Conservation Travel Africa Participant Reviews
Submitted by Mary Strickland - Cambridge United Kingdom | September 01, 2017
Imire is a fantastic place for anyone who wants to play an integral part in the fight against poaching. You get the chance to be up close and touch the magnificent rhinos and elephants on a daily basis, but if you want to you also get a chance to play a practical and on-going role in supporting the community with projects ranging from the local schools to the health clinic or amenities for surrounding villages. It is through supporting the communities in these ways that gets to the roots of the fight against poaching and the words 'making a difference' become more than just words as it is something that with the support of the Imire staff you can do up to a point you are happy with and for as long as you want to be involved, sometimes long after you return home. Apart from all this, your time at Imire will be filled with frequent up close and personal encounters with dozens of beautiful animals who will give you memories to last for ever. It's the sort of place that can help you change your life if that's what you're looking for
Raising a baby vervet monkey
Submitted by Emma R | March 04, 2016
My whole experience on this project was amazing, but the most rewarding part was helping rescued animals get back to full health and fitness and being able to release them back into the wild. I loved getting hands on with all sorts of different animals and all the staff members were absolutely lovely.
A week after I arrived, a one week old vervet monkey was brought to the sanctuary. Its mother had been killed by a car, but luckily a passerby saw the baby and brought it to us. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw this wee thing, he was so small and fragile and you could see how scared he was. As soon as I saw him, I knew I was going be hooked, I was so lucky when I was told that he was going to be mine to look after for the remaining six weeks of my time at the sanctuary. He needed a name, so me being Scottish, it just had to be Hamish and it suited him perfectly.
He slept in my room, I got up in the morning, fed him, put him back to his bed for some extra sleep while I prepared food for all the other animals at the sanctuary. Once they were fed it was straight back to Hamish for another feed. Then it was playtime but it was more of a learning experience for him as he was so unsteady on his feet and didn't know how to do anything - he really needed his mother. As the days went on he got stronger and a lot braver. He went everywhere with me - clinging to my t-shirt or just me carrying him round wrapped up in his wee blankets.
It was such an amazing experience watching him grow up for the six weeks I was with him. The first time he climbed a small tree, I cried with joy when he got to the top and when he got there he started screaming because he didn’t know what to do now he was up the tree. Leaving him was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, I cried for a good hour and didn’t want to let go of him, he didn’t want to let go of me either, I put him down on the sofa, turned and started walking away, he screamed and ran to me and just attached himself to my leg and did not want to let go and as you can imagine – yes that just made me cry even more.
His picture takes pride of place in my room so I can still see him every day and I get regular updates and pictures of him from the project. And of course I plan on returning to see my boy all grown up!
Program: Zimbabwe Animal Sanctuary
Thanks times a million!
Submitted by Gemma G | July 09, 2015
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!
The most amazing rides!
Submitted by Rachel M | July 09, 2015
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.
An oasis of life
Submitted by James G - Gloucester | July 07, 2015
My family and I volunteered here in March 2015. It was the best project we found which allowed us to volunteer together as a family with our 4 children aged 8-12.
On the old maps of Zimbabwe, the ranch is described as a "place unfit for human habitation" and it is easy, when looking at the arid environment, to see why. And yes, with determination, wit and sheer hard work, the Whittall family have carved out an oasis of life where it was not meant to be. Before they came there were no elephants meandering to the waterhole to drink, no elegant giraffes running away and no rhinos sleeping peacefully in the shade of giant baobab trees. The school did not exist before the family built it, with its beautiful garden, football pitch and netball court.
Our family of six was welcomed into their lives and they generously shared it with us for 2 short weeks. Every day we have seen our children's confidence and knowledge grow. They have taught English in the school, played football and netball and made friends with children from a very different life. They have made porridge for 330 children who would otherwise have not eaten that day, helped to plant trees in the playground and taken part in the school concert.
So many people made us feel so welcome that it is hard for us to leave. It is difficult to describe a particular highlight from our stay. Early in our trip we were hanging a bait to photograph leopards and our children saw a lion drinking at a waterhole. There was no fear, just joy and wonder at this oasis of life. Would anyone believe them back home?
My time in Zimbabwe
Submitted by Amy E | March 24, 2015
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 :)
Rhino girl is back!
Submitted by Sara Tornros - Lund | February 09, 2015
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!
Meeting Extraordinary People
Submitted by Ann Eshelman - Rhineland, Wisconsin | February 09, 2015
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.
A new Home and a new Family
Submitted by Ste - Conwy | January 26, 2015
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!
an amazing experience in the african bush
Submitted by Cathy - London | January 26, 2015
We were the first volunteers on this program and a family of 4 (children 13 & 14). We all had an amazing experience. Very quickly we were made to feel part of the local community and kept very busy, whether teaching in the local school or helping out on the conservancy. The children in the school are amazing, great fun and very keen to learn. Among the activities on the conservancy we were fixing water pipes, clearing tracks, finding poachers snares as well tracking rhinos. elephants & lions on foot with an amazing guide. We learnt so much and made some great friends. This is a very worthwhile cause and can only get even better as it develops. We will definitely be back.