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Hands-On Lion Conservation Volunteering at Antelope Park

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Impact

    9

  • Health and Safety

    6

  • Social Life

    10

Retired and having fun

I decided at the age of 68 to join this project to have fun, get out of my comfort zone and to give something back. I spent the first ten years of my life in Africa so this was a homecoming in a way. I was worried initially that, at my age, I would find it difficult to be accepted by people 40+ years younger than me but nothing could be further from reality. I was accepted by one and all as on of the team. In turn I decided to face my fears and do things that I wouldn't normally do. All I can say is that if you are of my age, do come with an open mind and a willingness to try everything.

Walking with lions and elephants made the whole trip worthwhile

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    7

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

Volunteering October - November

After spending a month with the Lions here at Antelope Park I can honestly say that it has been a truly life changing experience. Working with the Lions as well as other amazing people from around the world has been probably the single most amazing experience of my life. The Staff are extremely knowledgeable and always have your safety on the forefront of everything that is being done.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

Lion volunteer experience

After my stay here at Antelope park I cannot wait to come back! I have nothing but great comments to make about the place, staff, project and the conservation efforts Alert put in to everything they do.
I come away from the project with knowledge, appreciation and respect. I have made many friends and really feel like I have made a difference to the conservation of Africa's amazing animals.
Here at Antelope Park the staff and team have been nothing but friendly and helpful. The long hours and hard work everyone puts into what they do really does make you happy to be apart of something so vital and important.
I would recommend anyone to be apart of the projects here at Antelope park weather it be lions, stables or community! As everything they do here is vital and amazing.
Although I would say do not come for two weeks! Which is the mistake I have made, two weeks is not long enough!
I would like to thank ALERT and Antelope Park for the amazing experience I have had! I have made friends and memories for life and I cannot wait to return!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    9

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

Lion volunteer experience

Loved it best experience of my life would recommend to anyone who wants to do it, people that work here are so lovely and friendly. The animals are well looked after and the handlers are great with them. Volunteering was best decision I have ever made and you get to experience a bit of everything, atmosphere is great and I will definitely be coming back here again. I have made memories here that I will never forget and also a lot of friends. It's good to work hard and feel like you're helping the animals and the hole project. the animals and scenery is beautiful! I always feel safe and well looked after. I love how your days are planned out for you the day before and it feel organized.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

My four weeks in Antelope Park

My stay at Antelope park has been nothing but great. All the activities were good, and let us get to know the different species they got in the park. I got a lot of new friends because of all the experiences we get together; some of the friendships will last for a lifetime.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    9

Hands on lion conservation

This experience was all that I could hope for and more. I love the variety- I was not only taking care of lions, but I enjoyed helping out with the elephants as well, horseback riding, going into the community to visit the orphanage and help make bricks for a school. The ancillary trip opportunities were great as well. I could easily spend another 6 weeks here to continue trying new experiences.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

BEST EXPERIENCE EVER!

Being at Antelope Park has been one of the best experiences of my life. Working with the lions has been incredible and life changing. I will take this experience with me for the rest of my life. My 2 months here have been amazing and I can't believe it's already over. I can't say enough about how amazing the people are too. Other volunteers as well as the staff, especially the volunteer manager Rosa, she has been amazing! The accommodation is very nice and clean and a fun space to be in with all the other volunteers. I love it here and I don't want to leave! I will definitely be back!!!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    9

  • Health and Safety

    8

  • Social Life

    10

T.I.A.

I can't even begin to explain how amazing this trip has been. It was more than the lions and elephants, although they were pretty amazing. It's been all the people I've met, all the friends I've made, all the places I've seen, all the things I never thought I'd do. It's even the smell of dead meat that's forever stuck in my nose and my shoes.

I am so grateful for these past weeks and so so happy and proud of myself for doing it in the first place. I have never felt more safe and more at home as quickly as I did here.

What a place. A life long dream come true.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    9

  • Social Life

    10

Very good opportunity

I've been here for four weeks, and it's been the four best weeks of my life. It's unbelievable to work so close to the lions, and also really fun to see have they work here compared to Norway. It's also very good that you get the opportunity to go see the other projects.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

My time at Antelope Park

Overall time here was incredible. Made so amazing people and met great friends. Every day was different and so much fun. I came away feeling more confident as a person and would definitely return. The lion project was amazing working so closely with the animals and knowing that hopefully soon the 5 lions are due to be released into the wild. Fingers crossed for the project and the lions future.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

Lion Volunteering

I have spent 6 weeks working with the lions at Antelope Park and it has been an amazing experience. All of the staff are incredibly friendly and helpful, the whole atmosphere in and around camp is relaxed.
I cannot recommend visiting AP enough, it's a wonderful place.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    9

  • Social Life

    10

Lion volunteer at Antelope Park

Back in July (2016), I found myself with a career break. My only problem: where would I go and who would I go with? Unfortunately, no one I knew was able to take off for a month with 2 weeks notice so I decided to go away by myself. I quickly ruled out the idea of backpacking alone. I did not feel brave enough to hit the streets on my own but I also really wanted to share the experience with someone. I then decided on a volunteering programme and hit google.

After reading up on hundreds of projects across the world, I stumbled across a hands-on Lion Conservation project at Antelope Park in Gweru, Zimbabwe. Call it a cliché, but as soon as I found it, I knew it was the one.

The Lion Conservation Project at Antelope park focuses on breeding lions that can be released into the wild, as the number of lions in Africa is dwindling.

Phase 1:
Lion cubs are born and, when they are old enough, they are walked 2-3 times a day in the African bush with experienced handlers and eager volunteers. Walking through the bush allows them to familiarise themselves with their natural environment and to develop their natural instincts. There is free-roaming game on the reserve and this enables the cubs to learn to hunt and, eventually, feed themselves.
The cubs are walked daily until they are around 18 months old, at which point they are too unpredictable to walk alongside a human. Therefore, handlers will take them out at night to hunt (the handlers will drive in a truck around the reserve instead of being on foot). Volunteers can also go along for the ride, which is very exciting!

Phase 2:
A pride of lions are released in to the release site: a semi-wild environment. Here, the lions act as a normal pride would. Living in the African bush and hunting for themselves, with little human interference. The lions live within a large fenced area (fenced to keep them safe from poachers and local communities safe from lions). Researchers come in to the site daily to observe the pride and take essential research data. The pride has cubs in the release site, who have never had any human interaction.

Phase 3:
Once these cubs have fully matured, around 5 years I think, they are released in to the wild, such as a national park.

AP is currently at Phase 2, and are looking to complete Phase 3 early next year. Once the lions in Phase 3 have cubs of their own, the project is deemed to be a success. This is a model, which, if successful, can be applied to other endangered species.

AP also do a lot of work with the community. Unemployment is at a staggering 95% in Zimbabwe, which is one of the word’s poorest countries. As a result, poaching is a huge issue. AP invest some of the money generated through the safari lodge and volunteer programme in the community: building and supporting schools, clinics, orphanages, drop in centres etc. This gives the community a tangible benefit to keeping the animals around and gets them on board with the work the park are doing.

Volunteers play a huge role at Antelope Park, funding the Conversation project and providing the manpower to keep the projects running. The great thing about this park is the flexibility. I was a lion volunteer, but was still able to spend days out in the community.

I will start with my experience in the community. The community volunteers spend time teaching classes at local schools, preparing meals at the drop-in centre for homeless children, playing games at the local orphanage etc. Every Saturday, volunteers from the Park visit the local boys orphanage, taking games to play with the kids. It is truly rewarding seeing how excited the boys are when you arrive to see what games you have brought them. I spent a couple of very happy Saturdays getting to know these amazing children. One Saturday we spent the entire morning dancing, which is something I will remember forever! I also spent one day teaching children at Julena School English grammar and how to tell the time.

Now, turning to the lions. The reason I ventured out to Zim in the first place. Most days started with a 2 hour lion walk before breakfast, starting at 6am. It was bitterly cold in the mornings during dry season but so worth it to go out in the bush with three 9 month old cubs. I was slightly nervous around them at first, but soon began to read their every facial expression. Over the few weeks I was there, I also got to witness them developing their hunting skills, starting to flank and stalk their prey. As they were young, they were very playful and loving too. Ruva would often push her luck, giving you an ankle tap or stalking you. And Tonga was very needy, often making lots of noise and falling at your feet for cuddles. It was incredible getting to know their very distinct personalities and watching them develop, even over that short time. There isn't anywhere else in the world where you can get so close to these creatures.

After breakfast comes the hard work. Either cleaning the enclosures (lots of bones and nasty smelling meats), feeding the lions, fixing enclosures, doing manual labour on the park, sweeping the park for snares etc. This is definitely not for the work shy or extremely squeamish. However, it is all worth it in the afternoon as you get to walk with the lions again, make toys for the lions and observe how they react, or head out in to the release site to observe the Ngamo pride.

Volunteer life at the park is very sociable. The accommodation blocks are built around a fire pit in the "volunteer village" so there are always people around and you make friends easily. The park has a lot of volunteers so there is normally a good range of ages and people. The staff are extremely friendly and the facilities on site are good. Every night is spent sat in the bar or around one of the camp fires.

There are also a range of other activities you can take part in. The park has 4 orphaned African elephants they took in, so you can spend the day with the elephants if you want to. You can also go on horse safaris, bare back riding, overnight camping, play Polocrosse, go on trips such as Rhino treks, to the great ruins, or to Victoria Falls.

On the whole, this is a once in a lifetime experience (although I am already planning to go back next year!). If you are thinking about volunteering, I really recommend Antelope Park!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

My experience at Antelope park

I had the best 4 weeks of my life. I met friends for life all over the world and I worked with amazing animals everyday. The staff was super friendly and I enjoyed every minute. This was such an amazing time and I'm already planning to go back!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    9

  • Program Administration

    8

  • Living Situation

    5

  • Community Impact

    8

  • Health and Safety

    9

  • Social Life

    9

My experience

There are many impressions at once, and much information at first, but when you get into the routine, it is very exciting. Loved that we had the opportunity to do different things every day, and you could choose to be in the community for a few days and the lion project other days. In addition to that it was very flexible although there were plans all the time.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    8

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

Best trip ever!

Had an amazing volunteering experience at Antelope Park- Zimbabwe. Great people, fantastic opportunities. Loved the lion walks and elephant herding. Enjoyed my time in the community too, particularly the orphanage. Very rewarding experience.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Social Life

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

Lion project AP

Last year, I participated in a community project and this year I wanted to do a project with animals, and after searching on the African Impact site, I found AP. The project is amazing and I hope to come back next year. I like the fact that we could participate on the community project as well, that way I was able to see the community, I also liked visiting the elderly at "the boggie trust, memorial cottages and lundi house". The food was very good and it's nice to have a coffee shop nearby. The program administration was perfect and I think health and safety was very good at the project. The living situation was great, the rooms are very basic but you have everything you need and I loved that there was a bar and a fire pit. Social life was great too, I got to meet lots of people from all over the world, and it was nice to hang out with them at the pool, bar or fire pit afterwards. It was also very nice that we got to see an operation on a lion and the fact that the operation room was large enough to fit all the vols.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    9

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    7

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    9

  • Social Life

    10

Lifelong experience

Hard to tell, you have to be there. It has been a lot of eye opening happenings. And I think that everyone that arrives with an opened mind, will be better people when they leave. Just take your time to listen. And try to do things you never did before. You might do it again or never but at least be proud because you tried.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

Lion project Review - Antelope Park

Amazing, rewarding project that provides the opportunity to take part in activities that have a real impact on lion conservation. Good diversity with activities, with each day being different from the previous. Incredible staff which enhance the experience even more! Handlers are a delight to work with, kitchen staff are very friendly, management staff are always asking how you are and Rosa, the volunteer co-ordinator was extremely helpful, fun and offered great flexibility of activities throughout the whole project - she really contributed to the project being one of the most enjoyable things I've done so far. Would absolutely recommend the experience to anyone thinking of doing something similar.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

Great experience

It was an amazing experience to volunteer at Antelope Park. The great thing about volunteering here is that you can choose on which days you want to work at the stables, community, elephants or lions.

I had an amazing time at Antelope Park and would definitely visit again.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    8

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    8

  • Community Impact

    7

  • Health and Safety

    8

  • Social Life

    8

One of the best trips

I spent 2 weeks volunteering at Antelope Park in Gweru, and my only complaint is is it was too short. Helping out with the upkeep of the lions and the park in general is obviously very exciting, but the flexibility to get involved in projects different from the one you originally intended made it an unique experience. I went there as a lion volunteer, but got to spend time at the stable and community projects. What made the project truly memorable are the people involved - the animal handlers, staff at the park, project volunteers or interns - everyone gelled together very well, making it a fun group to be part of. I would definitely be back again, and for more than 2 weeks. A big thank you to everyone at the park, and best wishes for the future of the conservation project.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

Amazing trip will be back

I absolutely enjoyed this trip, my life has changed because of it, I will be back one day hopefully next year. The guides and handlers were absolutely amazing (especially Ivyne) loved every minute.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

Going back!

Stayed at Antelope Park for 4 weeks and from day one I was made to feel comfortable and welcome, I felt at home. Everyone is super friendly and have hearts of gold. My heart broke the day I left the park and I haven't quite gotten over it. It is an amazing feeling to improve the lives of other people and animals.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

3 weeks working with lions

I have just returned from Zimbabwe, after spending 3 weeks on the Lion project at Antelope Park. It was everything I expected and more.

A 1 and a half hour walk with the lion cubs in the bush before breakfast was the perfect start to my day and my favourite activity. Lion walks are controversial in the world of conversation, but they do play an important role in the release program at AP. The cubs are completely free to roam around the bush, and spend most of their time play fighting each other in the long grass. The purpose of taking the cubs out in to the bush is so that they can develop their natural instincts and hone their hunting skills, so that they can survive in a semi-wild environment (the second stage of the release programme). During my 3 weeks at AP, I was lucky enough to see the cubs become more and more interested in the game on the park and start to hunt impala, naturally stalking and flanking without any human interference.

After breakfast comes the hard work. You can be assigned any duties around the park (such as enclosure cleaning, road repair, fire breaks) and this usually entails some form of manual labour. There is no denying that this is hard work, but it is essential for the well-being of the lions and the running of the park. And this doesn't go unnoticed, the guides are quick to tell guests that volunteers are the backbone of the park. If you aren't up for getting your hands dirty, then perhaps countering isn't for you.

The last activity of the day is usually one of the best, where you can go on another lion walk, observe the wild pride in the Stage 2 release site or herd elephants.

The coordinators are also extremely flexible, so you can spend some of your days helping out at the stables or going in to the community if you want to. I spent a day teaching in a primary school and took weekend trips to the boys orphanage which is supported by AP.

The accommodation and facilities were a lot nicer than I had expected. There is a volunteer village with a lounge, bar, coffee shop and fire pits which made for a very social stay. I came on my own, like most volunteers I met, but never felt lonely. Most evenings were spent at the bar playing card games until the bar closed, at which point we would all move to a fire pit to sing songs, tell stories or talk rubbish.

If you are thinking about volunteering at AP, I would say "do it"!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    7

  • Social Life

    10

Hands on Lion conservation - Antelope Park

Such an amazing experience. To be able to work with ALERT by observing and collecting data on the Ngamo pride was hugely rewarding. There was a great mix of both working and social activities and some incredible opportunities to see more wildlife around Zimbabwe.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    8

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

A fantastic program

Antelope Park is a fantastic operation. From my time there it is clear to me that they understand the complexities of the issues they are trying to tackle and have come up with meaningful and effective strategies to counteract them. Hopefully once they get the funding they need once the release has been a proven success. I only wish I could have stayed longer!

Institution Affiliates:

World Youth Student & Educational Travel Confederation