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Rhino and Elephant Sanctuary

Imire Safari Ranch, Zimbabwe
from £1,295 (2 weeks)

Ref: AV061

Over 70% of Zimbabwe's wildlife population has been decimated in past decades and volunteers to this project can make a real difference here at Imire in the heart of Zimbabwe by helping to protect and conserve one of the planet's most endangered and vulnerable species, the Black Rhino.  Here at the Rhino and Elephant Sanctuary volunteers have the opportunity to work hands on with the endangered rhino as well as the elephants and other wildlife found on this beautiful Safari Ranch.   This is an ideal project for anyone wanting to work up-close with wildlife and become completely immersed in the vital struggle to conserve the African Rhino.  It offers a truly unique opportunity - to live amongst the wildlife and share in the daily experiences of a 10,000 acre African Game Reserve. Volunteers are a vital part of the work that is being done to breed and rehabilitate the endangered rhino back to their natural environment. 

Who can join: 17 years and over
Accommodation: Dedicated Volunteer House
Transfer time: approx. 1.5 hours
Pick up Point: Harare Airport, Zimbabwe
Meals: Included
Volunteer numbers: approx. 8 - 12

Duration & Fees

2 weeks£1,295
3 weeks£1,875
4 weeks£2,525
5 weeks£3,165
6 weeks£3,755
8 weeks£4,995

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Start Dates

Volunteers can join on any Monday throughout the year.

If you would like to arrive on a different start date this may be possible for an additional fee outside of the peak months of June, July and August. Please speak to one of the Amanzi Travel team.

This project is closed between the mid December and mid January


£180 deposit at time of booking – balance payment of project fee due 12 weeks before departure

What's Included

  • Return transfers to and from Harare Airport on your start and end date
  • Dedicated Volunteer Accommodation
  • Three meals a day
  • Support and orientation from the project staff and guides
  • 24 hour support from Amanzi Travel Team

What's not included

  • Return Flights to Harare Airport
  • Visas
  • Travel Insurance including cover for repatriation in case of emergency
  • Personal expenses - for drinks, phone calls, souvenirs etc
  • Optional extra trips and activities
  • Pre-programme accommodation (if required)

This is a very hands-on project and no two days are ever the same at Imire.   Volunteers live in close contact with black rhino, elephants, buffalo and other species of wild animal on a 10,000 acre Conservancy.  They have opportunities to form special relationships with elephants and become part of the herd as well as walking beside the endangered black rhino in a safe environment.  They will learn so much about their behaviour, both from spending time with these beautiful creatures as well as from their knowledgeable and experienced handlers.    As well as working up close with the stunning Rhino and Elephants volunteers also enjoy opportunities to explore the African Bush on foot, vehicle or horse back as well as sleeping out in the bush under the stars - an amazing experience!  For anyone needing to do research for Zoology/Conservation degrees or considering a future working with wildlife, this is a fantastic opportunity - with close-up viewing of animal behaviour and the ability to observe unique ecosystems in rivers, lakes and plains.

There are plenty of activities for volunteers during their spare time - fishing or canoeing, perhaps undertaking rifle training, horse riding, camp-outs in the bush or just relaxing by the pool at the volunteer house after a hard day's work!

Volunteer activities include:

  • Wildlife observation and data collection on all animals and plants;
  • Bush patrols and game counts on horseback or on foot; learning how to identify animals and their herds and checking for injured or orphaned animals;
  • Daily feeding of nutritional supplements to eland, sable, lions and giraffe;
  • Cleaning and maintenance of elephant and rhino beds;
  • De-snaring - of strategically set snares which cause a slow and painful death;
  • Fish netting patrols - patrolling the dams in canoes for any nets or evidence of fish poaching;
  • Road repair, fencing and maintenance - ongoing to ensure safety and security;
  • General teaching assistance in the local schools - and work in the community outreach programme;
  • Working in the vegetable gardens and tree nurseries;
  • Cattle dipping - volunteers assist in the cattle section on dip days;
  • Learning how to train & handle rhino;
  • Daily feeding of the herd animals, lions, elephants and rhino;
  • Walking with the rhino and spending quality time with them to collect valuable data on their behaviour and ecology;
  • Interacting with the any orphaned baby Rhino that may come to the park, giving them the contact and security they need during this important time in their lives;
  • Spending time with the elephants to include training, observation and gathering research;

Boma duties include:

  • handling of orphan animals
  • pen cleaning 
  • early morning rhino, lion, hyena and crocodile feeding

Animal monitoring will take place on a daily basis to include:

  • mapping and photographing species in their herds
  • water dependency
  • interaction, competition and agression within and between species
  • dominance and hierarchy 
  • breeding successes and failures
  • data collectionplant and tree identification

Community Volunteer Work

Volunteers will also have the opportunity to become involved in local primary and secondary rural community schools in projects such as AIDS awareness, teaching self-sufficiency skills, teaching English and other subjects to the children, establishing organic gardening; conservation and environmental issues.

Project Background

The Rhino and Elephant Sanctuary is a family run 10,000 acre Conservancy and is proud to have four of Africa's big 5 living there. Established in 1972 and just 105kms east of Harare, it is an ideal and safe environment for wildlife and has over the years developed into a centre for breeding black rhino.  These magnificent creatures have been on this earth for 40 million years and the Zambezi Valley of Zimbabwe was declared a world heritage site in 1984.  Although in 1975 there were more than 10,000 black rhino roaming in the valley, poaching decimated this number and they became extinct there.  In the late 1980s Zimbabwe's Department of National Parks and Wildlife removed the remaining 120 black rhino out of danger and into a protected conservancies.  Imire offered their expertise and in 1987 received 7 orphaned baby rhino aged between 4 and 6 months - 3 males, Noddy, Fumbi and Sprinter and 4 females, Cuckoo, Mvu, D.J. and Amber. These calves were hand-raised and bottle fed for at least 8 years and were kept on the milk formula for that length of time to continue the human contact, and of course as a comforter.  They have thus been brought up together as a semi-domesticated herd. Over the years  they have continued to breed there successfully and to date 14 births have taken place on Imire and 9 rhino have been returned to the Matusadona National Park and one to Botswana whilst the females have carried on breeding within the Park.  Unfortunately there has recently been a resurgence in excessive poaching and the numbers at Matusadona are dwindling alarmingly and again this ancient animal faces extinction.  Imire has not been immune to this poaching and lost a generation of black rhino in 2007.  Despite this the project continues and at present Imire has 4 rhino which are penned in at boma nightly and watched by armed guards,  and go out onto the ranch with their handlers during the day. Imire intends to continue the breeding programme removing the calves from their mothers when they are 8 months old and then re-uniting them again to breed with the herd when they are older. Once the calves are weaned they are well monitored and the hope is that they will eventually be released back into the National Parks, because at present the national policy is to hold the rhino at Imire until the poaching is felt to be under control again.   

The Rhino and Elephant Sanctuary is an animal lover's paradise and offers volunteers endless opportunities to get involved in protecting these ancient and highly valued animals. Anyone taking part in this diverse volunteer programme will not only have a life-changing experience but will leave having had great fun and feeling as though they have "done their bit" in saving the environment!

Free Time and Optional Excursions

For an idea of what to plan and budget for, whilst you are here, here are a few suggestions from a recent volunteer:-

Visit to Makwe Caves $10
Taxi to Harare $75 one way
Flights to Victoria Falls $300 approx (plus taxi both ways to Harare, and $60 Taxi Vic Falls Airport) 
Meal out at Sable Lodge Restaurant $25
Wifi $5 per week

Further recommendations for something useful to bring, but wouldn't automatically pack, are sturdy gardening gloves, as they are used regularly when working. Although the house has some you could borrow some volunteers prefer to bring their own. 

Getting There

Flights should be arranged into Harare International Airport where you will be met by project staff and taken to the project base (approximately 2 hours drive). Volunteers must arrive before 5pm on their start date for their inclusive transfer.   If volunteers would like to arrive on a different day to the Monday start date or leave on a different day there is an additional transfer fee of £35.

Amanzi Travel holds an ATOL licence and we can arrange any flight requirements that you have upon request.

A perfect way to explore more of Africa

Before heading straight back home, why not take an Overland Journey through Africa to explore more of the wonderful sights and experiences that this beautiful continent has to offer.  You can take a trip that starts and finishes in the same city (eg Windhoek to Windhoek) or you can use it as an opportunity to get your from one city to another (eg Cape Town to Nairobi).

“This has got to be the best way to see Africa in a short period of time ... brilliant. The guides were fantastic, the campsites great, and the food excellent. The overland trip was excellent - really well run”
Southern Sun 21 days, Cape Town to Victoria Falls - Jennie and Stuart, Sweden, aged 32 and 34.

“I didn’t know I could become such close friends with people in just a week. The trip attracts a great group of people who are so easy to get along with. My group ranged from 20 to 70 and we all sat down with a drink, played cards together and just gathered around the campfire.  It was an experience of a lifetime and I will definitely recommend this to my friends and family”
Tanzanian Game Parks and Zanzibar, 10 Days and Masai Mara Safari, 3 Days - Sara, Canada/Malaysia, aged 20.

 From 3 days to 56 days, take a look at the exciting Overland Trips here.

Support and Orientation

Support and advice is available from Amanzi Travel office staff and project/trip leaders. Upon booking, you will receive a comprehensive pre-departure pack that provides all the details you will need to prepare for your trip to Africa.  This document includes information on accommodation, staff, visas, optional activities, packing checklist and medical advice and if you have any questions that are not answered in the pack we are always on hand to help and advise. We will do all we can to ensure that you are well prepared and looking forward to your trip to Africa. You will also receive an in country orientation on arrival.

A 24 hours a day, 7 days a week emergency contact number is provided for everyone who travels with us.

Amanzi Travel holds an ATOL licence (9401) and is able to arrange your flights on request giving you financial protection for your flight and trip costs. We also offer advice on personal travel insurance for your trip.

Imire Safari Ranch, Zimbabwe, Rhino and Elephant SanctuaryImire Safari Ranch, Zimbabwe, Rhino and Elephant SanctuaryImire Safari Ranch, Zimbabwe, Rhino and Elephant SanctuaryVolunteers will be accommodated in a comfortable double storey farm house, set beside a picturesque dam.  There is electricity and hot water for showering and safe drinking water.  Two communal living rooms with fireplaces are the place for socialising during the evenings.  There is one dormitory and two twin rooms so sharing may be necessary.  A couples room may be available on request. 

Three full meals a day are provided (breakfast, lunch and dinner).  On Sundays volunteers are asked to cook for each other and there is a wonderful vegetable garden, maintained by students, which provides most of the fresh vegetables eaten.

Click here to view the full interactive mapZimbabwe - 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) 30 °C 14 °C
Winter/dry ( May - October) 20 °C 5 °C
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.

Key Facts

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

Rhino and Elephant Sanctuary

This was my first volunteering experience so I was a little apprehensive, especially as I'd booked to be at the Rhino and Elephant Sanctuary for 4 weeks. I'd been to South Africa before but not Zimbabwe and given the troubles that the country has been experiencing, had no idea what to expect. But wow, and a few more wow's, several awesomes and a lot of "can I go straight back there!!!!!!!”  
The sanctuary is a wonderful, relatively small farm/game reserve (very small compared to the likes of Kruger), but this is what helps to make it so wonderful. Starting at the beginning....the accomodation is really nice.  Stocks and Tafadzwa, who do the cooking, are two of the happiest people that I have ever met and cook really wonderful meals  - their banana muffins were divine! Then there's Chipo who does all the cleaning, making the beds, washing of clothes....again, she's so up there on the happy scale. Marc and Anna, the Volunteer Managers, have the most amazing stories to tell over cups of tea and popcorn. Then there is Bright - awesome, brilliant, amazing, the list goes on as to how high a regard I hold him in - he made the trip. Bright looks after everyone on a day to day basis, drives volunteers around in the game truck, has a phenomenal amount of knowledge, has done all the jobs there, and is just such a lovely guy - lovely spending time in the front of the van chatting, singing, having a laugh…..
Then there are the activities. Every morning between 6.30am and 9am was spent cleaning out the elephants or rhinos, feeding the rhinos, then going out and observing them.  Then back for breakfast and out again at 10am for the next round of activities. This could be going to the local school to help the kids with their reading, paintballing, initiative tests, building rafts, fixing the fishing net and going fishing to rescue the fish, painting the fence, fighting bush fires....the list goes on and on!  Back for lunch at 12.30pm until 2pm and then back out for the afternoon activities. This could be cutting browse for Tatenda (one of the black rhinos) with machetes, feeding Crispin the crocodile (he's got the most wonderful, but sad story), or Mambo the Lion (another animal like Crispin needing relationship counselling), and the hyenas, gardening at the school, and then either walking the elephants back or putting the rhinos to bed. Stocks and Tafadzwa always had popcorn and tea waiting for us when we got back. 
Then shower (solar showers were great and hot, even with 13 of us) and it could be off to the top of Castle Kopje (a stack of granite rocks) to have a beer and watch the sunset or Shona night where you have the most amazing food cooked by Mai Matzika (the Deputy Head of the local school), learning about the Shona culture, then geting to join in the singing and dancing with the local children. I had to be prised out of the sanctuary on my last morning and I'm sure there are still my finger marks on the door frame and the dragged heel marks. This is definitely the gold standard for volunteering. If you're undecided - go, it was the best experience of my life. But take the Lion King soundtrack with you and DVD - I've still got Hakuna Matata going round my head!!!!

Claire, aged 41, UK (Rhino and Elephant Sanctuary)

Rhino and Elephant Sanctuary

Our trip to Imire was a wonderful, memorable experience. We had a superb volunteer supervisor who managed our daily tasks perfectly. During each day we combined community tasks with animal activities. The group was mixed age which suited us (we are in our 60's) and we developed a great feeling of camaraderie . Hopefully we will remain in contact with the new friends we have made

Helen, aged 60 UK (Rhino and Elephant Sanctuary)

Rhino and Elephant Sanctuary

Volunteering has been an amazing experience for me, having never been abroad alone before, and never visited Africa, and I was somewhat apprehensive about what I might encounter on my travels. 

I needn't have worried. As soon as I arrived at the Sanctuary, I felt instantly welcome. The picturesque dam and friendly staff greet you with a cup of tea and help you settle in. 

During my 4 weeks there I met many interesting people and felt like I really contributed to the conservation of some magnificent creature and the local community, not to mention learning much about the animals and culture myself. 

I felt the volunteer project was valuable as the work we did directly contributed to the wellbeing of the animals and maintenance of the game reserve. Some activities were more for the enjoyment of the volunteers such as playing sport with the local school kids, but it still helped impart informal information about the importance of conservation and the wider world. Plus short excursions to the historic caves or to the schools helped teach us as volunteers about the local culture and give us a greater appreciation and context for the area we were helping. It was good that the activities changed dependant on what was actually required on the reserve at that specific time and we weren't just kept busy with menial tasks.

The time flies by as you are doing something different every day dependant on what is needed around the reserve, plus the routine duties of feeding and caring for the magnificent animals. It was very surreal to ride through the bush on an elephant and see zebra in the distance and warthog trotting along as the sun cascades over the bush. Some hard graft is required, such as helping to cut down invasive Jacaranda trees which was very tiring, yet felt very rewarding afterwards, particularly as you knew you were protecting the native tree species that would otherwise be suffocated. 

In addition you are looked after well so after a particularly busy day, it is always nice to come back to the house to a big bowl of popcorn and a freshly boiled kettle. Naturally there can be some times when you feel like missing home but the staff are always on hand to talk things through and I was surprised by how easy it was to forget all about home when you are spoilt with such amazing scenery everywhere you go. 

My time in Africa was a perfect escape from everyday toil and I have such brilliant pictures now to show all my friends. It was a time I am sure I won't forget.

Hayley, UK, aged 18 (Rhino and Elephant Sanctuary)

Rhino and Elephant Sanctuary

I had an amazing trip, so many thanks for all the excellent organisation.

Naj, UK, aged 32 (Rhino and Elephant Sanctuary)

Rhino and Elephant Sanctuary

Imirie is lovely, just stunning. And well-run. As a volunteer, I felt my time and skills were useful, and I learned more than I could have hoped about rhinos, antelopes, elephants, lions, hyenas...and people, and how we're not always the best stewards of land and animals. Imirie seems a place dedicated to fixing the broken relations between  people, land and animals.

Anna-Marie, Canada, aged 50 (Rhino and Elephant Sanctuary)

Rhino and Elephant Sanctuary

Really enjoyed all the activities, especially the close contact with the ele’s and rhino’s. A real privilege...Fantastic hospitality all round! Thank you all.

Hayley, UK, aged 20 (Rhino and Elephant Sanctuary)

Rhino and Elephant Sanctuary

I had a fabulous time - it was a real taste of Africa - I would recommend it to anyone and I want to come back!

Kate, UK (Rhino and Elephant Sanctuary)

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