borehole for drinking water and there will be hot and cold running water for showers and baths.

Three meals a day are provided from Monday - Saturday plus tea, coffee, juices and water. On Sundays the volunteers are responsible for cooking for themselves (food is provided).


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 the Lowveld, 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 (September - April) temperatures in the Lowveld area average 30°c. Volunteers should bring lightweight clothing in neutral colours (not white), a wide-brimmed hat or cap, polarised sunglasses, a water bottle, plenty of high factor sunscreen (and after-sun!), strong mosquito spray and closed shoes. A light waterproof jacket and a fleece or jumper is also essential for sudden downpours! Average lows are around 15-20°c.

During winter (May - mid-August) 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.

Project Gallery - Teaching & Big 5 Wildlife Conservation


Teaching & Big 5 Wildlife Conservation This was a great choice of ways to spend some time together as a family. Great for the synapses, the mind, the air and the body - and much tougher than New York living! I enjoyed the people and the animals the most. The animals were amazing, even the stories of the bad animals - mad elephants and baboons! I ll always remember the two giraffes running in the spotlight at night, the ... Robert S, USA Read More
Teaching & Big 5 Wildlife Conservation We chose this programme because it allowed us to bring our four children aged 8-12, enabling us to volunteer as a family. We stayed in a beautiful cottage with plenty of space and a lovely garden and the food was great - roast beef and yorkshire pudding was a highlight for me! On the old maps of Zimbabwe, the area is described as unfit for human habitation. It is easy, when looking at the ... James G, UK Read More
Teaching & Big 5 Wildlife Conservation I had a great experience on my first volunteering project. There was a huge range of different activities to do that it kept us busy all the time. We went black rhino tracking, set up trail cameras for the wild dogs, went on game drives, counted game, went teaching at the local school, helped clearing roads and fixing pipes - we even built a small bridge! My highlights was tracking the rhino and elephant and being ... Rachel D, UK Read More
Teaching & Big 5 Wildlife Conservation My favourite part of the project was the teaching - it was an amazing experience and the kids were great! I enjoyed absolutely everything about my time in Zimbabwe, especially seeing rhino and wild dog so close. The people made it even better, they were all so lovely and engaging.” Billy H, UK Read More
Teaching & Big 5 Wildlife Conservation Totally worthwhile project We were the first volunteers on this program and a family of 4 (children 13 14). We all had an amazing experience. Very quickly we were made to feel part of the local community and kept very busy, whether teaching in the local school or helping out on the conservancy. The children in the school are amazing, great fun and very keen to learn. Among the activities on the conservancy we were ... Cathy H, UK Read More

Send an enquiry


Stay Informed

Sign up for our newsletter to receive the latest news.