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

Horse Riding Safari and Hands-on Wildlife Conservation

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Impact

    9

  • Health and Safety

    9

  • Social Life

    10

The most amazing rides!

I enrolled in the equine programme and was so excited when I found out I would be riding alongside Judy. She has been a bit of a hero of mine for a while now, and her passion and enthusiasm for the park and the surrounding community is inspiring!

She assigned us each a horse depending on ability. I got to ride a beautiful pony – Maware – who was a bit green, but we just clicked, and I had the most fantastic time riding her. We would meet Judy in the early morning and set out on our mission for the day. Sometimes it was rounding up cattle, or counting the new babies of wilder beast, or checking on the babies and mums of other herds to make sure everyone was in good health.

The cattle rounding was so much fun – you set off with a group of cattle in sight and yoop, whistle and yee-hah until they go in the direction you want for . It satisfied every little girl dream I had ever had about becoming a cowgirl all in one session.

The rides through the game park were just breathtaking and we got to see many areas and sights that you just would not see by vehicle. We could get right up close to the wildebeest herds and walk quietly past as the sable grazed in the distance. I remember cantering through a beautiful patch of land after a long ride with the others, zebras in the foreground and impala watching on from afar and just thinking ‘this is exactly what I had hoped for’ when I had signed up to come.

I am not kidding when I say I could pitch a tent on the vol house lawn and live here forever. The place is incredible. My first impression came as I was dropped off at the volunteer house. The sunset was literally the most beautiful I had ever seen. Gloria, the dams resident hippo, was yawning with her massive wide open mouth just a hundred or so metres away, the insects were chirping the loudest I have ever heard, and I had already met three awesome volunteers.

There is no mucking around, each morning we were up at the crack of dawn and getting on with the activities for the day. Might I add here, my first activity was clearing out one of the rhino's food pen and attaching a ‘rhino proof’ gate to keep him out… HA! It had a suspicious rhino horn shaped dent in it the next day..

What I loved so much is that it is not a sugar coated, ‘easy’ volunteer experience. You really get stuck in and do things that help with the running of the park.

I wanted to be able to get a sweat on, and feel like I was truly contributing. We built roads, painted fences, help track wandering animals and so much more. The rewards were being able to spend time up close and personal with the animals, like the baby rhino and her mum, or walking the elephants back to their ele-beds, or being diverted to see a massive python after its kill.

On my final drive out as I was leaving for the airport, the entire journey of giraffe surrounded the driveway (i like to think they were saying goodbye) and all I could think was two weeks was definitely not enough. I am already planning on going back!

If you want an experience that fills your soul and opens your mind, and then pours you a beer at the end of the day, go on this programme.. just be prepared to want to go back time and time again.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Social Life

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Community Impact

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Volunteer Experience

    10

Phenomenal place with phenomenal people

We spent 2 weeks at Imire on the horse riding and conservation project and had the best experience ever. We went in October so not too hot (30 degrees peaks in the day but much cooler at night) and perfect for early morning rides and beautiful sunsets. As horse riding volunteers we rode every morning nice and early then joined the rest of the volunteers for the daily activities after that. This meant we got the best of both worlds as we got the riding but but didn't miss out on any rhino or elephant or other activities either. The riding part was phenomenal. The horses are beautifully looked after and adored by Judy Travers and her family and helpers. Judy took us out every morning and we spent some days counting game and others (trying) to help the cattle ranchers (they are brill so didn't really need any help but it was a lot of fun to do!). We did different sections of the reserve everyday so we saw so much more than we would have in the truck. We were spotting all the newborns and checking for signs of poaching or any animals looking unwell. We saw zebra, giraffe, warthogs, wildebeest, elephants, buffalo, rhinos and so many species of antelope it was a phenomenal way to view the reserve and be a part of Imire and what it stands for! The riding program is well structured but you need to be flexible as 'plans change' on a fairly regular basis. You also need to be a fairly good rider as the terrain is a mix of tracks, bush whacking, off roading and a fair few rock/water crossings. The horses are sure footed and brilliant but it helps them if the riders are too! We spent 3-4hrs in the saddle a day and thoroughly enjoyed it but don't mistake this for a full riding holiday as the horses need breaks and the riding volunteers then join in the rhino conservation groups for the majority of the day. We had a totally amazing time and I would recommend Imire to anyone and everyone looking for a volunteering holiday of a lifetime.

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    8

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Community Impact

    9

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    9

A three week long dream

It is 6am, its cold and you know you are going to freeze a lot in the back of the truck but you know it's worth it because in a short time the sun will warm you up and you have a new wonderful day ahead. The sun and the mist make a magical view and with the animals you see in the bush, it's like a dream. The best way to experience this is from the back of a horse, and to get so close to all these animals is just amazing - zebras, impalas, elephants, rhinos, giraffes, waterbucks and many more..

To hear a lot of stories about the animals from Judy, a fantastic lady, makes the time on horseback even better, and you wish you could do this forever. As well as the great riding, you come so close to the rhinos and elephants and to see them so close and so often makes you understand how important it is to keep them alive and communicate with them. You get to meet a lot of people, both adults and children and learn about their culture and integrate with them, which is amazing! You also get to know a lot of people from other countries and you become like a temporary family.

I can't choose only a few positive experiences because almost everything was amazing, but to ride with all the animals, to meet all the children in school and to learn about the Shona culture..all was just amazing. I also learned a lot about the culture and the people which I am very happy about. It was good that we got to do a lot of different activities and did most of them several times so you could get into the routine and learn about how to do it and why we need to do it.

The days are long because you do a lot of things, but at the same time the days just pass by before you notice it and suddenly the three weeks are up and its time to go home. Time to wake up from a three week long dream.

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    9

  • Program Administration

    8

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Impact

    9

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

Riding in Zimbabwe

Riding in Zimbabwe turned out to be a whole different experience than riding in Sweden! Just the fact that you can discover a giraffe just behind that tree or a herd of impala curiously looking at you through the high grass, takes some getting used to.

The rides are very adventurous and you get to ride over rocks, through thick bushes and in water. All on a safe calm horse! Its a truly amazing experience. We were guided by one of the owners tho is great to ride with. She has been there so long that you can feel she knows every plant, tree and animal you see. She also tells you a lot about everything and always looks out for you and your horse. Our two weeks of riding went by really quickly and I'd love to come back and do it all again!