‘We couldn’t have asked for a better trip’ – mature volunteers tell us about their experiences

First-time Africa travellers and senior volunteers, Jim and Steve, volunteered at two of our wildlife projects in South Africa and Zimbabwe. Despite pre-trip apprehensions, with a bit of planning and some reassurance, they both had the trip of a lifetime! In their first blog post (“Senior volunteering – why you should take the plunge”), they give their recommendations for older volunteers – what to expect, how to prepare and how to make the most of the new experiences. In this post, they tell us why they absolutely loved their time in Africa.

“Steve and I are back from our Africa volunteer trip and we could not have asked for a better experience! It truly was the trip of a lifetime. While a few weeks working with conservation specialists will never give us the in-depth knowledge they have on all the issues they face with managing and protecting the African animal ecosystem, we came away with a basic understanding of the major issues with saving species and their impact on the local communities.”

“As a lifelong elephant lover, my primary trip objective was to observe them in wild and, as much as possible, experience them up close and personal. While our first volunteer program centered around the release of wild dogs into the Tembe Elephant Park, we had daily sessions focused on elephant observations at watering holes and numerous encounters along the roads within the park. Leonard, the park elephant expert, never tired of locating both individuals and breeding herds, as well as answering our endless questions about behavior, physiology, and management issues. Tembe being a relatively small park, is a great example of how the conservation issues are inversely proportionate to the size of park; a fact that I would not have thought of before this trip. Our volunteer coordinators were very knowledgeable and focused.”

“We left the project having helped accomplish 2 non-elephant objectives: 1) the successful release of 4 wild dogs into park and 2) visually locating a pride of lions (know in the park as the “Ghost Lions”), which had not been seen in almost two years.”

Our projects are perfect for mature volunteers

“Our second volunteer project, at Imire, was the perfect complement to the Tembe experience. The interactions with Mac and Mandebvu were exactly what I had hoped was possible. Mac’s gentle nature and his parlor tricks of marching shoes to volunteers, touching parts of his body on request, and playing “hide and seek” makes him a wonderful ambassador for helping people relate to a wild animal. Their “lifestyle” at Imire of basic handling, 24 hour safety, and free range browsing during the day made me rethink the definition of “wild”. Steve, while being a life-long wild animal enthusiast, is now an elephant lover convert. Needless to say, we loved having meals prepared, laundry done, and coffee/tea service ready when we returned from each activity. Bright was the best task master and a fountain of knowledge. Sam and Vera were wonderful coordinators and very patient with all our different personalities. We left Imire with fond memories of Mac, a new appreciation of black rhinos, and the special opportunity to observe the new baby black rhino on three separate occasions.”

  senior volunteers with elephant  

“On a final note, if you are trying to decide between a volunteer program or a typical “safari” trip, know this:

For our long hours and physical labor we got to do and see things that are not part of luxury safaris.

    • See parts of the park that are available only to rangers and researchers
    • Get a good basic understanding of the animal conservation challenges of the park and Africa in general
    • See nocturnal animals on early morning drives
    • Work and socialize with researchers and animal experts
    • Touch and feed elephants and rhinos
    • Observe a 5 day old baby black rhino
    • See a pride of lions that had not been seen in 18 months
    • Help with the release of painted dogs in the park
    • Visit a typical village in the surrounding communities to learn their lifestyles, work with school children, and distribute donated clothing and school supplies
    • Get a real understanding of “TIA” (This Is Africa)”

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To join either of the projects that Jim and Steve participated in, click on the links below. To see all our projects popular with mature volunteers, click here, or if you have any questions at all, please drop us an email and we would love to help you plan your adventure of a lifetime!

rhino and elephant volunteer programme

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