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Conservation Travel Africa participant surveying the field Conservation Travel Africa participant surveying the field

Hands-on Black Rhino and Elephant Conservation

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    8

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Impact

    9

  • Health and Safety

    8

  • Social Life

    8

Thanks times a million!

To say I had an amazing time would be an understatement. This was my fourth time volunteering and it has been one of the best.

Everything is s special and it really gets under your skin. I would like to thank the handlers and staff. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming. A special thanks to Bright as he so effortlessly makes you feel comfortable and at ease. His ability to make you laugh and smile always puts you in a happy mood for the day! Secondly I would like to thank the animals! Thanks for letting us ride on your backs, shovel up your poo, fix your enclosures, follow you around the bush as you try and eat and do your own thing! Thanks for happily posing for photos, allowing us to stroke and hand feed you cubes.

I only spent a short two weeks on the project and I feel like I saw and experienced a lot. The staff go out of their way to make sure your time is memorable and special. I cannot recommend the project enough and I will definitely be back - hopefully soon! I wish them the best in their efforts towards rhino and wildlife conservation.

Many many thanks!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Social Life

    10

  • Health and Safety

    9

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

My time in Zimbabwe

I don't have a day that really stands out as every day was so magical and special to me. Some great times:
- My first ride with Judy and Anne was amazing. Riding amongst the African animals and listening to Judy's stories was great!
- Being at Imire and around the Travers family taught me to look at life differently, don't take anything for granted and if you have a problem, find a positive and work on it.
- Being able to work alongside inspirational people was fantastic. Meeting Jacob and his family was such a special part of my time. Working alongside his family, we have helped create a better life for him.

Day to day life was so good, it feels like home. The staff are incredible, clean house, amazing food, beautiful garden - I could live here forever. This was my first time in Africa and my first time volunteering. And what a great way to start! Bright is simply amazing, he kept everyone going!

Before coming here I never thought I would achieve anything like this on my own as I had very rough patches a while ago with a brain injury. Yet it has made me such a strong person. I know I can go on and do whatever I want - that is because of you! I could never say thank you enough :)

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    9

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    9

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    9

Rhino girl is back!

This was my second time visiting Zimbabwe and this project. Needless to say I love this place! When I received the news that Tafika the baby rhino was born I knew I had to come back ASAP! My favourite animal and what my friends would call my obsession, is Rhinos! My friends even call me rhino girl so seeing Tafika was a given highlight as well as catching up with my dear "old" friend, aka the best rhino in the world, Tatenda!

The best thing about this project and with coming back was seeing all my shamwaris (friends) and all the kids here. I love them all! They are so incredibly happy and funny 24/7. Spending time with the handlers and the kids at school and the local community is filling my heart and soul with simple joy and endless love! I have no doubt in my mind that I will come back for yet another round of volunteer fun and Zimbabwe awesomeness!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    8

Meeting Extraordinary People

While I expected to meet extraordinary elephants and rhino at this project, I did not expect to meet two of the most extraordinary people I've ever met.

Madame Matsika so impressed me with her dedication to the children and their opportunities, to the preservation of the Shona culture and to the encouragement of the principles of sustainability. She is the personification of goodness and wisdom.

Judy Travers' principles of ethical treatment of people and animals are astounding. One can see her influences throughout the project in that every single animal you meet, whether it is a dog, a horse or a rhino, clearly expects to be treated with kindness and respect. And the same goes for the people.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

A new Home and a new Family

Words cannot express how brilliant and inspirational this volunteer program has been for me. Working close with these miraculous animals has been out-standing. The house staff, park staff and animal handlers are all awesome people who treat you like family and have a great laugh with you. Knowing you are truly making a difference by volunteering and helping run and protect the game park is a brilliant feeling - although can be hard work but well worth it! The volunteer house is a paradise! Well worth the trip - I was there for 4 months + an extra week!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Social Life

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

A little bit of heaven.

I know it sounds cheesy, the title. But for me, it was truly, a little bit of heaven. From the first day I felt right at home. I was well greeted upon arrival and felt very welcomed. My time at Imire was fun, exciting and stress-free. I never been close to the african wildlife and it was a dream come true. My favorite thing was to spend time with the elephants. All the handlers made me feel save and included. They really made my stay the greatest. The atmosphere and the energy from the local people, especially the kids at the schools, was amazing. I loved the hospitality.
You came close to nearly everyone there - the other volunteers, the handlers and workers all around the house. I will definitely come back in the future!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Social Life

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

get ready to fall in love

this experience was more than you could ever expect. working with elephants and rhinos on a daily basis is incredible enough, but everyone there makes it even more amazing. the love and devotion that these people have towards these animals and conservation is truly inspiring.

this was my first time volunteering for any program, so i didn't entirely know what to expect, but i wasn't disappointed for a second. i also got to meet a lot of people who have done plenty of volunteering at other projects, but this was the first one that they would love to return to in a heartbeat.

some helpful tips:
- as someone who was there for a couple months, i got to go into the city a few times, and not once was a scared for my safety.
- i was there during the rainy season, and mosquitos weren't a problem at all. (i personally brought malaria pills, but didn't really take them, as i didn't need them)
- the food was fantastic. during my stay, none of the volunteers had an issue handling the food.
- some days there is power on all day, but most of the time, it cuts out. it's not a big deal at all, just don't be glued to your electronics.
- if you are a coffee drinker, you may want to bring your own. most of the coffee in zim is instant, and it is trying, especially during your early mornings
- if you want a little sneak peak into how amazing this place and family is, check out the documentary "there's a rhino in my house"
-honestly, you're going to want to go for more than 2 weeks. everyone i met there who only stayed for the two weeks, regretted it. i couldn't imagine only being there for such a short period of time.

i absolutely fell in love with Imire, and have wanted nothing but to come back. assuming that you are open to new experiences, adventurous, and well aware that there are some differences between africa and the western world, i can guarantee that you will not regret your stay at imire.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Social Life

    8

  • Health and Safety

    5

  • Community Impact

    5

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

New friends and photobombs

I had a fantastic two weeks at Imire. The whole experience was a great learning, we confronted fears, learnt new skills and made new friends. We were looked after the whole time and everyone's needs and capabilities were catered for. The volunteer programme was so well thought out and varied we were never going to have a moment where we could possibly have been bored! The wildlife was so well looked after and was allowed to live the most natural life life possible under the circumstances (i.e. protecting from poachers). I had already lost my heart to Africa from previous experiences and this visit just confirmed my love for this continent. And of course the photobombing elephant helped put us and Imire on the map.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    8

  • Social Life

    9

elephantastic

It was the trip of a lifetime, it was everything I had hoped for and more.
Every day was different and I thanked God for the sheer joy I felt every day.
I am 61 and nothing was too much for me or those staff who took us out each day, they were wonderful.
I cannot reccomend Imire highly enough. It was just AMAZING

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

An amazing experience

I sent my partner here as a birthday present (I was too busy) and she insisted I had to go. So I did. You will never have a better, closer experience with the big animals of Africa—every second day I rode an elephant! And I fed rhinos in the morning. Plus zebras, giraffes, warthogs, wildebeests, gazelles, elands, hyenas... It goes on and on. Sleeping under the stars by a fire (and in a warm and comfortable bed). Showering in a bamboo stall, with solar heated water, watching the mist rise off the pond (that you can swim and fish in and watch the hippo) outside the house where volunteers stay—at the beginning or end of a hard day of work. Mending fences, tracking animals, topping up and relocating feeders, building paddocks, cleaning up elephant poop—the fun doesn't stop. All of the staff are fabulous and deeply committed. And the volunteers come from around the world (from three continents when I was there) bringing diverse cultures to a shared commitment. Check out the reviews—10 out of 10 all the way down.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

Imire Travels - Great Experience

I spent four weeks on Imire and loved every minute of it, the people are great, I learned so much and took home so many priceless memories with me. I'd go back in a heart beat and would recommend it to anybody who is looking to get a little more out of their travels by contributing to a good cause.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

Best first volunteer experience

Going to this project was my first volunteer trip ever and I am so happy I chose Imire Rhino & Wildlife Conservation! First of all, I was lucky because I went along perfectly with all the other volunteers and the volunteer manager and I felt welcomed and "part of the gang" from the start.
Also you really feel like you're doing something worthwhile when you're doing maintenance in the park. For example, me and my fellow vols fixed a bridge that had collapsed I caught myself thinking "this bridge was actually fixed by us, and next time it collapses (haha) they're going to repair our work." Don't worry, I'm sure that bridge collapses every now and then due to heavy rain.

No matter what you do, you do it as a team and it's often great fun (even though you're chopping feisty trees for example) when you do it together.
The experience, both with the culture, animals, nature and climate was, for me, beyond words and I would recommend anyone thinking about going, to do it this instant!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

Lifetime experience

As an older person I wondered how I would be received - I shouldn,t have wasted sleep over this as I was fully accepted and thoroughly enjoyed my 2 week stay and managed to complete all the tasks given. The experience was one that I shall always remember and I,m hoping one day I may return one day.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

Kissing a Rhino goodnight!!

My husband and I are over 50 and both came to volunteer at Imire in 2012. It was a wonderful experience with daily contact with the Rhinos and Elephants. Up close and Personal. Every day was exciting to wake up in the house and hopefully run down stairs and turn the kettle on before the power went out! Solar showers looking out over the lake, incredible sunsets and the sounds of Africa at night. Then we would set out for the day with our chores of caring for the animals, looking for poachers traps, feeding and worming the animals, following the Rhinos and observing them and then finally tucking them into there safe little pens at night, fully guarded, and the pleasure of kissing them goodnight! That's a once in a lifetime !
We would highly recommend this experience for young and old! You won't regret it! You will be safe and well looked after! Zimbabwe is beautiful. Go and support the future of the Black Rhino so that your children and your children's children will see them in the future! You can go that one step further to Rhino Camp near Lake Kariba and see the breeding process complete with the released Rhinos now having there own babies in the wild! That is a fulfilling experience!


The visits to the local school was a highlight and the books and other supplies we took were so appreciated.
We felt like we were able to make a difference in our own small way.
As for the staff and all the family at Imire, that was a wonderful part of our trip. These people are dedicating all there efforts into the preservation of the Black Rhino. There consideration to any one who visits Imire either as volunteer or guest was truly amazing! They are lovely people.
Just go there and enjoy!

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Social Life

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

Imire, an amazing experience

Having previously volunteered with another project in Africa, I was excited at the prospect of returning and looked into several projects trying to find my best fit. I was interested in a project that involved conservation, community work, as well as the opportunity to work closely with animals. Imire not only met these expectations, but went above and beyond in what it offered.

From the moment I arrived at Imire, I felt welcomed. The staff working with the volunteers, the animal handlers, as well as any other staff member I met along the way went out of their way to make sure I felt happy and comfortable the entire time I was there. Between the staff and other volunteers, I was able to meet some truly wonderful people, and made lifelong friendships.

No matter what job we were asked to do, I always felt that it was something that needed to be done, and we were truly being helpful. In addition to working with the elephants and rhinos, we had many other jobs, ranging from painting fence posts to keep termites away, using machetes to chop down the invasive Jacaranda trees, working in the vegetable garden, and helping out at the local school - I enjoyed every job we did. The people at Imire made sure that every job was fun, making some of the tasks I wouldn't normally think I'd enjoy (removing fences, chopping Jacarandas) into some of the most fun jobs I did while I was there.

Imire is a truly wonderful place and I have nothing but great things to say about the time I spent there. I was able to experience and learn so many amazing things, including swimming with the elephants, riding the elephants while they learn to track poachers, hand feeding the rhinos after work and taking a trip to see Victoria Falls (Imire staff booked the whole trip for me). I've only been home a few weeks, and I already miss Imire immensely. It's hard to describe how wonderful my time there was, and I can't thank Imire enough for the amazing experience they provided me; I know my memories will last a lifetime.

I would recommend this program to anyone. So if you're considering going to volunteer there, all I have to say is.....GO!!
I know i'll be going back!

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    9

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    9

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    9

A completely different life

The daily life here is completely different from my life at home. We get up really early, but here I don't mind. I love to get up to work with the elephants or with the rhinos. I also loved working outside, something we can't always do in Belgium. I really enjoyed getting so close to the animals and it was very interesting to get to know the Shona culture. The weather is always nice here too! The second breakfast that we eat here is just delicious - I was always looking forward to that.

The activities were also great and we got to do a lot of different things. I really like riding the elephants and the rock paintings were very interesting. The house is very nice and the beds are really good! The location of the house, next to the lake, is very beautiful and the food was delicious!

The people who work here are really friendly and always helpful. I really had a great time here and I'm very sad that I have to return to my normal life now!

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Social Life

    8

  • Health and Safety

    9

  • Community Impact

    8

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Program Administration

    8

  • Volunteer Experience

    9

Discussing world issues with a rhino

I am a 60 year-old retired attorney who decided it was time to do something worthwhile. I had been searching for a volunteer project in which to participate. I have always loved animals, maintaining homes for such creatures as llamas, a blind deer, and tortoises, to name a few. Another retired attorney and friend had participated in various volunteer projects in Africa and unearthed this program. She asked me if I would like to go along. When we stumbled upon the video, “There’s a Rhino in my House,” we were both hooked.

We spent two weeks at the project, performing various tasks such as repairing wash-outs in the road, pulling down unsafe watchtowers, removing old fencing, and painting and constructing new elephant mounting platforms. I am an avid gardener from Wisconsin, which is currently a frozen tundra with all the gardens asleep, so I worked in a flower garden behind the Volunteer house (I think I hauled more than fifty wheelbarrows of buffalo manure to improve the soil).

I was never bored and felt no desire to leave during my two weeks.

I was totally taken by the black rhino, Tatenda, the star of “There’s a Rhino in my House” and whose “boma” is located next to the volunteer house. He clearly loves human company, so I would pull up a chair next to his boma at night and we would discuss world issues and perhaps he would get an ear massage.

I also spent a lot of time with the four elephants, usually cleaning their “nests” in the morning and trundling countless wheelbarrows of elephant manure each day. One of the highlights of my stay was walking Tatenda home one evening with his handler/guard, Brighton, and looking behind me to see the elephants, casually ridden by their handlers, coming up behind us to be put to bed.

All was right with the world, since I was surrounded by a content black rhino and four obviously happy elephants.

I never tired of seeing the elephants. Even glimpsing them across the dammed river from the Volunteer house was magical, since they are such stately creatures and move so gracefully.
However, I was most impressed by a group of women who worked for the Imire school. One woman, Dorothy, who was probably older than me, taught a group of seventy pre-schoolers English sitting under a tree, because she had no classroom. Dorothy then volunteered sewing school uniforms in the afternoon to raise money for the students who could not afford uniforms. She ended her day by returning home to care for I don’t know how many children whose parents had died. Apparently, the lack of nuclear families in Zimbabwe is common, with grandmothers and aunts caring for extended relatives (children) due to the death of the children’s parents. One had to admire Dorothy’s devotion to the children at the school as well as the children she cared for at home. Another remarkable woman, Mrs. Matsika, regularly purchased and prepared a nutritious sort of milkshake for the children to have before they went home, since some of the children’s families did not have enough food to bring a lunch to school.

All these women devoted untiring and herculean efforts to maintain their school, where the children appeared to be happy, even though some were living in overwhelming poverty. It made me feel ashamed of my own personal “wealth” after this experience. I would like to continue to help these women and the school in some fashion.

Finally, I neglected to mention that I have suffered from Parkinson’s for about fifteen years. My protective husband thought that I might be a target because of my sometimes visible disability (I hope that he did not mean that I am as big as a rhino and might be set upon by poachers mistaking me for one). Exactly the opposite occurred. Often I was targeted by the kindness of the people around me, who rushed to help me if I fell, or assisted me if I was slowing down because of a medication meltdown.

Despite it’s hardships, Zimbabwe is a nation full of caretakers, and this was proven to me time and time again during my stay. I hope that I am able to return again one day.

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    9

  • Health and Safety

    9

  • Social Life

    8

Imire and all its wonders!

Obviously coming to this project is not an opportunity that everyone gets to experience in a lifetime. And what an opportunity it was! By coming here I was taught the ins and outs of what goes into running a conservation game park and for that I am extremely grateful.

Meeting the famous Tatenda would certainly have to top off my list of lifetime goals ticked off. He is a good listener and most definitely a good smoocher! I can honestly say that some of the best advice I received at Imire resulted from long conservations with this insightful rhino. Apart from this handsome man I thank God for the opportunity to meet baby Tafika and all the rest of the fatty boom boom rhinos. That little girl has the ability to brighten up even the darkest of days.

Filled with joy, knowledge and wisdom, I leave here today feeling complete in my journey and ready to set foot into my next adventure The main things I am appreciative of learning here are: all about the resident antelope species, how to make proper sadza, everything I learnt about rhinos, knowledge of cattle herding and what goes into running the game park and tobacco farm.

My deepest appreciation goes out to:
Bright - for putting up with my shenanigans and teaching me so much along the way
Mike - for being my rock
Judy - for teaching and guiding me throughout this fantastic journey
All the house staff for their hard work and good times

This adventure has been a gateway to a new world and a new life - for this I will never forget my time here and will be forever grateful.

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    8

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    5

  • Community Impact

    9

  • Health and Safety

    9

  • Social Life

    9

A moment of Imire

On one of my first days we were walking Tatenda the rhino home back to his night pen and the elephants came up from behind us. So there we were with a black rhino in front and an elephant in the back.
It felt like we were in a documentary or a movie. It was like a dream come true for me.

Overall Rating

8/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    8

  • Program Administration

    7

  • Living Situation

    7

  • Community Impact

    8

  • Health and Safety

    7

  • Social Life

    7

An amazing African experience!

Do you love hands-on experiences? Here it is!
The diversity of this programme is wonderful. From seeing so many different animals, bonding with elephants and rhinos and being involved in the community by helping at the local school. I met so many different people from different countries with different cultures. This also made my experience so interesting! And during the entire experience learned so much about the Shona culture.
The food is wonderful and you feel so spoiled that we don't need to clean up. The activities were very diverse each day and each week. A lot of the activities were lots of learning and some were physical - I liked the diversity and it was a good balance of learning and fun. My overall impression is very positive and the project is very open and family-like. Suggestions for improvements would be to split the group for all activities when it gets bigger.

Overall Rating

8/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    8

  • Program Administration

    7

  • Living Situation

    7

  • Community Impact

    8

  • Health and Safety

    7

  • Social Life

    9

Thank you for an amazing experience!

Coming on this programme was very scary for me as it was to be my very first time away from home. The first few days I was incredibly homesick but I soon began to feel better on incredible experience at a time. As the first week went on I finally realised that I could do things for myself - I had cuts and bruises, I had fought a fire, fed a lion, built part of a watch tower, learnt about the Shona culture and made some amazing friends.
Thank you for an amazing experience - I will never forget it!