Duration & Fees
Please note: The currency conversion is an estimate based on today's exchange rates and is to be used as a guide only. All payments to Amanzi Travel have to be made in Pounds Sterling (GBP)
2018 Start Dates:
7 May | 21 May | 4 Jun | 18 Jun | 2 Jul | 16 Jul | 30 Jul | 13 Aug | 27 Aug | 10 Sep | 24 Sep | 8 Oct | 22 Oct | 5 Nov | 19 Nov | 3 Dec | 17 Dec | 31 Dec
2019 Start Dates:
7 Jan | 14 Jan | 28 Jan | 11 Feb | 25 Feb | 11 Mar | 25 Mar | 8 Apr | 22 Apr | 6 May | 20 May | 3 Jun | 17 Jun | 1 Jul | 15 Jul | 29 Jul | 12 Aug | 26 Aug | 9 Sep | 23 Sep | 7 Oct | 21 Oct | 4 Nov | 18 Nov | 2 Dec | 16 Dec | 30 Dec
This project remains open over the Festive Season.
If arriving into Bulawayo Airport volunteers are asked to arrive on their Monday start date by 1.00 pm.
If arriving into Harare Airport volunteers are asked to arrive on the Sunday preceding their Monday start date between 10.30 am - 2.00 pm.
Departure will be on the final Sunday of placement after 1.00 pm (back at airport at 11 am)
This project remains open over the Festive Season.
£180 deposit at time of booking – balance payment of project fee due 12 weeks before departure
- Financing that goes directly to the project to fund items such as food for lions and elephants, enclosure maintenance, and further development of the programme
- All transfers on your dedicated arrival and departure dates including overnight accommodation if required
- Project orientation on arrival
- Project support from volunteer co-ordinators and local staff
- Full board and lodging which includes 3 meals a day at the safari camp dining area
- Unlimited tea, coffee
- Weekly laundry and daily
- domestic service
What's not included
- Travel insurance (to include cover for repatriation)
- Personal items eg clothes, travel goods
- Return flights to Harare or Bulawayo Airports
- Use of internet and telephone (charged at cost)
- Wines, beers and spirits, some soft drinks, chocolate and snacks
- Visas and any optional excursions undertaken other than in the planned programme
- Email and telephone calls made during the placement (charged out at cost)
Although as recently as 1975 more than 200,000 lions roamed the African continent, estimates from 2012 showed evidence of an 84% decline in the lion population in less than 40 years, putting the number of lions remaining at between 32,000 - 34,000. Some lion populations believed to have existed in 2002 have now been confirmed as extinct. This Lion Conservation Programme is a valuable project, which aims to rehabilitate and release captive-bred lions back into the wild. The project was launched in 2004 and since then has made amazing progress and has recently expanded the rehabilitation programme and now has a total of three Lion Conservation projects, which work hard to raise captive bred lion cubs as self sustaining wild animals. Two prides have already been successfully released into fenced wild areas and these prides are now having wild-born cubs of their own. One of the two prides is located at Antelope Park.
The Lion Release Programme:
The aim of the Lion Rehabilitation Programme is to restore lion populations within Eastern and Southern Africa through an initiative that will also provide social benefits to surrounding communities. Amazing progress has been made since the launch of the programme, with the help of dedicated staff and passionate international volunteers.There are now three lion conservation projects working hard to raise captive-bred lion cubs that can be released into the wild.
Pre-Release Stage: Cubs are born to captive-bred mothers and remain in her care for the first three weeks of their life to take advantage of the more nutritious milk that mothers provide in the first days post-partum. The cubs are then removed so that they can bond to a human handler assigned to raise them so that they build enough confidence in their surrogate mother to follow them into the African Bush; a vital part of their pre-release training.
The mother of the cubs is captive and therefore does not have the skills that the cubs need to learn to survive when given the opportunity to fend for themselves. Many of the issues that people have regarding the ethics of breeding lions in captivity come from the images they see of people holding cubs and bottle feeding them in their arms, with no time to rest and take part in species specific behaviours necessary for their proper development. This is not permitted in any of the lion projects and the development of the cubs' natural instincts is priority.
In the pre-release stage handlers take the place of dominant members of the pride and train the cubs only to the point that they are safe to walk with. The lions are given every opportunity to build their confidence in their natural environment both during the day and at night. As their experience grows they start to take an interest in the wildlife they enounter on the walks, and by the age of eighteen months they are able to hunt small antelope. By two years old the lions are already seasoned hunters, and are given plenty of opportunity to practice their natural hunting skills
Release Stages: In these stages the lions are given the opportunity to develop a natural pride social system in a semi-wild enclosure of up to 10,000 acres. They have sufficient prey species to hunt and their progress is monitored closely by researchers, although all human contact and influence is removed. The programme has so far successfully released two prides into fenced-wild areas, and these prides are having wild-born cubs of their own.
The Wild: This is when lions that have been born in the Release Stages can be released into the wild in natural social groups. Through these stages it is aimed to preserve the African Lion by producing quality, disease-free gene pools, rebuilding the diminishing numbers of lions and introducing the offspring back into wild environments.
- Enjoy hands-on work and extremely close encounters with the young African lions
- Be part of a ground-breaking and globally recognised lion conservation project
- Make toys from natural materials for the young cubs to stimulate their predatory and sensory behaviours
- Walk alongside lions in the African bush and experience being part of a hunt as the young cubs learn to stalk their prey
- Get to know the African bush - explore the savannah grasslands either on horseback or whilst riding the African Elephants
- Experience local Zimbabwean culture, and visit the local orphanage weekly
- Explore more of Zimbabwe’s natural wonders and historic sites such as the majestic Victoria Falls, Motobo National Park and the Great Zimbabwe Ruins
- Make friends for life!
.All volunteers on the Lion Breeding and Release programme will get involved in all aspects of the day-to-day running of the conservation project, including lion walks and vital research, as well as general conservation activities and the care of other animals on the reserve.
Daily tasks for volunteers may include
Lion Rehabilitation: Spending time with the lions in the wild each day is an essential part of the cub's upbringing. If the cubs are to be released into the wild in the future it is important that they spend time out in this natural environment. They need to adapt and learn from it, and to understand, observe, feel and smell the wild. Since the beginning of this programme, a marked increase in the lions' awareness of their natural surroundings has been noted, as well as an improvement in their bush skills and these are improving all the time. Volunteers will also be involved in the care of these animals, which are kept overnight in enclosures. They need feeding, cleaning and occasional veterinary care to ensure they are kept in good health.
Research: Volunteers will take part in valuable research activities that will improve man's understanding of lion behaviour and ecology. Lion walks offer an excellent opportunity to observe these animals closely in their natural environment and volunteers will assist in collecting data that will enable the best decisions for the welfare and eventual release of the lions to be made. Research projects will vary from time to time but may include looking at character traits, spoor sizes and mane growth. No previous experience is necessary as full training will be given.
Other Duties: Volunteers will be involved in the day-to-day work such as cleaning the lion enclosures; preparing meat for the lions; building and painting new lion enclosures; cutting and collecting firewood; exercising and schooling the horses; basic repairs and maintenance; fire breaks; and any other wildlife or camp related activities connected with the development of the programme.
A Day in the Life of a Volunteer ...
Every day is different and activities change depending on the time of year and project requirements, but below is an example of a typical day which should be used as a guideline only:
|6.30am - 8.00 am
||Meet the guides and clients and join them for a lion walk, taking cubs from 6 months to 18 months out into the bush and observing and recording their behaviour as the cubs practice their hunting skills, and on occasion spend the morning training the elephants and going on a ride.
|8.15 - 9.00 am
|9.30am - 12.30pm
||Involvement in various duties including enclosure cleaning, cub walking, snare sweeping, boundary patrols, meat preparation, bush walks or enclosure maintenance.
|1.15 - 2.00 pm
|2.00 pm - 3.45 pm
||Afternoon duties could include cub sitting, providing water for the lions, making food for the elephants or horses, enclosure maintenance, behaviour enrichment for the lions or even a local language lesson from one of the staff.
|4.00 pm - 5:30pm
||Grab a drink and sunscreen for a late afternoon outing taking the cubs out for their afternoon walk, or stride alongside the elephants en route to new grazing grounds or visit the world's first stage 2 release site to view the release pride
||Briefing with the volunteer co-ordinator on the following day's activities. The volunteers socialise at dinner at 6.45 pm and sit around the camp fire under the stars. On some nights the larger cubs are taken out for a night walk in the bush.
Please note: There may be clients joining volunteers on the lion walks and times may vary due to season.
All volunteers will be accommodated in twin or quad room thatched accommodation at the main reserve camp. There are separate clean showers and toilet facilities adjacent to the sleeping quarters. The rooms are cleaned daily. The camp has a swimming pool and internet access, which is sporadic due to the remote location. A weekly laundry service is available.
Accommodation upgrades are available for those who wish to have a more "comfortable" volunteer experience. Volunteers can upgrade to either of the two options:
- East African Style Safari Tents - twin or double rooms with en-suite bathroom.
- Thatched River Lodge - twin or double rooms with en-suite bathroom and deck overlooking the river.
Please ask Amanzi Travel for more information and prices for the upgrade options.
Three buffet-style, nourishing meals a day are provided and are taken in the main camp dining room. It is also possible to take a packed breakfast into the park on a long lion walk. Volunteers can also enjoy the use of the coffee shop and bar.
Zimbabwe - From Mana Pools National Park to Victoria Falls
Why visit Zimbabwe?
The beautiful country of Zimbabwe offers something for everyone; from the absolute wilderness of Mana Pools National Park, the ruins of Great Zimbabwe and the mountains overlooking Mozambique, to fine dining in Harare or bunjee jumping over Victoria Falls. It is rich in culture and colour and the Zimbabweans have not lost their humour and resolve.
Victoria Falls is one of the worlds’ biggest and most spectacular waterfalls, with a network of trails leading through the rain forest surrounding the “smoke that thunders”. Take an umbrella and raincoat and gaze at the incredible vistas of one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Victoria Falls village is home to a seemingly endless variety of adventure sports from bungee jumping to canoeing and white-water rafting. Apart from its appeal to adventure enthusiasts the village still has a gracious, pioneering and colonial atmosphere.
Hwange Park is one of the finest conservation areas in Africa and is said to contain the widest variety and greatest density of wildlife in the world. Game viewing is generally restricted to the Hwange Park road network, but it has private concession areas allowing off-road safaris and nature walks. Mana Pools is an unspoiled, remote Park in the Zambezi Valley, a subtropical region, with the terrain and vegetation varied from the river up to the Zambezi Plateau. Walking is allowed (at visitor's own risk) and can be exhilarating and rewarding, if caution is taken.
Lake Kariba is one of the largest man-made lakes in the world, with abundant game-sightings and excellent angling for bream and tiger fish. The Lake provides pleasure to locals and visitors alike with fishing, canoeing, sailing or drifting along on a houseboat. The Matopo Hills is an area of incredible beauty with a mythical history and a proud people, the Matebele. The Matobo Hills were so named because they looked like the bald heads of indunas (chiefs). The entire region is a complex of bizarre and exposed granitic formations. Once inhabited by the bushman, today one can find magnificent examples of rock art in and amongst the caves. The Matobo National Park is one of Zimbabwe's prime wildlife sanctuaries with a large population of white rhino, the elusive black rhino, a variety of antelope species, baboon, rock hyraxes and a large population of leopard and black eagle.
Highlights of Zimbabwe
- The magnificent Victoria Falls are classed as one of the seven Natural Wonders of the World.
- Zimbabwe is home to four World Heritage Sites - Victoria Falls, Mana Pools National Park, the Great Zimbabwe Ruins and the Khame Ruins.
- Lake Kariba is one of the world's largest man-made lakes, with abundant game and excellent angling for bream and tiger fish.
- Magnificent national parks include Hwange, Mana Pools, Matusadona and Chizarira.
- Adventure activities abound and include canoeing on the lower Zambezi, kayaking and rafting on the upper Zambezi, and bungee jumping at Victoria Falls.
- For high adventure enthusiasts, white-water rafting is most exciting when the Zambezi waters are low (generally from August to December) and is often referred to as the best one-day white-water rafting in the world.
- Canoeing down the Lower Zambezi affords an ideal opportunity to get close to Africa's wildlife.
- Magnificent scenic areas in the Eastern Highlands Highlights of Zimbabwe.
|Seasons ||Max ||Min
|Summer/wet (November - April)
|Winter/dry ( May - October)
|Rainfall: November – March
Zimbabwe offers excellent game-viewing opportunities throughout the year. Due to Zimbabwe’s high altitudes, it has a beautiful and moderate climate, where temperatures are never very extreme. It has warm summers, November to April, where days are generally sunny in the morning with possible dramatic afternoon/evening thunderstorms. Temperatures of 35°C in summer are considered boiling.
Winter occurs from May to October and days are sunny and cool to warm while evening temperatures drop sharply. Temperatures of 7°C in winter are considered freezing. The end of the cool, dry season, around September/October, is the top time for wildlife viewing.
The main rains fall between November and March, although the Eastern Highlands are damp for most of the year. The Victoria Falls are spectacular in April and May after the rainy season.
Population – 12.5 million
Capital - Harare
Currency – none. The Zimbabwean dollar was suspended by the government due to hyper-inflation. The US dollar, South African rand, Botswanan pula, pound sterling and Euro are used instead. The US dollar has been adopted as the official currency for all government transactions with the new power-sharing regime.
Language – English is the official language, with Shona and Ndebele being recognised regional languages
Time difference – GMT +2 hours
Telephone – country code 263, international access code 00
My whole experience was truly amazing. Working so closely with the Animals on a day to day basis and then spending down time with great like minded people from around the world. Life back home will never be the same now I have experienced life out in the bush. This will be the first trip of many....Africa really does get into your blood once you visit.
Maxine, aged 33, UK (Lion Conservation Volunteer)
My first visit to Africa was three years ago, to Tanzania on safari. I fell in love with Africa on that trip and promised myself that I would go back again one day. So when I decided that 2014 would be that year and I would be travelling on my own, I looked into volunteer opportunities, specifically working with lions. The Amanzi Travel Company was recommended by National Geographic as one of the best volunteer travel companies and I soon learned why. From my first email interaction inquiring about their programs to the in depth conversation that I had with Gemma regarding the project, I found everyone to be very helpful and knowledgeable. The Pre-Departure Package that I received at the time of making my reservation was complete and was full of vital information regarding my trip. The Lion Rehabilitation Project is a wonderful place to visit and volunteer. I was a little nervous about arriving at Harare Airport on my own, but their representative was there to meet me and other volunteers that arrived within an hour or so. The park itself is in a beautiful setting and all the staff are extremely friendly and helpful. The volunteer accommodation is basic, but clean. The rooms generally have 2 bunk beds and a dresser or two. The bathrooms and showers are shared and are external to the rooms, so you have to walk outside to get to them. As a more mature traveler (53), I chose to upgrade to a River Lodge so that I would have an en-suite bathroom. I highly recommend this option if you are able to afford it. I would also recommend staying at least three weeks. I was only there for two weeks, and was not ready to leave when the time came. The first week includes inductions to the various activities and you are getting used to the surroundings and getting to know other volunteers. The second week, you are immersed in all the activities and the days fly by. A third week would give you more time to spend with the lions and absorb the experience and spend time with new good friends. Of course the highlight of the trip was the ‘hands-on’ activities with the lions. My first lion walk occurred on my first day. I was not expecting to be walking with lions so soon! I had the opportunity to walk with a pair of lion cubs (16-18 months old), at least once a day, sometimes twice. I also participated in ‘cub sitting’ for the 3 month old cubs at the Park. I never imagined that I would be playing with lion cubs and taking them for short walks. I really enjoyed the other activities such as cleaning the enclosures, providing the lions with water, behavior enrichment and research on the Phase 2 lions that are living as a wild pride in large enclosure. I met people from all over the world, and made some new friends that I know I will keep in touch with. The project is a commercial venture and as such, there are guests at the park that pay for the lion activities such as a ‘Lion Walk’. This is not an issue, but something to be aware of. I highly recommend this trip and Amanzi Travel for your next volunteer vacation in Africa.
Kerren, UK, aged 53 (Lion Conservation Volunteer)
Having such direct contact with lions, lion cubs, elephants, horses and the other wildlife at the Lion Rehabilitation project was an incredibly special and unique experience. I was made to feel very welcome by everyone who worked there, and have made new friends with some of the volunteers. All of the memories of my time spent there will have a special place in my heart and the words 'Africa' and 'lions' now evoke feelings that can't be put into words. Thank you x
Lauren, UK, aged 50 (Lion Conservation Volunteer)
The project was amazing. Words can't describe it. I extended another week so in the end I stayed 4 weeks instead of 3.
I would come back to Africa, to the Lion Breeding & Release project, in a heartbeat, and hopefully intend to do so next year.
I can't thank you you enough for putting me on to this project - no where else like it in the world! I am continuing my travels to Thailand now……..
Ruth, aged 38, UK (Lion Conservation Volunteer)
Going to Africa has been a dream of mine for many years, especially to be around lions. I thought it would always remain a dream until I was diagnosed with brain cancer before I even turned 30 which changed my entire perception of life. With that, I began to do my research and landed on Amanzi Travel's website that brought me in. When I asked which of the lion programs would have the closest interaction with the lions, I was told the Lion Breeding and Release Program. They were not joking. The program overall was everything I could imagine and more. I got to walk right alongside majestic lions that see you as one of their own pride and sometimes even rub their gorgeous faces right up against you. Not only do they have the lions (cubs and adults) to interact with between walks, enrichment, cleaning, and feeding, but also 4 elephants that have been rescued and horses that you get to be involved with. The entire trip was simply amazing. Great people working there, beautiful animals that you get to help hands on and new forever friends from all over the world. I have officially checked a major one off my bucket list and would do it again in a heartbeat.
Kari, USA aged 30 (Lion Conservation Volunteer)
My trip was amazing and something I will remember for the rest of my life :)
I truly feel this project is invaluable to the local community, especially considering it has provided land for an orphanage which it does support and contribute. The lion breeding programme is a great success, both at educating the locals and bringing in tourism.
The pre-departure pack was excellent on the Amanzi Travel website. I didn't have too many queries outside of this but Hannah, Pat & Gemma were all helpful and responded to my general queries. They also helped arranging my flight... which did mean that I was covered for everything if there were any problems (which, fortunately, there wasn’t). The fact that I didn't have to contact Amanzi Travel too often showed how well my adventure was organised. I was provided with all required information upfront and my volunteering experience went without any hitches.
Tracy, UK, aged 40 (Lion Conservation Volunteer)
This was a great trip - and an altogether awesome experience! Amanzi Travel played a huge part in making it so good, advising and answering any questions promptly and professionally. Everything went smoothly and to plan, including all the travel/transfer arrangements - and the website description of the trip and the project was very accurate. The whole experience was just incredible - so much so that a return trip is definitely a big possibility! The animal experience is extraordinary and the staff are wonderful - they always have time for you, even when in tense situations. This just has to go on everyone's bucket list!! Amanzi Travel staff are also very friendly, which - believe me - helps a lot in easing any concerns or fears about the unknown! In fact, we are already discussing another trip - just 1 week after returning home!
Kevin, UK aged 59 (Lion Conservation Volunteer)
Extremely Valuable, without the volunteers the project would most certainly fail and the wildlife would cease to exist in that country. The Lion Breedingand Release Project is the sort of project where you really feel you have done some good and possibly made a difference for the future of the African Lion.
Marilyn, UK, aged 53 (Lion Conservation Volunteer)
I had an amazing time in Africa and would love to go back and explore more in the future.
I felt this project was very valuable, not only do you become a part of the projects, you can actually see the day to day changes and how much the volunteers contribute to the running of these amazing projects.
My two weeks in Zimbabwe were absolutely amazing! Being a part of such an inspiring project and seeing what goes into its success day to day is probably the best thing I have ever done. Naming one highlight of my trip would be impossible as they were so many, not only working with the lions everyday, but the people I met along the way. The staff were so welcoming and the other volunteers became friends I will long keep in touch with! I would go back to this project in an instant, a truly incredible place.
Gillian, UK, aged 20 (Lion Conservation Volunteer)
I appreciated very much the time I spent with the lions, but I also loved the other animals like the horses and elephants. I enjoyed the big difference to my normal job in an office.
Alexandra, Austria, aged 41 (Lion Conservation Volunteer)
Thank you very much Amanzi Travel. I had an amazing time in Zimbabwe! It was great to meet all the different people and interact with such amazing animals (lions, elephants, horses, monkey and cats). It was also fascinating to join the local community and I got to know such great friends through visiting the orphange, pre school and home visits. The Lion Breeding and Release Centre is a beautiful place to stay and I miss everything and everyone really bad. I have just booked on to do another volunteer project with Amanzi Travel, this time in St Lucia on the Orphan Care and Teaching programme, and I can't wait to go.
Betty, Germany, aged 20 (Lion Conservation Volunteer)
I had an awesome time in Zimbabwe on both the Amanzi Travel volunteer projects. Both experiences gave me some time to reflect and to savour doing something completely new and exciting. The two projects were very different but both were enormously valuable. I loved working with the lions, it was particularly rewarding to take cubs for walks and watch them discover the bush. It was also extrememly encouraging to see captive bred lions living successfully. Not all the volunteer duties are glamourous so be prepared to get your hands dirty, but if you have ever considered volunteering then my advice would be 'Go for it'!
Liz, UK, aged 56 (Victoria Falls Lion Conservation Project, Lion Conservation Volunteer)
Being in Africa has showed me how extravagantly the people of the western world live compared to people here. A small help from others can make a huge difference to people there.
Reece,NZ, aged 43 (Lion Conservation Volunteer)
Working on this project was one of the best experiences of my life; there wasn’t one part of the project that I did not enjoy. I met some wonderful people, and made some life long friends, we all had great fun doing the work not matter how dirty the job was everyone always had a smile on their face.
The staff are so welcoming and for the time you are there make you feel like you are part of one big family.
And walking with the Lions is something I will never forget, truly an amazing experience, to have a Lion acknowledge you and greet you with affection there is no feeling quite like it. I cannot wait to go back and be part of such an important project.
Marilyn, UK, aged 52 (Lion Conservation Volunteer)
Up very early, but that dosen't matter as you know that your off to walk the lions, then back for a wonderful breakfast. Then off clean out the lion pens (awesome) or maybe off to food prep to chop up some meat. Lunch time, more lovely food then back out again, maybe painting signs or even going on the research program. More Lion walks then back for the volunteer next day daily duties. This was my second visit to the park, it's such a wonderful place what with the Lions and the people, you can't any better. Thank you everyone at Amanzi for making this a wonderful trip.
David, UK, aged 50 (Lion Conservation Volunteer)
The whole trip was the most amazing experience I have ever had in my life. The amount of time you spend with the Lions and Elephants is unreal. The Project Managers organize bush drives, trips into the bush on horseback, carriage and trucks. We got very up close and personal with a number of giraffes while on horseback. Its surreal. Even mucking out the Lions and the Elephants is fun although trying to carry elephant poo on a spade is like taking part in a giant egg and spoon race!!My advise, either use your gloves or a fork, its much quicker !! If you were to add up the individual cost of all the activities it would come to far more than we paid to go and bieng volunteers you get to do many things that clients cant do like cub sitting, bottle feeding the little ones and research in the Ngamo release site which wasone of my favourites. The adrenalin rush when you see Milo is worth every penny!!!
Coming back on the plane I asked my friend how we would describe it to everyone and we agreed. You cant. You have to be there and do it for yourself. My friend and I went together but most people went alone. I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to go on my own if I needed to. You very quickly become part of the group and everyone warmly welcomes you. The African people are a big part of what makes this place as I told Andrew Connelly the owner. The water is drinkable as they have their own bore hole, there is no malaria and the food is fantastic. All in all, the trip far exceeded our expectations or what we could have hoped for and we will definitely be returning. Having a 4 month old Lion Cub sat on your knee is an unforgettable experience and seeing the looks on guests faces as you walk and play with Lewa, the 4 month old was hilarious.They don’t get to do that. I have made friends for life and cant wait to go back. We left loads of stuff there too as the African people have so little yet are so happy. There are some guides and lion handlers walking about in really good NIKE trainers now!!A big thank you to Evans, Sam and Dan, our Project Managers who helped to make our trip so memorable. We love you guys and will be back soon.
Karen, UK, aged 45 (Lion Conservation Volunteer)
This was a truly amazing experience, one that i will not forget in a hurry. The park was fabulous, the staff brilliant and the overall experience was outstanding - hopefully will be back again next year.
Gillian, UK, aged 50 (Lion Conservation Volunteer)
I enjoyed every minute of my time in Zimbabwe, despite my initial reservations about the safety of travelling here. Never have I met such friendly, welcoming people and never have I felt so at home in a foreign country as I did at the beautiful project. The facilities were lovely, the activities were enjoyable (and not just when they involved cuddling up to the lions or elephants), the staff and other volunteers on the project fast became like a family to me, I was always very well taken care of, and more importantly I genuinely felt like I was making a difference to the fate of dwindling African Lion population. Without a doubt the best thing I've ever done. Sign me up for next year!
Lauren, Australia, aged 23 (Lion Conservation Volunteer)
My time on this project easily went down as the most incredible experience of my life. Nowhere else in the world are you able to get as up close to lions as you do by volunteering here. Everyday was exhilerating. I just can't wait to go back!
Luke and Abby, Australia, aged 27 and 28 (Lion Conservation Volunteer)
My daily wake up call…the roaring of lions. Part of everyday life in the beautiful country that is Africa. During my time in Zimbabwe and Zambia I experienced many breathtaking moments. It would be impossible to pick out my favourite part but here are a few memories that I treasure from my time away. Tracking rhino on foot through the African bush. Herding giraffe on horseback. Walking the lion cubs. Seeing all the stars in the Milky Way in the vast African night sky. Tasting the local delicacies (mapani worms!!) Dancing the night away with the local tribal dancers. The emotion I felt whilst helping to deliver a baby in one of the clinics. Enjoying a relaxing massage on the banks of the Zambezi River.
When I look back on all of these experiences they seem surreal, but when in Africa you truly feel that it is normal to be walking besides an 18month lion cub, or eating the local foods. I believe that it is down to the fact that the locals that I met were so welcoming and made you feel totally at ease in their home country.
I spent 2 months in Zambia, Livingstone working on a medical project. Whilst this was a tough experience for me, I feel that it was the most rewarding part of my trip. I spent my time either working in the local clinics weighing babies or working in the out patients department taking patients blood pressure, temperature etc. I also spent a bit of my time in the labs testing for malaria (blood samples) and TB (sputum samples). The lab technicians in the clinics are overwhelmed by the workload and volunteer help is gladly welcomed.
I got a true insight into the way of life in Zambia when I chose to do home based care. This project is run by 30 local women, all volunteers. We spent each morning going into the local community visiting patients. The patients generally have the late stages of HIV, TB or malaria. Often they cannot afford to go to a clinic or hospital. As well as bringing medical supplies we also gave them advice on nutrition and the correct way to take their medication. I created a strong bond with the ladies that I worked alongside, admiring their strength and commitment, as most of them were looking after 5 or more children of their own at home, whilst giving their time to the project voluntarily.
I felt that I gained the most out of my time away, and this was due to the organisation and planning of Amanzi Travel, prior to and during my visit. I was fully prepared to all that I faced, down to the right equipment and what to expect. This was all included in an excellent pre-departure pack (it was my bible!).
Heather and Laura, UK, aged 18 (Zambia Healthcare and Community Development, Lion Conservation Volunteer)
Everything was fab it has been one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, everyone involved in the project are brilliant and I miss them all loads. I was made to feel that our involvement is invaluable… I just hope that people are not put off by the political situation at present.
Caroline, UK, aged 40 (Lion Conservation Volunteer)
The project was absolutely amazing, to work that closely with the lions was unbelievable. It was the most amazing thing I could have done with my life. The meals were excellent seen as we were in Africa… The accommodation was comfy, even though not all of the beds were!
Where Else in the World? The park has touched the lives of all the volunteers who have ever had the opportunity to work there and have been lucky enough to spend quality time with the lions. Not only did I have the pleasure of walking the different sets of cubs twice a day, I also bottle fed 4 weeks old cubs and took data capture on the 2-3 year old lions whilst they stalked their prey on a night encounter. I was also lucky enough to be taken out on a night encounter where three of the lions killed a wildebeest! Let me tell you, this was not one for the faint hearted.
You were always kept busy (the way they saw it was getting your moneys worth, it couldn't have been better any other way) -activities varied daily, from enclosure cleaning, meat preparation, snare sweeps, boundary patrols, cub sitting, cub feeds and walking the lions (in which you had to record data). Data collection usually consisted of prey response and feeding data, for example, which cub showed the most aggression during the feed. There was also horse riding through the park where I was able to get 5/10 metres away from giraffe, zebra, impala, kudu, wildebeest, warthogs etc, it was just absolutely amazing, beyond what words can describe.
One of my many favourite experiences was during one of my last lion walks. We were walking the 2L's (Ltalo and Landela) on their evening walk. Ltalo spotted 2 giraffes and chased after them…in the mean time, Landela had spotted four red hartebeest and a waterbuck (huge antelope) in the distance. As Landela chased after the antelope, Abby (another volunteer) and I ran as fast as our legs could carry us, to keep track of what was happening. We were running level with the lion when an antelope crossed the path 10 metres in front of us - it was the most exhilarating experience in the world. This is really the aim of the project, to get the lions out in the park as much as possible to practise their hunting skills for the release. A pre-chosen pack of 8 lions are due to be released in a miniature version of the wild this August. Their cubs will be born into this wild environment, without having any contact from humans, and it is the projects aim, to eventually release these lions into the wild with the hope of re-populating the ever-decreasing species of the African Lion.
You become attached to the individual lions over time as each lion has their own personality. Some lions like to have their bellies scratched, others enjoy playing with sticks, and some even enjoy a splash in the water. Once we gave an elephant poo cake to Ltalo and Landela for their first birthday! They also received a card from the volunteers. Lions love poo! They roll around in it and eat it to disguise their smell to prey.
I booked my African adventure through Amanzi Travel. I believe the name Amanzi also belongs to one of the lions on the project, anyway, they were really helpful, and the whole trip was organised brilliantly, I felt safe travelling alone through Zimbabwe and I actually extended my trip from one month to two months during my stay, which was sorted out in a matter of moments through Amanzi.
I will never forget the feeling of interaction and bonding with these remarkable mammals. I had the most amazing time of my life.
Emma, UK, aged 19 (Lion Conservation Volunteer)
Lion numbers are going down so this project and others like it are needed. Really good experience with the best thing being the people I met. Seeing the lions every day was incredible.
Erin, Scotland, aged 24 (Lion Conservation Volunteer)
You will have the time of your life. To really explain to someone how living in this place in Africa for the last 6 weeks has influenced my outlook on life would take me forever, all I can say is that I am a different person than the girl that arrived. The things that this place has given me, the things that these people have given me, are so much more than I could have ever imagined.
Walking with the lions everyday and getting to see the progress that is being made, watching the lions feed, watching the cubs experience things for the first time, horse rides in the bush, visiting the beautiful children at the orphanage, riding on the back of an elephant, BPG and getting to see the lions go back into a clean enclosure with fresh water to drink, a fun Shona language lesson, beautiful boat cruises, getting to go into town and mingle with the local people and experience some of Zimbabwe outside the park, and that is just to name a few!
To me, there is no argument that this program will prosper. The knowledge, experience, hard work, determination and eagerness of the people that play the roles of keeping this place moving along everyday makes it inevitable that A Park will be successful in releasing these lions back into their natural wild world. This program is built well, and couldn’t be more perfect for those people searching for adventure and enlightenment.
Haley, USA, aged 20 (Lion Conservation Volunteer)
I’ve had the most wonderful time at the Lion Breeding and Release Project – it’s a beautiful place, with great people, and working with the lions was just fantastic!
Mary-Anne, UK, aged 25 (Lion Conservation Volunteer)
I am amazed at how quickly I fell in love with the Park and the individual lions that I worked with. I will definitely have loads of wonderful memories and look forward to a return trip.
Gemma was so great! She was patient with me and my thousand questions about the program. She always got back to me very quickly and I appreciated it very much.
Jennifer, USA, aged 37 (Lion Conservation Volunteer)
This project was all I expected and more. I only stayed for 3 weeks but it felt like home by the time I left – the people there were so incredibly helpful and friendly, they really made my stay. The Park’s moto is “Where else in the world?” and I have to agree. Walking with the cubs, riding the horses and elephants, meat preparation, cub feedings, behaviour research and a million other things became part of day to day life and I have made friends and memories that will stay with me for life. I did not want to leave – on the bus on the way to the airport on my last day I was already doing the maths on a piece of paper to figure out how much I would need to save each month to go back the same time next year!
I must make mention of the food at the park – it was incredible! And the kitchen staff were amazing. Gemma was extremely helpful. Whenever I asked a question I would have an email or call back sometimes even in the same day and if not, the next day at the latest. It was my first time travelling alone and she really helped me feel at ease, providing all the info and advice I needed and more. Thank you Gemma:)
Amy, Wales, aged 23 (Lion Conservation Volunteer)
I suspect that many lion breeding projects are, in fact, commercial enterprises, to the detriment of lions. Yet the Antelope project, under the tutelage of Pieter Kat, seems genuine in its efforts to regulate breeding to ensure healthy genetic strains, to collect accurate behavioural and physical data about the lions bred, and to structure its project to the advantage of the lions themselves over time and over lion generations.
Mary, USA, aged 65 (Lion Conservation Volunteer)