Wildlife Conservation with Horses volunteer project is set against the borders of one of Africa’s most iconic national parks, Hwange. You will assist locals on the ground to care for horses, guests taking part in bush outrides and be involved with regular snare sweep patrols with rangers in the fight against poaching. Visit the Painted Dog research unit to hear the challenges these critical endangered animals face in their survival, learn from those in the field about lion monitoring, satellite collaring and research, help the struggling local community to become more sustainable with through eco-friendly production and so much more.
|Starting days||Thursday arrivals and departures. Book early as this is a very popular project|
|Minimum Requirements||2 to 8 weeks subject to visa requirements. A minimum age of 18 years old|
|Cost||£1450 for 2 weeks. Email us for quotes for extra weeks.|
|What is included||Food and meals, shared volunteer accommodation, meeting you at the Victoria Falls airport, Victoria Falls airport transfers, pre-departure administration and support, in-country staff on the ground, a weekly shopping trip to the local town, weekly housekeeping service, 24- emergency help and so much more|
|What is not included||Flights, visas, travel insurance, spending money, Wi-Fi (available to purchase on site) and additional excursions e.g. to Show Jumping/Polocrosse competitions or day trips to other attractions like Victoria Falls Falls excursions|
|Best for||Gappers, career breakers, families, post-retirement gappers, animal lovers, nature and wildlife lovers, volunteers who like to get hands-on, those with horse riding and care experience|
Take part in the ultimate wildlife conservation project with horses in the raw African beauty on the edges of the vast Hwange national park area of Zimbabwe with local wildlife conservationists. This incredible location allows for many riding opportunities through one of Africa’s most renowned wildlife areas with the natural beauty of teak forests to the Miombo woodlands.
All riding abilities can be catered for even those who would like to learn how to be comfortable on a horse with no riding skills.
This volunteer project has so many aspects to it from exciting recycling projects recycling lodge waste into beautiful pieces of art or building materials. Or recycling metal snares into wire art. to assisting with anti-poaching endeavours, community education, wildlife conservation and equine care.
Days are spent on horseback, helping with snare sweeps, boundary patrols and making sure Hwange’s wildlife remains free to roam in and out of the reserve. You will assist anti-poaching units by teaching the rangers to ride and helping with the logistics of the patrols. Snares are often put down by poachers which can have devastating effects on the wildlife populations as so many of them are put down at one time. There are plenty of opportunities to learn new bush skills from the many qualified rangers and conservationists you will be associating with while on the project. Expand your skills and leadership responsibilities by joining professional guides on guest outrides assisting with back up, tracking wild animals and exploring the untamed natural vegetation and its inhabitants- learning how to react to them.
Education is key so rides are taken to local villages where locals are taught about animal husbandry in particular how to treat domestic animals like the donkeys and the proper use of harnesses. This is the perfect time too to educate the younger generations on the importance of wildlife and conservation to try reduce the human/wildlife conflict that often happens at the villages on the Hwange boundary line. And of course pony rides for the little ones are always fun.
Horse duties and activities are very much a part of the project whether it is a sunset outride, a horse swim in a nearby waterhole or lunging a new horse. Show jumping and Polocrosse takes place and even the odd competition. At the stable yard you will be assisting staff from the local community in the care of the horses and general yard duties. This is also a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the Zimbabwean people, their tribes, culture and customs.
Volunteer duties on horseback
· Trail and wildlife rides
· Animal tracking
· Exercise rides combined with litter clean ups
· Riding lessons and schooling sessions- this is key too for the anti-poaching rangers to make them
proficient on horseback
· Anti-poaching patrols whether for wildlife or wood poachers with an armed professional ranger
· Litter clean up rides
· Snare sweeps
· Boundary patrols
· Assisting with guest riders
· Local village visits to educate the residents on animal husbandry
Volunteer duties on foot
· Animal tracking on foot
· Bush craft classes
· Eco-friendly, sustainable, recycling and educational community projects
· Vehicle wildlife drives
· Sunrise drives and sundowner trips
· Assistance with the local African Wild dog centre
· Lion research opportunities
· Anti-poaching assistance for example snare sweeps with an armed ranger
· Snare wire art workshops
· Vehicle patrols
· Horse care
· Daily yard duties like feeding the horses and washing numnahs
· Lunging and schooling horses
There are currently 17 horses on the project and various breeds from thoroughbreds, quarter horse mixes, warmbloods, Arabians, Boerperds to Percherons. They come from various backgrounds so have different abilities as some are ex-racehorses, dressage, polocrosse or showjumping. There is a horse to suit all abilities and levels of riding.
The rides are primarily with trail or English style saddles but a few Western saddles are available.
African Wild Dog research
You may assist occasionally with African Wild Dog research and monitoring if the African Wild Dog research Centre requires additional assistance and snare sweeping on their land. The project has a very close relationship with a local African Wild Dog research centre established in the 90’s which monitors approximately 200 dogs in 6 packs in the Hwange National park. Volunteers often get involved or have an excursion to the research centre to speak to experts in the field working with their survival.
It is also possible to view the few non-releasable African Wild dogs that have permanent sanctuary at the centre. Or those undergoing rehabilitation awaiting release back to their pack. These beautiful, unique, and fascinating social African Wild dogs number at around 7000 worldwide and are critically endangered so it is imperative that all can be done for their survival so anti-poaching units have been established as the packs can be very susceptible to being caught in snares laid for bush meat. As only the alpha female breeds once a year, being caught in snares can have a long term negative affect on the numbers of the African Wild dogs in Hwange.
Wild Lion research
Another area of interest for volunteers is the opportunity to meet the members of a local lion research unit that monitors (often with camera traps) and researches the behaviour of 500 to 600 lions in the Hwange national park of which a few are satellite collared. We endeavour to give our volunteers insight into this important and fascinating conservation work which also assists towards finding solutions with human/wildlife conflict on the verges of Hwange where lions are often found close to local villages.
The project is involved with many community projects including a recycling project where the community members from the neighbouring villages collect the lodge waste from the lodges in the surrounds of the national park. They use plastic bottles and clay to help construct houses, and other village projects. They also make different jewellery out of the glass and art out of the wire that the project finds from snares. Really great eco-friendly projects for volunteers to get involved in.
Pony rides are also provided to the local school children and education about wildlife conservation and animal husbandry with their domestic animals especially the donkeys. The project aims to eliminate the human wildlife conflict where possible by starting with educating the younger generations. There are many community opportunities available, however it is preferred to finish one before moving on to another so as to give full attention to one project at a time.
Aside from the conservation duties the project often partakes in Show jumping, Polocrosse, sunset and sunrise rides and rives, horse swims and game drives.
No riding experience needed
There are many non-horse riding activities for those not experienced with riding and horse care which include helping with anti-poaching units from the ground, getting involved with the researchers in and around the park with both Lion and Wild dog as well as helping with snare sweeps and setting camera traps etc. Helping with community projects and many other horse related but not necessarily ride related activities. All ability levels can be accommodated.
Estimated daily schedule- although working with wildlife and animals is always unpredictable!
07:30- In the stables, feed the horses and help turn them out
08:30- Self-service breakfast
09:30- morning volunteer duties and activities
which could be trail rides with guests, teaching anti-poaching rangers how to ride, cleaning feed mangers, grooming horses, wash numnahs, assisting with guest rides, lunging new horses, exercise rides combined with litter clean up rides, visiting local visits to educate on animals care and human wildlife conflict resolution, snare sweeps, boundary patrols, schooling sessions, polocrosse lessons, horses swims, show jumping practice, snare art workshops, bush craft classes, on foot animal tracking and walks
13:00- afternoon volunteer duties or activities
17:00- put horses away, help feed and prepare horses for the evening. Once a week there may be a sunset ride and sundowners. Friday is braai (BBQ) night
Saturdays are days off with a late full English breakfast at 10:00 followed by a trip into the local town and the afternoon off to relax
Sundays afternoons are optional for either taking off or game viewing or sunset ride
Wildlife Conservation with Horses volunteer accommodation is at a bush lodge and is shared. If you would like your own single room, this is possible if availability for an upgrade supplement. The shared accommodation has a bedroom and bathroom and access to the kitchen, lounge, dining room, fire pit, bar and most importantly, the swimming pool for those balmy hot African summers days and nights. The style of the accommodation is simple and with an African decor theme.
There is a laundry room to use for washing clothes and housekeeping is done weekly but volunteers do need to keep their living areas clean and tidy. A bag of clothing can be washed and ironed for $5 a week.
Wifi is available to purchase onsite at $5 a week although we advise volunteers to purchase a prepaid sim cards can be bought at Victoria Falls Airport on arrival.
Private rooms for couples or friends, will have an extra cost if requested.
Breakfasts and lunches are self-service from a variety of different food types provided. Dinner consists of hearty home cooked meals prepared for you by onsite staff often from local produce. With in reason, dietary preference can be catered. The weekly shopping excursion is a great time for volunteers to stock up on snacks and treats. Please be aware though, that the area is quite remote and the local town shops may not stock speciality food items for example vegan substitutes so food variety can be limited.
Friday nights are special as that is “braai” (BBQ) night. And just to make the weekend even better, Saturday mornings are for a full English breakfast and Sundays, is a traditional Sunday lunch.
Water is safe to drink and there is tea, coffee and juice supplied too.
The area is 2 hours’ drive from Victoria Falls International airport close to the small town of Dete on the outskirts of the. Hwange National Park. Hwange is a Big 5 reserve spanning 14 600 sq km and one of the largest populations of Elephants in the world. As Hwange does not have any fencing to keep wildlife in, the wildlife is all free roaming often entering the local villages surrounding the park. The local community is warm and friendly and if you are looking for a true raw African bush experience, this is it.
As the project is not too far from the town of Victoria Falls, it is also possible to spend a few days after your project taking in the World Heritage Site of Victoria Falls known by locals as Mosi-oa-Tunya the “smoke that thunders”. Victoria Falls is one of the world’s largest waterfalls with a width of 1,708 m on and sits between the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia on the Zambezi river.
Victoria Falls town is an easy base for those wanting to take part in sunset cruises on the Zambezi river to view the large populations of hippos and crocodiles, swim in the hair-raising Devil’s Pool on the edge of the Falls on the Zambia side, do helicopter flips, white river rafting, bungee jumping or even take a day safari outing to Chobe in Botswana for more viewing of wildlife by water and land.
Dry season is April to October peaking in the winter months of June, July and August. For those with bad asthma, please avoid these dry months.
Wet season is November to March peaking in the summer months of December, January and February
There is a small break over December 2023 and then the project will start on the 21st of January 2024
“What is the best thing about your placement so far?
I loved spending time with horses again and just being out in nature and meeting some really cool people.
Your biggest achievement so far?
I don’t feel like I achieved much in the traditional sense for this project but like always, I find myself leaving with more motivation than ever to finish my degree and work full time in conservation.
In your time there so far, has anything happened that has stood out, or touched your heart, or made you laugh?
Spending time with the wonderful ladies who live in the nearby community and also chatting with the people who live around the area, Steve who’s in charge of the anti-poaching unit and Lio who’s part of the lion conservation program. It was also lovely sending lions up close during the safari we had inside of Hwange.
What experience do you feel you are gaining?
A sense of life in the bush and a true passion for what you do. It’s not always pretty or perfect but the rewards are so worth it.”Keerthani Rajanderan, June 2023