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ZIMBABWE

WALK WITH LIONS: THE LION RESEARCH, REHABILITATION AND RELEASE PROJECT IN VICTORIA FALLS, ZIMBABWE

Work hands-on with Lion Cubs on a Game Reserve near Victoria Falls. Your primary task whilst on placement will be to assist management and the team of guides, handlers and scouts in all aspects of care for the animals in their charge; giving them the opportunities to develop their natural instincts in preparation for their release into the next stage of the program.

This base IS 5 miles from the magnificent Falls, which is one of the world’s greatest natural spectacles. It is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, and has also been declared a World Heritage Site.

SUMMARY: THE BASICS

Price: £1,495 (approx. US$1,925) for 2 weeks
£380 (approx. US$525) for each additional week.
Excludes flights. Please see Full Price List & Other Currencies
Duration: From 2 weeks to 4 weeks, subject to visa requirements.
Start Dates and Availability: All year round - you choose your start and finish dates. Projects start every other Monday. See list of start dates under "Work Content".
Requirements: Minimum age 17. No qualifications needed. You should be willing to muck in with anything.
NOTE: You must be a minimum of 1.55 metres (5 feet 1 inch) tall to participate on this project.
What's included: Arranging your Programme
Full pre-departure support and assistance
Payment Protection insurance
Accommodation
Food
Meeting you at the nearest Airport
Transfer to and from your Project
Local in-country team support and backup
24-hr emergency support
Certificate of Completion
What's not included: Flights, Insurance, Cost of Visas.
Who can do this Project? All projects are open to all nationalities.
Suitable for gap years or those taking a year out, grown-up gappers, career breakers, anyone interested in animal care and animal conservation and lion rehabilitation. Also suitable for anyone wanting to study abroad and learn about the practice of conservation and animal care overseas.
Also available as a summer placement in Zimbabwe or Africa or for someone who can only afford the time to take a short break.

WHAT YOU'LL GAIN FROM DOING THIS PROJECT

  • An exciting opportunity to travel, see the world and experience a foreign culture first-hand.
  • New skills, more confidence and invaluable personal and professional development.
  • The enormous satisfaction of knowing that your work is contributing to wildlife conservation and that you made a difference.
  • An opportunity to take a break from the traditional academic track or your current career path in order to gain life experience and global cultural awareness
  • An entry on your CV or Résumé that will enhance your career opportunities and make you stand out from the crowd.
  • Make friends, form relationships and build memories that will last a lifetime.
  • Opportunities to enjoy some exciting adventure and cultural activities while on your programme.
  • And best of all ... an unforgettable experience!
BOOK NOW! SEE ALL PROJECTS IN ZIMBABWE info@travellersworldwide.com

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WORK CONTENT AND DESCRIPTION

PROJECT HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Join the conservation education team in local schools giving you a wonderful insight into the community, as well as giving you a chance to help save the future of the Zimbabwean environment by educating the local children.
  • Enjoy the many adventure activities available from white water rafting on the mighty Zambezi River; bungee jumping from the Victoria Falls Bridge or taking to the air for a helicopter flight over the Falls giving a bird’s eye view of this natural wonder.

WORK CONTENT:
Your primary task whilst on placement will be to assist management and the team of guides, handlers and scouts in all aspects of care for the animals in their charge; giving them the opportunities to develop their natural instincts in preparation for their release into the next stage of the program.

You may also be involved in research work, but this is dependent upon what is required at the time and can be seasonal. This may involve collecting data not only on the development of the lions, but also joining our research team in the Zambezi & Victoria Falls National Parks.

You'll also help us with our various community programs that may include conservation or health education as well as a number of other projects that you will told about on arrival.

To give you an idea of how your time will be split between the different aspects of the program, the following should be taken as an approximation:

  • 75% Lion Rehabilitation & Release into the Wild Program
  • 20% Conservation work within the National Park
  • 5% Conservation Education & Community Development

Your daily tasks may include:

LION WALKS: Spending time with the lions in the wild each day is an essential part of the cubs upbringing. If the cubs are to be successfully released it is important that they spend time out in a natural environment. They need to adapt to it, learn from it, understand, observe, feel and smell the wild.

Alongside the walks you will be involved in the care of the animals which overnight in enclosures. They need feeding, cleaning, and occasionally will need veterinary care to ensure that they are kept in the best of health. NB. With the lion breeding programmes, you'll also take part in meat preparation, stuffing the raw meat with vitamins and minerals to feed to the lions; this is a compulsory activity.

RESEARCH: As part of the program they conduct a number of research activities to better understand lion behaviour and ecology. The lion walks offer unique opportunities to observe lions close up in their natural environment with the data collected assisting us to make the best decisions for the animal’s welfare and eventual release.

Volunteers will assist our research technician in gathering and analyzing this vital data. The research studies being undertaken whilst on your placement will vary depending on the needs of the project at the time but may include looking at hunting development, character traits, spoor sizes or mane growth. You will receive all the training you need in order to ensure that you are able to provide valuable input to this program regardless of previous experience.

WORK IN THE NATIONAL PARK: There is a vast amount to do to keep a National Park ecosystem healthy, and this project is blessed by having two unique parks right on its doorstep. As a volunteer you will work with the research team and National Park rangers on any number of conservation activities that may include some or all of the following, based on National Parks needs at the time of your placement:

  • Assisting in the development of a new waterhole (please note that this is dependent on funding).
  • Carry out snare sweeps to remove the wires set by poachers to illegally catch the animals that inhabit the reserve.
  • Work with local communities to mitigate lion/human conflict.
  • Victoria Falls Rain Forrest: Volunteers will be involved in the removal of Invasive Alien Plant species as and when required by the Park Warden.

*Please note: Research activities will be conducted on a case by case basis in collaboration with the National Parks team and their needs at the time as well as seasonality and accessibility to the bush based on the time of year. Please understand that whilst we have made every effort to be as accurate as possible in our explanation of what conservation and research activities you will be involved in during your placement, it is essential that you are flexible and accommodating during your project visit, and that you understand that our team on the ground will make every effort possible to maximise your involvement in these areas.

TEACH A CONSERVATION CLASS: Volunteers will join our conservation education program visiting local schools to garner support for conservation through education. The syllabus was originally devised under the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) “We Care!” project and adapted to Zimbabwe by The Curriculum Unit of the Zimbabwe Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture. Lesson plans are designed to offer children a full understanding of their environment and to build an appreciation for the need to conserve what remains of the wild areas of Zimbabwe.

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A VOLUNTEER:
Every day is different as animals rarely operate to our schedule. We ask that you remain flexible, but here is an example of a typical day on the project, as a guideline only:

  • 6:15am You will be collected by your project manager and driven out to the lion project base at Masuwe lodge located within the Zambezi National Park. This is approximately a 10 minute drive.
  • 6:30 – 9:00am Meet your guide and their clients and join them for a lion walk, taking cubs from 4 months to 18 months out into the bush. Watch and take data capture recordings as the cubs practice their hunting skills on the many game species they encounter.
  • 9:00 – 10:00am Breakfast.
  • 10.00- 12.00pm One group might head off to nearby Chamabondo school to begin the day’s Conservation Education classes – sometimes there are up to 60 kids in a class! Chaotic but fun! The other group will be cleaning or feeding the cubs, or driving into the National Park to conduct a game census.
  • 12:30 – 2:00pm Lunch back in Victoria Falls town at our volunteer base.
  • 2.30 – 5:00pm Your afternoon duties could include updating the species inventory in the Victoria Falls National Park or a lion walk at Masuwe.
  • 6.45pm Briefing by your project manager about the following days activities.
  • Evenings: The volunteers socialize at dinner at 7.00pm at cosy Hunters Lodge. On some nights volunteers venture off into Victoria Falls town to experience the night life of this tourist Mecca. For others you may be camping out at a water hole to watch the African Bush come alive at night – you may spot the rarely seen Aardvark, known as the “earth pig”

START DATES:

The start dates for 2017 are:
Jan: 2nd , 16th and 30th.
Feb: 13th and 27th
March: 13th and 27th
April: 10th and 24th
May: 8th and 22nd
June: 5th and 19th
July: 3rd, 17th and 31st
August: 14th and 28th
September: 11th and 25th
October: 9th and 23rd
November: 6th and 20th
December: 4th and 18th

ACCOMMODATION

You will be staying at a comfortable and safe lodge in a residential area just a few kilometres from the town of Victoria Falls. The lodge has a lovely barbeque and pool area for you to relax and chill out on hot summer days!

Breakfast will be served where the lions are based and you can enjoy the spacious dining area with a restaurant and bar area for dinner at the end of your day.

Volunteers will be split into 12 twin rooms with en-suite bathrooms which are serviced daily.

Wi-Fi / Internet: There is Internet access available on site, but it is sporadic owing to its remote location.

FOOD:
You'll receive 3 meals a day, although this may be a packed meal depending on what activity you are taking part in on any given day.

Please note that Zimbabwe is facing an economic crisis and some food supplies are scarce. We will make sure that volunteers are well provided for, so please expect your meals to be simple yet plentiful!

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

YOUR SAFETY, SUPPORT AND BACKUP:
Read important information about the Support & Backup you receive before you leave and during your programme.

Read about the Safety and Security measures we take to ensure your safety and wellbeing while on our programme.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU BOOK YOUR PLACEMENT?
Once you have applied for a placement, we'll contact you and send you our Welcome Pack. You'll also receive Log-on details and password for our Volunteer Extranet where you'll have access to all the documentation and information which we've put together to facilitate preparations for your adventure! Your Project Co-ordinator for your country will liaise with you throughout the arrangements process, as well as while you're on your placement and on your return home.

The documents you'll have access to also include a Country Factfile, Safety Guide and any manuals that may assist you on your particular programme (e.g. Teaching Guide, Sports Manuals, Enrichment Suggestions for Animal Care, etc.). We do all we can to make your stay one that you'll never forget. This is a truly awesome, elegant and beautiful country.

On Your Arrival: When you arrive you will be welcomed by a member of staff who will take you to your accommodation and introduce you to everyone. During your first few days you'll be given an induction so that you can learn about the country and its culture, as well as other useful information.

BOOK NOW! SEE ALL PROJECTS IN ZIMBABWE info@travellersworldwide.com DOWNLOAD THIS INFORMATION in .pdf How to Fundraise for your Program

ANY QUESTIONS?

Please with any questions and include your phone number, if possible, to help us give you the best possible response.

We'll get back to you very shortly, but if you haven't heard from us within one working day, please check your Junk Mail / Spam folder. Thank you.

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OPTIONAL ADD-ON ACTIVITIES:

Make the most of your time there! To help you do that, we've put together some exciting activities, courses and tours that you can add to your itinerary. These are designed to be fun, but also to enable you to learn, and expand your personal and professional development enjoyment ... but mostly for your enjoyment! :-)

Coming Soon!

Terms and Conditions apply for Add-Ons, please see here.

SEE ALL PROJECTS IN ZIMBABWE info@travellersworldwide.com

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LOCATION | SIGHTSEEING:

THE VICTORIA FALLS LOCATION
At Victoria Falls, the project takes place in 3,000 acres of state-owned land next door to the Zambezi National Park. This unfenced game reserve has been classified as a Big 5 area (Big 5 comprises Lions, Leopards, Elephant, Buffalo and Rhino). The local wildlife also includes kudu, waterbuck, zebra, impala, wildebeest, eland, duiker, steenbuck, warthog, baboons and monkeys.

Victoria Falls claims the title of “Adrenaline Capital of Africa”, where it has a seemingly endless variety of adventure sports such as one of the world’s highest Bungee jumps (from a a railway bridge) and Africa’s premier white water rafting through the Batoka Gorge downstream of the falls (said to be the world’s most exciting stretch of rafting). However, the most spectacular thing about Victoria Falls is not just the picturesque town, but the immense sight of the falls themselves.

The locals have forever revered the awesome spectacle of the mist that the falls produce, and of which can be seen from as far away as 15 kilometres. They look upon this sight and proudly call it MUSI OA TUNYA – The Smoke That Thunders. The body of water that then flows downstream from the falls continues on as the Zambezi - Africa’s fourth largest River system (after the Nile, Zaire and Niger Rivers).

The Zambezi runs through six countries on its journey from central Africa to the Indian Ocean. Along the way the Zambezi serves as the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe when it thunders over the Victoria Falls and through the narrow, steadily deepening Batoka Gorge, which flattens out at the broad Gwembe Valley; a breathtaking sight to experience.

TRAVEL:

Read about Travel arrangements and what happens when you arrive in your new country.

REVIEWS AND FEEDBACK:

AMANDA GINSBURG
American
Lion Research, Rehabilitation and Release Project in Gweru

I always knew I had a passion for animals and wildlife conservation, and this trip only further served to build this passion within me. What I did not know and what I discovered on this trip was my passion for building relationships with fellow humans from various cultures.

The local Zimbabweans blew me away with their intelligence, positivity, determination and devotion to the conservation cause. These people deal with civil unrest, poverty and famine in their lives and yet they betray no sign of bitterness - quite the opposite in fact, as they work with a vigor that betrays their dedication to saving the animals that represent their beautiful country.

I derived so much pleasure from watching these people work, from working beside them and most of all from getting to know each and every one of them personally. It was difficult to tear myself away from the community when it was time to go home.

Furthermore, on my placement I developed a real knowledge and understanding of the program's larger goals of increasing the African lions populations and numbers throughout the continent.

It is amazing to see and be a part of a project with such lofty goals and actually get to witness all the prerequisites and baby steps needed to actually achieve this larger goal. It puts things into perspective and really made me realize that the success of a program such as "lion rehabilitation and release into the wild" rests not only on a good plan for a long-term goal, but also the daily carrying-out of the smallest details that lay the foundation for success.

MARY DONARUMA
American
Lion Research, Rehabilitation and Release Project in Victoria Falls

I was privileged at my age to participate in the program Walking with Lions. I learned so much about lions and other wild animals as well as Zimbabwe. I was unsure about travelling to Africa. Now I cannot wait to return. I was able to...

  • interact closely with the lions,
  • pet a cheetah,
  • went to an orphanage twice,
  • visited a village and made sudsa with them,
  • had language, culture and herb lessons and
  • got to know a wonderful group of people, the handlers and the volunteers.

I never imagined what a wonderful adventure this would be for me.

I have gained a great respect for the wildlife of the planet and for the strength of the Zimbabwe people. I also have learned a lot about Sweden and Ireland and made a great friend in England.

I can say without reservation that everyone should experience Africa like this!!

DI HANSON
British
Lion Research, Rehabilitation and Release Project in Gweru

I gained a greater confidence when working with animals and also a greater respect for them. The best thing was meeting new people, comparing and sharing experiences and being able to work so closely with the lion cubs.

I would definitely recommend this placement. The staff here are very supportive and helpful. Volunteers worked well as a team and made new volunteers feel very welcome. Facilities are excellent and extra spending money is very minimal.

Can you describe a typical day?
►6.30 feeding bottles to cubs.
►7.00 activity - often lion walk with or without clients, grooming horses, assisting elephant training etc.
►8.30 breakfast.
►9.30 / 10.00 walking / horse riding / drive / elephant ride - boundary patrol, checking fences, snare sweep, game count, cleaning enclosures. rotated duties depending on what needed doing. feeding small cubs and playing with them. Also canoes available to check around the edges of the lake.
►13.00 lunch
►14.00 similar to morning activities.
►16.00 walking cubs +/- clients.
►17.00 dinner
►18.00 feeding older cubs bottles, meat alternate days
► Evenings usually free - could attend on night drives if room or if someone was needed to hold spot light. TV lounge.

Although we were busy all the time the work was relaxed and fun. Mostly there was someone else to work with rather than alone. It was not a problem taking time off if wanted but most people joined in every day!

NEIL MUNRO
British
Lion Research, Rehabilitation and Release Project in Gweru

My flight to Jo'burg and Bulawayo were interesting as we flew lower than usual so could see the ground the whole way. There was a 'to do' at Jo'burg when my pliers/Swiss army knife showed up on the x-ray of my hand baggage! I spent a night in Bulawayo so arrived here last Wednesday after an 8-10am bus ride to Gweru where I was picked up.

After lunch I spoke to the elephants then watched them swimming with guests and finally chasing a crocodile from the lake. Amazing stuff! I have done a boundary fence check on horse back and the next day had a riding lesson. Now my nights are set on the Grand National in April!

Had a day trip to Great Zimbabwe Ruins with 3 girls and a guide driving. They are fascinating structures - a fortress on huge rocks reminiscent of Edinburgh Castle and massive stone structures. One of the girls, Suzanne, is from Edinburgh so we are becoming good friends ...

I am by far the oldest volunteer [70-something], the next one, AP (for Accident Prone), is 35. They are all good fun and we get along well. The guides, administrators and staff are all super and easy to get on with. Bobbie (male) the head guide is amazing with the lions and was teaching me today to bond with 4 lions about 1 year old - 2M, 2F & about the height of big Alsatian dogs, but with much bigger heads, legs and paws.

I am losing my apprehension as I am working with them and indeed have some confidence now.

I spend most time with 6 week old quads who don't see properly yet nor co-ordinate too well. They are very sweet. Also Casper and Cleo, who are 3 months & also still bottle fed. These two are devoted to each other, having lost 3 siblings. This devotion is touching but is making it difficult to bond with them. I hope I am making progress, though.

So it's all go and most of the nights I am in bed early then up at 5:30 or 6am. I am beginning to adjust to the heat and altitude (3000 feet) so the daily exhaustion is easing off.

Everything is great, food, accommodation, laundry, with mostly comfortable temperatures. It is hot for a couple of hours a day but that is easy to bear. Everyone is waiting for rain so that will be interesting. I will try to get to Gweru soon to see what is on the go there.

Never has so much been crammed into my first 7 days. It is certainly hard to believe. I will try to report again soon.

IAIN ROBERTSON
British
Lion Research, Rehabilitation and Release Project in Gweru

I had an amazing time on my project and met some really great people who made my stay so much more special. Thanks for getting me out there and giving me an experience I'll never forget!

What experience do you feel you gained?
A lot! I learnt about working outside and helping to maintain the park. I gained experience of cutting up dead animals to feed to the lions, something you really need to give a try as it's not something you may ever have to do again. I learnt a huge amount about lions, especially about cubs, and I was able to pass this information on to members of the public when they came to handle the cubs.

I gained a lot of experience of caring for young animals and about having to be on hand ready to feed them as they do need a lot of attention when they are very young, something they have in common with children!

Overall I got to do such a wide variety of different things that I gained a whole host of different experiences, even just living in Africa for 5 weeks was very special for me.

What was the best thing about your placement?
Playing with lion cubs everyday or the atmosphere within the volunteers house and the friends I made.

Would you recommend this placement to anyone else?
Absolutely, no doubt!

What type of person do you think this placement would suit?
Anyone who is adventurous enough to give everything a go. Friendly people who are able to contribute to the team and make the experience as amazing as possible for everyone involved. Even for people who don't have a huge interest in 'mothering' the cubs, there's still plenty of work around the park that they can go off and do during the days. You get a lot of input as to what you will be doing each day.

Can you think of any improvements that could be made to the placement?
As long as you are prepared to go and give everything you have then you will get a huge amount back and will enjoy yourself greatly.

Was there anything that you weren't told by Travellers before you went away that you think future volunteers should know?
No, nothing.

Can you describe a typical day?
Most people get up at 7.00 to go up to the restaurant for breakfast at 7.30. Everyone makes their own breakfast, usually just cereal and toast during the week. At breakfast you decide who is doing what in the morning and then afternoon.

If you stay up at the top in the morning then you will have to make up cub milk and porridge to feed to the cubs.

You will then need to feed and possibly pee/poo any cubs depending on how old they are. After this you will be around the tea room doing handlings for the public and doing the cub feedings which can be up to every 2 hours, as well as any other jobs which may need doing.

On busy days you may be asked to help clear up in the restaurant. Lunch is from 1-2pm, and everyone makes their own on most days.

After lunch, if you spent the morning up top then you will go out in the afternoon. You will help the staff do any maintenance around the park such as fixing fences or removing thorns from enclosures. You may well get the opportunity to go in with some older lions when you do this, up to the age of around 10-11 months.

Work finishes at 5.00 and you decide what you are going to do for dinner. Most nights everyone cooks together unless some people want an early night.

After dinner you clean up, lock up and take the cubs down to the owners house, then head on down to the volunteers house where you can stay up and chat/watch TV or go to bed, as you please.

MARTHA LAGE
Australian
Zululand Wildlife & Game Reserve Conservation Expedition
Plus Lion Breeding and Release in Zimbabwe

It was brilliant. I want to go back in the future. I enjoyed both South Africa and Zimbabwe working with the lions. The lion project was perfect.

In South Africa, monitoring the wild dogs and rhinos was a fantastic experience. By monitoring for 2 weeks, I got to know the personalities of the dogs. It was fun to see which one would come out to greet us.

I learnt to use the monitoring and GPS equipment. We did cook for ourselves, so some idea of cooking meals is a bonus. My manager taught us about the various types of birds in the area as well as the vegetation. When I am home and viewing various TV series about Africa, I can tell others about the birds that are singing and vegetation throughout the country.

In Zimbabwe I worked with the Lions out of Gweru. The people were excellent. The food was cooked for us and very yummy. It was good to take an early morning walk with the cubs. We baby-sat them during the day and went on another walk at the end of the day. Other times of the day we would clean the pens out and prepare the food for all the lions. The volunteers were given various tasks during their placement. This enabled us to examine all aspects of the lion breeding program. The staff were friendly and fun to work with.

MADELEINE ROBERTS
British
Lion Research, Rehabilitation and Release Project in Victoria Falls

Just a quick note to say that I am having a wonderful time here. The volunteer programme here is just what I was after – plenty of hands-on activities, working closely with animals and helping in the conservation of a species.

There are 5 volunteers here at present (there were 7 until this morning) but there is plenty of work for everyone. The work is varied and enjoyable, and the staff here are very friendly.

The owner of the Park makes an effort to speak to the volunteers and to thank them for the work they are doing, which is really nice to hear. He also listens to volunteers’ views and suggestions and encourages feedback on every aspect, from the work to the food to our accommodation.

I have only taken half a day off, to do some shopping, in the 3 weeks I have been here because I enjoy the work so much and want to make the most of my time here.