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Rhino and Elephant Sanctuary

Imire Safari Ranch, Zimbabwe
from £745 (1 week)

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 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 and with just 12 volunteers there will be plenty of time and space to form bonds with other volunteers, the animals and the spell-binding African bush. There is also the opportunity for those who horse ride to join this project whilst having the opportunity to ride on the working days and families with children aged 6 and above are also very welcome.

Who can join: 17 and over, children aged 6 and over accompanied by adults
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

1 week£745
2 weeks£1,425
3 weeks£2,125
4 weeks£2,835
5 weeks£3,545
6 weeks£4,195
8 weeks£5,495
Horse and Conservation Project
2 weeks£1,735

1 week Horse/1 week Standard Volunteer

2 weeks£2,045

2 weeks Horse Volunteer

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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)

Start Dates

Volunteers can join on any Thursday throughout the year.

This project is closed from mid December until the start of January each year.


£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
  • Drinks (tea, coffee, juice, water)
  • Laundry and housekeeping
  • All activities while on site
  • 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 outside the volunteer programme
  • Soft and alcoholic drinks (over 18s only) from the bar
  • Wifi - on a token system (approx $5 per 100 mb)
  • 3-course Sunday dinner at Imire lodge (optional)
  • Any extra travel to Harare or Victoria Falls
  • Pre-programme accommodation (if required)


The Rhino and Elephant Sanctuary is a family concern,  founded in the 1950s initially as a cattle, maize and tobacco farm.  It branched out in the late 1970s into wildlife conservation and within ten years became a 10,000 acre conservancy with impala, waterbuck, kudu, eland and the rare sable antelope. and is now proud to have four of Africa's big 5 living there. Now well established and just 105kms east of Harare, it is an ideal and safe environment for wildlife and has over the years developed and become internationally renowned for its black rhino breeding and release programme.  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 almost 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. Their parents had been poached in the Matusadona National Park.  These calves were hand-reared on formula milk for at least 8 years and were raised as a semi-domesticated herd.  Several in-depth studies were carried out to ensure the rhino suffered no ill-effects from the new vegetation, climate and herding since black rhinos are naturally solitary animals. 

The seven original rhino bred very successfully with 15 births in less than 20 years and 11 rhino were successfully returned to the Matusadona National Park where they continued to be monitored until the programme was stopped in 2000 due to lack of funds and today this ancient animal once again faces extinction in the wild.  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 seven black and three white rhino.   

Volunteers get very involved with the rhino at the project, learning about their behaviour and monitoring their activities, feeding and socialisation, playing a role in their continued protection and security while getting to know their eccentricities.

The project is also home to three elephants, Mac and Mandebvu who form a small family herd and then thre is Nzou who happily lives with a herd of buffalo.  These elephants were all orphaned at a very young age but they were rescued and now live in an environment that is as close as possibe to their natural habitat whilst maintaining both animal and human safety..  Ivory poaching is rife throughout Africa and so the elephants and sleep in secure bomas at night to ensure their safety.  Elephants are very intelligent and need constant stimulation in order to remain content.  This small group of elephants do not face the challenges of living in the wild, such as finding food and water and avoiding predators and they could become bored and destructive but exciting challenges have been developed for them by elephant behaviour experts and all training and handlilng is done on a reward basis and physical punishment of any kind is not condoned.

Carnivores at Imire
Imire is home to Mambo the lion, who is provided with a comfortable, spacious enclosure in his twilight year.  This is his retirement home as he faced difficulties in his previous home.  He is not used for breeding or handled.   There are many other wild  carnivores at the project.  These small mammals are elusive and include serval, civet, black backed jackal and some rarely sighted spotted hyenas.

Other Wildlife at Imire
In addition to the rhino, elephants and lion, Imire has much more to discover with over 250 species of birds including local rareties such as Copper Sunbird, Little Bittern and Melanistic Gabar Goshawk.  There are also  healthy populations of peculiar noctural animals including hyenas, honey badgers, African civet, the elusive aardvark and bushbabies.

The Role of the Volunteer

This is a very hands-on project and no two days are ever the same.. There is always something unexpected around the corner!  Volunteers will get involved in most of the following activities depending on the time of year, the weather and whatever else is going on at the time.

Rhino Conservation

  • Track black and white rhino using telemetry
  • Learn all about these amazing animals from experienced handlers, rangers and guides
  • Assist th anti-poaching unit in locating the rhino and observing their behaviour
  • Walk through the bush close to rhino - a once in a lifetime experience

Volounteers monitor the rhinos' behaviour to identify patterns and further our knowledge of the rhino who are notoriously difficult to study in the wild.  Observations are used to identify the personalities of the different rhinos, gauge their moods and try to predict behaviour or responses to different stimuli.  This is especially important for monitoring the development of the youngest rhino.  Volunteers also monitor feeding patterns to help prevent over-grazing, to plan rhino movements through the conservancy and to determine if any supplements are neded to ensure they have a balanced diet. 

The rhino are collared and volunteers learn to use the telemetry set, identify tracks and signs of rhino movement, and the observations here can be used to assist rhino management techniques across the world.

Work with Elephants

  • Monitor elephant movements and behaviour
  • Feed and walk with the elephants and their handlers
  • Clean out elephant beds and repair enclosures

This project is committed to ensuring that the elephants have as close to a natural life as possibly.  They are ambassadors for their species and key to helping educate communities about conservation.  Volunteers will monitor elephant feding patternss and repair elephant  damage in the conservancy  They will walk with the elephants in the mornings or evenings, learning about these iconic animals from the knowledgeable handlers and begin to understand the threats they face and what is being done to protect them.

Anti-Poaching and Security

  • Undertake snare patrols and critical anti-poaching monitoring
  • Fish netting patrols on the many dams
  • Fence and boundary monitoring on horseback and on foot
  • Weapons training

Volunteers undertake bi-monthly snare sweeps around the conservancy, looking for evidence of poaching and collecting snares and traps.  This minimises small animal poaching and helps the dedicated Anti-Poaching Unit in their daily work to ensure that the large animals are protected.  Volunteers will horse ride once a week and carry out herd monitoring off the beaten track and boundary patrols.  Horse riding gives increased protection in different areas of the park and enables coverage of less accessible areas.  (Please note that there is a weight limit of 85 kg for horse riding).  Volunteers will have the opportunity to do weapons training with the Anti-Poaching Unit and scouts using paintball guns to simulate the FN rifles used by the scouts to gain familiarity with a "weapon".  They will also join the APU as they do their drills and training.

Conservancy Management

  • Help maintain fences, roads, fireguards and conservancy equipment
  • Feed nutritional supplements to antelopes, elephants, plains game and lion
  • Tree planting, bush clearance and removal of alien species
  • Cleaning and maintenance of animal beds
  • Game counts by foot and vehicle
  • Take part in conservancy game captures and other operations when applicable

Community and Teaching Projects

There are approximately 500 people living or working at Imire including conservancy, lodge, volunteer programme and farm staff, plus their families.  There are primary and secondary school just outside the conservancy which are supported through sponsorship of building projects, teaching assistance, sports, gardening and conservation education.  The local Idube Clinic is also supported through the provision of medicines and financial donations.

  • Assist with literacy projects in primary schools
  • Work with the local Conservation Club - educate children in the conservancy on animals, birds and their environment
  • Playing sports and games with the younger children
  • Cultural evenings - learn to cook and dance from the experts!
  • Visit a local Shona family at their homestead and learn more about their every day life and culture

Literacy programmes have been introduced in two local primary schools where volunteers use a Ministry of Education approved English literacy scheme aimed at rural African schoolchildren.  The materials address conservation issues in a way which is relevant to their learning.  Volunteers also work at the local school's Conservation Club, helping to teach secondary school students practical and theoretical lessons about nature and conservation.  Please remember that the school children have holidays when there will be no teaching at the school.  The term dates for 2020 (when there will be teaching) are as follows::

First Term:  14 January - 2 April;  Second Term:  5 May - 6 August;  Third Term:  8 September - 3 December.


There is also the opportunity for volunteers to join a combined Horse Riding and Rhino Conservation programme, where volunteers will be doing the same kind of activiteis as those detailed above, but with the addition to ride for five days a week, Monday - Friday, for approximately 3 hours each day.  There may be one long ride or two shorter ones depending on the weather and what work needs to be done.  This is not a teaching programme and all Horse Riding volunteers must be competent riders when they arrive and able to carry out a rising trot and canter.  They should have had a number of years experience of regularly riding different horses and be confident to handle a horse on their own and get out of potentially challenging situations.  There is a maximum weight limit for this programme of 80 kg as the horses on site are not strong enough to carry more than this weight over a sustained period.  Riders must take their own helmet, 2 litre water bottle/camel pack and a small day pack/rucksack.  No galloping is allowed anywhere on the project and riders may not take horses out unaccompanied by a member of staff. 

Should the resident staff deem a volunteer's riding ability to be below the required standard and if there are other experienced riders on the programme at the same time, such volunteers may be asked to transfer back to the Rhino & Elephant Conservation Programme. 

Extra rides can be arranged subject to horse and staff availability for an additional charge. 

Family Volunteering

For families who would like to take a holiday with a difference and contribute to conservation firsthand,  the Family Volunteer Programme is a perfect fit.  This unique volunteer programme is open to families with children aged 6 to 17 (please enquire further if your children fall outside these ages). Take this opportunity to volunteer in Africa with your family, helping to protect and secure endangered wildlife for future generations and empower local communities with knowledge and education.

Families taking part in this volunteer programme will be involved with a variety of tasks which include opportunities to:

  • Work closely and safely outdoors alongside our rhinos, elephants and abundance of other wildlife
  • Take part in community enrichment and look in depth at holistic conservation practices
  • Learn about amazing animals and the natural world from guides who are extremely experienced working closely with children
  • Participate in exciting team-building activities
  • Learn survival and bush craft skills and enjoy nature walks and game drives
  • Get your hands and clothes dirty doing fun and physical work around the conservancy

You and your family will live closely and safely amidst wildlife in the heart of the African bush and experience day to day life on a privately-owned conservancy. Your family’s dynamics and individual needs will be assessed and personally catered to as far as possible to ensure that all family members have the time of their lives!

Free Time and Optional Excursions

Volunteers can enjoy many activities in their free time, such as fishing, canoeing or just relaxing at the volunteer house with a beer after a hard day's work.  There may also be the chance to go horse-riding on a Saturday morning.   For anyone who enjoys hiking, trips to the Mutemwa Mountain can be arranged or a visit to see the Bushman paintings at Markwe Caves outside the conservancy can be arranged at tjhe weekend.  Volunteers may also visit Imire Lodge for a meal  These weekend activities are at a small extra cost. 

If anyone would like to go to Harare to visit the markets or shops a private taxi can be arranged for $80 per car each way and ideal to be shared by small groups of volunteers.  There is no reliable public transport from the reserve to Harare.

Victoria Falls - Adrenaline and Adventure
No trip to Zimbabwe would be complete without a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Victoria Falls.  At 1708m wide, it is the largest sheet of falling water in the world and one of the most spectacular wonders.  In Ndebele, the Victoria Falls are called Mosi-au-Tunya - "the smoke that thunders" and the spray and noise are visible and audible around the town.  The Falls drop between 90m - 170m from the Zambezi River into the Zambezi Gorge, with an average of 550,000 cubic metres of water plummeting over the edge every minute.

The Falls inspire and impress visitors today as much as they did David Livingstone, who was the first European to discover them back in the 1860s.  Today there are many exciting activities from bungee jumps and zip lines from the Victoria Falls Bridge, to game drives, high tea at the Victoria Falls Hotel, or some of the best white water rafting in the world.

Flights to Vic Falls can be booked with Fast Jet and there are many accommodation options from $20 per person per night, depending on budget. The trip must be arranged prior to arrival at the project.  The taxi transfer from the project to Harare Airport is approx $100 each way for anyone wishing to visit the Falls during the middle weekend of their placement.  A taxi from Victoria Falls airport to the town is around $30 each way.  Sometimes volunteers travel together to share taxis and reduce costs. Please note that project staff are unable to assist with the booking of an optional excursion and any bookings and travel plans are the responsibilty of the volunteer.

Getting There

Flights should be arranged into Harare International Airport where volunteers will be met by project staff and taken to the project base (approximately 2 hours' drive).   

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.  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. 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 SanctuaryImire Safari Ranch, Zimbabwe, Rhino and Elephant SanctuaryImire Safari Ranch, Zimbabwe, Rhino and Elephant SanctuaryImire Safari Ranch, Zimbabwe, Rhino and Elephant SanctuaryVolunteers will be comfortably accommodated during their time at the project.  Group sizes will be a maximum of 12 volunteers. Rooms are shared anf furnished with comfortable single beds with bedding provided (duvets, pillows and extra blankets for winter). Showers and toilet facilities are shared, and hot water is supplied. Power sockets for electrical items are available in communal areas.    

Room configuration and location are solely at the discretion of Imire management.

Three home cooked meals are provided daily on a self-serve basis. Vegetarian and limited vegan options are available upon request. It is important that volunteers with any dietary requirements or food allergies advise Amanzi Travel before departure.  Please note that the project is unable to cater for very specific dietary needs (for example gluten, dairy or wheat intolerance) and volunteers with such needs should take any specialist foods along with you. The local chefs will be able to prepare them alongside other volunteer’s standard meals.

Water is pumped from a borehole and is safe and clean for drinking.

Every effort is made to ensure that volunteers of all ages are accommodated appropriately and comfortably.  The regular sites, Chiwawe and Numwa House, will be used to accommodate volunteer families with children aged 14 and over, as well as regular volunteers of all ages.  Volunteers aged 14 - 17 will always be accompanied by famllies.  The minimum age for solo travellers remains at 17 years.

Families with children younger than 14 will be accommodated separately and their volunteer activities, meals, vehicles and guides will be separate from the regular volunteer groups.  

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

Imire is a special place. The volunteer experience is incredible and offer you a chance to learn about wildlife conservation and get up close with the animals. The staff at Imire will quickly become like family, as they welcome you into their world. I would highly recommend Imire to anyone looking for a unique volunteer experience

Peter, UK (Rhino and Elephant Sanctuary)

Rhino and Elephant Sanctuary

For me this was a life-changing experience. I will forever hold elephants and rhinos in high regard, as intelligent sentient beings. This project made the volunteer effort fun, interesting and educational. If you want a vacation go to Disneyland, if you want to leave the world a better place than you found it, go to the Rhino and Elephant Stanctuary at Imire.

Ted, USA (Rhino and Elephant Sanctuary)

Rhino and Elephant Sanctuary

Not only was this my first time visiting Africa, the elephant and rhino project at Imire was my first volunteering project. Having such close encounters with the wildlife was the highlight of my trip. I felt privileged to be able to walk with the elephants and observe the rhinos and other game in the reserve. The project staff were shared their knowledge of all the wildlife and I loved learning more about the animals. I also enjoyed going on community visits and learning about how the project will work with community to achieve a mutually beneficial relationship. I would recommend Amanzi Travel as the level of customer service is so good. Thank you

Karen, UK, aged 44 (Rhino and Elephant Sanctuary)

Rhino and Elephant Sanctuary

The first week with elephant and rhino in Zimbabwe was amazing. It is a very beautiful setting with very friendly staff who looked after all our needs. I felt very safe in Zimbabwe and 1 week was not long enough. Visiting the school and learning about the local culture was very interesting and a lot had gone into ensuring that our stay was enjoyable. I cant think of anything negative at all. Makalali in South Africa was very different. it has a natural wildness to it and you never know what is round the corner. The rangers were lovely and went above and beyond… I can totally recommend this project if you want to get close to real wildlife, The tents are large and comfortable and if you like camping then this is a great holiday and not having fences round the camp adds to the excitement as you don't know what may be round the next corner. It was my second visit there as so much to see

Ana, UK aged 52 (Rhino and Elephant Sanctuary, Wildlife Volunteer Makalali Game Reserve)

Rhino and Elephant Sanctuary

I fell in love with everything, the people, the animals, the work they do, and the way it brought all my senses to life! Hands down, one of the best decisionsI’ve ever made and I can’t wait to come back, no day is the same. It is my happy place and I will always hold the experience very close to my heart. Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you!

Jessica, aged 23, UK (Rhino and Elephant Sanctuary)

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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